iPhoneography Lesson 101: Slow Shutter App and a Highway Bridge

I introduced the Slow Shutter app several posts ago, but this time, I dug out my iPhone tripod and found a view of a highway bridge over a river so I could demonstrate this app creating light trails.

3GSphoto of 5S

First and foremost, this requires a tripod.  Here is a shot taken with an iPhone 3GS of my iPhone 5S in its nice little tripod courtesy of Photojojo (they have crazy accessories for iPhoneography that will make you feel like you’re buying Barbie photography gear).  The one I have came with a telephoto attachment and works fine on flat surfaces, but if I had no interest in the telephoto attachment, I would go for the $15 Gorillapod.  Just something to keep in mind for the post-Christmas shopping frenzy.  🙂

If you decide to buy something, Photojojo is offering $5 off to both you (if it’s your first-time order) and me if you use this link to go to the website:  http://photojojo.com/r/afvu–a win-win deal!

To create the Slow Shutter images, I used an 8 sec exposure under the light trails settings.  Below, find the two steps required to set this up plus what to do after you shoot:

Once you get your camera set up and going, you can keep adding to the exposure.  In this example, I did a series of 4, 8-second exposures over top of each other before saving the final image.  The key is not to move the iPhone at all when you do this.  Any vibration from tapping the phone or in the tripod it’s sitting on shows up in the image.  The problem I experienced was that I couldn’t tap the screen firmly enough without moving it to get the camera to focus on the subject, leaving me with soft focus on the distant bridge.  Here are two images on the tripod, both with soft focus:

All-in-all, I’d have to say that Slow shutter is a great idea, but probably not a useful app if you just want to pull the camera out of your pocket and start shooting.  In case you’re curious what it would do if you just hand held the iPhone, here’s the best I could do hand-holding:

Your Assignment:  Do you have an interest in being able to capture light trails at night?  Is it worth it to you to have a tripod for your iPhone to capture such images?  If so, Slow Shutter is a great app to experiment with.  We’ll also take a look at using Slow Shutter with panning in future lessons.  In the meantime, give it a try with cars driving by and see if you can get the results you’re seeking.

 

 

 

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 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.