Creating High Resolution Images on iPhone, by Sid Peña
UPDATED March 2015 – Most of the time, Life In LoFi focuses on getting the highest quality image in camera so you can app it into digital lo-fi afterwards. In his first post for us, Photographer/iPhoneographer Sid Peña explains how he gets impressive results getting high quality images for oversize prints using his iPhone. =M=
My Workflow Secrets:
Creating High Resolution Images on iPhone 5
by Sid Peña
Most iPhoneographers would love to create high resolution, detailed, print-ready images. High quality output greatly increases the desire for your work across many venues of the graphics industry. Larger prints mean more potential buyers, higher DPI means more detail in those reproductions which could lead to more industry recognition and possibly more green in your pocket.
I’m going to show you the basic workflow I use on 90% of my photos. This tutorial will take you from snapping the photo to a finished image with a resolution of 4896 x 3672, DPI of 300 x 300 and a way to create a master RAW image in TIFF format for archiving.
To follow this tutorial you will need:
- an iPhone 5 or newer (an iPhone 4S should also work nearly as well. =M=)
- ClearCam ( )
- Snapseed ( )
- Photogene 4 ( )
- KitCam ( Unfortunately, since the time this post was written, KitCam has been deleted from the App Store. =M= )
- Filterstorm 4 ( )
(Since this post was originally published in 2013, several of the photo apps above have been end-of-lifed and are no longer available in the App Store. Here is a list of comparable photo apps you can use in place of them: )
- Cortex Camera – can replace ClearCam. |
- Hydra – can replace ClearCam |
- KitCamera – a clone of which is is now being developed by another developer. This can replace KitCam |
The Base Image
When I worked as a roadie, a sound engineer once explained why the band onstage sounded so bad. He said, “Crap in, loud crap out.” In other words, if you want a high quality result you need to start with the highest quality ingredients. The first ingredient is a crisp, clear photo which incorporates a great subject, composition and tone. I can’t help you with subject, composition and tone but for a crisp clear photo; “There’s an app for that!”
ClearCam is my goto Camera Replacement app for 95% of my shots, and for good reason. It does what it does amazingly well, which is produce sharp, high resolution images. With a tripod you can get images so tack sharp that only a pro could discern them from DSLR images. The way it works is it shoots 6 frames in fast succession and then you apply an align and enhance process from the app’s photo queue.
There are two shooting modes in ClearCam, Quick and Enhanced. I use the Enhanced mode because the Quick mode only produces native resolution images. ClearCam also has some quirky characteristics you should take into consideration when framing your images or preparing for the next shot. The ClearCam screen only displays 16:9 aspect ratio but the resulting photo will be in full 4:3. This means that in portrait mode you can’t see what is just to the left or right of the screen or in landscape mode what is just above or below the upper and lower limits of the viewable screen. When you process the image that area will be visible. After I got used to this issue it was easy to frame my shot properly. Also, I found that if you close the app with the home button or turn off the screen by pressing the power button before ClearCam has finished processing your last shot, that image will not be there when you go back to the app. If you need to shoot a burst or rapid succession, this is not the app you’re looking for.
The size of the processed RAW images in ClearCam is formidable (about 70MB to 90MB). On my first day of SXSW 2013, I had about 4GB of available space on my 16GB iPhone 5 and hit capacity after about 40 photos. Since I didn’t bring my MacBook Pro with me I was forced to align, enhance, export and delete lots of the ClearCam files to free up the needed space (the next day I had my MacBook with me).
One quirky characteristic of ClearCam that I love is the effect the align and enhance process has on moving subjects. In my photo, The IT Crowd, the motion blurs and double and triple exposure effects really provide a dynamic feel to the image. I suggest playing around with this to see what kind of results you get, your mileage may vary.
The Sharper Image
Once you have a good base image from ClearCam, it’s time to take it into SnapSeed for a little Detailing. This is a quick and simple way to really make the final image pop. I always dial Sharpening to 20 and Structure to 5, then save and export to Camera Roll. Anything higher and you start flirting with Edge Glow and what I call Retina Burn (a common result of over zealous HDR).
Now that we have a sharp base image to work with, it’s time to edit the image into the final vision of what was in your mind’s eye when you snapped the photo. I prefer staying within the realm of organic photography but if you want to go into full blown digitally altered version of a Stephen King nightmare, knock yourself out.
My current goto app for editing most of my photos is KitCam. It handles large resolution images without breaking a sweat. KitCam also has amazing white balance and exposure compensation. There are a ton of film types/lens/frames combinations. Since I shoot mostly for black and white output, I use the Newsprint and Rorschach films almost exclusively, (although I have been known to use a color film for its tonality and then drop the saturation to zero). I also love that KitCam preserves EXIF/IPTC data.
Once I’ve imported the image into KitCam, I check if Clarify will take the image closer to my vision without blowing out the highlights. If it does, then I set it to that with the knowledge I can always turn it off again should later adjustments take it closer to Retina Burnout.
Next, I set the Aspect Ratio and set the flow and composition of the image by zooming and/or moving and cropping. KitCam maintains the size of the image regardless of the amount of zoom and crop you apply. This is a great feature that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
Now that we have Aspect set, we can add Vignette (if needed), set color and tone via the film type and add a frame (again, if desired).
The Newsprint Film in KitCam usually blows out the highlights of a picture by just a tad. Luckily, KitCam has one of the best Exposure features of any app I’ve ever used. Usually, one half step to one full step down will suffice to reduce solarization and highlight blowout.
My goto setup is 16:9 aspect, Vignette Lens (wide open), Newsprint Film, Exposure set to -.5 to -1 and rarely a slight adjustment to Contrast and/or Brightness. Save to camera roll.
The Devil is in The Details
Ok, we are almost finished. We just need to set additional IPTC information (copyright notice, artist credit etc.) and to set the image DPI. I use Photogene 4 for these tasks. Open your masterpiece in Photogene and select the image info button. I have a preset with my information that I insert. Once you’ve entered your info close that window and open the Export menu. Click on the Resolution/Resize line. Scroll to the bottom and set the JPEG Quality to 1.00. You only need to do that once unless you change it again. The DPI section is just above JPEG Quality. Set that to 300×300 (this only needs to be set once). Scroll up to the Resolution section and select the 4896 line (3672 if you chose 1:1 in the Aspect step of processing). The resolution selection has to be made each time you go through this process. Save to camera roll.
Wake the Kids, Call the Neighbors
Now your masterpiece is finished and ready to display in your online gallery or print and hang in your humble abode. What else should you do? If longevity is a concern, creating multiple backup copies is a good idea. I keep a copy in the cloud on Dropbox and a copy on an external hard drive. Steer clear of cloud services that reduce image quality when you upload or download.
One More Thing
I’ve recently started creating “Master” versions of my work in Filterstorm. Filterstorm will create a RAW TIFF copy of your image that will be about 35MB to 40MB. The downside is that Filterstorm only preserves the EXIF data and strips the IPTC data.
Well, that just about does it. This is my current work flow for processing most of my photos. Of course, this is meant to be just a basic guide. I encourage you to experiment, take chances and develop a flow that suits your style.
The take away here is your photograph is like a lasagna, it requires a recipe (plan), good ingredients (apps), careful layering (processing), attention to detail (composition, tone) and some elbow grease (get off your butt and go shoot something)!
Sid Peña began his photographic journey in 1985 when he bought a Nikon FG in Kitzingen, Bavaria, West Germany. He has worked as a photojournalist and graphic designer, among many other interesting jobs. He is currently working for a very well known computer firm in Austin, Texas. When he’s not at work he can be seen lurking around downtown with his iPhone 5, on the hiking trails of Walnut Creek with his dog, Angie or hosting a MST3K marathon at his house for fellow MSTies.