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Home » Cameras, Cell Phones

iPhone Photography: Making Photos Better

Submitted by on September 17, 2009 – 9:05 pm 4 Comments

The is the first installment of the three-part review of the better photo apps for iPhone. In the follow-up reviews we will look at artistic photo filters and panorama applications. If you don’t want to miss the updates, subscribe to our RSS feed.

Let’s face it: iPhone sucks as a photo camera. Cheap CMOS, absent aperture control, no AE lock, and a missing flash will not win your iPhone photos any major awards. Most photos you will take with iPhone will be grainy, dull, dark and fuzzy. There is really no point in comparing iPhone’s photographic abilities to those of even the cheapest of digital cameras. And if you still insist on taking photos with your cell phone, there are much better alternatives to iPhone, like Nokia E71x. But since you are stuck with iPhone, let’s take a look at the apps that will help you squeeze some performance out of your toy.



Similarly to NightCamera, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago, Genius uses iPhone’s internal gyroscope to help you stabilize your hands before taking the photo. Genius also has features like digital zoom, sound capture, photo guides, and a timer. Under the same conditions, photos produced using Genius are sharper than those obtained using iPhone’s standard camera application.


One feature I wish Genius offered is AE (auto exposure) lock. The camera automatically adjusts exposure based on lighting conditions at the focal point you select by tapping on the screen. AE lock would allow you to select optimal exposure and then recompose your image without losing your settings. It is also essential for taking photos to be used in a panorama. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then, obviously, you are not a golfer.



Since you cannot install Photoshop on iPhone, PerfectPhoto is your next best option. This very inexpensive application has a ton of features, allowing you to pull every ounce of quality out of your dull iPhone photos. The list of actions and filters is impressive: rotate, crop, alignment, brightness/contrast, gamma, exposure, shadows, highlights, levels, hue/saturation/lightness, color balance, color temperature, sharpen, denoise, vintage, posterize, bloom, and pencil paint.


Given the medieval nature of iPhone’s CMOS sensor I found such filters as shadows, highlights, and denoise particularly useful. Because of their advanced nature, some of these filters are slow. Below are three photos of my dirty driveway. The original image was taken on an overcast day in late afternoon using Genius running on iPhone 3GS v. 3.1. The second image is the result of applying several filters using PerfectPhoto, including shadows, highlights, saturation and color balance. The third photo is the result of processing using Photoshop CS2 with onOne PhotoTools 2 Pro.

OriginalPerfectPhotoIMG_0481 copy3

Photos: original, PerfectPhoto, Photoshop

In the example above, PerfectPhoto did a decent job pulling out shadows and boosting colors without highlighting grain. The result is not as good as Photoshop, but let’s be reasonable.

Perfectly Clear


Compared to PerfectPhoto, Perfectly Clear has a limited set of filters: auto and manual exposure, contrast, color vibrancy, sharpen, and tint. And additional feature call “FixDark” will help you pull some detail out of shadows.


Overall, the end result is very pleasing even using the default automatic filters. Unfortunately, Perfectly Clear has one huge drawback: it downsamples images to 800×600 pixels. Future versions of Perfectly Clear should include support for higher resolutions.


The original photo and the 800×600 version processed by Perfectly Clear

Unfortunately, Perfectly Clear has one huge drawback: it downsamples images to 800×600 pixels. Future versions of Perfectly Clear should include support for higher resolutions.



Photogene offers a decent selection of photo editing tools and filters, including crop, resize, rotate, skew, auto levels, exposure, color hue and saturation, frame, symbols and others. The auto level and sharpen filters are quite decent. The interface takes some getting used to but is reasonably intuitive.


The sepia filter is also good. As for the rest of the effects: the novelty will wear off quickly. Still, this app is well worth the two bucks. Here are a couple of examples of what Photogene can do to your photos.


The original photo and the same photo after applying auto levels and color saturation. Finally, the same photo after applying the sepia filter.



This application will lighten up the shadow areas on the photo. This will not remove noise or motion blur, but it will reveal some detail in the shadow areas. iFlashReady is a quick way to improve some photos. It will not work on photos that are too dark. The interface is very simple: it gives you three preset intensity levels to choose from. iFlashReady can also convert your photo to sepia or black-and-white modes.


Above are examples of iFlashReady at work: the first image is the original photo and the other two are the results of processing by iFlashReady.

There is no substitute for an actual flash. If the image is too dark, no software will be able to recover shadow detail for none was captured by the camera sensor. However, iFlashReady does  a very decent job quickly and easily fixing most dark photos.

In the next installment of this three-part review of photo apps for iPhone we will be looking at artistic photo filters. Stay tuned.

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  • Peter says:

    I’ve never used anything more than a snapshot type camera! I need to produce some photos that look as professional as possible. The photos are of models and clothes and accessories.
    Please can you recommend a camera that’s easy to use and will produce professional results? Budget as low as possible, not exceeding £450 second hand…Thankyou!

  • RuMKilleR says:

    I take photos with my iphone 4s for my photography class. When I email them to my teacher they show up really small and you can barely see them. Is there a good photo editing software program for an apple that will fix it and make it large without making it blurry? Thanks in advance :)

  • MAK & CHEESE says:

    I really like Instagram, but its getting a tad boring now. I was just wondering what other apps are similar to Instagram?

    Thankyou :))

  • timq3dimensionscom says:

    I got an iPod Touch not so long ago, and i was wondering if anybody has any good apps that are worth installing.

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