iPhoneography Lesson 100: Hipstamatic on Ice with iPhoto on the Side

One of the great things about the iPhone as a camera is that it is virtually always with you.  Being able to pull out an iPhone versus missing a shot is a great option.  The only downside, for those of us who have invested heavily in prosumer DSLR equipment, sometimes we find ourselves opting for the more convenient iPhone, even when we could pull out the big guns with a little extra effort.

For example, today, I was wandering around a parking lot in a cold wind somewhere in Indiana or Kentucky, allowing my dog to stretch his legs after several hours of riding in the car.  A small drainage ditch ran around the parking lot, which bordered a farmer’s field.  It appeared the water had dropped several feet after freezing, leaving sheets of ice hanging from trees and fencing along the drainage ditch.

The bright afternoon sun glared off the ice, giving the whole scene less than ideal lighting, but interesting glare.  So, what did I do?  Did I return to my car, dig my camera bag out from its hiding place, unzip all the zippers required to get out my camera and a lens and then dig up my tripod and go back and shoot in the sub-freezing temperatures?  Well, I thought about it for a moment.  Then, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my iPhone, opened up the Hipstamatic app and grabbed as many shots as I found interesting.

Yes.  Sometimes I choose to be lazy.  Sometimes I choose to save time.  Sometimes I choose both.

To further complicate things, I didn’t have my glasses.  When I opened up Hipstamatic, I thought it was on the BlacKeys ultrachrome film.  It was actually Blanko film.  Blanko film is color film and I really wanted black and white.  So, it was iPhoto iOS to the rescue.  I did a quick auto-enhance + black and white effect to get the black and white look I’d envisioned.  These steps are covered in detail in Lesson 96 (I did not use the Sepia button in today’s examples, but otherwise the steps are the same).

Your Assignment:  Check out these earlier lessons on lighting:  Lessons 16, 17, and 67.  Sometimes, bright afternoon light can add interest to an image even though we normally think of it as being too harsh and creating strong shadows and contrasty images.  In the winter months in particular, the sun is lower to the South and the angle of the light gives it a very different look from a straight overhead sun in the summer.  Can you tell that the sun in these images is very bright?  Does the black and white version look more or less appealing to you?

iPhoneography Lesson 99: Christmas Eve and the iPhone

Just a quick tip that Christmas trees work well with Hipstamatic as well as more traditional camera apps.  Also try including reflections of the lights in the windows in the frame if you want something a little different from the traditional Christmas tree.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow whether you celebrate Christmas or not.  Peace on earth, goodwill to all, and good night!

iPhoneography Lesson 98: Comparison of Apps at Night

 

Having just passed the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, I thought it was a good time to look at how different apps perform at night on the iPhone 5S.  I’m sure you all heard that the 5S was a step up for low-light photography with it’s bigger aperture and larger, less noisy sensor.  If you don’t know what any of that means, that’s OK, it’s just supposed to be better than predecessors at night.

As someone who shoots a lot with a DSLR that does fantastic things at night, it’s a little hard for me to judge fairly about whether the improvement is significant between my 4S and 5S, but I was curious to see if using different apps on the iPhone while hand holding made any difference at all in the quality of the images in low light.

The answer is pretty much “no” for the apps I tried in this comparison:  the Apple Camera App, Hipstamatic, Camera Awesome, and Pro HDR.  Here are the things that differ, both good and bad, over the Apple Camera App:

Hipstamatic

The cool (or should I say hip?) thing about Hipstamatic at night is that the filters it applies to the image make the noise of low-light photos look intentional.  They seem like part of the artistic effect instead of an annoying accident.

The downside is that you only get square images, which I don’t particularly like for a scene that is wide and short like the Chattanooga riverfront.

Past Hipstamatic Lessons:  Lesson 13:  Getting Hip; Lesson 24:  Using Hipstamatic to Include and Exclude; Lesson 26:  The iPhone and Wildlife; Lesson 29:  Hipsta-Classic; Lesson 30:  Awesomely Hip Portraits; Lesson 43:  Patterns; Lesson 46:  Flower Power; Lesson 88:  Hip Heads; Lesson 93:  Old Places, New Dressing.

Camera Awesome

The level–it’s particularly useful at night when it’s too dark to judge visually if you’ve got a tilt going on or not.

Being able to separate the focus point from the exposure point gives you more control over whether you get a lighter or darker exposure (I did not use this feature in the examples, but you can see how to use it here).

Past Camera Awesome Lessons:  Lesson 7:  Keep It Level; Lesson 8:  Separating Focus from Exposure; Lesson 12:  Awesomization; Lesson 14:  Another Way to Be Hip; Lesson 31:  Blur and Flash; Lesson 34:  When You’ve Got the Shakes; Lesson 43:  Patterns.

HDR Pro

Combining two images helps get better exposure, but the inherent problem of hand-holding at night is that the shutter is pretty slow, meaning more shake shows in the image.  When you add a second image to that, the focus looks extra soft.  We’ll try it on a tripod in another lesson to see how much that helps.

Past HDR Pro Lessons:  Lesson 9:  Combining Two Exposures into One Photo; Lesson 18:  When the Light is Out of ControlLesson 20:  Using Filters in Pro HDR; Lesson 21:  Filters and Photos in Your Library; Lesson 36:  Creating Space.

Your Assignment:  Pick an app.  Any app.  Go out in the dark, find an area with night lights, and experiment for yourself.  Does Hipstamatic make the noise tolerable?  Does Pro HDR solve much of the problem or make it worse?  Are you able to hand-hold and still get a sharp image?  Does the level on Camera Awesome (several other camera apps include a level) help you as much as it helps me?  How much does separating the exposure from the focus point help?

Lesson 96: iPhoto Mobile and Sepia

iPhoto Mobile has become my favorite photo editing app on the iPhone.  I haven’t used them all, but it’s quick and easy and the editing capabilities are pretty impressive for a mobile app.  Plus, it’s free.  I first introduced iPhoto in Lesson 83 Metadata and also used it in Lessons 84 iPhone Mobile Editing, 85 iPhoto Con Tours, 86 My Silly Dog and the iPhoto Exposure Tool,  and 87 Adding Drama in iPhoto iOS.

Today, I am going to show you how to take a color photo and turn it into a more nostalgic looking black and white with sepia.  I am not frequently a fan of sepia, but this image called out for sepia to me.  There is something about the rustic looking wood planks in the bridge leading to the couple headed into the fog against the very modern looking building in the background that made me think “sepia.”

I originally took this image with my DSLR, but because it was in my Photo Stream, it was easy to open it from the iPhone without having to do anything fancy to get it there.

I love Photo Stream when it works.  Sometimes, however, images don’t show up when and where I expect them to, which can be annoying.  Most of the time, I happily discover all of my recent images on all of my devices just as advertised.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish with the adjustment was to make the couple in the background walking into the fog stand out more.  While the bridge and path lead the eye to the couple, in the original version, they were competing with the colors in the trees and the background building for attention.  By changing the image to B&W and using a vignette to darken all of the outer objects in the frame, the people in the background pop out more.

To my eye, adding the sepia coloring made the effect even stronger by causing the bridge and path to look brighter compared to the trees, leading the eye more directly to the couple in the distance.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for the adjustments I made in the iOS version of iPhoto on my iPhone 5S:

Your Assignment:  Sometimes sepia will perk up an image that otherwise seems rather dull.  This, like all artistic choices, is subjective.  If you don’t like it, that’s OK–knowing what you don’t like is a great step towards learning what you do like.  But give it a try in any case–you can always delete it.  Choose an image where the colors are not a key component in the impact of the image and there is enough contrast in the image that the subject will still stand out without color.  I find sepia to usually be more appealing when there are architectural features in the image, but I have also used it with owls and vultures and liked it.  How do you feel about sepia?

Lesson 95: A Change of Perspective

 

How many times have you seen or taken a picture of a dog that looks a lot like this?  (You could probably replace the word “dog” with “child” here as well.)

02 Tisen grateful for Jack

Now, I don’t mean that all dogs (or children) look alike.  Rather, I mean that our default way of looking at a dog is from a standing position looking down at them.  Most dog photos dog owners snap are taken very quickly, spur of the moment without time to think or plan how we want to shoot.

This is usually because each of our dogs is the cutest, most brilliant canine kid in the world and we want to capture that hilarious thing he or she is doing that makes him or her that much cuter.

However, sometimes changing the perspective just a little can make a big difference  For example, compare these two photos:

In the first one, we have a funny expression that still cracks me up every time I look at it, but notice that the camera is above the dog’s head shooting down and the angle of his head to the camera makes it look considerably skinnier than it does in the photo on the right.  The one on the right was taken about level with the dog’s face, straight on to the nose.  If these were the only two pictures you’d ever seen of my dog, would you still feel certain these were both of the same dog?

Let’s compare a couple more:

Notice how in the image on the left, we have a cute snapshot of a dog rolling in the grass.  The camera is held almost parallel to the dog, leaving us no sense of the height of his body relative to the ground (except perhaps because of the stray foot that snuck into the shot).  But look at the leash that starts at the lower left corner and creates a line down to the dog.  It looks like it could be 10 feet long!  (It’s only 4 ft.)

Now look at the length of my dog’s front legs.  The are folded and parallel to the camera.  Compare that to the front leg in the photo on the right.  Notice how the leg now forms a similar angle to the lens that draws the eye back to the dog.  But this time, it’s his leg that looks exceptionally long.

Next, let’s look at wide angle perspectives that create a sense of size.

In the photo on the left, you could argue that the dog (and man) look really small, or, if you imagine the dog and man to be average sized, you might see this more as the waterfall looking really big.  On the right, we have an example shot tighter, but again, it’s wide, the camera is further back, and it’s shot from a standing position angled downward.  This creates the impression that the bench, man, and dog are all a little shorter than they really are.

Finally, here’s a perspective that creates a little bit of an optical illusion:

Both images were shot from the floor looking up at my dog hanging over the edge of a sofa.  In the photo on the left, the back legs are not visually connected to the front end of the dog.  They visually look like either there is a second dog in the photo or the visible dog was cut in half with his back legs moved to the side.  I can assure you that no animals were harmed in any way in the making of this post.

In the photo on the right, I got up tight to my dog’s back paws and created more of a silhouette effect.  By changing the perspective so that I am both closer and looking up, the paws look huge!  Notice that the one on the right looks significantly bigger than the one on the left.  This is because it was closer to the camera and it’s turned at a slightly different angle that makes the full breadth of the pad visible, but angled to the camera.

Your Assignment:  Experiment with the visual effects you can create by changing where you’re angle to the subject.  Move up, move down, move all around.  Try shooting from above and shooting from down low.  Try head on, too.  None of these angels are right or wrong; they just create a different perspective that affects the way the eye perceives the shape of the subject.  Bonus Tip:  want to look taller and thinner?  Have the iPhotographer get down low and shoot at an upward angle.

Lesson 94: Choices, Choices

Let’s say you happen to be walking along a scenic riverfront at sunset.  There are interesting architectural features on the South side of the river and the sun, not having recently changed it’s course, is setting off to the West.  There are just enough clouds along the horizon to make for a decent sunset, but the sky above the horizon is clear, without much interesting going on.

You think, “Oh, what a nice sunset reflecting on the river,” and you pull out your iPhone.  But you quickly discover that taking a picture of the sunset doesn’t include the interesting buildings and taking a picture of the buildings misses the best part of the sunset.  To boot, the buildings are too dark.  What do you do?

Well, this is the joy of photography:  sometimes you have to choose.  You can’t always get what you want . . . so what do you need?

And that is the other joy of photography–you get to decide.

I’ve shared 6 of the images I took in the gallery above, each with the scene framed differently.  Below, I’ve taken these 6 images and pointed out the things that bug me about them.  There are many.  However, I think it’s useful to learn what other people look at and what bugs them in photographs when you’re trying to figure out what makes one photograph more appealing than another.  Remember, there are no rules, but part of photography is learning to see things differently.  Sometimes that includes your own photos.

 

Your Assignment:  Take a look at the comments I’ve made on my photos below.  I’ve color-coded them for things I think are positives (green), things that are less-than-ideal but tolerable (yellow), and things that are a deal-breaker for me (red).

20131219 Choices Choices.001

20131219 Choices Choices.002

Do you agree with my assessment?  Do you see other things that bother you (there are many more things that bother me than I included in the comments)?  Do you like things I don’t?  Did you notice the things I pointed out before you read my comments?

Why do you think two people look at the same photo and see it differently?

Lesson 93: Old Places, New Dressing

Now that winter is upon us (well, some of us more than others) in the northern hemisphere, even the tired old subjects we see everyday take on a whole new look.  One of the fascinating things about photography is that everyday is a new day.  Every minute is changing light.  You can always find a new way to see the same thing you looked at last season, last night, the last minute.  This change is particularly dramatic as the seasons change.

So, in today’s lesson, I invite you to revisit a common, convenient location like your own yard.  Put on an extra layer or two if it’s especially cold in your neck of the woods, but by all means, get outside.  Even if you don’t have snow where you live.

Go out early–when the temperatures drop to freezing overnight and you get out before the sun has had a chance to warm things back up, frost can be a spectacular subject.

In fact, even when the frost isn’t that dramatic, like in these images, it still creates a different look by brightening what can otherwise be dull looking plants when there’s no frost.

On the particular morning I pulled out my iPhone to capture some frosty spots in my neighborhood park, the sun was low, shadows were long, and colors were drab.  After taking a few images with the Apple camera app, I decided to use the Hipstamatic app with the D-Type film for the tintype effect.

I like how the frost-covered plants look in the tintype effect–they jump out more with their frosty coating.  The Apple Camera app works, too.

 Your Assignment:  Pick a place that might feel a little tired as a photographic subject.  Your yard might be one such place.  A place you walk regularly might be another.  Make sure your iPhone is fully charged and then head out at sunrise (which isn’t so early these days) to look anew at what you’ve seen a hundred times before.  Look at the shadows and light.  Look for frost bouncing back the rising sun.  Look for new angles and new ways of seeing the same old thing.  Try the Apple Camera app.  Try the Hipstamtic app.  See if you can make something old look brand new.

Lesson 92: Heavenly Bodies

 

Every once in a while, I take my dog out after dark (which happens a lot more often this time of year), look up, and am inspired to take some photos.  To be honest, the amount of noise in the iPhone night photos continues to frustrate me, even with the iPhone 5S.

But, recently, I was teaching a workshop and I asked if anyone had seen a creative use of noise (all the grainy speckles) in photography and a couple of folks commented that it could be used to create an antique effect.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get to where I make noise a goal, but it does open up some possibilities.

So, tonight, I looked up and saw Venus chasing the moon.  I immediately pulled out my iPhone and gave it a shot.  The images in the gallery were edited using the free, iOS version of iPhoto on my iPhone (see Lessons 84, 85, 86, and 87).  As you can see, they are noisy, but Venus and the moon are worth some noise.

Although the crescent moon turns into a blob, I’m pleased that Venus shows up in most of the images.

Your Assignment:  Don’t be afraid to go for broke on night images just because you’re using an iPhone.  Don’t let any Nokia Lumia-owning friends intimidate you!  However, as you may recall from Lesson 3, zooming on the iPhone is a digital zoom, which will make the noise factor that much bigger.  Instead of trying to zoom in to get a close-up of heavenly bodies at night, try artistically placing landscape features in the scene, giving the sky some perspective.

Lesson 91: Use a Tripod

Long ago, in Lessons 25 and 34, we talked about holding your iPhone to maximize stability and even using a tripod, particularly for using a telephoto attachment lens with your iPhone.  Well, if ever there was a time to use a tripod with your iPhone, it’s with the Slow Shutter app.

Because I was on a shoot with my DSLR on a tripod, I was able to capture some cool light trails to share with you in the gallery.  However, I was without the tripod for my iPhone, so the best I could do was to prop the phone up on a rock wall and try to hold it still, resulting in this:

15 second exposure while trying to balance the iPhone on a rock
15 second exposure while trying to balance the iPhone on a rock

Let’s talk about what happens when you use a slow shutter.  “Slow” means the shutter will stay open for a long time (relatively speaking) before it closes again.  When we use a “fast” shutter, the shutter only stays open a fraction of a second.  The shorter the duration the shutter remains open, the less the subject can move in that fraction of time, so the less blur you will get.

When the shutter stays open for a very long time, like in these images (shot with 15 and 30 second shutter speeds), as the subject moves, the shutter is still open, so it records the moving image.  If you’re moving around, you get a complete mess.  Or, you can get some fun art if you’re particularly talented at moving your phone around.

I mentioned in lesson 90 that you can use Slow Shutter to get light trails, such as cars driving by at night.  Since I don’t have examples of that yet, thought I would go ahead and share the light trails from a lighted boat parade even though they were taken with my DSLR.  Don’t worry–I will eventually get light trails with the Slow Shutter app!

Your Assignment:  Find a location where you have a clear view of a street where cars drive by on a regular basis.  Go after dark–this is a great time of year for this assignment in the Northern hemisphere with the early sunset.

Either use an actual iPhone tripod or come up with a way to prop your iPhone so it will not move.  You need to be able to completely let go of the phone or your movement will jiggle it.  Set your exposure time for about 15 seconds–this depends on how much traffic is going by.  You can do 30 seconds if you have a long line of cars that keep passing or fewer seconds if all lights pass through the frame in less than 15 seconds.

Are you able to get a nice, sharp light trail from the headlights and tail lights of the cars?

 

Lesson 88: Hip Heads

In yesterday’s lesson, I took a rather mundane photo of the recent sculpture addition in my local park, a giant head.  I did several edits on it and showed you what I did.  Now, for those of you who are not particularly excited by the prospect of following 17 steps to make your image more interesting, don’t forget about Hipstamatic.  This gives you the ability to create many effects in a point-and-shoot way.

We first looked at the Hipstamatic app back in Lesson 13 and again in Lessons 14, 24, 29, and 30.  The thing about Hipstamatic is that you choose the “film” and “lens” you want to use, which is the same as picking a collection of editing effects and the camera does all the work for you.

In the 3 examples shown here, I used the same lens:  Helga Viking and 3 different films.  The first is the Ina’s 1935 film.  It gives the image more color and makes the sculpture pop out more.  The second example used D-Type Plate film, which simulates an old black-and-white Tintype photo.  Finally, in the 3rd example I used the C-Type Plate film, which intensifies the contrasts and shadows and also adds a touch of color.

Your Assignment:  Dust the cobwebs off of Hipstamatic and choose a lens/film you want to use.  Take an image of your favorite subject and then try changing to a different film.  Experiment with the film that creates an effect that works best with your subject.