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  • Work Flow for Monochrome iPhone Photos

    Work Flow for Monochrome iPhone Photos

    Processing a standard iPhone image into a pleasing monochrome photo involves a simple but powerful workflow as well as attention on getting the best possible image you can at the start.

    Capturing
    First, there’s the camera app. I seldom use Apple’s native camera. Instead, I use ProCamera to capture photos. It’s just about perfect: ability to select preferred ratios, independent exposure and focus with ability to lock each, burst mode, image stabilization, and so forth. The key to a good finished photo is taking the best possible image you can. No amount of editing can overcome a badly taken photo. Period.

    For people who do use Apple’s camera, and want to instantly improve their smartphone photo, tap on the screen to set focus and exposure beforesnapping the shutter. I know a lot of people who think that box on the screen is focusing or expos using their shot. It’s not; the box is for facial recognition. Also, when shooting in challenging, low-light situations, monochrome is far more forgiving than color.

    Second, shoot with the intention of converting to black and white or shoot with an app that captures in monochrome. I prefer Vint B&W MII, when I want to capture in monochrome or several of the Hipstamatic bw filters. Now, Vint BW also features the ability to import via the camera roll. Treating monochrome as an after-thought or a filter choice isn’t sufficient. Pay attention to form, structures, patterns, and always, the light. In photographing people, it’s their expressions that will come through, rather than apparel for example. Pay attention to gray tones, shadows, mood, etc. as you’re observing the scene.

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    Captured in ProCamera and post-processed with Vin B&W MII

    Editing
    I use 3 apps for processing: Film LabPhoto FX, and Snapseed. These apps have independent adjustments for their features, which is a must. Each does something very well that the other, in my opinion does not. I happen to prefer the look of film photography, so I’m less concerned with sharpness. That’s me. I like strong tonal contrast: inky blacks and bright whites most of the time. So, I my editing goal is to achieve my aesthetic “look.”

    I also take notes of what I choose, the degree of the settings, and more or less stick with these. The reason for this attention is I want to replicate the style. It can be disappointing to place your monochrome photos together and realize later that you haven’t a consistency in tones: some bluish, some brownish, and so forth. Repetition is a form of cohesion, helping photographers to achieve a a discernible style across a body of work.

    In Film Lab, I desaturate the image, stripping it of color and leaving a monochrome image. I  select one of many bw filters to apply. Then, I import into PhotoFX to fine tune and adjust tones. I’m trying to increase contrast most of the time, without blowing out or overly darkening any important information in the frame. In Snapseed, I adjust brightness, sometimes crop or level, and others depending if something is needed. Often, the image doesn’t go into Snapseed at all.

    It takes me about 5-10 minutes to edit. I’m less interested in post-editing work, so I try to keep what I do after image capture to a minimum. My interest as a photographer is in observation, composition, and framing.

    Sharing
    I’ve reduced my share spots to FlickrGoogle+EyeEm, and Facebook. I don’t always share the same photos in the same places. Of these, it’s mostly Flickr that gets all of the publicly shared images, both from mobile photography and other formats. Partly, this is because it serves as a kind of “off site” back up and also because its the engine for images on my blog.

    Let me know what your tips are for shooting/editing monochrome photos.

  • What's in my Camera Bag?

    Camera replacement, filters, and editing apps tend to receive the attention in mobile art and photography space. In this round-up, though, I pulled together apps that have become just as important to me. They may fall under the category of “utilities.”  As much as possible, I want to work with my image files on my iPhone–not back and forth with my desktop.

    There are tons of such utilities, and I recommend asking around to see who uses what. Here are some I use fairly regularly.

    May 2013 in South Bend, WA, iPhone 5

    Apps: Hipstamatic, PicFrame. May 2013 in South Bend, WA, iPhone 5

    Reduce: to batch resize images and photos for iPhone and iPad. I use this daily to shrink images for posting to social networks. I like the independent controls, including jpeg quality and pixel size, as well as ability to strip EXIF data among others. I use to use SimpleResize, which has fewer controls and options but does the trick, too.

    PhotoSize: to reveal pixel dimensions of any image in the camera roll. Simple, limited in scope, and free. I find this very handy.

    PicFrame: to combine photos into collages or diptych, triptych and so forth. The app includes several image ratios and a bunch of pre-set frames as well as ability to add text, adjust styles, widths, etc. I use this app when I want to combine several photos into a “set” or collection. I also use Frame Artist, which has photo templates but features the ability to custom design frames.

    iZip: to help manage, compress, secure files.

  • Tips To Avoid Blurry iPhone Photos

    Here are a few tips for capturing photographic momentos that are clearer, sharper, and focused, when you’re using an Apple iPhone. I’m directing this post to informal but posed group shots–not candid or portrait work or anything serious.

    1. Slow down. It’s worth getting everyone you want to remember in the frame.
    2. Look at your light and move toward it if you need to. Most of the time, I try for side light or shade for the group shot, since I don’t like the iPhone’s flash for fill, and I don’t want all of my friends squinting into the camera on sunny days.
    3. Ask everyone to squeeze in closer together. Pull heads together, wrap arms around each other, whatever it takes, but get in close.
    4. Ask everyone to stay still as you take the photo. I sometimes say, “hold the pose.”
    5. Take a horizontal shot. I see all kinds of people holding their phones vertical. Often a horizontal shot is easier to frame, especially for these fun group shots, as your frame spreads out a bit.
    6. Hold your smart phone firmly but relaxed. Use whatever grip you like but make sure your finger isn’t covering the lens in the upper left corner and that you aren’t letting your forearms, wrists, etc., sway. Stabilize yourself against a wall, a table, someone else’s shoulder, a chair.
    7. Tap on the screen to focus and to expose for highlights or shadows. In the newer iOS, the box that appears in your frame isn’t focusing–it’s trying to recognize faces. I’ve had people tell me they assumed this was the focus. Nope. You can tap and drag to move the exposure/focus across the screen. I focus every shot I take myself, unless I’m using an app that just doesn’t have this feature at all.
    8. While shooting, do not move your arms or wrists toward the subject or back toward yourself as you take a photo. Keep your upper body and arms still.
    9. Look at the photo to ensure you have everyone in frame and focused. If not, do it again. Don’t just hand the phone back without checking.
    10. Think about post-processing to monochrome; it really is forgiving of bad light.