Lightroom and Photoshop for Smartphone Photography

Smartphone photography is constantly growing and growing. Here are a few tips you can use on taking your images from “good” to “great”.

When was the last time you said to yourself “Damn! Why did I leave my camera at home”? In my case, that was a really long time ago. Who’s to blame? Smartphones, obviously! Nearly all high-end and even mid-range smartphones today offer great cameras. As long as you know what you’re doing you can still capture some great shots without having to constantly lug around heavy photography gear.

Here are a few ways to make your mobile photography even better by using Photoshop and Lightroom:

Create an HDR Panorama

Panoramas taken with phones are great. HDR photos are great, too. So let me ask you – Why not both? Here are the simple steps for making a HDR Panorama:

1. Take a series of overlapping HDR Photos

Load up your camera, set it to HDR mode and take as many overlapping photos as you like.

HDR Panorama Mockup

2. Upload them to your computer

No special instructions needed here. OneDrive, Dropbox, Pushbullet… the list goes on and on. Use whatever you like to get those photos across.

3. Merging your Panorama

To merge, use the Photomerge option of Photoshop found under File > Automate > Photomerge. If you prefer using Adobe Bridge we’ve got you covered.

Photomerge in Photoshop

Pick Auto mode and use the Browse button to locate your images.

Photomerge Auto Dialog

Now press OK and enjoy the show – Photoshop should align and merge your images in no time. Once it’s done you can save the image in a preferred format. Here is an example:


Improve Dynamic Range

Is it hard to see the cloudy sky in your daytime phone photos? Maybe your friends are all silhouettes when shot against a beautiful sunset? Worry not – we can fix that!

1. Import your photo(s) to Lightroom

While in Library view, press the Import button on the lower left to add your new photos.

Lightroom Import

2.  Pull Back Highlights, Boost Shadows

Experiment with the Highlight and Shadow sliders in Develop mode. Don’t pull the sliders all the way to -100 and 100 since most smartphone cameras can’t capture that much dynamic range in the first place.

Highlights and Shadows

3. Export at maximum quality and original size 

Keep your photo at its best quality by dragging the quality slider all the way to 100 and removing the tick from “Resize to fit”.

Lightroom Export

Here’s a quick before/after. Notice how the white glow in the sky is gone and how the details in the shadow areas are completely recovered.


Noise Reduction

Noise – those nasty little things in your photos that remind you of a broken analog TV antenna. Luckily – you can get rid of them! Well, partially, at least. Here’s how:

1. Import your photo(s) to Lightroom

Again – use “Import” to get your photos in your library.

Lightroom Import

2. Use the Details panel to reduce noise

While in Develop mode, use noise reduction from the noise panel to give your image a general cleanup.

Details - Noise

3. Use the Brush Tool for selective noise reduction

You can use the brush tool in Lightroom to selectively reduce noise in darker areas of an image. Below you can find the settings that I use – feel free to experiment with the sliders and tweak the results based on the image you’re working with.

Brush Tool in Lightroom for Noise Reduction

3. Export at maximum quality and original size

Here’s a comparison of the original image and the one where I reduced the noise:



Clarity Boost / Clarity Reduction

1. Import your photo(s) to Lightroom

Lightroom Import

2. Use the Clarity slider

You can take advantage of the Clarity slider in Lightroom (or Definition slider in Apple Aperture) to completely change the look of an image.

Clarity Slider

3. Export at maximum quality and original size

Here’s a comparison between clarity boost (left) and clarity reduction (right):



Add DOF (Bokeh)

This is a neat little trick to make your photos look more professional. Bokeh is the blurry background that appears in images in which only the important elements are in focus.

Have a look at our article “Bokeh in your shots without using expensive gear” for a more detailed walkthrough:

great bokeh without expensive gear

For now, these are all the tips I can think of. Remember – Photoshop and Lightroom are the ultimate gateway to creativity. Try different techniques and look at our growing catalog of Photoshop tutorials in case you need a little extra inspiration.

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