Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting the Most from Your iPhone Camera (Part 4) - PhotoPad, a Versatile App for Adding Effects

As you can see from these two photos, there's a wide range of things you can do with your photos once you've taken them. Both of these edits were made with the PhotoPad app. In the top photo, I wanted to make the regular photo of a scupture at Gettysburg National Park have a more vintage appearance. In the second, I wanted to add a caption to the photo of apples. In the first, I used the "chromaticity" tool under the buttom with the symbol showing sliders. In the second, I used the paintbrush tool under the button that looks like a suitcase. There's also options for cropping, rotating, and red eye reduction. The edits are a little tricky on the iPhone because of the smaller screen, but it works well on an iPad.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting the Most From Your iPhone Camera (Part 3) - A Fun App, Color Splash

Now you're getting the hang of what you can do with your camera, you have basic photos and you want to have a little fun. So, now I will give a series with a few apps towards that goal:
Today one of my favorites, it is Color Splash: This app allows you to have selective color on your shot, with the rest turned to black and white. The app starts by converting the entire picture to black and white and then you use your finger to paint back in areas of color. The photos above, Red Roses for You, are the pre- and post- using Color Splash. It works best with photos where you have a something in the photo with bright colors (like the roses and the cat's eyes) that accentuating would really add impact. There's a video review here that has a tutorial.
Feel free to download pictures from my Flickr to play with if you want to play with the app without having to take pictures. All you do is go to a photo, click on it, then use the + sign on the upper right hand corner to put it on the lightbox. Then click on the "view all sizes" button, again in the upper right hand corner and choose a size to download. The "medium500" is probably just about right to play with on an iPhone or iPad. My suggestions for ones to try are: Joy, Pas de Deux, S Curve, Water Play, and The Thinker.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting the Most From Your iPhone Camera (Part 2)

Restaurant Vista al Mar, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

Before shooting a lot of photos, you're going to need to outfit your phone with the right apps. Apps will help you take better pictures and allow you to edit them once you have them. My workflow is that I take the picture and if I need to do much editing or I want to take a closer look before uploading, I transfer it to my iPad and then edit and upload it from there. In this blog, I'll cover basic shooting and editing apps.
Apps to take a different kind of picture:
My favorite is Pro HDR. It's the app that I used to take the picture above. I have more on HDR in a past blog, but basically: most cameras cannot capture the full dynamic range that the human eye can see. Even with the best camera, there are areas that are too light and others too dark and you lose detail in those areas. In HDR, there are multiple images (usually at least 3) with underexposure to capture the dark areas (but losing the sky) and overexposure to capture the light areas (but the darker areas lose all detail. Software then smart averages the images to create the best. For this you could spend $100 for your desktop or $1.99 in the app store. Pro HDR requires holding the camera still while the camera analyzes and then takes two shots (one under and one overexposed) and then blends them. You can do final edits. It adds a cool look to a lot of different scenes but is essentially in those tricky lighting situations. Don't expect to get moving objects those because moving objects can take on a ghost like appearance (which in itself can be cool).
Apps for photo editing: I use Photogene or PS Express in my iPhone and Photo Pal or PS Express on my iPad. In these, you can crop out areas (remember that trash can from the previous blog?), adjust the lighting and other special effects like adding frames or captions. Most photos require a little sharpening-- making it look better focused than it is available in all of these apps. Auto-leveling is available in all of these too, which you can make adjustments to bad exposures without having to know a lot about photo editing. These apps also have options to take the picture and upload from within the app to Facebook, but I usually upload through the Facebook app on the iPhone or Friendly for Facebook on my iPad.
In my next blog posting, I'll cover apps to do more fun and special apps.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting the Most From Your iPhone Camera (Part 1)

For all you Verizon people that just migrated to iPhone, I'm going to post a series of blogs to help you get the most of your iPhone camera. It's really quite remarkable for a cell phone camera and has higher ratings than the competition. I'm assuming that most of you don't have a lot of technical knowledge about cameras, so I'll review some of the basics about cameras as well. Over the last 247 days of my iPhone photo a day project, I've learned where I can push the camera to do more than you would think (like the photo above). For this blog, I'm going to focus on the difference between this camera and other entry level point and shoot cameras and cell phone cameras.
First of all, how is this camera different from one of the point and shoot cameras you could buy at Best Buy that would cost around $100? Well, obviously they can't also make phone calls or immediately text or email the picture you just took to someone and you usually can't edit pictures within the camera (more in a future blog about that), but there's more than that. This blog has all the technical specs for those of you who are interested in numbers.
The iphone camera has a fixed lens, not a zoom (the button on a camera that makes it so you can get closer or farther from your image without actually having to move your feet). You can make it look like you're zooming in on something but tapping the screen (a box appears) and then sliding the bar at the bottom. But, you aren't really zooming, you're just magnifying the image . This is important, because the image is going to look fuzzier. With a camera with a zoom, the optics change so you won't lose as much resolution, i.e. it won't get as fuzzy. That being said, the best solution is to move your feet and yourself closer to the object so that what you want is in the frame-- not the garbage can next to the object of your desire or the random person smoking in your shot. The size of the iPhone lens after all the math is done, makes it compare to a 28 mm lens. This is a fairly wide angle lens, similar to the widest angle of most point and shot cameras you'd buy.
iPhone 4 has two cameras-- one on the back for taking pictures (and videos) and one on the front so you can project your face into the world. The front facing camera is not of the same quality as the rear facing camera and should only be used for Facetime/Skype/etc. or if you don't care about having poor quality pictures of your face.
iPhone 4's light sensitivity is better than the previous models and similar to most Best Buy entry level cameras. Light sensitivity is important when you are shooting in areas where the light isn't great. If the light is poor, the camera works hard to capture the available light by maximizing other settings with a result that the image is grainy (little dots in the picture, especially in darker areas) and with a slow shutter speed (making motion visible for instance someone waving may look like she has a flipper instead of a hand). There's a flash on the iPhone 4, but I haven't found it particularly useful. It tends to wash out the photo without adding any real illumination. A remedy for low light graininess and movement artifact: turn on the lights in the room-- another move involving your feet rather than technology! The photo above of a sailboat on the island of Molokai in Hawaii was taken just before dawn, showing just how well the camera performs in low natural light. The sun is a little washed out, but there's still good detail in the dark areas of the boat.
Does size (of pixels) matter? Yes. Pixels are the electronic sensors that capture light. Most consumer point and shoot cameras have about 10 megapixels, the iPhone has 5 megapixels-- previous iphones had 3-- the bigger DSLR cameras have 10-15. The pixel count, size, and quality determine how large you can blow your picture up without it getting grainy and blurry looking and how sharp it will look on the screen. While the iPhone has only 5, Apple uses superior technology to others so that density and size is maximized, similar quality to 8 megapixel point and shoot cameras. In head to head tests to other cameras it consistently performed as well or better.
So, how does all of this matter? For people that just want to post to Facebook or text their photo it probably doesn't matter too much. For people who want to have the option of printing their photos (probably a max of 5x7, maybe could get away with 8x10's), the iphone is superior to most other camera phones and is going to be at least as good as an entry level point and shoot. What this means is that you don't have to buy another camera or if you already have one you can leave it home and not have to stuff your pockets with gear. Also, most people tend to carry their phone with them, but not always a camera.
In the words of Chase Jarvis (a famous photographer), "The best camera is the one with you."
In the next blog, I'll talk about some apps you can use to enhance your picture taking experience and results.