Three Reasons to Edit More Photos on Your Phone

Three Reasons to Edit More Photos on Your Phone

Up until a few months ago, I had an elitist view and was of the opinion that my editing process on my 27-inch iMac was the “best” way to edit a photo. But smartphones have changed the game dramatically. Here I've shared some reasons to help you consider including or switching to your phone for your editing workflow.

Viewing Platforms

The most used platform for consuming digital media in the world is unarguably the smartphone. Most consumers view photos, videos, and illustrations through social media apps or on websites accessed through their phones. This means that the display size of most photos is closely linked to the size of the popular phones’ screen size. And the screen size of phones are much smaller compared to laptops, desktops, and most physical media.

A photo with a complex composition that might have made for interesting viewing on a desktop screen might look too busy and flat on a phone. For example, in my experience, simpler compositions with rich contrast tend to fare better on phones. Does this mean you need to abandon your current workflow on the 27-inch iMac? Absolutely not. Instead, it might mean that you start including your phone in your editing workflow at the initial selection, cropping, and final preview stages for certain images.

All photos used in this article have been shot and edited on my iPhone 8 Plus.

Capability 

Mobile apps like Adobe Lightroom CC (Mobile), Snapseed, Photoshop Fix, and Pixaloop have been continuously raising the bar for editing capability on phones. My personal experience of Adobe Lightroom on my iPhone as of late has been particularly satisfactory. Even selective edits like brushing, radial, and gradient filters are available on Lightroom’s mobile app and produce decent results. Combine this with mobile phones’ quickly increasing camera capabilities and it is easy to see how you can complete the loop from shooting to editing photos for certain purposes on your phone itself.

The images below were edited in Adobe Lightroom CC (Mobile).

Convenience

Your phone goes everywhere with you. The laptop or tablet may or may not make the cut of the devices going with you on your weekend trip but your phone will certainly go with you. Plus, it’s most certainly lighter and doesn’t take up precious cabin luggage space. Not to mention that you can use your phone to edit while you’re waiting for the aircraft to takeoff or your local bus to move another inch in traffic whereas laptops are generally a bit more clunky and not always easy to recharge with a power bank. Hell, you can even edit using your phone while you’re getting bored listening to a bunch of normal mortals complaining about the weekend not being long enough. 

This is by no means a blanket solution to all photography editing. However, given the above reasons, it might be worthwhile experimenting with involving mobile phones a bit more in the process wherever suitable. Have you ever tried editing photos on your phone? Share your experience in the comments below.

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22 Comments

Studio 403's picture

I like your idea, have tried some your way. Gonna wait till PS brings it to IPAD late 2019. Good post

Michael Jin's picture

A tablet, maybe. A phone, no. Maybe my fingers are just too fat.

Nesh Soni's picture

I feel you. I've made peace with the bigger screen phones to edit on them once in a while.

I'm just a semi-hobbyist but I've been using Snapseed since it came out. It was a little difficult on a iPhone 4 but not too bad on a 7 Plus. It works very well for photos that you know you won't take a lot of time to edit. A little brightness here, a little more saturation there, maybe sharpen a little bit more. Baby photos each month for my kids and vacation photos all done on my phone. I have printed plenty of photos edited on my phone that were up to 11x14s (submissions for our photography group at work) and they all look very nice after editing with my phone.

Nesh Soni's picture

That's fantastic! I quite enjoy editing on my iPhone 8 plus even with selective edits in Lightroom and a lot of our travel photos get edited on there!

Rob Mitchell's picture

No.

But I do have a crap screen on the MacBook Air that is used to specifically to check any critical edits for tricky online use.
I do use PhotoSync to transfer to iPad to double check at times, it's mostly for edits that need gentle blended areas fading into white that show up worst.

You see it all too often, 'Edited on my iPhone' as a humblebrag, yet a big halo around a head where a dodge/burn with a fat finger has been used. If only they'd been a little more careful and not tried to be too clever.

Plus. Gives a bad impression to clients. If they were to get the vibe that you can just transfer and edit directly, we're shooting ourselves in the foot come invoicing time.

Nesh Soni's picture

I agree with the fat finger issue. For wedding and portrait clients, I tend to use mobile editing sparingly, mostly to preview and enhance the effect of a particular photo on that device if the photo is meant to be exclusively shared on social media, for example.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

When I'm shooting photojournalism assignments in the field I'll often Wi-Fi transfer from my camera to my phone (iPhone 6S) and then do a quick edit to send back to the editors.

The problem is, when I get back to my desk and my iMac, I often notice that I missed critical focus and should have picked a different one from the sequence, and by that point my iPhone-edited photos are already online. It's just so hard to do on a small phone.

That said, I've done the same with a Galaxy Tab S2 8.0" tablet and found the results exactly the same quality if not better in some cases than editing on my computer, and so I think the whole premise of this is largely based on how big your phone is. Maybe it's time for me to get the XS Max next time.

One nice thing about the Galaxy Tabs - they have a micro SD slot, so on assignment where shooting speed isn't critical, I'll shoot to a micro SD card in an adapter in the camera, then plug the micro SD card directly into the Samsung tablet for transferring and editing, very nice to not have to fiddle with WiFi.

I love your edits on these photos in this article.

if you have a Samsung with a usb c port you can just plug in a usb c card reader, I do it with my Samsung Note 9 :-)

Nesh Soni's picture

Thank you, Wasim :) I know what you mean about the missed focus bit. It has happened often enough for me to now be a bit more "pinchy" when it comes to checking for that. Also, I think the problem might be a bit more pronounced with pro sensors and lenses often producing a more definitive focal point compared to photos clicked on the native phone lens (often 28mm or so).

And I completely agree with the phone size. Since I've gotten the 8 Plus, I have started enjoying editing on the phone a bit more. No doubt that the control is less compared to a massive desktop screen but not every image needs pore-level editing. But overall, I just love how the workflow is changing and becoming more flexible.

I now do just the opposite.

Unless a shot is just for mobile consumption and there is a time deadline, I ALWAYS wait to retouch on my computer. It's not the program -- I can make Leonardo an even Snapseed on my phone do a lot of what PS does -- it's the ability to see in detail what I am doing. I have been horrified at seeing my phone edits later on my larger screen.

My phone shots often resolve just fine at pretty large sizes (often with the help of stacking apps since I don't have a Pixel 3), and more than a handful have ended up in magazines, newspapers, and travel guides. But I can't do them justice if I'm editing them on something so small.

Nesh Soni's picture

Oh, yes! I would be very scared to edit something on the phone if I knew the end result is meant for a magazine! In fact, even for speed in my workflow, I prefer my desktop.

I post to Social Media but it's not a must like many photographers, thankful I don't have to hover over my Pixel 3 XL to edit quickly just to get them posted ASAP. It's sad that for many this has become photography.

imagecolorado's picture

I'll pass on phone editing. I'd rather use it as a telephone.

Nesh Soni's picture

Come on Gary, live a little! That's like saying let's not watch any videos on the phone because it's just a phone.

imagecolorado's picture

I live quite well thank you. I don't need a phone to do anything important. I use my phone to make phone calls, when I have signal, if I need to. What you do with your phone is your business.

Phone editing... clunky, slow, poor screen, destructive editing, 8 bit files, no layers and a pain in the ass to get files in and out of...

Nesh Soni's picture

All of that is true. Have you experimented with phone photography much?

I use my phone for a fair amount as it is always in my pocket, but my cameras far outstrip the quality of my Samsung Note 9. I have not looked at the raw files from it yet :-) but I cant see it touching my Phase One IQ4 150

user-66603's picture

Editing photos with phones looks cheap. Case in point: the photos used in this article. They look bad.

Duane Klipping's picture

Can a phone have a calibrated monitor?

Nesh Soni's picture

I'm not sure about that Duane although if it is not available at the moment, I'm sure we're not far from it.