Category Archives: iPhone

Are Smartphones “real” Cameras?

Is it real or wannabe?

What really defines a real camera? The size or the number of lenses it can use? What about the weight or the technology used? In my world, a “real” camera is any camera that can take a picture I’m happy with. If the end result is an image that meets my needs, then it’s a real camera and not a toy.

When you understand the basics of photography and you understand your equipment, then that real camera can be as simple as a cardboard box with a pinhole in it and a piece of film on the back. But I digress from my real subject at hand.

This post is really about smartphones and the perception that they are not real cameras. I have heard the comment so many times of “oh, it’s just a cellphone” that I cannot help but laugh. I’ve actually taken advantage of that bias to get shots that would normally be very difficult or even impossible with a DSLR or even a pocket camera. People have been trained that cellphone cameras take really crappy pictures so there is no threat in someone taking a cellphone picture of a building, a person or a stage show. If I show up at a park with my DSLR and start taking pictures, I will be approached by some do-gooder threatening to call the cops on me. This has actually happened while taking pictures of my own kids. However, I’ve never had anyone say that threat while I’m running around the park with my iPhone.

The shot below was taken with my iphone while on a morning run. Instead of carrying a 5lb DSLR, I had my smartphone and I think it did a bang up job, dont you?

Apple iPhone Smartphone Pano

 

Think about this in another way. It is not about the camera. Nobody looks at your picture and says “well, if only you took this with a Nikon ABC, it would be a real picture”. No, they will say something like “what an awesome picture!!” And it doesnt matter what you took the picture with.  In the early days of photography, you did not have a real camera unless you had 30 pounds of glass plates, a gallon of emulsion and the 8×10 view camera. Kodak released some cameras in the 50s that look like toys by today’s standards. Quite simply, they were a box with a lens and a place to put film. No more. Then came the medium format cameras, the 35mm cameras, the 110s and so on. I remember it went from “real” cameras where you had to adjust the shutter and f stop to instamatics which were the cellphone camera of the day. Small, cheap and portable but with very crappy pictures except in very controlled circumstances.  In 1999 is when I bought my first digital camera and for a few years I shot digital for fun and film for important events. But digital got better, the software got better, the cameras got better.  The “real” camera wars started up again with the adevent of cropped sensors vs full frame sensors. Now we have smartphones vs DSLRs and mirrorless. The funny thing is that the smartphone camera is heads and shoulders better than what our parents/grand-parents shot with. An image from an Kodak instamatic or 110 doesnt hold a candle to a average iPhone picture quality wise. So which is the “real” camera?

What else can you do?

Since the smartphone is a real camera AND a real computer, not only can you take pictures, you can edit them while standing in lines and upload them to social media or to the grand parents on the fly. Not only that but you can stream in real time using periscope or other software so the party that could not come can still be part of the day. Try that with your canon or Sony or Nikon.

 

Here is a shot i took at Disneyland and edited while having one of many snacks 🙂

Disneyland Castle 60th taken with Smartphone

 

Helping Hand for the Smartphone

As good as the iPhone or most smartphones are, there are times they can use a bit of help just like a real camera 🙂  In the image below, I used a 18mm Moment lens for a very wide angle to get this shot of the space shuttle, Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Even my Nikon DSLR with a 24mm lens could not get the entire shuttle in the frame. This is a case of playing with to strengths of the camera. In this case, most smart phones have a pretty wide view and my Moment lens agumented that to get the entire shuttle in a single frame. The cost of the lens was about 50 dollars. A lens for the Nikon to get the same view is several hundred dollars.  I’d say that a smartphone which can outshoot a DSLR is a real camera in anyone’s book.

Space Shuttle Endeavor taken with Apple iPhone Smartphone

 

Today’s smartphones are a real camera, just wrapped in a slightly different package and a powerful computer included.

 

Also posted in Articles, musings

Gorgeous Utah

For the last year my wife has been after me to take the family on something more like a family vacation instead of the “stay-cations” we have done since the girls were very small. So we tried a short trip up to Monterey Bay to see how we would all do in a small van for three days and to my surprise we survived. We even managed to have some fun and hit a few missions for Sara’s homework assignment.

That small success lead to our major trip this past year to the Zion Mountain Ranch in Utah. For those that do know about Zion, you are missing one of the true wonders of the west. It has spectacular scenery and you can easily fill dozens of flashcards with pictures. ZMR is at the border of Zion and is a working buffalo ranch.

Utah sky using HDR and iPhone

The accommodations are really small lodges with privacy and amazing views. Ours was a family sized lodge and had two levels with a bedroom plus bath upstairs with our own cast-iron room heater. The downstairs had the kitchen living room, bathroom and another bedroom.

Zion Moonrise

When we looked outside on the first morning, we had a herd of deer wandering through the front yard  and at night, the skies were so clear I felt I could reach and touch the stars. The kids had a ball running around and stalking the deer. Then they discovered the buffalo. The ranch feeds them and so they would come up to the fence. Let me tell you, you don’t understand how massive one buffalo is until you are next to it.

Reflections of Buffalo

We all went a trail ride on horseback which was a tremendous amount of fun. This was not a “pony ride” but a full featured trail ride along the rim of a canyon and through the scrub brush.

While I did bring along my D700 camera and good glass, I also brought along my Mamiya 1000S medium format film camera. But I took the majority of the photos with my iPhone. I wanted to have a vacation and not be dragging along 20 lbs of gear everywhere I went. The iPhone works surprisingly well for a travel camera and did exactly what I wanted it to do. It caught family moments with the least amount of fuss and bother. And yes, even “Flat Stanley” got into the act 🙂

Family at Bryce Canyon High Point

 

So one thing I learned was to let the wife do some driving while I happily shot pictures through and out the window of the van while we drove around.  My window tint as it turns out is a really good neutral density filter on the economy size. I shot this image coming back from Bryce Canyon with snow blowing into the windshield. I had a lot of fun with impromptu shots like this of the scenery and the family. Now that we are home, the girls are still talking about trip and they want to go back. So I think I should put another mini vacation together to hit Canyonlands and Arches National Park 🙂

Snow fall on the road

 

One of the best things about letting someone else drive is I could work on a slide show on my iPad while zooming across the desert in the passenger seat. I created this slide show using my iPad Air and a cool app called Photo Slideshow Director Pro. If you ever get a chance to visit the state of Utah, you really want to make time to see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. The Bryce Canyon Lodge is a great place to grab lunch and soak up the atmosphere of Bryce.

Also posted in Articles, musings, photography, Travel Tagged , , |

Super Amazing Smartphone Tricks

Trick 1

Reflections

Reflectors are just a way to toss a bit more light onto your subject. In spite of the marketing hype in the photography world, there is nothing magical about a reflector. It can be anything that reflects light ranging from a simple piece of white paper or tin foil to a concrete wall. There is something to be said about the use of white vs. color and white vs. something highly reflective like tin foil. The reflected light will carry with the color cast of what you use so with yellow or gold, you can “warm” up a subject by way of a yellow light. Tin foil adds a sparkle and edge to the light which some folks like and some do not.

reflector in use

Trick 2

Light up small objects

Something that a smartphone like the iPhone excels at is shooting small items for sale on sites like eBay. The trick for this type of photography is using a lightbox that will evenly illuminate the item from all sides. You can buy a light tent or do a DIY version using a cardboard box with panels cut out and covered with a diffusion material like tracing paper. You cut out the panels and then position some lights at each panel. I use three 85 watt CFLs that are daylight balanced. I had them for another project and reused them for this project. You can use the cheap worklights but they put out a lot of heat. The CFLs are much cooler and can be color corrected by gelling or in post processing.

Trick 3

Diffuse Your Light

Diffusion is the opposite of reflecting in a sense. You are not adding light but evening it out by subtracting the brightest parts. You can accomplish this several ways ranging from making your own diffuser from a cheap canvas frame with the canvas cutout and replaced by something along the lines of Roscos Opal diffuser material, a piece of thin white ripstop nylon, tracing paper, cheap shower curtain or any other semi opaque material. In my case, I made a diffusor (or Scrim) from the canvas frame so I could clamp it in my C Stands. But you do not have to have that stiff of a frame. You can use a cheap white “shoot-through” umbrella which will cost about 10 dollars from various online stores.

Diffuser made from canvas and wooden stretcher art frame
DIY DiffuserHow does a diffuser work

How does a diffuser work

The left side doesn’t have the diffuser overhead and right side is using DIY diffuser overhead

diffuser in action

Trick 4

Increase Your Density

When you take pictures in bright daylight, the typical smartphone will lower the ISO and crank up the shutter speed to get a good exposure since the aperture is locked to something like 2.2 or 2.4. On the surface this sounds fine and in most cases this perfectly fine until you want to make a better picture than a snapshot. When you take a picture of something with motion, you need to show that motion and a fast shutter speed is not the way to do it. So how can we reduce the shutter speed when we really cannot control it from our smartphone? We fake the camera into thinking it’s darker than what it is by way of neutral density filters. We are playing off the camera’s programming that it will reduce shutter speed before it raises ISO speed. Sometimes it’s easier to show someone something. So here is a shot taken high high noon at Disneyland. Normally the water would have been stopped like it was frozen. But when I tape a ND filter of two stops over the camera lens of my iPhone, the phone thinks it’s darker than what it is and lets the shutter slow down. This bit of slowing is enough to let the water blur but still keep the submarine motionless. The moving water adds visual tension to the image which the brain likes to see. It shows motion which it expects to see.

IMG_8230

Trick 5

Light Up the World

You can spend a whole lot of money on lighting or you can be cheap. The good news is smartphones do not require expensive lighting. You can do amazing work with a 60 dollar video light. Since there is not any real way to connect and synchronize strobes to the smartphone, continuous lighting is really your best way to illuminate your subject. A common use is to supplement other lighting but you can also use it by itself.

Trick 6

Be crafty with your smartphone

When you go to anywhere that you will be shooting through glass like an aquarium, make yourself a foam gasket to seal the smartphone against the glass. Why? because the gasket will prevent reflections and absorb vibrations while giving you a way to steady the camera. The black foamie material is available for virtually any craft shop for a few dollars for enough to make several gaskets. When you get up close and personal to the glass, you can easily get shots like this taken at the Montery Bay Aquarium using my iPhone 4S.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
sea anemone

Trick 7

Use latex gloves

This trick is a bit of an odd duck. When you are carrying around your fancy glass encased iPhone or other smooth smartphone and it is a bit damp, the phone gets slippery. This is generally a bad thing but putting on a uber cheap throw away latex glove can give you much needed “stickiness” to keep a good grip on the smartphone. I’ve used this trick with my iPhone while at the best or out whale watching. Even when it’s really hot and my hands are constantly sweaty. Yes, I could use a case but I am always adding some type of filter over my lens or using a third party lens so cases become a real pain point and as a result, my iPhone tends to be naked most of the time.

Trick 8

Making a Case for a Case

This is not cheap trick but it is a very worthwhile accessory to invest in. There are a few different underwater cases for the iPhone and some for various droids but I will be talking about the iPhone since that is what I own. I would highly recommend that you get a GOOD case which means spending a fair bit of money. The Watershot underwater case I have cost close to 90 dollars but offers quite a few features for the money. You get a shock mount for the iPhone, waterproof to 140 feet, a safety clasp to prevent it from opening underwater, seals for the lens and a custom app to let you shoot and preview the images underwater. It’s not perfect but man is it fun to have in the pool or on casual diving. It is also the case to have in any adverse enviroment like high dust desert or in muddy situations ( think monster truck mud races). This is also a cool case for water soak amusement park rides. Some of the cases have threads so you can add filters or even a different lens.

Under the Sea with an iPhone

Trick 9

Join the Group

One problem we all face is that we want to take a selfie or we want a group shot and we have to either be out of the picture since we are taking it or we have to hand our phone to some stranger and hope they dont run off with it. With the iPhone and Android phones, there a a few different ways to trigger the shutter remotely. With the iPhone, you can use the much maligned earbuds to trigger the shutter by way of the volume controls. You can also use a bluetooth remote trigger or even a bluetooth remote keyboard (the volume controls). Some of the better units support many popular third party camera apps. The cheaper ones are bit more challenging to use

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Recovering iOS iPhoto Albums and Journals from iOS 8 Upgrades

So Apple says they will not support iPhoto anymore under Yosemite or iOS 8. Now, for the desktop world, people are scrambling to export out images, edits, books and other projects. But on the iPhone, Apple was strangely quiet about this. Oh, they gave you a way to “migrate” your edited images from iPhoto to the camera roll but you lost ALL of your book projects, Web Journals and meta data.  While iPhoto was a average editor, the DAM (digital asset management) side was excellent and I used it to manage over 5,000 images on my iPhone.

But getting back to the task at hand which is getting back my book projects that Apple so kindly refused to manage a export function for. They could have easily exported it out to the desktop iPhoto for now but no, Apple being Apple said we are done.. period.  That didn’t settle well with me and I set out to find a way to recover them. The first road block I hit was under iOS 8 it appears that Apple has changed the back up strategy of iTunes backing up iOS. You used to have versions and versions of your backups. This was pretty stupid since it chewed through a lot of disk space but it was nice to be able to back up a few months or even longer. Now, with IOS 8, I see ONE back up even though I had done it several times manually. Thank you God (Apple) for Time Machine. I was able to recover my iOS 7 backup from TM and copy it to the folder and rename it.

~/Library/Application Support/Mobilesync/Backup

You do need to identify which file is the one you want. If you have a single device, you can easily go by date. In my case, I have several devices attached to iTunes so go to iTunes/preferences and the select devices. Find the backup you want and then right click and choose “show in finder“. Just like magic you will be taken to the backup you need.

Make a note of this file or better yet, copy it out to a folder so you can easily find it.

I ended up using a couple of applications what was critical to recovery of my iPhoto files from my iPhone. The first one is called “iPhone Backup Extractor” and while it will cost you some money, it’s worth it for several reasons beyond this exercise. The biggest reason to use this application is that it can looks ANYWHERE for a backup file. Most will only use iCloud or the default locations of iTunes without any other choices. I had moved my user account/files off my SSD to cheaper storage so I needed an app that would let me tell it where to go to get the backup.

In this screen shot, I have selected my backup and files I want recovered. You need to use “expert mode” to be able to select the application data files.
iPhone Backup Extractor Expert Mode

Now you can select the iPhoto app data files.
iPhone Backup Extractor Selecting iPhoto files

Now iPhone Backup Extractor is extracting my files.
iPhone Backup Extractor

Now the hard part it done. I have all my data files but iPhoto uses a database and so the book files are pretty useless right now. The web journal is all HTML and easily reused now however you want.
iOS iPhoto data files

But I need to get these files onto my iOS 7 iPhone or iPad. And this is key, you have to have a second iPhone or iPad that still has iOS 7 on it. In my case, I had both and I did restore the files to both just to see if I could.

I used a second application called “iExplorer” which lets you treat the iPhone as a data drive. In this image, I have my 2nd iPhone plugged in and loaded into iExplorer. I need to click on the ALL button to see the apps.
iExplorer Start

This is what you get when you select All. I need to click on apps and find my iPhoto and then copy over the directories with the red arrows

iExplorer Apps

Files in iPhoto to Copy

The copy works just like any other copy. Go to the restored copies on your computer then drag the directories one at a time over to the root of the iPhoto app. It will ask if you want to overwrite the folder and say yes. It will take a few minutes to finish the copy. Once done, open up iPhoto and it will start rebuilding the database.

Now I have my files back

Restored iPhoto files

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Moment Lens for the iPhone

Moment Lenses for the your iPhone!! The kickstarter project delivered my set just the other day and man am I excited about it.

Moment Lenses

These new Moment iPhone lenses really do work as advertised. One lens is a 18mm wide angle that is wide and shoots pretty flat rather than normal bubbled or fisheye look. And there is a 60mm telephoto lens that really works well and is sharp. The 60mm even provides decent blurred background when you use it as a portrait lens. In the following image, I used the 60mm telephoto lens as a portrait lens with nice results including a pleasant softening of the background.

60mm telephoto portrait

You really need to use a camera app like ProCamera 7 to keep the focus point where it needs to be. With the telephoto, the iPhone will hunt a bit for focus so you need to be able to lock it down for the best results.

The wide-angle lens is a thing of beauty to use. It has nice heft to it and it does not have very much distortion at the edges or the “bubble” effect of many “wide-angle” iPhone lenses. It does have a bit of fringing when you shoot into high contrast light.
18mm Wide angle

With the telephoto, you can now get the “zoom” you want and still have the ability to crop it down 50% without destroying the image which is what I did with this image. This beats “pinch zooming” which just ruins your images due to the heavy cropping that the “zoom” really does.

This is a 60mm telephoto shot that is uncropped width wise.
60mm Telephoto uncropped

And this image is the same framing but cut down 50%

50% crop of same framing

These wonders come from Moment Lens which was a Kickstarter project that I bought into several months ago. The lens we’re designed from the ground up to be a top multi element lens design to work with the iPhone lens as an element. They are big and heavy due to real glass and a lot of it in front of the iPhone lens. They use a twist lock mount that is pretty solid.

Moment certainly understands their market with a very sexy black box and high quality packaging. The feel of the lens itself is one of heft and solidness. The mounting ring is a stick-on plate and I was a bit concerned as to the weight of the lens pulling the mounting plate away from the camera body but with two full days of leaving one of the two lenses on the camera while going around Disneyland has not loosened it up that I can tell.

The downside to all this metal goodness is that the lenses are not cheap. But then these lenses are not for the casual iPhone photographer. These are for the enthusiast iPhoneographer who loves to push the limit of what the iPhone can do with photography. Even as heavy as they are, the lenses are considerably lighter than a DSLR lens and they still fit into a shirt pocket though it is a bit chunky. When I shoot with them, I naturally cup the lens with a finger to help keep all the weight from pulling down on the mounting plate.

Here is the 18mm mounted on an iPhone 5S with the olloclip case. The case still works with the mounting plate and provides a way to keep from bashing the Moment mount and still swing out-of-the-way when you go to use it.

18mm Moment Lens mounted on iPhone

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Lightroom for iOS

Adobe has released Lightroom for iOS devices and I have to say it’s pretty cool. I was surprised with Lightroom on the iPad but the iPhone with its smaller screen was going to be “interesting. But the Adobe engineers really pulled off a coup with their release.

I’ve tried the major features and also the file syncing between the iPhone and my desktop version of Lightroom. Pretty slick!  I took a dozen shots today in a photography class and added them to Lightroom. Later I opened up Lightroom 5.5 on my Mac at home and like magic, the new images appeared in Lightroom.

In the coming days I plan to use it and abuse it then decide if I like enough to keep it on my phone. But, on the surface it’s impressive.  Everything works smoothly and so far I have not had any crashes of the app. I am using this on iOS 7 with an iPhone 5S so I do have top flight equipment. All bets are off with this working as smoothly on an iPhone 4S for example. You are going from 64 bit processor to 32 bit and you will take a hit. But I will be testing that also just to see. While iOS 7 runs on the iPhone 4S, it is not at it’s best. I suspect the same will be true for Lightroom Mobile.

You also need to have a Creative Cloud account such as the Photoshop Photography Program at 10 bucks a month. Any of the more expensive programs work too but I think many are using the 10 dollar program.  You will need to  have at least the 5.4 Lightroom update on your desktop/laptop version of Lightroom.

Lightroom Mobile is based on “Smart Previews” where the images are:

  • Built on the DNG format
  • 2560 pixels on the long side
  • You can make adjustments even without the original image available locally
  • These adjustments are applied when the original file is available

Here are screen shots for the iPhone 5S using Lightroom mobile

LIghtroom Mobile File Sync

No mess and no fuss. This is awesomeness at it’s best. You can see on the left the smart collection Lr mobile Adobe made and then created the iPhone  Photos folder.

OK.. thats cool but what does the interface actually look like? Exactly what you would expect if you have seen the iPad version. Just smaller 🙂

Settings for iOS Lightroom IMG_6882 IMG_6881 IMG_6883 IMG_6880 IMG_6876
IMG_6877 Photo Details in iOS Lightroom

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Why use a real editor for smartphone images?

We all have heard the myth of why iPhone (or any smartphone) cannot take a good picture. By now you have seen in this blog, many images that are very respectable and if I had not said they were from an iPhone, you would have thought they were from a “real” camera. But, to really get the best out of your smartphone picture, you need a real desktop editor. Not an app on a very small screen. I use Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe for a few reasons. One is that Lightroom is an asset management system and will let me keep track of ALL 80,000 of my images. It is also a kick butt editor that is very easy to get fast and smart results from. A bit of icing on the cake is you can buy it outright for about 150.00 dollars or you can pay 9.99 a month for it AND Photoshop CC. That’s right!! For about 2 dollars a week, you can have the defacto standard for editing and management. For this post, I will be showing what can be done with Photoshop since it does things like skin retouching better than Lightroom. Photoshop works really well at what I call “Heavy Lifting” editing. Lightroom does amazing work for very fast and general edits but when I need to replaces parts or have very fine control over the editing, I use Photoshop.

When I say all of this in my iPhone class, the next question is “Why”? Why do I need this? If you are just posting to Facebook or other social media, then you don’t. But, if the iPhone has turned into your main camera and you want some really nice pictures to print and hang, then you want to use the right tools to get there.

Here is a typical iPhone shot taken on the fly just before the Disneyland “Big Thunder” ride takes off. I liked the overall expression but I didn’t like the splash of bright light on her face or the background. I used PureShot on the MAX quality JPEG setting. This setting gives me over 3x the data to work with. The normal iOS image is about 1.5 Mb and the MAX is a bit over 5Mb in size.

Iphone image before Photoshop Editing

Here is the Photoshop edited version where I’ve used normal glamour retouching techniques to clean up the bright light, smoothed out skin tones, cropped it and tilted it slightly. I also used a slight blur on the overall image. I even removed myself from one of the sunglass lenses.
Edited iPhone Image using Photoshop

You can see that the iPhone image edits just as well as any other image from a “real” camera when using a real editor. The tips and tricks you know work the same. And just like any other JPEG, you need to edit with a gentle hand to avoid artifacts. For this edit, I use many layers and my Wacom tablet.

All this extra data really comes in handy when you want to pull down highlights or bring up shadows on an iPhone JPEG. Normally you cannot do either very well but with the MAX quality JPEG, it works pretty well.

None of this editing could have been done on the iPhone using an “app”. We do not have the apps and we do not have the fine control of a stylus needed on such a small screen. Even on the iPad, it would have been difficult at best.

Ultimately it is all about control and flexibility as to why use a real editor on your smartphone image. Again, this is wasted effort if all you are going to do is post to Facebook which destroys image quality anyways. But if you want really nice images, this is why.

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Pushing the iPhone Post Processing

The iPhone is really the most widely used “smartphone” on the planet. They are everywhere and some of us revel in pushing them far beyond what the Apple engineers dreamed we could do with them. One of the strongest features of the iPhone is also one of it’s weakest. Everyone loves the camera and apps of the iPhone. Those of us that know enough hate the JPEG processing currently used on the iPhone and iOS7. With iOS 6.x, the JPEG was somewhat loose on it’s processing and could easily handle being manipulated by apps and external software like Lightroom or Photoshop. But, with iOS 7, the processing of the JPEG was changed to a more highly compressed version and the end result is that the OEM JPEG cannot withstand nearly as much editing as it used to be able to.

This has lead me to work more with third party apps like ProCamera 7and PureShot. Both of these have excellent choices for saving files with uncompressed TIFF as an option. A difference is that PureShot offers a MAX JPEG that is very, very good with not too much post processing and quite a bit of data to work with. How much more? Well, the default Apple iOS camera app saves the 8 megapixel image as a 1-2 Mb JPEG file at 72 dpi. Pure on the other hand in MAX JPEG mode, saves about a 5Mb file at 300 dpi. The image dimensions have not changed, they are still 3264×2172 but the AMOUNT of data is significantly more going from 2 megs to 5 megs. This means you can really push the image around in post processing much more than with the standard Apple image. An added feature is you can embed your own copyright info into the metadata when the image is taken.

Pure Home iPhone 5S

Pure MaxJPEG screen iPhone5S

This image was taken in very bad conditions for the iPhone. In other words, extreme contrast in light going from very dark shadow to very bright light. Normally speaking, the iPhone (and most smartphones) doesnt have a prayer of getting a good shot. They just do not have the exposure latitude needed. But with PureShot, I knew if I got the highlights right and not blowout, I could pull up the shadows in post since I had so much data. Not only did I do that, I also applied a 25% crop which didn’t bother the image at all.

Sara dueling Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi School

With the standard iPhone app, you would get blocked out shadows and no hope to get them back or you would blow the highlights. I did the processing on Snapseed but in Lightroom, I could push it even harder. Lightroom excels at highlight recovery even if you cannot see them on the iPhone and has excellent shadow enhancement tools.

Here is the original image from Pure without any post processing
Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  untouched

And here is the same image cropped and retouched in Lightroom. You can see I could crop tighter, there is now details on Darth Maul’s outfit that didn’t show up in the Snapseed image and the Jedi sign is not looking like it melted. The post processing tool you use, makes a HUGE difference in the final outcome of your image. Don’t be married to the idea “I’m only going to use my iPhone”. You are cheating yourself doing that. The iPhone works very well but a real editor makes a difference.

Since I’m working with PureShot, even cropped as it is, I can still print an 8×10 without any issues if I wanted to. I was able to export out at 2500 pixels and 240 DPI without any issues

Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  Lightroom

This image shows that you can really push an iPhone image as long as you use the right tool to shoot with and the right tool to process with. I could push this image more to bring up some of the trooper’s white armor but I spent only 30 seconds in Lightroom to make a point.

I shot with PureShot but ProCamera 7 can produce the same results but using uncompressed TIFF files. Their JPEG is not quite as robust as Pure’s. I love the split focus and exposure of ProCamera but Pure shoots faster. So you decide which is more important to you and your style of shooting. I use both depending the situation.

*** edited 6-2-2014 to Pure screenshots ***

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Disney on Ice, How to shoot low light with an iPhone

Most photographers panic when they have to shoot low light with fast motion. They start to blubber on about needing uber-high ISO and uber-expensive glass. For those with smartphones like the iPhone, the common thought is “Don’t even bother, it won’t work”. And truly, for most photographers and most common users of the iPhone, that is true. And it’s true because they keep banging their head against the problem instead of thinking smart and letting that smartphone do it’s job.

First, let me show you what you can do with an iPhone when it’s in a dark place with a very bright spot light and something moving fast like the “Disney on Ice” show.

 

Disney on ice,  Beauty and the Beast

So the first thought is “Whoahhh”.. that’s an iPhone picture? You must have special access, special software, special lens blah, blah.. There is NO way I could do that. And you would be completely wrong about your assumptions. I shot this with an iPhone 5S and using an app called ProCamera for a couple of reasons. The app lets me set my exposure and focus points in two different places and it lets me save a TIFF file so I can really work with the image after the fact in something like Lightroom.

ProCamera is a replacement camera app for the iPhone that just rocks it. You get TIFF format, Fullscreen triggering, antishake and more like the separated focus and exposure points. At 99 cents, you cannot go wrong with it

I also use a desktop editor to get the best out of the TIFF files but for fast posting to Facebook, I will use Snapseed then re-edit later on when I get home. That editing with Lightroom or other desktop editor is the magic secret sauce to get the very best out of smartphone image. The TIFF gives you the latitude to work the shadows and highlights to recover details without ruining the image.

A very important trick is to learn to anticipate a slowing in the action to mimize the blurring OR to use the blurring to help tell the story. If you cannot fix a liability then embrace it and make it your own. In this image, I knew there would be tons of movement but I also knew some of the skaters would be pausing so I had the best of both worlds. I had the grand finale with the fireworks which I had set my exposure to and I had motion that made the image dynamic.
Disney on Ice finale

This is the trick, use a liability and turn it into a positive which in this case is the inherent blurring.

When you shoot something like this, don’t be afraid to try a few techniques like using the OEM HDR or alternative camera apps. Also, use techniques like panning to help lock focus on your subject, just don’t whack your neighbor. The flash off the iPhone in an event like this is useless and obnoxious to your neighbors so don’t forget to turn it off. Most of these images were cropped down some since I was not what you would call “close to the action” so keep your subjects away from the edge of the frame as you shoot.

Also posted in composites, editing, event photography

Have iPhone, Will Travel

 

[dropcap_1]L[/dropcap_1]et’s see a show of hands, who has used their iPhone to shoot travel pictures? Yep.. it is soooo much easier to have an iPhone with you (or any smartphone) vs carrying around a DSLR with a couple of lens, a flash, spares and more. The iPhone slips right into the pocket which leaves your hands free for holding, swinging, looking, touching and more without the fear of the 10lbs of camera slamming into some child’s head or into that very expensive glass case in the gift shop.

You can get the iPhone camera lens right up to a glass case and lose the reflections that plague a normal DSLR trying to shoot through glass. The DOF is so wide that you can be be just inches away and still get everything in focus. In this shot, I was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and shooting through a glass fish tank with really dim light. By placing the iPhone right up onto the tank, I was able to lose reflections AND stabilize the camera for the the sharpest image with the slow shutter speed needed. I did try it with my DSLR and the results were less than satisfactory. Not to mention I really could not do anything with the image till I got back to my room while I was able to work with the iPhone shot and post it to social media while having a snack at the aquarium.

Flower of the Sea

In this shot, it’s myself with my FILM camera and the family at 8,000 feet in Bryce Canyon. I could and did hand the iPhone to a non-camera geek and just told her to tap the screen where I was standing then tap the button. Done. One nice picture without any mess or fuss. We even got “Flat Stanley” in the shot 🙂 When we went for our hike, I was not carrying eight pounds of gear. I had my iPhone and I was then able to carry my medium format film camera for some truly amazing images that only come with a negative that is over two inches square. In an interesting twist of the times, I used an app on my iPhone as a light meter to set up the exposure for the older film camera.

Family at Bryce Canyon High Point

Is an iPhone a perfect replacement for a DSLR or micro four thirds rig? No, but it IS an acceptable substitute perfectly capable of awesome pictures. In some cases, it is even easier than the DSLR because of the smarts built into it and the apps the iPhone can run right away while taking the shot.

[content_box color=”#000000″] The iPhone can produce some amazing pictures but to get the full quality, you need to use a real editor like Lightroom or Photoshop. Apps like Pixlr and Photoshop Touch can work wonders  but the big boys can pull out the very the best quality [/content_box]




The built in HDR app is OK, but the cool app is called HDR Pro. It’s one failing is that it over sharpens the image when it saves. I wish it would just blend and stop. But it is not bad for what it can do. Snapseed is still my “go to” app but Pixlr is fast becoming a good friend. PhotoFX does awesome black and white conversions. None of this is really possible on the normal pocket camera or DSLR. So you end up with the camera, a laptop, software and sitting in the hotel room processing images then uploading them. While with the iPhone, I can shoot, process and upload while drinking a cup of coffee or even sitting on a bus heading back to the hotel.

Also posted in editing, equipment, musings, Travel