Lesson 36: Creating Space

Now that we’ve spent over a month together taking tons of pictures with our iPhones, we’re bound to have lots of extra photos lurking about that are just occupying space.  One of the great things about digital photography is that it frees us up to experiment and take lots of pictures without worrying about the cost of film and development.  The downside is that we end up with cluttered hard drives.

I use the Apple Photostream service.  I love it because it means I can take pictures on my iPhone and get back to my iMac or my MacBook Pro to write my lessons and find all the photos I just took already there.  There are a couple of problems with this, however.  First, Photostream has a way of proliferating the problem if you have a lot of trash photos.  Those trash photos get stored in the monthly archive for Photostream on each non-mobile device.  Add to that backup copies you make and that’s yet another copy of trash.

There are several things you can do to reduce the load.  First, apps like Camera Awesome do not automatically save the photos to your Camera Roll (which is what populates Photostream) unless you tell it to.  I like to leave the setting on the default, which is manual save mode.  That way, I can decide if I want to save a photo and let it proliferate or not.  The rest, I can delete and keep them out of my other devices.

Here’s how to check the auto export to Cameral Roll Setting:

Here’s how to go in and delete photos from inside the app (note:  make sure you’ve downloaded the ones you want first):

Fast Camera is another app that doesn’t automatically save all the photos to your Camera Roll.  This is particularly good because if you’re shooting with no delay between shots, you could quickly fill Photostream with one burst of shooting.  Fast Camera also has a nice organization of a series of photos–it puts them into folders.  You can open a folder to review, select a few to save, save them, and then select all and delete.   Here’s how to quickly delete the contents of a folder all at once:

Actually, you don’t even have to delete–if you click the done button, it will warn you that your photos will all be deleted.  Only use that if you are truly done with all photos in all folders–it deletes everything.

The default Apple Camera app and Hipstamatic do save photos to the camera roll automatically.  However, I tend not to take a large volume of photos with Hipstamatic because it has rather slow processing time.  I’ve run Hipstamatic out of memory on more than one occasion.  I also only use the default camera for panoramics, which I tend to take few of.  As a result, clean up is relatively easy.  If you use Photostream, just remember to remove bad photos from your Photostream as well as your camera roll.  Prioritize keeping Photostream clean–it will spread those bad photos everywhere.

The final app we’ve used so far is the Pro HDR app.  In this app, you can choose whether you want to save the original photos as well as the HDR processed photo or just the HDR processed photo.  I like to save them all, but then I regret it when I end up with a photostream full of over and under exposed photos.  I suggest just saving the HDR processed photo to minimize the clutter.

Finally, do not get attached to photos.  You don’t need those 15 bad shots of the same thing.

Your Assignment:

Go delete junk photos!  Here are some rules to help you get over the urge to keep them all:

  1. If you only got one really bad shot of something really important to you, keep it.  Otherwise:
  2. If they’re out of focus, delete them.
  3. If they’re overexposed, delete them.
  4. If they’re underexposed, delete them.
  5. If you have 15 you can’t tell apart, delete the first 14.
  6. If you have 15 that are all slightly different, pick the 2 you like best and delete the rest.
  7. If you used photos for utilitarian purposes like taking pictures of serial numbers on things you own for insurance purposes, file those away and delete them from your Photostream.

Lesson 35: Do the Time Warp

In Lesson 32, we downloaded Fast Camera and discussed using Fast Camera to take pictures of moving subjects. We also exported a series of photos as a movie. What we didn’t do was talk about time-lapse photography. That is what we are doing when we take a series of still images and then string them together into a video. When the video plays so that the photos are shown closer together in time than they were taken, that’s a time lapse.

This used to be (and still can be) something complicated and difficult to do, but Fast Camera makes it very easy. There are two tricks to creating interesting time-lapse videos. First, the camera must be still through the entire process of taking the photos. This is what happens when you follow a moving subject around and then try to create a time-lapse video from them:

It looks more like a series of photos of my dog than a time-lapse. While, technically, it is still a time-lapse video, because the background keeps changing, we lose sight of the fact that we’re watching a scene unfold. Instead of following a subject around, place the iPhone on the tripod we used back in Lesson 25 and again in Lesson 34. Or, refer to Lesson 34 for other ways to stabilize the phone. For this exercise, I used the tripod:


Notice the headset plugged into the iPhone. I used the volume up button on the headset to start and stop taking photos so I wouldn’t knock my precariously balanced iPhone over.

Putting the iPhone on a tripod for time-lapse photography also implies that there needs to be something moving in the frame while you take a series of photos. For example, you’ve probably seen some really awesome time-lapse videos of a flower blooming or of city traffic. In the first case, the subject remains in the frame the entire time but moves. In the second case, the subject is the city itself and the traffic driving through it provides the motion.

Another great subject for movement is water. When I chose the river as my subject, I was hoping for a nice big barge to go by or perhaps a low-flying Great Blue Heron. I didn’t get that lucky. The only boats that went by were so small and far away that they’re very hard to see. However, the movement of the water still creates interesting motion. As a side note, the small tripod on an uneven rock wall makes it rather difficult to get a level photo.

Here is a time lapse taken under a bridge:

And another looking down the river:

Could you spot the boats moving through the video? These were both shot with a 5 second delay between photos.

Another great subject for time lapse is any astronomical body. For the iPhone, the sunset is a safe bet. A couple of problems happened during my sunset time lapse. First, I used a 10-second delay between photos. Because of the lack of cloud motion, that was too fast. Second, the sun popped through the cloud coverage in a couple of frames, causing sudden overexposure. Finally, failing to take my own advice on making sure I had a fully charged phone before heading out to shoot, I ran out of juice before the sun had gone down. See Lesson 28 for tips on conserving battery life when you’re out to get a time-lapse–it is battery intensive. This is what it looks like:

The final thing to think about is what frame rate you want to create the video at. The frame rate is how many of the photos will be displayed per second. 30 frames per second is the rate that most movies are played at, so if you want a really smooth looking video, that would be the rate to choose. Since I took a smaller number of photos, I slowed things down a bit and exported my videos at 24 frames per second. Think of it this way: if you want 1 minute of video at 30 frames per second, you need 60*30=1800 photos.

Your Assignment: Open Fast Camera (and stop the photos if you have it set to start taking photos at launch) and follow the instructions below to set the time between photos. The faster the movement, the less time you need between photos to create a sense of movement. I used a 5 second delay for the river and a 10 second delay for the sunset. I would suggest using a 1 minute delay for the sunset instead, but it depends on whether the clouds are moving rapidly or not.

Now decide on your scene. If you don’t have one, you could try setting the phone up in your living room during a time when people (and/or pets) will be coming in and out. Time-lapse videos of families moving in and out of a room can be quite amusing.

Save and export your movie using the instructions in Lesson 32. Choose the frames per second based on whether you want it to look like a real video or whether you’d rather slow things down. You can also export the video and then go back and export it again at a different speed so you can decide what works best later.

What do you think? Is this a medium you could get into?

Lesson 32: Fast Camera

Seems like it’s about time to download a new app–it’s been quite a few lessons since we did that.  Since yesterday’s lesson was about dealing with moving subjects, let’s continue with that theme and give Fast Camera a try.

Fast Camera is an app designed to take a bunch of photos really quickly.  That’s its forte.  There are settings in other camera apps that will take bursts of photos in rapid succession, but there are 2 particular features about Fast Camera that made it worth the $1.99 to me:

  1. The default setting is to start shooting as soon as you launch the app.
  2.   You can take a series of still photos and then export them as a video from the app.

Let’s talk about why I like these 2 features so much.  First, when I’m out with my dog and he does something cute, it’s pretty standard that he stops doing whatever it was by the time I get my camera app out and start shooting.  The only thing that would make it better is if I could set the camera button on the iPhone lock screen to launch this app instead of launching the default iPhone camera app.  None-the-less, it’s still a time saver to launch the app and point.  I can adjust the settings while it’s shooting if needed.  It just keeps firing away.

Second, I love making movies from stills.  I don’t know why.  There’s just something fun about the gap in time created by stills being run together as a movie.  Here’s an example of a movie from stills of my cooperative husband jumping up and down:

Isn’t that much funnier than if I would have recorded it as a video to start with?

But here’s the thing, whether you like the instant launch or not (you have to remember to stop it if you’re not ready to keep shooting or you’ll end up with 1000 photos–this setting can be changed if you don’t want it to start shooting on launch), the fact that it fires lots of super-fast photos helps ensure you get at least one good shot of a moving subject.

It’s really hard to stop motion with an iPhone camera.  But, as you can see in these photos of my husband jumping, there are often moments when a moving subject is moving slowly enough that the motion can be stopped.  Here, when my husband reached the peak of his jump and gravity took over, there is a moment when his momentum is switching from upward to downward.  In those moments, I was able to get relatively sharp photos:

Similarly, when my dog walked into my frame and stared (bewildered) at my husband’s antics, I caught him in the moment he was holding still.  Compare that to the photo on the right when he turned his head quickly to figure out what I was doing.

You’re Assignment:  Consider if you’re willing to spend $1.99 for this app.  If so, download it and go chase something moving.  Launch the app and stop it when you have enough photos of your moving subject.  Here are a couple of settings to check out:

After you’ve taken a series of photos of a moving subject, try exporting them as a video.  To do this: