If you’re looking to take your photography to the next level, a DSLR camera is the first checkpoint on your road to professionalism. With larger sensors, interchangeable lenses, and image stabilization that’s often better than what you’d see in a point-and-shoot, entry-level DSLRs make professional-quality photos accessible to the average consumer. But for easy (or on-the-go) filtering, mobile photo editing is easy to achieve from the convenience of your smartphone.
Choosing a mobile-friendly DSLR camera
Most modern cameras come with Wi-Fi support, so if yours doesn’t… Well, it’s the perfect time to update that camera body! When selecting your camera, look for options between Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity. Wi-Fi connection is the most common, but some users prefer NFC or Bluetooth support so that their device can stay on their usual Wi-Fi network while shooting.
(Tip: Even point and shoot cameras come with Wi-Fi functionality nowadays. You can absolutely use these tips for photos taken on a device with a fixed camera lens! Mobile photo editing is now an option for almost all DSLR, mirrorless, and fixed-lens cameras.)
Pairing your smartphone and camera for mobile photo editing
The easiest way to use a Wi-Fi enabled camera with your smartphone is to use the brand’s own app. It’s a simple, no-fuss way to ensure compatibility between each device. Brands like Sony, Canon, and Nikon all have their own camera apps that come recommended right out of the box, and may be available for use on a laptop or Wi-Fi enabled desktop computer as well (depending on each particular brand’s app and software.)
However, these camera apps are designed for universality. They’re free apps that perform a number of simple tasks: they can act as a second screen for your camera, take photos, set a timer, or transfer images. For really basic image editing on the go, these are my top recommendation. They don’t have any extra bells or whistles, and they let you get to the actual editing really quickly!
For additional functionality, look for a popular camera app that wasn’t designed by the same company that made your camera body. Multi-brand apps let you connect to a variety of cameras, and more advanced versions offer additional controls to make your photos come alive. They can remotely trigger your camera with focus bracketing, video shooting, time lapse shooting, and more.
Once you have an image that you love, simply transfer it to your smartphone using your mobile DSLR camera app of choice and get right down to editing.
Major mobile photo editing tools
So you took a great image on your camera, transferred it to your smartphone, and skipped your computer altogether. Now what?
Now it’s time for the good stuff: image editing. I recommend beginning this process with an app that can filter and correct your photos, like Adobe Lightroom or VSCO. Begin by correcting for geometry and lens distortion, and crop if desired. Some users like to correct for exposure and white balance at this stage as well; I prefer to filter first, and adjust after.
Take your photo to the next level by adding a filter that suits your aesthetic. Select for colour, tone, grain, vignetting—and fine-tune as needed. Lightroom and VSCO are great apps to start with because they’re free to use, with additional paid features: VSCO, for instance, limits HSL (Hue/Saturation/Lightness) colour toning to paid users, and sells additional filter packages.
Many DSLR users edit photos on their computers as well. If you’re one of them, and you use Lightroom for your personal or professional images, the mobile photo editing app is surprisingly similar to the desktop version! Your Adobe Creative Cloud account will sync your folders, filters, and files, so you can work on any project that you have on the go. (That also means that you can use filters that you’ve created in your desktop app on your mobile device, which is pretty great.)
Fine-tuning your mobile photo editing
For mobile photo editing that turns out just so, you may find that you’re happier with the results of using a combination of apps, or of using paid apps. Select something with an interface with the capabilities that matter most to you.
As a blogger, I’ve always loved the way that Adobe does curves—and their Lightroom app doesn’t disappoint. But its healing brush requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, so I’ll use Snapseed instead for its clone stamp as a finishing touch. (A stray breadcrumb on the edge of my plate? I don’t think so!) Other details, like text overlays or layer screening, requires an app like Afterlight.
Another tip that I always like to add in is to consider what phone you’re using. If you’re editing a photo in the middle of the day on a popular model of phone, what you’re seeing is likely very similar to what someone else will see when the image pops up in their text messages or Instagram feed. But if you’re editing at night, you’ll want to make sure to adjust for ambiance! Make sure your phone’s brightness is up, your ambient adjustments are removed, and your nighttime filter is turned off.
Likewise, if you’re using a less-common phone, it’s a good idea to test a few images on your computer screen or a friend’s iPhone (or similar) to get an idea of how they’ll render elsewhere. Is your screen unusually cool-toned, or dimmer then average? Make sure to adjust accordingly.
Accessories to enrich your mobile photo editing experience
Mobile photo editing may be all about convenience, but that doesn’t change the user. I’m an indecisive photo editor at the best of times, and even more so when I’m in transit!
If I know I’m going to be editing a number of photos on my phone, I’ll make sure to pack an extra battery case in my bag. A simple stylus is also handy, especially if there’s something in your image that you want to clone or heal.
Photo editing may be easiest on a larger screen, but the convenience of being able to edit a great image with your smartphone can’t be beat. Mobile editing is a great way to get a photo up onto your social media feed before an event is even over, and can be an excellent way to provide clients with a few previews of their photo session by the time they return home.