iPhone Photography: A Workflow Guide

My workflow guide details how I use Halide Mark II for RAW captures, Adobe Lightroom Classic for advanced editing, and Luminar Neo for creative touches, enhancing my iPhone 11 Pro photography.

As an avid photographer, I'm constantly exploring ways to enhance my craft, especially when using a device as accessible and powerful as the iPhone. In this post, I'll share my refined workflow for post-processing iPhone photographs, leveraging the capabilities of apps like Halide, Adobe Lightroom Classic, and Luminar Neo. I think my approach combines the ease of mobile photography with more involved editing techniques.

Halide has recently become my favourite app for capturing images with my iPhone 11 Pro. The current version, Halide Mark II, offers advanced RAW shooting capabilities, allowing me to capture more detail and dynamic range. Halide provides manual exposure, ISO, focus, and white balance controls, enabling greater post-processing flexibility and higher-quality images than standard HEIC or JPEGs.

Kingston Mill Historic District
Kingston Grist Mill, Kingston Mill Historic District · January 6, 2020 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

Luminar Neo offers AI-driven editing tools, customisable presets, and layer-based adjustments, catering to beginners and professionals for creative and efficient photograph enhancements.

I have used Adobe Lightroom in all its iterations since about 2003. I currently use Adobe Lightroom Classic via the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscription. I get access to both Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom Classic is a comprehensive photo editing and cataloguing software. It offers advanced editing tools, colour grading, batch processing, and RAW file support. Key features include non-destructive editing, lens and camera-based corrections, detailed organisation, and robust preset capabilities, catering to professional photographers and photography enthusiasts.

Avalon Beach, Seven Mile Island
Avalon Beach, Seven Mile Island · August 23, 2023 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

1. Capturing the Perfect Shot with Halide Mark II

Shoot in RAW1 Format: The Halide Mark II app for iPhone offers robust RAW photography features. RAW images preserve more details, particularly in highlights and shadows, generally display more colour detail, and are sharper than JPEGs. However, can they be grainier in low light or night settings? The first step in my workflow is using Halide Mark II to capture RAW images. In the settings, I can choose between RAW+HEIC, RAW, and HEIC options. HEIC captures a processed file, while RAW+ HEIC captures both a HEIC and a RAW image. I have Halide Mark II set to capture RAW images. Halide Mark II uses the DNG format for RAW. This format retains all the data from the sensor, providing a wide range of possibilities during editing. RAW image capture is also the fastest capture mode in Halide Mark II.

Sourland Mountain Spirits
March 21, 2021 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

Lens Selection: Depending on the scene, I switch between the 6mm f/2 lens for a tighter frame (great for portraits) and the 4.25mm f/1.8 for wider angles, capturing landscapes or urban settings. The 6mm lens, with its tighter field of view, is perfect for portraits and detailed shots, offering a more focused perspective. The 4.25mm lens, on the other hand, captures more expansive scenes, making it ideal for landscapes and architectural photography. Both lenses provide superb image quality, but I prefer the 6mm f/2 for landscape and cityscape photographs.

Aperture: ƒ/1.8
Exposure Range: 171000 - 1s
Native ISO Range: 32 - 3072
Focal Length: 4.25mm (26mm FF FOV)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: Contrast, Phase
Flash: Yes

Aperture: ƒ/2.0
Exposure Range: 145000 - 1s
Native ISO Range: 21 - 2016
Focal Length: 6mm (51mm FF FOV)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: Contrast, None, Phase
Flash: Yes

In the Photos app, Apple labels the lenses by their full frame equivalent focal length: Ultra Wide Camera — 13mm ƒ/2.4; Wide Camera — 26mm ƒ/1.8; Telephoto Camera — 52mm ƒ/2. In Adobe Lightroom, Adobe labels the lenses by their native focal length: iPhone 11 Pro back camera 1.54mm f/2.4, iPhone 11 Pro back camera 4.25mm f/1.8, iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2.

Apple labels the iPhone 11 Pro lenses by their full-frame equivalent focal length to give users a more familiar reference point, as full-frame measurements are commonly understood in photography. This helps in comparing the field of view with 35mm DSLR cameras. On the other hand, Adobe labels them by their native focal length, which is more technically accurate for the sensor size of the iPhone. This approach precisely measures the lens itself, disregarding sensor size or full-frame equivalency, which aligns more with technical standards in digital imaging.

Low ISO for Reduced Noise: In automatic mode, the Halide Mark II app automatically chooses the optimal combination of ISO and shutter speed. However, there are some tricky situations where you may override those settings. I strive to keep the ISO as low as possible, reducing grain and preserving image quality. The high end of the range is too noisy to produce usable images, even with noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom. Higher ISO settings are reserved for low-light situations where it's unavoidable. I set Halide Mark II to manual mode to adjust the ISO manually.

Wind blowing the leaves, Blue Spring Road
Wind blowing the leaves, Blue Spring Road · Thursday 15 October 2020 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro at 4.0 sec, · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

Manual Mode for Precision: Manual mode has become my go-to in challenging lighting or when I want more creative control over the shot. In Halide Mark II, I use the manual mode to gain control over ISO and shutter speed. To set the ISO, I swipe left or right on the ISO button to adjust the iPhone's sensitivity to light. For the shutter speed, I swipe on the shutter speed button to determine how long the detector is exposed to sunlight. This control is crucial, especially in challenging lighting conditions, as it lets me balance the ISO and shutter speed to achieve the desired exposure, whether capturing fast-moving subjects or shooting in low light, ensuring the best possible image quality.

Squash Soup
Squash Soup · February 15, 2020 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

2. Initial Edits in Adobe Lightroom

Choosing the Right Adobe Profile: Depending on my subject, I select an Adobe profile—Landscape, Neutral, or Portrait—to start the editing process on the right note. Adobe Lightroom profiles apply foundational colour and tone adjustments, offering a starting point for further editing and styling.

Balanced White Balance: Adobe Lightroom's Auto white balance corrects image colours based on lighting conditions for a natural and balanced colour tone. I initially set the white balance to Auto. Then, I make fine adjustments to ensure the colours in my photo are as true to my vision as possible.

April 22, 2020 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

Auto Adjustments as a Baseline: Adobe Lightroom's "Auto" tone automatically adjusts exposure, contrast, and other settings for an optimal balance in the image. The Auto setting provides a quick start to adjusting exposure, contrast, and other basics. I then tweak the shadows and highlights to suit my imagination.

Source Brewing
Source Brewing · December 16, 2020 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 4.25mm f/1.8

Enhance with Noise Reduction: Adobe Lightroom's Denoise AI reduces noise while preserving details, particularly useful in low-light conditions. I use the Raw Details feature if my image is exposed at low ISO. The Raw Details feature enhances the sharpness and clarity of RAW images, allowing for finer control over texture and edge definition, thus significantly improving image quality without adding unwanted artefacts.

July 4, 2021 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

Lens Corrections: Adobe Lightroom offers Lens Corrections profiles for the iPhone 11 Pro, automatically compensating for common optical issues like distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. When I import photos taken with the iPhone 11 Pro, Lightroom detects the specific lens used – wide, ultra-wide, or telephoto – and applies tailored corrections based on the lens's characteristics. This feature ensures that images look more natural and appropriate to what the eye sees, improving general image quality. It's useful for architectural and landscape photography, where straight lines and accurate colour rendition are essential.

September 1, 2022 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

3. Elevating the Image with Luminar Neo

Applying a Personal Touch: Once I complete all the basic edits, I import the image with the Raw Details enhancements into Luminar Neo. In Luminar Neo, I apply the long exposure preset from the "Easy Landscape Collection". This step is where creativity comes into play, using advanced tools to give the photo a unique character. I usually set the slider to 43% with this preset as a starting point for further changes via the "Edit" menu.

November 20, 2023 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro 6mm f/2

4. The Finishing Touches

Cropping for Composition: The final step often involves cropping the image to enhance its composition, focusing on the subject, or ensuring it adheres to the rule of thirds.

5. Optional Advanced Steps

I sometimes engage in local adjustments. The key is to enhance the image without overdoing it.


This workflow has consistently provided me with high-quality results, balancing iPhone photography's quick and intuitive nature with the depth and precision of experienced post-processing. Whether you're a seasoned photographer or just starting, I hope this guide inspires you to explore the potential of your iPhone camera and bring your creative visions to life.

  1. On iPhone 12 Pro and later Pro models with iOS 14.3 or later, you can take photos in Apple ProRAW. Halide Mark II provides this functionality for previous models. 

Straight Out of Camera (SOOC)

Patrick's post got me thinking that the Straight Out of Camera (SOOC) philosophy is a modern phenomenon that seems to track closely with the growth in the number of people owning digital cameras. It's most active adherents are people for whom any work in the "digital darkroom" is anathema. I think some of these SOOC adherents are amateur photographers who admire the photographic work of well-known photographers like Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothy Lange, etc. but may not know enough about these photographers to realise that they often spent just as much time in the darkroom using dodging and burning and other techniques to create their images. It seems to me many of these amateurs want the look of these famous photographers without any of work. I like Partick's sarcastic phrase:

Ahh...the good old days of film photography, when all you had to do was click the shutter.

I sometimes like the JPEG images that are produced in-camera when using certain Fujifilm Simulations and recipes on my Fujifilm X-T2. However, I also know what emotion and story I want to tell with my images and sometimes the images the camera produces does not capture what my mind sees.

15 August, 2012 | Statue of Liberty | Nikon D40 | AF-S Nikkor 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 at f/11 | ISO 200

The image above of the Statue of Liberty is from a rainy weekday on a trip back from Ellis Island with my family. I wanted to capture the drama in the sky, and I felt that I could capture an image that matched how I was feeling about how the US treated early immigrants to the USA.

Quite often, these immigrants had abandoned their home and villages in Europe and under challenging circumstances arrived via crowded ships with just a few clothes and precious possessions. They had to answer a barrage of questions about their nationality, religion, finances, and endure humiliating mental and physical health exams. The sick were quarantined and many were refused entry. Some returned to their homeland. Some were so desperate for a chance at a better life that they attempted to swim against the currents of the Hudson River toward the New Jersey shore. Many drowned.

Between the play of the sun trying to force the dark clouds pouring rain on choppy waters of the Hudson and the people below, I imagined the anxiousness and despair of those early immigrants.

The original photograph, captured on my entry-level Nikon D40, was bland and had dust spots. I had to push and pull at it for a few hours in my digital darkroom to get what I wanted.

15 August 2012 | The Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, New Jersey | Nikon D40 | AF-S Nikkor 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ f/11 | ISO 200

I think the post-processed image captures what I was feeling.

I'm in the process of getting back into film photography after a nearly 21-year hiatus after switching to digital. I've got rolls of Ektachrome, Ektar, Velvia and Scala to shoot with my Spotmatic II. I don't have a dark room, nor do I want to use one at this time, so I'll have very little control over my images after I push the shutter. My images will be scanned to digital so won't be SOOC.

If you like the images your camera produces as-is, by all mean, I think you should continue doing so. But please, please, don't assume that people that shoot and post-processing RAW images are wasting their time or wasting disk space or can't get it right in camera1.

  1. I hate that one the most. 

Sharpening Your Images for Online Viewing

Looking back, I can't help but go "Doh!" It's one of those moments when I realise I should have known better. After all, I've been at this photography thing for quite a while. But hey, better late than never, right?

Recently, I was browsing some images on another website and was in awe of their crispness. In comparison, my own photos always seemed a bit fuzzy. Naturally, I started questioning myself - was it my focus, my camera, or perhaps the lenses?

I have two Nikkor lenses, the 35mm f/1.8 G and the 85mm f/1.8 G, both highly regarded. So, that couldn't be the issue. Maybe it was my eyes? Being 50 and dealing with diabetes and a cataract didn't help either.

Determined to find an answer, I turned to Google for some "research". After thirty minutes of digging, I found two websites that shed light on my problem. It seemed like the culprit wasn't my gear or eyesight but rather how I prepared my images for the internet.

I decided to experiment. I had some photos taken during a brewery event and sharpened them using Nik's Output Sharpener as suggested. The difference was remarkable - the noise reduction before sharpening made the pictures stand out.

These images were captured in low light conditions, which meant shooting at higher ISO to avoid motion blur. I applied Nik's Dfine 2 to reduce noise for some of them, and the results were worth it.

Alex Helms, Troon Brewing
Alex Helms, Troon Brewing · Saturday 10 December 2016 · Nikon D5100 · AF-S Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8
Alex Helms, Troon Brewing
Alex Helms, Troon Brewing · Saturday 10 December 2016 · Nikon D5100 · AF-S Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8

When dealing with images containing noticeable noise, I've discovered that reducing noise before applying sharpening yields better results. For this purpose, I found Nik's Define 2 to be quite effective in reducing noise in the original image. With Nik Dfine 2, I can independently adjust contrast and reduce colour noise, tailoring the noise reduction for each picture. Typically, I stick to the default settings or add just one additional noise measurement control point to remove noise selectively.

These particular images were taken during Troon Brewing's Grand Opening at Brick Farm Tavern, where the indoor lighting posed a challenge. To counteract the low light conditions and prevent blur, I had to shoot at ISO 1600 and above to maintain a sufficiently fast shutter speed.

I must admit, doing this sooner would have drastically improved the quality of my "beertography". But hey, learning and growing is part of the journey.

So, here's to sharpened images and continuous improvement! Cheers! 🥂

Troon Brewing Grand Opening Brewery Tour
Troon Brewing Grand Opening Brewery Tour · Saturday 10 December 2016 · Nikon D5100 · AF-S Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8