Just as I thought iPhoneography was of little further interest, along comes the iPhone5 with a new 8mp I-Sight camera boasting support for geotagging, panorama, face detection and autofocus out of the box. I took a couple of experimental shots and on an entirely subjective basis, my reaction was…Wow!
The real trick with iPhoneography is to supplement the camera with apps. This is where the power lies. I had a look at my motley collection, installed in the dark days of iPhone4 and decided a refresh was in order.
The editing apps I kept are Snapseed, which I consider indispensable, and err no others. Whole lot in the bin. I visited the App Store and had a rummage around. The new apps I downloaded are…
Camera Noir – does exactly what you would expect, with minimal fuss. B&W conversion with high medium and low contrast settings. Can also be used to set up the camera to take monochrome shots.
iPhoto – has the real benefit of being able to sync photos with an iPad which means I can actually see what I’m doing when editing. Train journeys will seem so much shorter!
Alt Photo – there are a lot of Film imitating apps around, but this one comes from a company with a strong track record in photography – Alien Skin. Childishly simple to use.
DistressedFX is a texturing app. Probably the best one I’ve seen, the textures are all adjustable.
The fun with iPhoneography lies in bouncing the photo around different apps. Obviously this will cause some degeneration in the image, but to give an idea of what you can get away with, the picture at the top of this post was taken with the native camera, cropped in Snapseed, a light texture applied in DistressedFX and converted to mono in Camera Noir.
Seems alright to me!
Is iPhoneography the new punk rock? This was the question I asked in a previous blog post. What I meant was that the iPhoneography craze has all the characteristics of a movement that’s going to upset the status quo. The cost of entry is low, its simple to execute, cost of software is low and the results are sufficiently different from DSLR photography to be identifiable. In those respects at least it has a lot in common with the punk rock movement of the 1970’s.
It is also polarising opinion in a pleasingly similar way. I imagine the transition from analogue to digital was heralded as the end of civilisation at the time and there is no doubt that digital photography has significantly altered the professional landscape. Now that the ability to take a good photograph is accessible to so many more people, the old Hunter S. Thompson saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” has never been more true. Perhaps now more than ever, is the time that photographers need to rely on their originality, imagination and talent in order to thrive.
I believe that the iPhone will change the landscape for a number of reasons apart from those cited above. The principle reason being that because of the accessibility and ease of use, it is a great tool for flexing the creative muscles and trying new things out. I can see a time approaching when the iPhone could even displace the point and shoot camera, which with the new generation of mirrorless (MILC or EVIL) digital cameras from Leica, Olympus and Nikon must be feeling the squeeze from both ends.
Mobile phone photography is both fun and rewarding. There is sufficient interest to support magazines and exhibitions and I sold my first “iPhoneograph” last week, hopefully a taste of things to come! Specialist photosharing sites such as EyeEm and Instagram have helped the movement to ‘go social’ and software is coming along in leaps and bounds as well as reasonably priced accessories such as lens attachments. There is even an adapter available to allow the user to mound Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses.
The software I used to create the image illustrating this post is called TrueHDR. I also use Snapseed on both the mobile phone and desktop. The other program I can recommend without hesitation is Filterstorm. On the frivolous, fun side of things, Tiny Planets and Plastic Bullet are both very effective, if limited.
Check out my iPhoneography Gallery. If you’re not already doing it, try it, you may grow to love it!
Followers of iPhoneography will know Snapseed for its iPhone and iPad implementations. It is in my opinion the best value and possibly the most full featured editing app available to mobile photographers. Nik Software of course are equally well known for their professional editing tools Silver Efex Pro and Viveza to name but two. The release of Snapseed for the desktop at £13 in the Mac Store poses an interesting question – who is it aimed at exactly?
I decided to test the capabilities of the software using a problematic photograph I’d taken in Iceland. In the original RAW file, the picture was underexposed because of the unusual amount of pure white snow in the picture. I needed to boost the exposure to bring the snow up to the brilliant white it was in real life, but in so doing, lost the detail of the mountains. Bringing the red jacket through completely overexposed the snow.
I exported the file to jpeg as it was intended for the internet – this immediately set me on the path to a downgraded picture, so it may have been better to have taken the RAW file, however Snapseed does not offer the same degree of control over the RAW image as Aperture, relying on the underlying OS support for RAW in order to deal with the picture.
Snapseed offers two categories of adjustment, Basic and Creative. The Creative adjustments are mainly combinations of filters and textures – not what I was after here. The Basic controls offer Image tuning, Cropping & Straightening and Details. Given the issues I mentioned earlier, the main work was going to have to be selective. I needed to bring out the red of the woman’s jacket and bring up the detail of the mountain in the background.
Snapseed uses the same u-point technology in Image Tuning that Nik apply to their professional tools. Click on the area you need to adjust to create a Control point, adjust the size of the control point so that the changes are localised and then apply contrast, saturation and brightness as required. These controls gave me exactly what I needed. I was then able to use Details to bring out the structure. Time elapsed – about fifteen minutes.
For £13, this software is good value – as a taster for the professional tools it is excellent. I would not use it to create prints or images for print publication, but for internet publication I think its fine.
Positives: RAW Support, Ease of use, speed, price
Negatives: limited feature set (but very reasonable for the price)
Conclusion – although the feature set is limited, it is capable. This is very much a fun application delivering decent results quickly and easily. It does not offer the same levels of resolution as Aperture or Photoshop. Its mobile photography++. iPhone editing for the desktop and an inexpensive introduction to Nik Software!