Five essential retouches to improve a photo taken with the mobile and with which applications to do them

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What strikes me the most when talking about mobile photography is that it is treated as if it were something different. And only a mere adjective changes. The camera is new, but in the end we have the same thing, an image that can be bad (which we forget about) or good. If we find the latter on the screen, we must always make some adjustments to get it up in category. So let’s see the basic retouches that we can make to a photograph taken with the mobile so that it looks as good as possible.

Photography is a way of telling how we see things. Some just follow the trends, others try to tell the world from their point of view. And many just want to have a good memory. Any of the three ways to deal with it are perfectly valid. And the only difference is the time spent on it.

mobile photography

A good way to upload a photograph, or not

Those who follow trends have it easier because the path is made and full of popular filters. Those who want to teach another way of looking experiment without stopping until they hit the nail on the head. And for those just looking for souvenirs, it’s enough to be able to send what they’re doing quickly, without complications.

But I think we would all improve our message if we kept four important things in mind when submitting a photograph. I certainly don’t mean spending five hours developing or creating two hundred layers, we leave that to the Photoshop virtuosos. They are very simple and with any application that allows non-destructive editions we can do it.

1. You must always develop the photograph

I have been seeing the hashtag #sinfiltro on social networks for a long time. In numerous classes many students say that they they do not develop the photographs because they trust what they achieve with the camera. And that any step through the applications is little less than a venial sin.

But this trend makes no sense. We always have to reveal the photographs we take. And if we don’t do it, I assure you that any mobile phone does it for us. The final result depends on the factory settings.

There is no such thing as a raw, untouched file. In fact, in mobile photography it is impossible to find something that has not been previously retouched. The brightness, contrast or saturation will always be modified. And the darkest shadows lightened and the highlights toned down.

Before and after reveal

Minimal changes help improve the image

When I ask and dig a little, the honest answer is always the same: I don’t know how to use the applications. And it is that many times we confuse revealing with inventing. And it is nothing more than interpreting the information that the sensor gives us.

Mobile photography no longer seeks realism, it seeks to impress (and we love it)

For this reason I always recommend reveal our photographs to direct the viewer’s gaze just how we want. It is not a matter of turning day into night and bringing out the rainbow when we did not see it. You just have to visualize what we want to do to achieve the best result.



And we can use any application that allows us a non-destructive edition, that is, those that allow us to always recover the original file. I always recommend them for the possibilities they offer: Adobe Lightroom (Android, iOS), Snapseed (Android, iOS), and Pixelmator (iOS).

2. Contrast

Contrast can be defined, in a simple way, as the difference between the darkest and lightest tone in a photograph. When I develop a photo on the computer with the help of the luminosity masks I always add contrast to the midtones. The effect is more flattering.

give contrast

The before and after contrast in Adobe Lightroom

Raising the contrast will give our image:

  • More visual strength
  • A greater sense of sharpness
  • A major improvement in color saturation.

In the three mobile applications that we have recommended we can go to the curves and raise the whites a little and lower the blacks. What is known in photographic jargon as an S-curve. And ignore the parameter Contrastas it offers much less control.

If we do not want complications or we are not very familiar with this tool, the key is to always leave the central part of the curve in the center and not to mark the s too much.. This way we will manage not to exaggerate the effect and achieve a more natural appearance.

3. Black and white

Ansel Adamsone of the masters of photography, inventor of the zone system, said in his books that a good photograph was one that had at least absolute black and white. And that is the key to many photographs.

Many of our photographs have a washed out, shallow, flat appearance… What we need to look for are the parameters that allow us, with the invaluable help of the histogram, adjust both ends.

Fit histogram tails

The difference when adjusting the extremes of the histogram

In Adobe Lightroom, for example, we have to go to Light>White/Black and pressing on the photograph we will see what is known as threshold level. If we are working the lightest point will be seen we will have to see everything in black and vice versa if we are with the darkest tones.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

This is the key to achieving a well developed photograph. In fact, when I develop my own development system, the ten stepsis one of the most important points.

4. Adjust white balance

This point will always help improve any photograph. The automatic white balance usually responds very well outdoors, but indoors it is normal for it to give problems. The mixture of all kinds of lights, the problems with the CRI of the bulbs (it is a scale from 0 to 100% that indicates the precision of a light source when it comes to representing color), cause very strong dominants.

For this reason adjusting the white balance always helps. It is not necessary to have absolute control, nor always carry a gray card with you. The adjustment Automatic of any of the recommended programs manages to neutralize any dominant.

White balance adjustment

Before and after

And we must do it as long as it is not an aesthetic adjustment sought by the author. Someone might like orange casts in the example photograph, but they weren’t present in that space.

5. No to system filters

At first I commented that we had to avoid falling into the #sinfiltro deception. But neither can we always and by default fall into the filters offered by the applications. I am referring to the way many users reveal in which they try filter after filter until they find the one they like the most.

mobile photography

This photograph has been developed without any filter

Everyone is free to act as they want, it would be missing more, but is the best way to fall into photographic boredom. In addition to letting ourselves be guided by fashions, we will not be able to carry out our way of looking, our own style.

I have seen many times how the filters are ruthlessly spoiling a photograph. They add up until an effect is achieved that is often impossible to repeat because it is impossible to remember all the steps. It is a kind of old-fashioned account that prevents you from finding your own style.

For this reason I have always thought that a custom setting, a development routine, will help us improve our own photographs. Once we are clear about how we want our image to be, we can create our own filter to go faster. But the rush in photography is never good.

What strikes me the most when talking about mobile photography is that it is treated as if it were something…

What strikes me the most when talking about mobile photography is that it is treated as if it were something…

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