Do Image Stackers Really Work

Image stacking apps for creative iPhoneography and improved image quality.

The theory behind image stacking to reduce image noise and increase resolution is solid, we’ve been doing this for years in Photoshop. Can this be done automatically inside your iPhone?

These days there are several iPhone photography apps claiming they can produce much better photos by stacking several quickly captured frames on top of another, and then blending them down, even the iPhones standard camera app uses a version of this idea.

Do the image stacking option really deliver on the promise?

The answer is sometimes……but find out a little more about this by watching this short video.


Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG from the iBooks Store:

Check out the video here:

Why Are My iPhone DNGs so Poor

I’ve seen few items on the inter-web claiming there’s little difference between the JPEGs and the DNG photos, I’ve also been often asked about this in classes.  I reckon it’s high time to put the situation straight.

There’s an enormous difference between the two, it’s like comparing a takeaway hamburger n chips to a fine Italian sit down meal, not even in the same league.  If photographers are not seeing this difference it likely boils down to one of three issues.

  • Maybe they’re not editing the DNG files correctly or possibly not editing them at all, instead they are just looking at the initial “JPEG setting rendering”.
  • Could be that the images are only being viewed as small on-screen versions, in other words they are not being viewed on a large hi-res computer screen or as prints.
  • And…. the most likely the issue is poor DNG exposure.

It could of course be a combo of all three but regardless of the cause I have a little video where I discuss this issue, might be worth checking it out.  Of course all the intricate details and issues are covered in my “Ultimate iPhone DNG” e book which has just been released on the iBooks store.

Buy “Ultimate iPhone DNG” on the iBooks Store:

Check out the video here.



Commercial Photo Quality using iPhone DNG


Here’s a quick question for you. Considering we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing cameras and uber lenses that are able to render the hair follicles and yet un-born zits on supermodels at 50 paces why would you even think about using a mobile phone for anything other than a casual snap of that coffee and cake you had for morning tea.

Serious photos with an iPhone, are you serious? That just sounds totally contradictory!

Well if you disregard iPhones’ depth of field differences and the wide-angle lens perspective you soon realize when shooting in DNG that the dynamic range, sharpness and color are not bad at all for a great many needs.

And here’s the thing, not all serious photos are taken by serious people with serious gear.

These days lots of people who are not photographers are given orders from on high…”go and get me some pics of that event, make it snappy and when ya done get it posted to our Instagram account…….. and I want it on Facebook before you leave the office tonight or you’re fired”!

Appleby Link 3
A multiple exposure capture of the famous Appleby Beam Engine at Goulburn’s Historic Waterworks, this image was part of a series taken using the iPhone which capitalised on the iPhones extensive depth of field in close-up situations, it is capable of being printed at least to 20 by 20 inches.  For web use, well you can see that’s hardly a challenge.

Fact is, and I know this will hurt the ears, feelings, and egos of many of the sensitive photographic souls reading this, but I get lots, and I mean “lots” of people who turn up in my workshops on Lightroom, Photoshop, Photo Composition, iPhoneography etc who’ve been made “Resident Dynamo Chief Executive, iPhone Wielding Guru of Multi-Media, Instagram and Facebook”, for their business or organisation.

These people are not normally photographers, heck they never intended to be photographers but that’s what they’re now expected to do, and damn it those pics better be good!

So here we are 2017, the iPhone has DNG with all the goodness that it infers upon one’s image options and we have an increasing number of non-photographers and indeed actual photographers who use the tool for serious work.

When I was planning my new Ultimate iPhoneography series of eBooks it soon became obvious that one of those books needed to look at what Photographers and non-photographers with serious needs could do with their iPhone. There’s a need for some wholesome yet easily digestible information on how they might actually nail those needs and importantly how to avoid the potential quality pitfalls.

Oil Loco 2
This old oil burning loco at Goulburn’s Rail heritage museum is part of a series of images I took for a brochure using DNG HDR, the textural quality is lovely and the file is very pushable in post, I doubt most people would pick it as a mobile phone image unless told.

The Ultimate iPhone Professional book dealing with lighting etc is still 6 months off,  (There are six books planned for the series) but the first book, Ultimate iPhone DNG is already up on the iBooks store and the others are all well into the production phase.

Coming back to the question of “why shoot serious (work) stuff with the iPhone”,  I reckon there are several solid reasons.

The obvious one is the need for rapid turnaround and the benefit of instant sharing, no doubt for a great many commercial uses the quality deficits are not relevant, you can easily crop the images and still have more than enough pixels for social media needs. Honestly regardless of how much traditional photographers protest the fact remains only a very small proportion of images shot for promotional purposes ever find their way into print at anything larger than say 5 by 7 inches. Now even allowing for reproduction at 300 PPI, that 5 by 7-inch print still only equates to around 3 megapixels.

But I think you can make a case for iPhone shooting that transcends the traditional convenience and resolution sufficiency arguments, a case that says sometimes the iPhone might technically be the better choice. (ASSUMING we are shooting in DNG)

Yep I know, right about now there are virtual knives and spears being thrust forth into computer monitors in the hope of impaling me or at least banishing my presence for the inter-webs, but please humor me, I’m just a country lad from a place that no-one much knows about.

Waieko River NZ
Taken along the Waioeka River on New Zealand’s North Island, the extensive depth of field works a treat and the image has plenty of DNG clarity, even for a wall print, the subtle tonality on the highlights is very nice and much better than you get from iPhone JPEGs.

So what actually are the benefits the iPhone could offer in a technical sense.

Depth of Field is enormous, it’s pretty easy to get everything in focus.

Related to the depth of field, the iPhone can easily get very close up photos nicely sharp and yet still have a nice degree of separation between the subject and background elements.

Going further the lens is wide-angle, but it’s actually tack sharp right out to the corners, which is not always true of wide-angle lenses on regular DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras.

Better yet the lens/sensor size enables you to have some interesting perspective renderings and looks that you can’t achieve in other formats.

Now yes it’s potentially a noisy little blighter but actually, the luminance noise when shot in DNG at slightly elevated ISOs is rather nice and filmic with a certain artistic appeal.

Another aspect that few people will have considered is that it’s relatively easy to get complete in-focus rendering for very near and distant objects easily by using focus shift techniques and only 2 or 3 frames.

Goulburn Courthouse Entrance
A two frame focus stack, with the iPhone just two frames will probably be enough to render from very near distances through to infinity.  Three frames is as many as you would ever practically need.

For the working photographer a tool only needs to excel in one specific aspect to make it useful for some select shooting needs, no-one’s claiming the iPhone is the perfect portrait device, the ideal copy camera, the most powerful landscape tool, the last word or even the first word in the world of sport photography shooting, but it doesn’t need to be either.

And finally, let’s face it, most DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras are still pretty hopeless when it comes to social media duties and many are very difficult to use for close-up work unless you have lots of other bits to go with them.

So yes the DNG shooting iPhone is potentially a serious camera for serious needs, it all comes down to way you choose to use it and of course what you want to use it for.

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG here:


Steampunk Lass
Here we have a lovely young lady dressed in all her steampunk finery, the image has been selectively blurred (DOFsim’d), in reality, it gives little away in terms of quality or look and is perfect for most publication needs.