Enhance Your iPhone Photos with Available Light and Simulated Light Sources


Enhance Your iPhone Photos with Available Light and Simulated Light Sources

Processed with Cameramatic app.

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” ~George Eastman

Understanding light is indeed the key to creating stellar, breathtaking photographs, whether it be taking a photo with available lighting (called ambient light), or simulating a light source in the post-editing stage.

A Quick Crash Course in the Different Types of Light

  • The best light for taking photographs is available to you during the ‘golden hours,’ which are roughly one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. This light is soft and diffuse and casts golden hues on all it touches.
  • The types of light: front lighting, backlighting, side lighting and top lighting
  • Front lighting will cast a soft, even light on your subject and any shadows will fall behind your subject, making for a flattering portrait.


  • Take advantage of backlighting, where the light comes from behind the subject, creating a glowing, halo-like effect. Shooting into this type of light can produce stunning lens flares with an iPhone, as well as silhouettes.



  • Side lighting is the most dramatic type of light. It hits your subject, illuminating it at the point of contact, then recedes into dark shadow.
  • Overcast top lighting is appealing, however full-sun top lighting is too harsh and casts unattractive shadows on faces.

Apps that Simulate Light Sources 

I often add faux directional lighting and various lighting effects to my photographs in the post-editing stage. When I want a dramatic effect where I add light to one area of the photo and cast the rest in shadow (a chiaroscuro effect), I use the app Noir Photo. You can place the light source where you wish, increase or decrease its size as well as its intensity. It renders your image in monochrome. Choose classic black and white or other tints (like sepia and green and blue-toned hues).


If you want to add a faux flare, glint or ray, try the apps Lensflare and/or Rays. You can adjust placement, size and strength of the effects in each of these apps.

Let’s say you have a gorgeous landscape shot with lots of sky in it. You can transform the sky into magical bands of color by applying vintage gradient filters from the Mextures app. You might also try its ‘Landscape Enhance’ set of filters.


Apps that have blend mode capability (like Mextures) can transform the given light in your scene. The blend mode Exclusion can create a glowing effect that works especially well with black and white photos (as seen in the example above).

My Go-To Light Simulation Apps in a Nutshell

Lensflare (all kinds of lighting optical effects)

Rays (realistic light ray effects)

Noir Photo (dramatic lighting)

Element FX Pro (cool lighting graphics)

Mextures (impressive gradient light filters)

The Lighting App (preset lights that are fully customizable)

Combine Techniques to Create Works of Fine Art

This is the last of my four technique-based articles that I’ve written for Manfrotto. I recommend combining multiple techniques I’ve shared from the posts to yield the best results; to create works of art you can be proud of. Perhaps add a simulated light source with the app Lensflare, then slowly build up some textures with the app Mextures. The possibilities for experimentation are endless!

Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is an award winning iPhoneographer and DSLR photographer from Maine, USA. She is the author of three instruction-based books (published in the US and abroad by F+W Media, North Light Books) on the subject matter of digital art with Photoshop, mobile photography and DSLR photography, and mixed-media art. Her fourth book, Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos (about DSLR photography and mobile photography) was recently released by North Light Books and has been a best-seller in its category on Amazon.

Susan currently offers two online photography courses — The Art of iPhoneography Self-Portraiture and Co-Lab: Paint, Paper and iPhoneography Magic (co-taught with best-selling author and mixed-media artist Alena Hennessy). She is offering 50% off her self-portraiture course just for Manfrotto readers. Get details at http://iPhoneArtistryCourse.com/ Susan is currently the Technical Advisor for Somerset Digital Studio Magazine. You can view more of her work and explore her blog at her website SusanTuttlePhotography.com Instagram: susantuttle Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susan.tuttle.144

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