Category Archives: iPhone

iPhone Rocky

Olivia as a boxer gritty light

This was taken with a handheld iPhone 4S. I used a 60 dollar 300LED video light that also was handheld by the 6 year old sister on camera left and just a bit higher than eyeliner. You can see it in the catchlight. The LED light was about two feet away and bare. The background is about one foot away and is a piece of black polar plus I bought as surplus from the local sewing shop. The polar plus does not reflect light very much, in fact it works almost as good as felt curtains but lighter and cheaper.

My post processing was Lightroom 5 with the clarity way up to get that gritty look and I also over sharpened it some. I did some basic adjustments for color and then faded out the yellows and oranges by lower the saturation a bit. There was a hot spot on the forehead from the light being bare and so close so I used CS6 and my Wacom to “paint” in that hot spot with color sampled from the nearby skin.

This image was not an accident. I had thought about it all the way home from the office, pre visualizing the positions, the lighting, the look I wanted. So my set up and taking of the image took less than 10 mins. Post was about 10 more mins. Smartphones are VERY capable cameras when you work within and push the limits carefully.

Also posted in editing, lightroom, portraits

30 Days of Black and White iPhone Fun

I’m not much on things like 365 day projects and whatnot but a favorite group of mine on Google’s G+ called “Smartphone Photographers” is having a fun time with #30DaysBandW or 30 days Black and White. The deal is you shoot with your smartphone and post it as a black and white image. Thats right, no color, no fancy filters, no tints are allowed, just good old black and white images but we do allow traditional tinting like sepia toning, blue tones, duo tones and so on.

I find this really makes you think more about composition than you normally might. You always will find that you play with the tools more since a simple conversion to grey tones gets boring 🙂 You will rediscover that red, green, yellow and blue filter can really alter your tonal range in a B/W image. That grain is your friend much of the time. And that the iPhone (and others) very, very capable black and white shooting tools.

Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of concept shots, playing with processing, playing with textures and anything else I can think of. My go-to tool has been SnapSeed but I plan to use a few others before it’s all over. Here are several of my shots so far. All taken with an iPhone 4S and I’ve used Snapseed, Mextures, AfterFocus and Photoshop Express for the processing in various combinations. Something I’ve noticed is that with the iPhone, I tend to shoot much closer than I normally would think to do. The DOF is so much that I can be inches away and get a decent shot. None of this are using any third party lens, just the plain old iPhone lens.

Yes, I did a selfie as one of my shots but it’s a bit different than many. I tried to tell a bit of a story. What do you see as my story?
Mike Selfie iPhone 4S

I plan to try some landscapes and maybe some cool textures before it is all done. I also don’t think 30 days is going to be the end of it for me, I’m having way too much fun with this little challenge. And you know what? It carries over into my shooting with the D700 and other cameras. Practice is practice.

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iPhone Madness

Too many people are told that an iPhone or any other smartphone is “just a camera phone” and not capable of taking “real” pictures.  It’s not the camera, it’s the person taking the picture who creates the picture and breaks through the limits imposed by the hardware or themselves.

[blockquote_with_author author=”Orson Welles”] The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.[/blockquote_with_author]

I hope in seeing this gallery of  iPhone images, you can get  sense of what you can do with your own smart phone. Some of these images I’ve used in my iBook, but many of them are new. And I tried to include what I consider to be “average” pics. So the image might not be technically perfect or the image might have been an experiment. Many are from Disneyland which is my testing ground for many of my techniques since I am in a real world environment that many people are using their smart phones in.

All of these were taken with my Apple 4S smartphone and processed in a wide variety of apps. I’m not a purist for my post processing, I’ll use whatever application gets the job done whether the app is on the phone or installed on my desktop such as CS6. The one thing shooting with an iPhone has taught me above everything else is to be flexible. Embrace change, embrace the flaws, the defects, the limits and make them your own.

In many ways, being an iPhoneographer embraces Steve Jobs own views on misfits and rebels. I think his famous quote could easily be dedicated to the smartphone photographers who have embraced the sea change that the iPhone has brought to photography in spite of the denunciations of the so called professionals.
[blockquote_with_author author=”Steve Jobs”] Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.[/blockquote_with_author]

 

 

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iPhone Magic or How to Make Your Smartphone Smarter

This post is not an iPhone specific post, it will apply to ANY Smartphone that can take a picture. But, since I specialize with the iPhone, that is the one I will reference to the most for this post. Virtually all of the smartphones have a camera now of varying ability. But the one thing they cannot do is a decent zoom. Oh they say they can “zoom” but what they are doing is taking that small marginal image and then cropping it to make it even more marginal.

A real zoom would need moving optics and with our collective lust for thin form factors, a optical zoom on a cell phone is just in not in the offering. Why is this important? Because it points out a hard set limitation of the camera. Other limitations are the lack of adjustable F stops or a real adjustable shutter. These are the things you need to learn about on your phone because knowledge is power. With the knowledge of your phone’s limits, you can overcome the limits and make the phone camera do what you want it to do and how you want it do it.

For an example, lets use my iPhone 4S as our test bed. It has a fixed aperture of 2.8 and works to adjust the exposure in the daylight by keeping the ISO low and the shutter speed high. And I mean very high, I have images with the EXIF data showing 1/10,000 of a second shutter speed. So if I want blur in the middle of the day, what can I do? According to Apple I cannot adjust any of these adjustments. But, there is way to FAKE it!. All I need to do is make the camera think it’s darker outside than it really is. This is accomplished by the use of a special filter called a Neutral Density Filter or ND filter. They are measured in “stops” of darkness, starting at 1 stop then 2 stops and finally 3 stops of darkness. You can even stack them to add up 2+3 to get 5 stops of darkness. Cool you say but my phone does not have any place to attach this filter. True but with a bit of gaffers tape, you can TAPE the filter over the camera lens and the camera wont know any better. I always carry a bit of gaffers tape with me wrapped around a sharpie marker pen.

Gaffers tape and sharpie

Gaffers tape and sharpie

Here are the ND filter I use on my iPhone. I bought them years ago for my Nikon 950 digital camera so they are too small for anything new but work perfectly when taped in place on my iPhone.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral Density Filters

Why would you want to use something like this? In the following example, I’m at Disneyland taking pictures of the submarines going through the waterfall. A rule of thumb is that movement adds drama to an image. But with it being bright, the default shutter speed of my iPhone camera would have been high enough to freeze the water in motion. You can see that freezing in this image but it’s not what I wanted on the waterfall. I wanted the water to show action unlike this shot where I wanted to freeze the action.

Frozen motion using iPhone

Frozen motion using iPhone

To get the motion I needed to slow down the shutter speed. But according to Apple, I cannot do that. But I know if I use the ND filters, I can make the camera THINK it’s dark and it will slow down the shutter to let in more light for a proper exposure. To be frank, shooting in this hack style of photography is a blend of experimentation, luck and guesswork. But it does work as you can see here. I have the submarine sharp but the water which is moving faster than the submarine is blurred. This adds a lot of drama to the snapshot.

Disneyland submarine going through waterfall

Disneyland submarine going through waterfall

Now I have a keeper shot rather then just another poorly done snapshot like everybody else with a smartphone. So the takeaway here is to learn the limits of the camera and then be creative in working around them to get the camera to do what you want it to do. After all, you are the photographer, not the camera 🙂

You can find more tips like this in my iBook “How to Create Amazing iPhone Photographs” in iTunes as an iBook or at Lulu.com as a PDF for all other devices.

Also posted in Hardware, musings, technique, Travel

IPhone Photography or iPhoneography

SmartPhones are ubiquitous in today’s world. So many of us have one or another type of smartphone and they are so capable that they have replaced several devices. The one device that the smartphone replaced for many of us is the pocket digital camera. For myself, I shoot with the iPhone for a lot of reasons and not least of all is that I love the interface of the iPhone. It works for me and apparently for a goodly number of other people too. For the past year or so, I’ve made it a habit to watch others at events and while traveling to see who is shooting their memories with what device. The iPhone wins hands down as the most common smartphone I’ve seen in use overall. There is even a word used to describe using the iPhone to create photographs. You will see and hear the word “iPhoneography” or the art of creating photographs with the Apple iPhone.

People use their iPhone for travel pictures, family pictures, weddings, news and just for making pure art. It really makes sense when you think about it. The smartphone or iPhone is almost always with you in your purse, or in your pocket ready to be used for a call, internet query, a map or a fast snap. I find that I tend to be much more creative when shooting with my iPhone over shooting with my normal DSLR because I can easily shoot when inspiration strikes or sometimes, when opportunity presents itself. The DSLR is so big and bulky that it takes a conscious effort to carry it around and it’s noticeable when at times, I dont want to be noticed. The iPhone on the other hand is great for stealth shots or if I happen to be inspired at the moment. And as I show in my book, one can get REALLY creative by Macgyvering (is that a verb?) your way to success with simple tricks.

I want to show some images that I created while in flight and bored or just walking across the parking lot. The idea is that you can shoot and make art at almost any time of the day or night with your smartphone, or in my case, the iPhone. The only real limitation is your imagination.

IMG_4728 dreams

This image which I call “Flight of Dreams” was taken while flying back from Chicago. I was bored but I had my iPhone and so I took several shots out the window. Then I used Snapseed to adjust the colour and crop. I used another tool called “Image Blender” to add a texture and finally I used AlienSky to add my Saturn to the corner.

Triumph Motorcycle

This shot and the next one were taken while strolling through a parking lot on my way into the office. I happen to see a new Triumph motorcycle parked and I love the old school lines but on the modern motorcycle. I quite literally stopped, put down my coffee and ripped off several images. I then processed the images over my coffee once I got into the office.

Chrome motorcycle wheel iPhone

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High Dynamic Range or How to Love Sunny Days

Ah, Sunny days! We love them in Southern California but they cause significant problems with digital cameras of all kinds because of the limited range of exposure. You can see this effect on a bright day when you are trying to take a picture of something in shadow and the sky blows out to pure white. You lose the cool clouds or mountain peaks behind the subject. Or you are in a dim room and when you take the picture, the image is very dark or you lose the wonderful ambiance because the flash went off and blew it all to white. What is a person to do?

There is a trick in photography called High Dynamic Range or HDR for short. It is a method of taking multiple images seqentially at the same time with something like one stop of exposure difference between them. The range will go from dark to light and then the different exposures are stacked and blended to keep the highlights and the shadows in the final image. Many people will overachieve and end up with a cartoon like effect rather than a realistic image. This is strictly a function of taste and not a fault of the technique. The technique of HDR mimics what our eyes do naturally by letting us humans to see both shadows and highlights at the same time without us having to think about it.

This image of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland shows off what HDR can do for your photography. This image was taken during a very bright morning and normally when you exposed for the white building and trees, you would blow out the sky. But I took several images and used an application called “HDR Efex Pro 2” which handles the loading and merging of the images. It also gives a nice dashboard to adjust the final image to taste.
Disneyland Haunted Mansion

But I have an iPhone or other smartphone you say? What can I do? As it turns out, there are several HDR apps available for both iPhones and Droids. I happen to use an iPhone and I use an app called “TrueHDR” which will shoot three images and then merge them on my iPhone in just a few minutes. I can then edit a bit more if I want.

In this image, you can see the typical shot you would get with the iPhone without using HDR. In trying to get the shadows, the highlights blow out. The colors look a bit washed out also.

Before HDR and post processing

Before HDR and post processing

And here is what the final image looked like after TrueHDR blended the images and I tweaked up the saturation a bit. The beauty of this is that I was able to shoot and then process the image while walking to the next ride. I didn’t need my computer, laptop or extra software loaded up. I was able to process and adjust my images while munching on some treats and standing in line for a ride. How cool is that?

msmedia-2013- Final -HDR- TrueHDR- IPhone

You can easily see the marked improvement in the final image by using TrueHDR. You can do even more by shooting on a more powerful camera like a Nikon D700 or other DSLR. In the next image, I used a very high shutter speed to not just stop the action of the falling log but to keep it from moving too much between frames. The movement of something between frames in HDR causes “ghosts” to appear and the closer the images are, the easier it is to fix the ghosts. This is a feature of using a better camera and more powerful software (so far) then the amazing iPhone 🙂 As you can see, the riders while in deep shadow are easily seen and the clouds while in a bright sky are also easily seen and add a lot of drama to the final image.

Splash Mountain Disneyland HDR

Splash Mountain Disneyland HDR

I’m using images from one of my Disneyland trips because it is vacation time where you lose much of the flexibility for waiting for good light or time of day. You are on limited time and you need to make do with whatever light you have or don’t have. Shooting with HDR in mind is an easy way to really improve your images even while you are shooting with what is normally considered “bad light”. It will also work at night time to pick up cool details of lights and details of buildings. You will have more ghosting but that adds to the overall look and feel of the image.

Here is the Disneyland Tower of Terror as an nighttime HDR. The building picks up all the cool but subtle lighting in this image which normally cannot be photographed without the details blowing out.Disneyland Tower of Terror HDR

So learn how to use your camera for HDR whether it is a smart phone or a DSLR. Both will work really well for HDR shots and give it a try. The trick is to learn how to bracket your shots on the DSLR and finding an HDR app you like for the phone. The phone is cheaper by far to try but the DSLR will give better results overall. In my own case, I find that my iPhone does a very adequate job while on vacation and is the proverbial “good enough” for my vacation pictures.

Also posted in HDR, musings, photography Tagged |

Shooting with the iphone IOS 6 Panaroma Tool

One of the features of IOS 6 I talk about in my book is the new Panorama tool. This is a tool that allows you to take the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, swing it in an arc and then have a gorgeous panorama image in just a few seconds. If you dont believe me, then take a look at this sample shot from a fundraiser I attended the other day. We had set up two jogging tracks for the kids to run around in two different fields. I wanted to get an image that really showed off both sides and my D700 with the 16mm was not able to get it. Nor did I relish the idea of taking several shots and then spending time in Photoshop stitching it all together. So out comes my iPhone 4S !!

I did three different shots as I’m a firm believer in backup images even more so with this given all the variables such as kids walking by, lighting and so on.

Here is the normal blog image of the pano. The best I can really do is 1900 pixels or it scrolls off your screen.

Jog-a-thon Panorama IOS 6 iPhone 4S

But, with a built in feature of Photoshop, I can easily show you the high resolution image. I use a tool called Zoomify and now I can show off all the resolution I have. Or in this, as much as I grabbed. The original image was downloaded from my iPhone at a reduced size and even the, the image is over 9000 pixels long. All I did to the image was to sharpen it some and cropped it a bit. So for a iPhone stiched image, I think it looks pretty good!

Click here for the Zoomified Pano

As I say in my book, the iPhone is a very capable camera when used correctly. Have fun and go play with panoramic pictures! I am pretty sure you will be amazed and it wont cost you a penny since it’s built in. If you want extra features like a full 360 degrees or other items, buy my book 😀  or hit up the Apple App store and look around. 360 and Photosyth are two good apps for cheap prices.

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It’s done! My new iBook for iPhone Photography is done

Well, at least the PDF version of “How to Create Amazing iPhone Photographs” is done. The iBook version is waiting for Apple to bless it. But, in the meantime, you can buy and download the PDF which is exactly the same content as the iBook. You can download a free preview from Lulu Press who is my POD (print on demand) vendor.

Here is the description for my new book –

[blockquote]Your content here.The iPhone is an amazing tool. It is a phone, a database, a web browser, a camera, a video recorder and more. But this amazing array of features may overshadow the iPhone’s arguably greatest feature: its camera’s ability to capture a moment in time.  This book will teach you how to use the iPhone camera in ways you never dreamed, to fully capture the moment and to create amazing photographs.  You will learn about the basics of crafting images with the iPhone but also about interesting options such as infrared and underwater photography. You will see how to perform high-speed panning to capture a subject in motion and produce stunning images. I present a wide variety of apps, accessories and hardware, as well as tips and tricks, to aid you in creating your photographic art. I hope my sample images will inspire your creativity. When you have finished reading this book, you will know how to use your iPhone as a real camera to create amazing art and lasting memories.[/blockquote]

This book was a blast to write. Anytime I “need” to shoot pictures for a book is fun but this was great because all I needed was a small camera bag and my iPhone. It was liberating in a way to not have to carry around eight lbs of camera plus a big ol’ lens that bangs off things and people as I walk by.

iPhone camera bag contents

My bag has some interesting stuff. A ball bunji cord, a spare phone (my old blackberry), sync cable, Otterbox, Ultra Pod, spare power, MiFi, gaffers tape,  Glif, olloclip lens  and lens cleaner. All of this fits into a very small and light camera bag.  For really light days, I put the olloclip and glyph  into my coin pocket and the ultra pod in a back pocket.

Sample Page from iPhone Book

Here is a sample page from the book where I’m discussing converting the image to black-and-white. This is representative page of my book. I discuss how to shoot with the iPhone, how to add filters, lenses, using video light and more.

If you want to know how to creatively shoot awesome pictures with your iPhone even though it was not designed for it, buy this book 🙂

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So many words and a new book for iPhone photography

I’m in the last few laps of editing for my new iBook on Successful Iphone Photography. The writing of the book is easy, the editing will kill you. But I’m having a fun with this project. I’ve tried to put in imaginative images that I’ve taken with my iPhones and have gone outside the box to get some cool shots. This book is not a vanity project or an “art” project. God knows there are enough of those around. It’s just “here is how to get solid images from the iPhone”.

 

Here is a preview of some of the images being used in the book. None of these are traditional iPhone images but I have some of those too in the book. These are images to get you thinking about you can do with your own phone. The only limit is what you put on yourself.

 

Double shot of coffee

Nothing like a cup of joe in the morning ?

iPhone 4S using a Hoya R72 IR filter for infrared

Who says you cant shoot IR on the iPhone

Half a Moon with the iPhone

I had several people call me out and say there was not any way this could have been an iPhone shot. I have the EXIF data and the original file. Go ahead, make my day

Using Movie Filmmaking rigging and a iPhone

This was taken using suction cup, ball heads and rigging that I normally attach movie cameras or DSLRs to cars and trucks. This was a fun shot complete with the gaffers tape holding the neutral filter stack over the olloclip lens on my iPhone

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The iPhone as a real camera

The iPhone burst onto the scene several years ago and the critics were vicious in their panning of the new and very expensive Apple phone. As time went on, it was clear who had the right idea and now Apple’s iPhone dominates the smart phone market from both numbers of phones and the overwhelming number of apps.

I have had an iPhone since V1 thought it took me almost a year to give up my crackberry for the iPhone. But I have since embraced it even though as a phone I find it to average. Why do I embrace it? because it does so much more for me than just calls. And in one area, I’m not alone in my loving the iPhone and that is iPhonography. The art of taking photographs with the iPhone. From instagram, to camera apps, remote triggers, facebook camera apps, framers, watermarking apps and more, there is an amazing number of ways to use the iPhone as a camera. And it’s not just the apps, the sensor is pretty good for what it is. It can be reasonably sharp, it has built in HDR and one of the worst flashes I’ve ever had the misfortune to use.

I decided to put a few images to show what the iPhone can do with some imagination and a few apps.

The next two images were taken using the 4S with an inexpensive telescope using a normal viewfinder and a X2 barlow converter. Nothing very special. I used a spring clamp on the eye piece to provide a platform to snap from and I used a remote trigger by way of the + button on the mic cord the second time to get away from the shake and shudder caused by having to touch the phone.

September 4th Moonrise using iPhone 4S

Close up of the moon using iPhone 4S and a X2 Barlow converter

Then there is what we do when we play tourist. In this case, I was at Disneyland and while I had my G11 hanging around my neck, I opted to use my iPhone because I could snap it, process it and send it to my wife who was not able to be with us at the park. The social side of the smart is in many ways, more of  driver than anything technical. The tech is just the means to an end which is social interaction.

Snow White with kids on iPhone 4S

And lets not forget the geeking out side of life. I found an app called “360” which is a way cool automatically stitching panoramic app. You set it up and start taking shots. The app handles the overlap and blending and does a fair job of it. Not as nice as my DSLR but for 5 bucks or so, how can you possibly complain? It’s good enough and that is the idea here. The phone is “good enough” on alot of fronts and some of the apps make it “better” than my DSLR. In this shot, I have been to catch the complete rainbow end to end.
Partial pano of rainbow using iPhone 360 app

I’ve taken beautiful shots at events, weddings, documented shoots, tourist shots, work shots, printed images and processed images all on the iPhone. It’s a very capable device and when coupled with someone who knows photography, it’s astoundingly good at being a camera.

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