One of the challenges with iPhoneography is that unless your subject is really close it is quite difficult to mimic depth of field (or depth of focus). This is achieved with traditional camera technology by controlling aperture settings. There are numerous ways to lead the eye to a subject such as selective colour or leading lines but often a shallow depth of field is the ideal solution. All of these effects can be achieved in iPhoneography either by careful composition or in post processing.

During this tutorial I will use AfterFocus to mimic depth of field. (Big Lens is another iPhoneography app I have that does a similar thing but I haven’t had opportunity to play with it yet). I will devote some space to look at AfterFocus in a little more detail.

iPhone photography apps used:

iPhoneography - shelter

{ shelter }


At it’s most basic level understanding the capabilities of the iPhone Camera / Camera replacement App you use is essential. Most iPhoneography apps have the ability to choose separate exposure and focal points. Setting the focal point of capture will ensure the target is sharp. However, in many situations it is unlikely to give a significant variation in focus between the subject and the surrounding area.

Process and apps used

Hipstamatic ~ initial capture (Adler 9009 Lens / Blanko Film):

iPhoneography - hipstamatic

Snapseed ~ add ‘Drama’ filter and crop to remove border:

Snapseed - drama / crop

AfterFocus ~ for me this image was was sufficiently interesting but needed more character. The initial step and the basis for all future edits was to simulate a shallow Depth of Field. The process involves masking. Whilst AfterFocus provides a powerful masking smart select feature time and patience is required:

AfterFocus - depth of field


The following thumbnails show some of the key screens in AfterFocus:

A note about each thumbnail [ click to enlarge ]

  • Initially I use Smart Select.
  • As a minimum use a combination of white lines (areas to remain in focus) and black lines (areas to blur out of focus) to define the red focus mask.
  • You can switch to the manual brush selection tool (top right) but note if you do you cannot revert to Smart Select.
  • Once masking is complete hit the top right arrow to select other options.
  • Start by selecting the amount and type of blur to apply to the area not masked.
  • Then select the aperture shape and toggle whether you would like a ‘bokeh’ effect on or off.
  • Set the fading background – the lines can be moved into position manually to provide a realistic ‘Depth of Field effect’.


This for me is the base image and from here I can go on to process in any style that I choose.

BlurFX ~ an iPhoneography app I often regard as a companion to AfterFocus. I was unhappy with the edge between the top of the umbrella and the faded background. BlurFX softened this area manually:

iPhoneography - BlurFX

PhotoFX Ultra ~ add ‘Wide Angle Lens’ effect and re-crop:

Another issue with iPhoneography is that with the exception of a few accessories you are restricted to a single prime lens (single optical focal length). The 35mm camera format equivalent would give an iPhone4 a 30mm lens. You can add dynamism associated with wider angle lenses via apps in post processing. Whilst this iPhoneography tutorial focuses on depth of field we can also add a bit of lens distortion:

PhotoFX Ultra - wide angle / crop

PhotoForge2 ~ add ‘bulge’ effect:

Another process to help move away from the ‘flat’ iPhone image. Continuing my quest to mimic something more analog and dynamic in nature:

PhotoForge2 - bulge

Pixlromatic+ ~ add ‘Redrum’ light filter:

Adding a light leak effect helps with the analog appearance. It is especially helpful in adding a little more character to a black and white conversion:

Pixlromatic+ - redrum

PhotoToaster ~ add ‘Fade Out’ filter:

Adds a fade effect. Also adds the vignette often associated with analog photography:

PhotoToaster - fade out filter

Snapseed ~ convert to Black and White using the contrast option with added grain:

I am a huge fan at the moment of grainy black and white images. I see a lot of very clear perfect images and they are beautiful. For me, I like to add character and atmosphere to iPhoneography in post processing. At the moment grain is a key element in that process:

Snapseed - black and white / contrast / grain


Midnight On Lincoln High Street
See AfterFocus used in another iPhoneography workflow { midnight on lincoln high street }. This night scene shows how AfterFocus affects of out of focus light to create the familiar ‘bokeh’ circles.


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