Small test - Quality-optimized photo workflow for iPhone photos

Jakob Hürner · December 7, 2020

As a casual photography who strives for high image quality, I wanted to try out two possible paths to take and edit photos on the iPhone. I did a non-scientific test in which I took photos with my iPhone 8 on a cloudy December day with very flat light in two ways:

  • Path 1: using the standard Camera app and editing possibility with the Photos app (JPEG workflow)
  • Path 2: using Adobe Lightroom App and its editing features (DNG workflow)

In both paths I edited the picture as I would do it normally to match my taste.

Workflow sketch

The results can be found here:

Test Photo 1 - Path 1: Test photo 1 - iPhone Standard Apps

Test Photo 1 - Path 2: Test photo 1 - Adobe Lightroom

Test Photo 2 - Path 1: Test photo 2 - iPhone Standard Apps

Test Photo 2 - Path 2: Test photo 2 - Adobe Lightroom

Test Photo 3 - Path 1: Test photo 3 - iPhone Standard Apps

Test Photo 3 - Path 2: Test photo 3 - Adobe Lightroom

Generally, the path 1 (integrated apps) produced much punchier pictures, I even turned down contrast in the editing step, especially for the last picture. Also as it looks like the iPhone applies much more generous sharpening with larger - „bolder“ - sharpening radius. Path 2 (Lightroom) images appear less punchy. Especially the details are rendered considerably finer and more subtle sharpening is applied, although I turned it up to 56 in Lightroom. Interesting to see, in this tricky lighting conditions even the iPhone-DNG files seem to provide more headroom to correct the exposure afterwards, as you would normally expect from RAW/DNG data.

Overall both approaches have their strengths. It takes slightly less time to go path 1, but also 2 does not add a lot of overhead. Image quality-wise I would considers 2 superior to 1. In both scenarios you get decent pictures, which are almost on par with standard compact point-and-shoot cameras in my point of view. The only real gain in image quality in such situations can be achieved with a full-frame DSLR or large-sensor-interchangeable-lens camera.

Getting back to the conclusion of my small non-scientific test: Main difference for me is that the integrated Camera app feels snappier than LR (at least on the older iPhone 8), which will make me choose path 1 more often than path 2.