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.

Lesson 83: Metadata

Apple has  made iPhoto available for free on mobile devices.  It’s always been included with OS X devices (laptops, desktops).  Interestingly, it actually has more features on your mobile device for editing photos than the OS X version has, like brush tools.

But for today, I thought I would take the opportunity to show you something that you can now see on your mobile device.  In the past, you would have needed to download your photos to iPhoto or another photo organizer/editor on your computer to see what’s called the metadata.

Metadata literally means “data about data.”  It tells us things like when and where a photo was taken (and in iPhoto, even shows us on a map).  It also tells us some interesting facts about the settings the camera chose when you took the photo.

Now, I try not to get very technical in this blog, but I think it’s worth understanding something about what your iPhone camera is doing that the meta data in iPhoto can help you understand.

Let’s take a look at the metadata for this photo:

Notice the row of info right above the map?  It says “f/2.2 1/30 4.1mm — ISO 80.”  Since I promised Gina, the inspiration for this blog, that I wouldn’t get technical on her and here I am getting technical, I’m going to limit myself to talking about only one of these numbers:  1/30.  That’s how long the camera opened its shutter to allow light in to make the image.  1/30 of a second is a pretty long time for a shutter to be open–especially when it’s hard to hold an iPhone still.

But notice this photo was taken in a dimly lit room with very little light.  The iPhone had to keep the shutter open longer to get enough light in this setting.

Now let’s look at the metadata for a different image:

Notice that this one has a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second.  That’s a much faster shutter speed.  What’s different about this image?  Well, it was taken out doors in bright sunlight.  There was plenty of light to be had.

Slower shutter speeds will allow more motion to show in your photos.  Notice how my dog’s tail in the first image is blurred.  In the second image, the tree leaves are very sharp and show no motion even though there was a breeze blowing.

By looking at the metadata in iPhoto and checking what shutter speed the iPhone chose, you can get a good sense of what lighting will make it easier to show motion and what lighting will make it easier to get sharp images.

Your Assignment:  Download iPhoto if you haven’t already.  Open it up and tap the “i” button to check the metadata on a few images.  Compare indoor and daytime outdoor lighting–what shutter speeds do you see in images in each type of lighting?  Look for motion blur.  Can you find examples of slow shutter speeds leading to motion showing in your image?

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 77: Paper Camera

Today, I want to introduce another app.  This one is called Paper Camera.  It’s $1.99 and it’s available for both iPhone and Android phones.

I found this app while looking for an app that has the same levels adjustment PhotoForge has (see Lesson 76)–I still haven’t found one yet, so let me know if you have one!  I downloaded it out of curiosity, played with it a few minutes and then forgot about it.

Then, I was working on creating a graphic for a small business.  I’m not a graphics artist, so I was starting with a photo and doing all kinds of crazy things in Photoshop Elements trying to turn the photo into something that would work.  After spending hours shooting and editing, I realized I didn’t have the right composition to make the image work.

I packed up my tripod, camera, light stand, light modifiers, flash, and various accessories and headed back to the client’s location to shoot again.  I got there (feeling like a pack mule) and suddenly remembered the Paper Camera app.  I pulled it out, and with a single tap on the screen, created a graphic that will work.  I immediately got depressed.

But, you should rejoice!  This little app will allow you to create really funky stuff when you’re feeling like having a little fun.  What’s also exciting is that it will create the same effects in video.  And, you can see the effects in your screen as you’re taking the photo/video.  It’s pretty wild.

There are three things I don’t like about the app:

  1. It doesn’t save an unedited version of the photo–you only get the image with effects applied.
  2. It’s upside down, doesn’t rotate, and the volume-up button doesn’t work for shutter release.  I guess this could be 3 things, but it’s the combination of them that I find annoying.
  3. While the icons in the app are cute, if you’re someone who needs reading glasses but tries to get by without them, it’s hard to tell what they are.

That said, it’s still a lot of fun to see the world in line drawings or cartoon live on  your phone.

Your Assignment:  If you’re interested in this app, download it and try out the various effects.  Try flipping over to video with the “Con Tours” effect on.  It’s fun.  Here are screen shots of the different effects.  I’ll do some more details on what you can do with this app in later lessons.

Lesson 75: HDR Adjusted

Since we’ve been on the topic of HDR for a few lessons now, one thing I wanted to mention was that even when you used HDR photography, you can still gain more control over the end result of your image by doing post-processing.

Now, as you know by now, I love Pro HDR for iPhone HDR photos.  Pro HDR has several adjustments you can make before you save the image.  You can see details about those adjustments in Lesson xx.  However, that’s not quite the same as post-processing.  After you’ve saved the image, you still may want to apply some adjustments to make the photo look the way you want.

For example, let’s say I thought my sunrise HDR photo from the iPhone 5S from the Sunrise showdown was too dark.  I could use adjustments in Snapseed to brighten up the image.  That is, I could if my iPhone screen weren’t currently broken and I could see to edit on my iPhone!  🙂  Sorry, I had to cheat one last time and edit in Aperture.  But, my replacement phone is on its way!

So, imagine this was edited in Snapseed:

I tend to be fond of darker images with strong contrasts, so I’m not particularly enamored with this edit.  However, I often find that when I see my photos later, they look too dark to me, so maybe tomorrow I’ll like the brighter one better.

Your Assignment:  Take a photo that your pretty happy with.  Do just a few adjustments on it like brightness and contrast.  For details on how to use Snapseed, check out Lesson 41, 45, and 46.  Are there certain adjustments that seem to really help your image?

Lesson 73: The Rule of HDR

HDR photography has continued to grow in popularity–more and more cameras have built-in HDR processing. However, High Dynamic Range photography comes in a wide array of styles.  The HDR styles that result in images that no longer resemble photographs failed to catch on in the photographic circles I run in.  At the same time, there seems to be a growing appreciation for what can be accomplished subtly with HDR technology.

In case you are just jumping into this conversation, Lesson 9 was when we first introduced HDR and there have been several lessons that talk about it since, including yesterday’s lesson.

As far as achieving subtlety in HDR photos, the iPhone 4S and 5S excel.  While it’s possible I just need new glasses, it’s a little too subtle for me.  The Pro HDR app results in more oomph than either of the built-in apps, although sometimes it’s a little more oomph than I want.

Revisiting the examples we used in the previous post, let’s take a look at what Pro HDR was able to achieve in both the 4S and 5S versions:

Now let’s look at the 4S Apple Camera App with HDR next to Pro HDR:

And, of course, the 5S Apple Camera App with HDR next to Pro HDR:

Your Assignment:

Take a close look at the above images.  Which look do you prefer?  If you’ve downloaded the Pro HDR app, try experimenting with your own photo to see if using the adjustments in the app allows you to get a range of looks that give you more flexibility than the Apple Camera app.