More editing options and more control = stunning images
The iPhone Photos editor app is your built-in repository for storing, viewing, sharing and editing your special photos. You can edit your images in even more powerful editing apps like Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom. However, this article is going to cover every new and updated feature built right into the Photos app.
You can also edit your video using the same tools described below! How good is that? Finally, you can edit your images directly in the iPhone Photos editor app.
In this tutorial, let’s work through each tool in the order they appear on your iPhone Photos editor app. The editing controls are separated into four modes:
Live Photos – select the desired exact moment you want to capture. This feature is the same as previous versions
Portrait mode – one of the game changers in smartphone photography. You can now change the amount of blur and lighting effect
Adjust mode – many extra adjustment tools are now available including; brilliance, details, sharpness and noise reduction
Filter mode – these effects can now be reduced to a lower strength making them more appealing for me to use
Crop mode – re-compose the image for storytelling, zooming and aesthetics. Extra features include; ability to vertically flip the photo and deskew perspective. Perfect for sides of buildings that converge at the top of the frame.
Personally, the order of my editing on the iPhone Photos editor app is Live Photos, Cropping, Adjustments. I will also use the Filters option if I want to quickly see what the image may look like as a black and white image.
Secret tips and features in the new iPhone Photos editor app
- A Live Photo can be played in edit mode by holding your finger on the photo (except in Crop mode).
- Tap Auto to quickly apply multiple adjustments. Edit tools not adjusted in Auto, include; sharpness, definition, noise reduction and vignette. These adjustments are purely there for your personal taste.
- When you tap on an adjustment and swipe on the slider, you will notice haptic feedback on your fingertips. When you slowly swipe back past the mid-point (0) you will feel a more solid bump in your fingertips.
- After applying an Adjustment, the circle will display either a yellow or white outline. Yellow indicates a positive adjustment, white is a negative adjustment.
- Tap on the photo to see a quick preview of the before image. This is really helpful to check-in and make sure you are not over-editing.
- Tap each of the adjustment icons, for example, Exposure to turn off that particular adjustment. This allows you to compare the before and after of just that adjustment. Tap it again to return to the previous adjustment amount.
- Tap any Adjustment icon twice (turning it off and on again) display a number between -100 to 100. This provides a more precise indicator of how much adjustment was made. This does not apply in filters mode.
- You can pinch and zoom on the photo display while editing to get a much closer look at what the adjustment is doing.
- Whilst zoomed in on your image, hold two fingers on the preview and move them around the screen to move the zoom into other areas of the photo
- You can further edit your image in another app by tapping the 3-dots at the top of the screen. Also, tap the Share icon to open or import the photo into other applications installed on your iPhone. This feature is also referred to as third-party extensions.
Live Photos mode
This Live Photo icon displays when the photo was captured in Live Photo mode.
Same great features
Convert the Live Photo into a normal still photo by tapping on the yellow Live icon at the top to turn the image into a single frame still image. You can also tap on the Loudspeaker icon to remove sound from the 3-second video recording. A must if you are complaining about a client while taking a photo of their reminder invoice. It has happened to a customer on one of my photography workshops!
Select the perfectly timed shot
The feature I love most about Live Photos is the ability to select the exact frame from the 3-seconds of video. Drag the white square across the timeline to the desired moment of capture. Once you let go, you can then select Make Key Photo. You will notice that you can still see the white dot where the software has selected the best technically correct image that is most in focus. This can often not actually be the moment you tapped the capture button!
Share a video of your Live Photo
Lastly, you can drag the white arrows on the edge to clip the start and finish of the Live Photo. Why would you want to do this? Well, now you can easily share your Live Photo as a video file! Tap Done to go back to the photo in the Live Photos album. Tap on the Share icon, then swipe up Save as Video. This is now available in the Videos album.
Quickly create a video of several Live Photos directly in the iPhone Photos editor app. Go to the Live Photos album > tap Select > select the Live Photos > tap the Share icon > swipe up to Save as Video. The best bit… it has audio to relive those precious memories.
An absolute game-changer in smartphone photography is computational photography.
At either the time of photo capture or in Edit mode, you can adjust the amount of background blur. Tap on the f icon and swipe on the adjustment slider. The same can be done to the switch between lighting effects. The newer iPhone Photos editor app introduced a new lighting effect called 'high-key mono light'.
Quick tip: You can undo the Portrait capture and reveal the normal photo by tapping on the yellow word Portrait in Edit mode.
Once you tap on the Edit icon, your photo is opened directly into the adjust mode. This is where you can completely transform your image. Photo editing is my joy, and teaching you how to make your images look the best they can is my passion.
That said, this article is about explaining the features of the iPhone Photos editor app. This will be a long enough read already, without explaining when and how we apply the edits. I have a few articles listed below that are a great starting point and a photo editing course as either a standalone investment or the option to access it as a paid member of our Smartphone Photography Club.
Auto - this is quite an improvement for the new iPhone Photos editor app. The results are similar to before. However, you can see exactly what the auto improvement was. Go into each of the adjustment icons and see the number of adjustments made. Like the result, however, a bit too saturated? You can go into saturation and tweak the adjustment to your preference. This feature is a great starting point if you are not sure what to edit.
- Use the slider to simultaneously increase/decrease each of the adjustments made in auto for a stronger or less intense effect
Exposure - is the balance of light and dark areas of the image. When we increase the exposure, we brighten every pixel in the image. You will notice that the areas that were bright will become brighter and, at times, lose all detail.
- My preference is to use brightness as an alternative
Brilliance – brightens the shadows, reduces the highlights and applies contrast to balance the look.
Similar to the Ambiance in Snapseed, I adjust Brilliance before refining tone and contrast adjustments. Brilliance brings out more detail and depth whilst maintaining a balanced look
Highlights – recover details in the bright areas of the image that can become lost as you increase exposure or brightness
- This tool is really helpful to bring details and colours back into clouds in the sky
Shadows – similar to highlights, this brightens and recovers details in the dark areas
- Too much increase in shadows can create a washed-out, cloudy effect on the shadows. Adjusting contrast can balance your desire to increase the shadows and keep the image looking quite natural
Contrast – brightens the bright pixels and darkens the dark pixels. This tool has a similar effect as sharpening.
- Be mindful that too much contrast can start to lose details in the shadows and highlights of your image. This tool is really helpful if you are creating a silhouette image or high contrast black and white image (Noir filter).
Brightness – similar to exposure, brightness mostly affects the shadows and mid-tones. This is particularly helpful if the image contains bright areas, such as skies
Black Point – increase and decrease the areas determined as black, without darkening the whole image
Saturation - increase and decrease the intensity of the colours. Too much saturation can make the image look over-processed (over-edited) very quickly.
- Reducing the saturation can mute the colours and even convert the image into a monotone black and white. My preference is to use the Noir and Silvertone filters to create a more dramatic black and white
Vibrance – increases the saturation of the more muted colours. Unlike saturation, Vibrance avoids the already vibrant colours and more importantly skin tones.
Warmth – previously Colour Cast in iOS 12. This feature is also known as White Balance can add or remove an orange through to a blue colour cast.
Tint – Remove or add a creative colour cast from red to green
Sharpness – adds details to the whole image and is most obvious in contrasting edges in the image
- Be mindful that too much sharpness can introduce those horrible white lines around edges. These are also known as halo effects
Definition – combines sharpening and contrast in photos mid-tones, enhancing detail. This effect looks like you are increasing the focus of an image.
- Pinch and zoom to see the effect of definition and zoom back out to ensure that the adjustment is not excessive and affecting the tones of the image
Noise Reduction – dramatically improve your speckled low-light images. This tool also smoothes any blotchy artefacts as a result of over-editing. Don’t pump it up too much, or your images start to look smooth and artificial. Balancing Sharpness and Noise Reduction can often improve a picture’s clarity.
- Noise in the image can be a result of low light at capture or excessive editing (particularly in the shadows)
Vignette – darkens or lightens the four corners of the frame bringing the viewers’ attention back toward the middle of the image.
These articles are great to learn a specific technique or tip. The fastest transition into the confident and creative smartphone photographer is this photo editing course.
The course develops your visual literacy; learning why, when and how to use basic to advanced editing tools and apps. Check out the full benefits and curriculum here.
Filters are still a great way to experiment and apply creative edits directly inside the iPhone Photos editor app. The series of predetermined adjustments can include temperature, saturation, hue, shadows and contrast.
The best new update to Filters is the ability to control the intensity of the filter. This is perfect to reduce the effect and make it look more natural.
You cannot save an edit as a filter or apply it to your next image. An alternative app to create, save and share filters is the free Snapseed app. I have a lesson on how to achieve this in my Snapseed photo editing course - here.
To access live filters in the iPhone 11 camera; tap the upward-pointing triangle icon at the top of the screen then the filter icon (three-circles).
This group is positioned to the right of Live Photos Adjustments and Filters. However, cropping is always my first step in editing an image. This process allows you to re-compose the image, crop out distractions in the edges of the frame and position your main subject off-centre (rule of thirds).
Learn more about the when, why and how behind cropping an image. Check out the Cropping module in the course: Strategically edit WOW images using Snapseed.
After tapping on the Cropping group icon, some images will apply an Auto Crop. If the software believes the image will benefit from a crop to correct the perspective, it will play an animation. This zooms and tilts from the original to the crop.
The Auto Crop will also automatically determine if it needs to straighten and change the perspective (skew) of your image. I will cover more on straightening shortly. Some of my images have produced some funky results. The software appears to look for people and existing vertical and horizontal lines in the scene for reference.
If the Auto Crop did not appear – well done, the software thinks you took an awesome image! If the automatic results are undesirable, you can tap on the yellow Auto at the top or make further crop adjustments.
When you tap on Crop it will open to reveal a number of options, including Flip, Rotate, Aspects, Straighten and Perspective.
In the top right corner, you will notice the aspects icon next to the 3-dot overflow icon. Tap the aspect ratio icon, making it yellow and reveal your options. Swipe left and right across the listed ratios to reveal all the options. If you are holding your iPhone horizontal, there is sufficient space on the screen to display all the options.
You also have a portrait and landscape icon to tap and quickly view what that ratio will look like inversed. To experience this, crop a test image 16:9 and tap the icon to switch between a horizontal landscape 16:9 aspect to a vertical portrait 9:16 crop.
Flipping and rotating the image is self-explanatory when you tap and experiment. Tap once or more to return to the original view.
As discussed before, If the iPhone determined that the image is not straight, it will attempt to auto-correct this. What you may not notice is that it straightens horizontal and vertical lines! The options available to you straighten the horizontal line which is perfect for landscapes where there is a clear horizon. Even slightly crooked can make the most amazing image look wrong!
Bonus tip: If you chose to crop the image first, it is a bit tricky to return to the straighten tool. Simply tap on the yellow aspect icon in the top right corner. It took me so long to work that one out!
The other two options available to you in cropping mode, are the vertical and horizontal skew adjustments. This is perfect for improving those buildings that look like they are falling over! Essentially, this is where parallel lines (sides of a building) converge toward the centre line. Objects closer to the lens look larger (bottom of a building) and objects further away look smaller (top of the building). This perspective distortion is exaggerated in architectural iPhone photography. This is due to shooting upwards and using a wide-angle lens. This perspective distortion is also known as ‘Keystone Effect.
Enough technical jargon! You can tap on either the icon and swipe across the adjustment slider to see what it does. The only negative with using this tool is it will crop some of the images. Therefore, use this tool before you crop.
An alternative app Snapseed, has a freeform option in the Perspective tool to more selectively drag corners in and out. The app then automatically replaces sections instead of cropping them out. It is a powerful and easy to use tool that you must check out.
Over-capture on iPhone 11 series
You can turn on this feature in Settings > Camera under the Composition section. Tap Photos Capture Outside the Frame and Auto Apply Adjustments.
Basically, the camera will display and capture the scene using the next widest lens in the three lens range and retain it for 30-days to be able to crop outside of the frame you captured the photo. For example, if you point the iPhone at the subject using the default lens (1X), the ultra-wide-angle lens displays on your screen what you could capture if you chose (0.5X).
Photo Capture Outside the Frame is turned off by default. This is likely because it disables the Deep Fusion in iOS 13.2. Deep Fusion uses software to simultaneously combine multiple camera lens data producing a higher resolution, richer colours, tones and improved image noise reduction.
Three-dot icon (top right corner)
Placed in the top right corner, this icon directs you to open the photo in another third-party photo editing app installed on your device. The process to include shortcuts is to tap the three-dot icon > More > Edit and the Plus icons next to listed apps. Some of my favourite apps that I can access are Retouch, Polarr and Darkroom. Many of my favourites, including Snapseed and Lightroom, do not display as options to add.
Although some of your installed editing apps like Lightroom may be missing, I found a cool workaround in the Share options. Tap on Share, then under the contacts are apps that you can import the images. Next to the Airdrop icon, swipe left on the app icons to find the More icon. Tap edit and select Lightroom as one of the options.
Any adjustments that you apply to the image before you open it in another app cannot be undone when you return to the Photos app. An example of this is adding a sun flare to your photo using an app like PicsArt. When you tap done and your image returns to the Photos app then-current look of you image will now have zero values on black point, shadows and contrast. This is referred to as destructive editing, as you cannot undo or adjust previous edits and can only perform edits over top of edits.
Not to undervalue other bonus tips, this is the best one. Big statement!
If you make an adjustment all the way and want more, you can use the 3-dot to open another the image in another app and save it again to create a brand new image. You can then edit it again and all the adjustment values on that edited image are zero. Note: Do not open and save the photo in the default installed Markup tool, as it saves a lower resolution image.
Whilst you have the photo open, tap on the Share icon to find a whole new look iPhone Photos editor app and many more features. At the top of the screen, you will see a little thumbnail preview and Options. Select to turn on/off the ability for the recipient to be able to view metadata, edit history and further modify your edits.
Other options once you tap on the Share icon are:
- Quick links to Airdrop and Messages
- Notes – you can quickly add the photo to a note. This is a fantastic option for location scouting and taking test shots. You can find that shooting location using Location Services, however, now you can quickly add notes to the test shots too.
- Reminders – take a quick photo of the context of the reminder. We are becoming so much more visual and reliant on quickly interpreting information. What better way than to have a photo pop up in a reminder instead of reading your own long, convoluted text?
- Apps installed on your device
- Copy Photo – great for pasting the image into other apps such as a messenger app.
- Add to a Shared Album – perfect for sharing holiday snaps or family albums with extended family
- Add to Album – the benefit of making your own album is you can drag photos around in the order that you like, being perfect for creating a slideshow of your best images
- Duplicate – this is a fantastic option to retain the original image and edit a copy. I find this really helpful to create multiple edited versions of an image.
- Hide – hiding a photo will remove it from the library and into its own Hidden album. If like me, your favourites folder is getting too large, this is a great way to isolate images in another location for quick navigation.
- Slideshow – not sure why this is in the shared folder, as it plays the image, then the next in the album!
- Airplay – nice easy way to share your image instantly onto an Apple TV connected device
- Use as Wallpaper – so easy to now make the image your temporary wallpaper. No need for working through menus. Who doesn’t love that idea?
- Create Watch Face – works exactly the same as Use as Wallpaper
- Save to Files – An alternative way to store and access files and photos on your iPhone. My preference is actually to install the One Drive app.
- Assign to Contact – It’s so much more personal to see a photo of someone when they ring. Great for business contacts and more importantly to give you that calming or excited instant feeling of when family and friends call before you receive the call.
- Print – great for wireless printing. No more cables. Love it!
- Quick links to import, open, edit or send to installed apps. The rest of the list in view are dependant on apps already installed on your device.
Editing options missing available in the Snapseed photo editing app
This new iPhone Photos editor app is a huge, huge improvement. Quick edits for social media sharing can all be achieved within the photo library. However, for us photo enthusiasts, we love editing our images, making them even more impactful, creative and aesthetically pleasing. One of the best all-purpose apps available is Snapseed. The one feature that is missing in Snapseed available in the Photos app is Noise Reduction. An alternative app available for iPhone users is Noiseware.
Extra features available in Snapseed include:
- More filters, including the option to apply the same edits of the previous image
- Ability to create and share filters – handy to batch edit similar images
- Histogram to view how edits affect the tonal range
- Curves for advanced tonal and colour adjustments
- Auto white balance – perfect for correcting colour casts
- White balance – colour picker
- Perspective – freeform adjustment
- Expand – extend the edges of the image and automatically copy the inside edge into the new section of the canvas. It’s like magic!
- Selective tool – one of the most powerful features is to apply adjustments selectively to exactly where you want in the image.
- Brush – similar to Selective, this is the quick finger painting version to swipe over areas to increase/decrease brightness and/or colour
- Healing – quick way to remove distracting objects in your image
- Tonal Contrast – selectively adjust contrast in the shadows, mid-tone and highlights
- Filters – Drama, HDR Scape, Vintage, Grunge, Noir for more creative editing
- Lens Blur and Vignette – create soft edges to bring attention back to the ‘in-focus’ section of the image
- Masking – the most powerful feature of Snapseed is the option to select exactly where and how much to apply any editing adjustment to the image