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.




Lesson 44: Fisheyes

This is our last lesson specifically on the Photojojo lens kit we started working our way through over several lessons (see Lessons 37, 38, and 39).  Today, we’re going to use my most favorite attachment, the Fisheye.

Fisheyes are not for everyone.  But in this case, we’re not talking about actual fish.  We’re talking about a lens attachment for your iPhone that causes the world to bend.  Who knew it could be so easy to bend things?

The fisheye attachment creates an effect of looking at the world like it’s in a snow globe.  Without the snow (well, unless it’s really snowing).  This effect can be overused pretty easily, but it sure is fun.  The fisheye effect is actually a super-wide lens that will put more of the scene in the photo than even the wide angle lens we looked at in Lesson 38.  As we noticed in Lesson 38, the scene was already starting to bend at the edges.  The fisheye takes that to an extreme.

Fisheyes in rooms can be especially fun–it’s often difficult to get an entire room into a normal photo.  The fisheye gives the effect of peering through a peep hole at an entire space all at once.  I also favor fisheye photos of my dog in various settings.  By putting my dog front and center, I can use the fisheye attachment to both get a photo of him and get a sense of the large scene around him.

What would you like to see in a snow globe?

Note:  If you combine the Fisheye lens with Hipstamatic, the square frame cuts off the extreme bending that occurs in a rectangular frame.  If you want to really create a snow-globe effect, Camera Awesome with its rectangular frame will work better.

Your Assignment:

Try using the fisheye attachment with people, pets, rooms, and great big open scenes.  Notice what it does to people–sometimes people don’t appreciate the Pinocchio effect.  Do you like big, wide scenes or tight spaces with the fisheye effect better?  Try combining the fisheye attachment with different camera apps we’ve used in previous lessons.  For example, try using Hipstamatic with the tintype effect shown in Lesson 29.  Try the different lens and film combinations show in Lesson 30–especially if your subject is people.

Lesson 39: 2X

This is not a lesson about shirt sizes.  Instead, we’re continuing our progress using the Photojojo lens attachments with the iPhone.  Yesterday, we looked at the wide angle attachment.  The day before, we used the macro attachment.  Today, let’s take a look at the 2x Telephoto attachment.

This is what it looks like up close:

Telephoto Lens

If you either have reading glasses handy or don’t need them, you can see the edge of the lens is labeled “telephoto” to help you tell it apart from the other lenses in the kit.  If you’ve already adhered the metal ring around the built-in lens on your iPhone, the magnet in the 2x Telephoto lens will hold the lens in place on the ring.  If not, refer to the instructions that came with the lens kit for more info.

We previously used a different telephoto lens attachment in Lesson 25 to take pictures of the moon.  That one is 8x telephoto (or 12x for an iPhone 5).  So, you might ask, why would I want 2x if I have 8x (or 12x)?  Well, the answer is simple.  Sometimes, 8x (or 12x) is too much.  Bigger is not always better.

Let’s take the example of being in a park where you want to get a picture of a spider.  The spider is close enough that using the 8x telephoto wouldn’t allow the entire spider to fit in the frame, but far enough away that with no zoom, the spider gets lost in the flowers.

Let’s consider the macro attachment.  You might wonder why you wouldn’t use that for the spider as well.  There are three considerations:  1) How big is the spider?  2) Will the spider hold still while you manipulate the lens inches (or less above it)?  3) Will you scream and throw the phone if the spider suddenly moves while you’re that close?

The 2x zoom gets you in tighter without having to get within grabbing distance.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of my spider with and without the 2x zoom (uncropped):

And a second one, just for fun.  By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, even with the 2x zoom, I still jumped when the spider suddenly ran to the top of its web.  It’s a big spider.

Your Assignment:

Attach the 2x telephoto lens to your camera.  Look for subjects where you’d like to get closer without getting physically closer.  Notice how 2x sounds like a lot, but really only brings things in slightly closer.  Can you use the 2x telephoto attachment to fill the frame with your subject from further away?  Did you get any great photos of critters that can be hard to get close to like spiders or butterflies?

Lesson 38: Wide Views

In yesterday’s lesson, we used the Photojojo macro lens to take close-ups of small subjects.  Today, we’re going to use the exact same lens but with the wide angle ring in place.  As a reminder, the wide/macro lens has two parts that look like this when separated:

Wide/Macro lens with the Wide ring removed
Wide/Macro lens with the Wide ring removed

When the two parts are screwed together, lens looks like this (the one in the middle):


The complete lens kit with the Wide/Macro lens in one piece
The complete lens kit with the Wide/Macro lens in one piece

If you still have them separated, reattach the wide angle ring for this lesson.  The lens will stick to the metal ring around your iPhone lens via a magnet.  Refer to Lesson 37 for more details about attaching the lens.

The iPhone lens is quite wide to begin with.  It’s a 4mm lens, which helps to compensate for its very small sensor when you’re trying to go big.  However, sometimes it’s still not wide enough.

The Photojojo wide angle lens takes your built-in lens from 4mm to 2.68mm, putting more stuff in the frame when the scene you’re shooting is really big.  Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what you get without and with the wide-angle attachment:

Notice two side-effects.  The corners of the image can get dark (called Vignetting) and objects around the edges of the photo start to bend.  Sometimes those effects can be fun to play with, too.

Your Assignment:  For an easy subject, try taking a picture from the corner of a room in your house.  If you can stand on a chair, even better.  Take the photo both with and without the wide angle attachment.  Can you get the whole room in?  Do you see both the ceiling and the floor in the photo?  How much more do you see with the attachment?  If possible, try the same experiment outside.  Notice what happens to street lights and houses at the outside edges of the frame–you get a little reality bending with a lens this wide.

Lesson 37: Small Subjects

Tiny subjects like small flowers can often be difficult to capture with the iPhone.  One way to address the problem is to use a lens that attaches over the built-in lens much like the telephoto attachment we used in Lesson 25.  In this case, we’re going to use the Photojojo macro lens attachment.

You can order a set of 3 lenses that attached via a magnet over the iPhone lens here:  http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/cell-phone-lenses/

The macro lens attachment will help you get up close to small subjects.  It’s actually part of the wide angle lens in the Photojojo kit.  You just have to unscrew a ring to get to the macro lens part.  Here’s what the kit looks like out of the box:


The fisheye, 2x telephoto, and wide angle/macro lens attachments from Photojojo
The fisheye, 2x telephoto, and wide angle/macro lens attachments from Photojojo

And here it is with the wide angle ring removed from the macro lens:

Wide angle lens with the ring to make it macro removed
Wide angle lens with the ring to make it macro removed

To attach the lens to the iPhone, you simply stick the metal ring around the built-in lens on the back.  I used the iPhone ring intended to attach to the glass back of the iPhone.  However, I attached it to the outside of my LifeProof case so I could keep the phone protected while shooting.  This is what it looks like on my 4S:

Once you have the ring adhered around your lens, remove the extra ring from the wide angle/macro lens in the kit and then let the magnet do the work to keep the lens attached to the phone.  Check to make sure the lens is centered around the lens before you start shooting–it can move around and block a portion of your photo.

To take macro photos, find a small subject like a flower and then get very close to it.  So close that you’re almost touching it.  You will need to experiment with your angle to the subject as well as your distance from the subject to get your subject in focus.  You will also need to hold really still–the magnifying effects of the attachment also magnify your motions.  This is a good time to refer to Lesson 34 on how to keep the phone still.  If you can use a tripod, do.

Here’s are some side-by-side comparisons of taking photos of small subjects with and without the attachments.  Notice that the iPhone is unable to focus at all on the flowers I chose for subjects without the attachment.

Your Assignment:  If you decided to buy the Photojojo lens kit mentioned in Lesson xx, try your own up-close experiment.  See how close you need to get the subject to the lens attachment to get the image in focus.  Note that if you’re holding the phone so that the volume buttons are at the top right corner, the lens will be at the bottom right-hand corner.  Try taking a picture of the same subject from the same distance without the attachment.  Are you able to get the subject in focus without the lens attachment?


Lesson 25: Surprise! It’s Telephoto

Today’s lesson is a surprise lesson.  A surprise to me, that is.  I wasn’t planning on doing a lesson on attachments for your iPhone for a couple of weeks, but the opportunity presented itself with a full moonrise.  I am a fan of shooting the full moon rising over the horizon.  The iPhone is not particularly great at achieving good moon shots, largely because its built-in lens is very wide and getting good shots of the moon requires zooming in.

Since the iPhone cannot zoom in optically (only digitally, which will degrade your photos), some very clever people have come up with external attachments that go over your lens to give it some zoom (or should I say “zoom, zoom”?).  Photojojo.com carries such attachments at pretty remarkable prices.  The telephoto attachment comes with a case and mini-tripod for your phone for $35.  You can order it here if you’re interested.

While it’s a pretty ridiculous looking contraption, it fits in your pocket, which is hard to argue with.

This is what it looks like in its tripod:

Photojojo 8x telephoto attachment for iPhone 4S
Photojojo 8x telephoto attachment for iPhone 4S

You put the phone in the case, screw the lens into the case, and voila, you have 8x the focal length for an iPhone 4/4s and 12x the zoom for an iPhone 5.  Pretty cool.  While this will not achieve the same quality of photograph that you get with a high-end DSLR and telephoto lens securely clamped into a high-quality tripod, it’s a $35 attachment that fits in your pocket.  Compare that to the $5000 you could easily spend on a DSLR, lens, and tripod that you then have to lug around.  Once again, pretty hard to argue with that.  (Although, you won’t get the workout you’d get with the DSLR arrangement.)

To take pictures of the moon, you’ll want to use the tripod and have a stable place to set it where your phone will not, say, fall off a balcony and smash to pieces in the event the tripod tips over.  The tripod is not the most stable thing I’ve ever used, but hey, it also fits in your (back) pocket.

The lens requires manually focusing–your iPhone cannot focus automatically for you with the lens attached.  If you use glasses for reading, make sure you have them!  It really sucks to take a bunch of photos and then see them on a big screen and realize they’re all out of focus.

One of the effects of the lens attachment is called “vignetting.”  This means there may be some dark areas around the corners and edges of your photo.  You can crop the photo after you take it to both get some more zoom and get rid of the vignetting if you don’t like it.  Some people like it just fine–in fact, many photo editing tools include an option to add vignetting to a photo, so that’s another option.

Here’s what my original image looked like using the Camera Awesome app with the Photojojo 8x telephoto lens with the iPhone 4S:


I did some adjusting to make the colors look more like what I saw and cropped to put the moon in the middle of the frame, eliminate the vignetting, and get a little more detail of the moon:



While I didn’t get some of the detail I wanted, it’s a far better photo of the moon than I’ve ever gotten with the naked iPhone.  Here’s an example I took a while back that includes the moon–it looks more like a big star without the telephoto attachment:

Your Assignment:  Decide if you are willing to spend $35 for an attachment you may end up not using much.  If so, go to Photojojo and order the telephoto lens.  While you’re there, you may want to consider ordering another set of attachment lenses that I’ll be doing lessons on in the next couple of weeks.  That set includes a wide angle, macro, 2x telephoto, and fisheye attachment for $45.  It’s a fun set of attachments, but now we’re talking $80, which is a pretty big investment for iPhone photos.  If you don’t want to spend the dough, don’t worry.

Whether you decide to order the attachments or not, check the time of the moonrise in your location.  Here’s a website that will help.  Assuming the night is clear enough, watch for the moon.  It may be late if there are hills, mountains, or buildings between you and your view of the horizon.  Watch carefully, sometimes haze at the horizon will prevent the moon from being visible until it gets a little higher in the sky.  It’s also harder to spot when moonrise is before sunset–the light of the moon may not be bright enough.

Once you spot the moon, try taking some photos of it over the landscape with your naked iPhone.  Try zooming in using two fingers and pulling them apart.  Notice the difference in the fuzziness in your image and the speckles that appear when you zoom in this way.  If you do get the telephoto attachment, try this again when the attachment arrives and compare.