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 90: Slow Shutter

In Lesson 83, I showed you how to look at the shutter speed used when you took a photo by looking at the metadata in iPhoto iOS.  But, we didn’t have any choice about what shutter speed was used; it was picked by the camera app we used.  Today, I want to introduce you to an app that allows you to choose slow shutter speeds for fun effects.  It’s called SlowShutter and it’s available in the app store for $.99.

Using a slow shutter speed allows you to create interesting effects like light trails when cars drive by or to pan with a subject in motion, allowing the background to blur behind your subject.  For today’s example, I thought I’d start with something fun–drawing with a light source.

To do this, you need a light of some kind in darkness.  I have two examples.  For one, I found a healthy use for a lit cigarette–use it as your light source for a light trail.  For the other, I used a small light for a bicycle and handheld it.  In both cases, I set the SlowShutter app to a shutter speed of 8 seconds and then drew a heart shape in front of the camera.  I propped the camera on a steady base for both images, although a tripod would have been better–my hearts are a little shaky!

Because the light source is so much brighter than the rest of the scene, it registers in the image while the rest of the scene remains dark.  To change the shutter speed setting, tap the lens icon in the lower left corner of the SlowShutter app and then select the shutter speed you want.  I started with the “light trails” category to get to the 8 second shutter speed.

photo

Your Assignment:  Try downloading the SlowShutter app and then using a flashlight or other light source to see if you can capture words drawn with light.  Hint:  you’ll need a second person to draw the words or operation the camera so you can get enough distance between you and the light source to fit a word in the frame.