Lesson 79: Start with a Photo, End with a Drawing

Yesterday we used the Paper Camera app to create a sketch by taking a picture.  Today we’re going to use Paper Camera to turn a “regular” photo into a line drawing.

Paper Camera not only acts as a live-view of effects, it also allows you to apply those effects to existing photos.  This has the advantage that if you decide you don’t like the effect later, you still have the normal photo to work with.

However, you can’t create a “normal” photo using Paper Camera.  You can use Camera Awesome, the Apple Camera App, or your favorite camera app to take the photo and then open it in Paper Camera to apply the effects.

This means you can use any photo you’ve got on your iPhone to play with the effects.

Start by opening the Paper Camera app.  Next, follow these steps to open an existing photo from your Camera Roll and apply effects:

Your Assignment:  Pick a photo that you want to play with.  Follow the steps above to apply the effect of your choice.  Did you turn someone you love into a comic superhero?  Or maybe create a simple line drawing?  Did you have fun?

Lesson 68: Panoramic Upgrade

One of the features of the new iPhone 5S that contributed to my decision to upgrade was the enhanced exposure while taking panoramic photos.  Panoramic photos are just plain fun.  They give you the option of capturing a scene that is far wider than your lens.  And, they let you bend reality into a half circle.

The problem with the iPhone 5S predecessors that support panoramic photos is that the exposure is set by the brightness of the area where you start your photo and then the same exposure is applied throughout the entire shot, even if the brightness of the scene changes dramatically by the time you get to the end of the shot.  This results in images like this one, taken using the iPhone 4S:

Notice how my husband and dog in front of the stone building (all in the shade) are properly exposed, but everything in the bright sun is overexposed.

What changed in the iPhone 5S is that the exposure now adjusts as you move through the process of capturing a panoramic.  The actual steps to capture a panoramic haven’t changed significantly–the only difference is that you now swipe to change modes from “regular” photos to panoramic (or square or video).  For detailed instructions on how to create a panoramic with an iPhone 4S, see Lesson 27.

The fact that the exposure now adjusts allows for panoramic photos with dramatic differences in brightness from beginning to end like this one, shot with the iPhone 5S:

Notice how even with the sun in one side of the image, the exposure is pretty decent throughout.  Of course, this isn’t quite a fair comparison–the 4S example was shot in the middle of the day.

If you’re shooting with a predecessor to the iPhone 5S, you’re best option is to try to start your panoramic in a part of the scene that is about halfway between the darkest and brightest areas of the scene, even if it means you have to crop part of the image away later.

Your Assignment:  Experiment with Panoramic photos.  What kinds of settings work best as panoramic images?  How far away do you have to be from the objects in the scene to avoid bending them into a giant U?  Can you find a way to get a decent exposure with a predecessor to the iPhone 5S?

Lesson 60: The iPhone 5S

My iPhone 5S arrived!  This means 2 things at my house:

  1. I’m geeking out,
  2. My dog is scared.

In the first case, I am having a ball with the fingerprint unlock feature.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about that feature!  I feel like a safer driver already and I haven’t driven anywhere yet.  I’ve had my husband and my dog try to unlock my phone with their prints and so far, I’m the only one it recognizes.  😉

I’m also geeking out on the new flash feature.  This is what has led to case 2.  My dog has been hiding out in a totally dark room, trying to avoid me.  I managed to sneak up on him and grab a couple of shots with the 5S and with the 4S so we could compare how the flash looks.  I used the default iPhone Camera app just in case the 3rd party apps are not optimized for the new flash yet.  Here are the results:

I ran into a glitch (already) with the 5S flash, however.  I set the flash to “on,” but out of 5 shots, the flash only fired 2 times.  I’m not sure what’s going on there, but hoping that will sort itself out quickly–like by the time I finish downloading the first update to iOS7.

What I want to focus on in the meantime is how much of an improvement the 5S is over the 4S.  Let’s talk about the circumstances I was shooting in:

  1. Dark room with almost no ambient light
  2. Black and White dog on a dark couch who wouldn’t hold still (except in my favorite of the four photos above)
  3. Hand-holding and guessing at exactly where my dog was because the room was that dark.

These are pretty challenging circumstances.  Let’s compare these two photos since my dog was moving around about equally and I got the white side of his face in both images:

First, let’s talk about why the 5S photo is so much sharper.  This could, in part, be due to the fact that I was closer with the 4S and, therefore, had less depth of field.  However, under magnification, the 4S photo has no sharp areas at all, which implies it had a hard time finding focus.

Now, I can’t say for certain that I was holding both phones with identically steadiness nor that my dog was moving the same amount, but, the 5S introduces some really cool technology that takes 4 images and combines them to get the sharpest image possible.  That’s pretty cool.  Although, I would appreciate being able to turn it off.

Second, take a look at the quality of the light in each image.  Again, virtually all of the light on my dog is from the tiny little LED flash on each iPhone.  Both did a pretty good job of lighting my dog (I was only about 2-3 feet away), but notice how much warmer the light in the 5S shot looks?

Finally, also on the subject of the light, notice how my dog’s eye is glowing a lot more in the 4S version in spite of the fact that his eye is turned further from the camera than in the 5S version?  This is a nice improvement.  My poor dog has looked possessed in far too many iPhone photos.

I took a very close-up look at both photos (I told you I was geeking) and the difference is even more impressive under magnification.  I can’t wait to get my dog into some better light so I can see what it looks like without the flash!

Your Assignment:  Pay attention to how much you use flash and how often you’re getting shots with blur.  Since these are two things that make the 5S attractive, it’s a good time to notice whether these features would make a difference to you or not.

Lesson 48: Deciding When to Upgrade

Well, it’s that time again.  Time to decide if a new iPhone is worth the investment or not–pre-order of the iPhone 5S begins September 20th.

Deciding on new photography equipment is always a bit of a challenge.  Even if budget is not a concern, there are several downsides to switching equipment.  First, there’s the emotional attachment.  I don’t know about you, but I’m attached to my iPhone.  It feels like a friend who’s looked out for me and remained faithful in spite of many abuses.  My 4S has given me two good years and giving up on it when it still seems to be in the prime of its life feels a bit like a betrayal.

Second, anytime I upgrade, there is always a learning curve.  I really want to know if the effort will pay back in dividends with better features that make my life easier.  And, most importantly, that I won’t lose some of the features I’ve come to rely on the most.

Finally, there’s the inevitable domino effect of a new device:  a new case, a new lifejacket, a new bike mount, and, of course, what about all my nifty lens attachments?  Is upgrading to the latest gadget worth the inevitable headaches of replacing all the stuff I’ve accumulated for the current version?

I’ll jump to the end of the story:  I have decided to order the 5S.  But, I don’t take the decision lightly.  If you are considering whether it’s time for an upgrade or not, here are the things that tipped the balance for me:

  1. The fingerprint security.  One of the most painful things about my 4S is having to type in a lengthy, complicated password to unlock it.  Now, not everyone has to have a long, complicated password, so this may not be an issue for you, but the thought of being able to unlock my iPhone by simply placing my finger on the home button means not having to choose between missing a moment and using default camera app.
  2. A faster, brighter camera with a bigger sensor.  I have struggled with night time and low-light photos with my 4S.  Having a bigger sensor should help reduce noise and make it easier to get those low-light photos that I’ve been missing.  If you’re not frustrated by what you get with your current iPhone, this also may not matter to you.
  3. A new processor that will allow the camera to focus faster, capture photos faster, and, presumably, faster photo processing.  This equates to fewer lost moments and less time spent editing.
  4. A co-processor that does smart things to save your battery.  Battery life is another struggle when out and about and doing a lot of shooting.  A dead battery means more missed moments.
  5. 10 frames per second burst mode.  That’s pretty impressive.  It means being able to take a series of photos that are firing off 1/10th of a second apart.  More potential to capture more moments.
  6. An improved flash.  While the flash doesn’t claim to be brighter, it’s supposed to create better color temperature and light the scene better.
  7. iPhoto available at no charge.  iPhoto has some nice organization features and, I hope, will allow for metadata management on the iPhone–something else I’ve missed.

That’s my list of iPhonography related reasons (aka, excuses) for why I’ve decided to order one.  To alleviate my guilt, I’ll be donating my 4S to my husband, who is still using a 3G S iPhone–that way, my 4S will still be part of the family.

Your Assignment:  What are your criteria for how you decide when it’s time to upgrade?