Tag Archives: Smartphone

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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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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Brave New World of iBook Publishing

This post is sort of about photography but it also is about Apple, it’s about iBooks and it is certainly about diversification.  One reason I have been very quiet of late is that I’ve been head down on learning how to use iBook Author to put together a new book called “How to be successful at iPhone Photography”. In a past life, I use to write very dry technical books on geeky things like network security, Linux and Cisco stuff. If you were a network geek, you probably read one but for the average Joe, not so much.

Now, with photography as my life, it came to me that I could recycle my writing skills into something more than just blog entries. I decided to write a book on using the iPhone since it would be somewhat more easy than writing for Android phones and I happen to own an iPhone. This made it even a more simpler choice on my part. The reason is in the past several months, I’ve become quite the enthusiastic shooter using the iPhone. I am always amazed at just how good it can be and what can be done with a smart phone and some clever apps.

The book will be finished in a few weeks and then submitted to the black hole of Apple approval which I’m told can take weeks and weeks if I’m not so lucky. The price will be very cheap, between 1.99 and 2.99, I have not made up my mind yet. The goal is to make it a good book and high value for less money than a decent latte would cost you.

Now, some of you might sneer at the idea of using a camera phone for anything other than quick and dirty snapshots. I mean, a real photographer uses a brand name DSLR with a five pound chunk of glass hanging off the end. A few years ago that was true and I would have said it myself. But, with the advent of the iPhone, in particular the iPhone 4, 4S and now the 5, the onboard cameras are very capable systems indeed.

I have exhibit A which is a photograph I took using my iPhone 4S and a cheap ETX telescope. I did upgrade the eyepiece from the OEM Mead ETX eye piece to a nicer but still inexpensive Parker Silver Series eye piece. Good glass is good glass whether it be a camera lens or a telescope. But, that was the extend of my “upgrades”. I did not use anything special on the phone and most of the post processing was actually done on the phone standing in the front yard using Snapseed and PhotoFX. I did load the image into CS5 for a high pass filter and resizing of the image. But this image looks better than many I’ve seen taken with much more expensive equipment.
New Quarter Moon September 23 2012 taken with iPhone and Mead ETX telescope

As you can see from the image, the quality is very good. And this was without any real magic or special tricks or high priced hardware. It’s this type of shooting my new book will show you how to do for cheap.

Here is another iPhone picture and this time, I broke a few hearts with it. It’s the expected “ring shot” but this time I used the Olloclip Macro lens on the iPhone 4S to take an ultra close up of the wedding ring. Then I processed it in CS6 just like I would any other deliverable image. There is virtually no difference in quality of using the iPhone vs. using a DLSR with the 800 dollar lens.

Wedding Ring Shot using iPhone 4S and olloclip macro lens

So here are a few samples from my upcoming book. You will get a sense of the book and how it’s going to look. And being an iBook, it will be interactive unlike traditional print books.

Chapter 1 of How to be a Successful iPhone Photographer

Sample Chapter Content of How to be a Successful iPhone Photographer

So stay tuned for my announcement of my booking being approved by Apple for sale in the iTunes catalog. It’s been alot of fun so far in writing it and I hope when I get it done, you will find it an enjoyable read and inspiration.

 

 

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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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Why You Should Be Printing Some Photographs

On a recent trip to Disneyland and to Chicago, I was struck by how prevalent the use of smart phones, in particular the iPhone was being used for photos. People were taking photos of themselves, where they were, friends, short video clips, long video clips, video conferencing to friends while on the road and more. Heck, I had a Nikon D700 with me and I still used my iPhone to snap a few shots of Chicago. What I did not see were any people sharing PHOTOGRAPHS, only electronic images. No wallet prints, no small albums or any other printed media. People were passing around their phones and other devices.

John Hancock Tower Chicago

In talking with a some of these people, I  learned that very few of them actual printed the images on to paper, ever. The images lived on the phone, Facebook, Flickr or home computer. They were  looked at briefly online and then never seen again as new images take their place. And unlike photo albums of years gone past, nobody pulls out their cell phone or laptop at home to look at pictures.

As it turns out, very few people are printing any of their photographs any more. That’s a real crime in of itself,  but it also goes to show that prints should be part of your collection. Yes, you can have a thousand images on your phone or tablet but what good are they if nobody ever sees them?  What good are they if the kids can’t see pictures of their vacation because they don’t know where the images are out on your hard drive, they don’t have access to your computer or they dont know what widget the images are on? How can they share with friends at school about where they went on vacation or show off to neighbors?

We re losing something precious by not printing photographs. Facebook is well and good but we humans are tactile bunch. W want to touch and hold in our hands things like prints. And it’s not the glow of a tablet, we  want pictures that do not require software, hardware, power supplies, dim rooms and all that goes it with the digital generation of viewing pictures.

This is something we as photographers need to educate our customers to do  and we need to do it ourselves. When was the last time you made 4×6 prints to show off to friends your last vacation around the dinner table or coffee shop? Did  you just dump a few hundred images on Flickr or Facebook and call it good? People get excited about holding real pictures.. They get excited about real time sharing of stories. They get excited about touching pictures. It’s time to get excited!!  Make some prints and spread them around!!

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Long Live the Pocket Camera, the Pocket Camera is dead

the top and sides of an iPhone 3G S.
Image via Wikipedia

Yet another single use device has bitten the dust or I should say, is biting the dust even as I type this. The “pocket camera” or “Point and shoot” is dying a fast and unlamented death. The cause of death is the smart phone of which no matter which one you use, iPhone, Droid etc, now have a reasonable camera built in. It’s the old “good enough” syndrome of the consumer. The smart phone hits the mark in convenience and is good enough for most consumers to grab that snapshot.

When I’m scouting for locations, do I pull out my Canon G11? Nooope.. I pull out my iPhone with the GPS and then shoot and tag. I use my G11 about once a month if that. I use my iPhone at least once a day to shoot a picture of something. It could be a reminder of a phone number, a product in the store, something I’m doing that friends would find interesting.

Just the other day, I replaced the seals on my medium format camera. As I did the job, I took the iPhone and shot pictures every  now and then and put them up on Facebook in seconds. Not real time but close and alot of people enjoyed it. Could I do that with my fancy G11? Not a chance. I would have to shoot, upload to the computer, resize and then upload. The phone literally took seconds to complete the entire task. And that included enhancing the images using software on the phone.

Facebook which has the most pictures online, even more than Flickr which is one of the best photo sites, has some interesting statistics.  Facebook at last count has something like 50 BILLION pictures uploaded on it’s site. Flickr shows that it’s most popular camera is the iPhone 3G with the typical Nikon/Canon DSLRs in the 2nd/3rd slots. Not a point and shoot anywhere to be found in the top listing. Personally, I take shots with my iPhone and load them straight to Facebook. I’ve become so used to that feature and the ability to shoot an email on demand, I would not consider any pocket or point and shoot that didn’t do this. Nobody wants to shoot images on their point and shoot and then take it home, transfer to the PC, fix them and then upload to Facebook or Flickr or whatever. They want to shoot and go right then. And so long as the image is good enough, they are happy.

Most popular camera on Flickr

Most popular camera on Flickr

PSExpress, CameraOne and Best Camera are three apps I use all the time on my iPhone. Between the three, I can normally get a “good enough” image out of my iPhone. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Nope.. but as a guest I would be happy to use it to get the occasional snap. I will say that once I used my iPhone 4’s video, I never shot video on my Canon g11 again. The phone was just that much better then my 500 dollar camera.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used G11?

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