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iPhone 6 Plus cameras have limitations too

There’s a certain point on an iPhone’s camera where the lack of ambient light will result in a significantly grainy image. The sensor sensitivity can only do so much in terms of retrieving information in low-light situations. It’s interesting, however, to note that if you wait just a few minutes later, the amount of grain drops significantly, allowing you to capture a much cleaner image in the dark.

I typically stay away from taking any photos in the dark with my iPhone for this very reason, but managed to experiment during one of my sunrise shoots earlier in the year, when I took images every so often in the dark. The results surprised me because despite the darkness, there was a point where I was able to capture a useable image.

Useable image?

When I refer to an image as being useable, I typically mean that the raw image from the camera is clean enough for me to edit with, yielding in an image that I would be able to post online. If an image is already so grainy to begin with, editing that will yield in an even grainier image that I wouldn’t be too happy about. Grain is great when you want them in there, but for the most part, I don’t.

The following photos have been taken with my iPhone 6 Plus, but have been reduced in size in Photoshop.

The first photo:

Grainy image

Grainy image

The overall image is really grainy. It was taken in the morning at 7:18am along the lakeshore area. Since there is very little light, the sensor had trouble capturing a clean image. If you look at the skyline and cloud areas in the middle of the photo, you can see the grain quite well.

This next photo is a much cleaner image:

Cleaner Image

Cleaner Image

While you may still see some grain in this photo, there is significantly less overall. If you look in the same area along the skyline and clouds, you’ll see the details are much more noticeable. This picture was taken at 7:28am, just 10 minutes later from the previous photo.

If we take a closer look, you’ll see the difference even more. The following photos are 100 percent crops from each photo above.

100 percent of grainy image

100 percent of grainy image

And this is the full crop of the cleaner image:

100 percent of cleaner image

100 percent of cleaner image

And that’s just a 10 minute difference between the two images.

So if you’re ever caught in a situation where you need to take photos in low light situations, try and make the scene just a little bit brighter and see how your iPhone reacts to the added light. It may make a huge difference and yield in photos that are much more pleasing to the eye.

How I Edited White Nature on my iPhone 6 Plus

Today’s iPhone Post Processing technique is of the high-key image that I took one cold and windy day at Colonel Sam Smith Park in the west end of Toronto. I wanted to capture the winter scene along with the colours of the sunset, so I took to the park to see what I could find.

The photo below is what I captured from the native camera of my iPhone 6 Plus. You can see how the plant in the foreground is quite dark, but I still managed to get the subtle pink and blue of the sky in the backdrop. The overall photo is underexposed on purpose so that I can simply brighten the areas to my liking.

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

My first step was to open up the shadow areas in Instaflash Pro. I wanted to get some colour in the plant so using that app, I was able to significantly open up the shadows without adding too much grain or degradation in image quality. I also sharpened the image a bit, added a little bit of glow to it using the Orton filter, and increased the saturation slightly to bring in that colour of the plant.

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

The image was brightly lit now, but I wasn’t happy with the colours within it, so I brought it into Snapseed where I’m able to selectively edit areas of an image using their Selective Adjust tool. That tool is a pretty powerful one as it lets you adjust the contrast, saturation and brightness of certain areas of your image. The photo below shows you how many points I’ve edited for this photo. My goal here was to make the snow more white, since it had quite a blue cast to it from all the editing I’ve been doing. For each point you see, I’ve adjusted its saturation and brightness.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

The resulting photo was ok, but was still looking a little too dark for my liking. So, also within Snapseed, I used the Drama filter to brighten up the entire image. I used Bright 1 with a strength of 66, and boosted the saturation to really bring out the colours, as seen below.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image and boost saturation.

The image was now more to what I wanted it to look like. My last step these days has always been to bring it into VSCOcam, where I adjust anything I want for the final look. For this particular image, I was more or less pleased with how it looked, so I didn’t add any filters to it. Instead, I increased the saturation (+1), warmed the temperature by +2, and cropped it for Instagram. The final image, uncorked is below.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.


 

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Snapseed

Snapseed

iPhone-Edited Winter Wonderlands

My last couple of posts have been all about my winter wonderlands taken with my Nikon dSLR. This post, in contrast, is all about my winter wonderlands taken with my iPhone 5s.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F1]

The ones I had been posting recently on my Instagram feed have all been cropped to a square format. The original photos, however, are rectangular, so there are often times when seeing the photo in its entirety gives a different feel than when looked at it in a square format. You can view my Instagram feed here to compare with these photos.

The one above is one of the first winter wonderland photos I uploaded on my Instagram feed. It’s also one of my favourites this winter. With clean whites, vibrant blues that stand out, and the lighter shade of blue in the sky, it evokes a feeling of freshness on a sunny, winter day.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F1]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F2]

The first one above has the storm clouds rolling in from the left, and is overall a little bit on the darker side. The image quality suffers a little in low-light parts of this photo. The second one above was taken when the sun was still out, and adds a little bit of a fade effect to it, which further adds to the appeal of the photo.

The following three photos I’m actually quite impressed with in terms of image quality.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F2, Mextures]


[Snapseed, Mextures]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: C3, Mextures]

Coming out of an iPhone and looking like this on a large screen is very impressive. Of course, the many effects that have been applied to it makes it harder to see the quality degradation of the image itself. The two images below have several effects applied to them, making them look a little washed out and painterly like.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: S1, Mextures]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: C3, Mextures]

And finally, I leave you with another one of my favourites of my recent winter wonderland posts.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: S1, Mextures]

With its brighter right side, there’s a little bit of warmth to the image. The simple composition comprising of four levels with various textures within keep the eye moving from one level to the next.

In a future post, I’ll go a little more in detail with how I use these apps to create some of my images. Stay tuned for that!

What’s in my bag?!

I’ve read a lot of other photographer’s posts on various sites on the contents of their bag when they go out shooting. So I thought I’d join in on the fun and let you all see what was in my bag during the 10 days that I was shooting the Luminato Festival. While the contents may have changed slightly from one day to another, the picture here displays the minimum amount of items that I carried for those 10 days.

Let’s break this down by the numbers, shall we?

  1. That’s my trusty old Crumpler Formal Lounge bag that’s no longer in production. I bought this several years ago to take with me on my backpacking trip to Europe, where I carried three lenses and a Nikon D80 film camera with me wherever I went. The bag—even to this day—is by far the most comfortable bag I’ve ever used to carry my camera gear in. It’s a little old, all but one of the zippers have broken off of it, and there’s absolutely no more cushion in the shoulder straps, so I think it’s about time I get a replacement. Any suggestions from out there? This weighs about 1.8kg on its own.
  2. That’s my weapon of choice: Nikon D800. It’s heavy, but it does some pretty neat things. And I love it! Attached to it, shown in the photo, is my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, which I also love. One look and people think it’s a fisheye, but really, it’s just a really, really, wide-angled lens. It weighs in at a good 2.13lbs (969g).
  3. And that’s the other lens I carried with me wherever I went: 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. It’s a beauty alright. I love that one as well, even though it weighs 3.4lbs (1.54kg)! It’s great for getting those far away shots on stage, and getting up close and personal with people from afar.
  4. That’s a Macbook Pro. It’s a rather old Macbook Pro, dating back to about 2008. It’s also very, very heavy at 5.0lbs (2.27kg). Urgh! I carried that thing so that I can start “starring” and filtering my photos for the day in Adobe Lightroom, on my subway trip back home. It saved me a load of time from having to do it once I got home to my desktop. During daytime shoots, I would just set myself down at the Hub (typically in the Volunteer Center where they had electrical outlets) and worked away on the photos on my Macbook so that I was done with them even before I got home. The battery doesn’t last more than 30 minutes now so I needed a plug wherever I settled myself down. I think it’s time for a Macbook Air: that will for sure save me in my costs for neck and shoulder massages!
  5. These are the miscellaneous items I had in my front pocket of my Crumpler.
    • I need a tissue wherever I go thanks to my lifelong, yearlong allergy symptoms.
    • And to save me from having to use my tissue, I had some allergy pills in case of emergency. I used them once during the 10 days.
    • SPF60 sunscreen. I hate wearing sunscreen. Because of that, I now have wrinkles around me eyes. But I carried this tube anyway as some days it was just too sunny even for my wrinkles. I actually used it quite a bit. Thanks L’Oreal!
    • While not shown here, I used to carry a small, portable Luminato-branded umbrella that I tucked in the side strap of my camera bag. It worked well, but broke during the week while using it.
    • I got this plastic rain poncho nearing the end of my 10 days. It saved me from getting soaked during the sudden downpours over the second weekend. I was out in the open when the storm came so this was a lifesaver (and camera-saver).
    • And finally, my Luminato lanyard. This was my all-access pass so I needed to wear this wherever I went. It also served as a pocket for my pen and waiver release forms that I needed for some of my photos.
    • A lens-cleaning cloth. Definitely a must for any photographer on the go. I used this in the middle of a shift to clean the inside of my camera because somehow a huge sticky substance made its way onto the mirror inside. A cloth is much more versatile than a lens-cleaning pen since it can get at almost any area on/in the camera. No lens-cleaning pen would have solved my mirror spot problem.
  6. This is my tripod. It’s a Gitzo Explorer series, which is another amazing tool that I love. It’s not carbon fiber so it’s quite heavy when you carry it with you for an extended period of time. It weighs in at 2.35kg for the legs, and 1.1kg for the head for a total of 3.45kg. It’s big, it’s tall, it’s a crappy thing to have to carry with you wherever you go. But with it, I’m able to take pictures like the one you see below. It makes it worthwhile once I see my end results with it. Again, without it, my massage bills would be drastically reduced. See that strap around the center post of my tripod? One of the other photographers commented on how he liked it a lot. I told him, I took that strap off a gym bag and now use it as my shoulder strap for my tripod. I have two of them so that I can carry my tripod like a backpack. It works well even though I may look silly carrying it. Most festival photographers probably don’t carry a tripod around with them since their gear and accessories are enough as it is. I don’t blame them. But it’s something I do since I believe it makes my pictures that much more pleasing than if I were to handhold a shot in low-light situations.


Without a tripod, photos like this would be much harder to get since I can’t put my camera on anything stable in the middle of an open area or halfway down a flight of stairs, like I was on when I took this photo.

Let’s round up the weight:
Crumpler Formal Lounge bag: 1.8kg
Nikon D800 body only: 900g
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII: 1.54kg
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8: 969g
Macbook Pro: 2.27kg
Gitzo Explorer Tripod and Head: 3.45kg

For a grand total of: 10.929kg. If you add in all the miscellaneous items, the total weight will exceed 11kg, or 24.25lbs!

I don’t know about you, but that equates to some long hours on the massage table for me. It’s kind of amazing that I was still standing up after 10 days.

So there you have it. Perhaps this is light compared to what you carry, or perhaps it’s overkill to others. Each photographer works differently and has their own set of goodies in their own bag. That’s why it’s always a nice insight to see what others carry.

The most important thing is, carry what you need to get the job done to your liking.

Review: Apple Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse photos taken with iPhone 4.

Recently switching from an apple mighty mouse to the recently introduced magic mouse, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right move. How bad can a mouse be, after all?

As it turns out, this elegant and sexy piece of magic has its positives and negatives. No arguing, the design of this mouse it quite striking at first glance. A single transparent piece of plastic sits on top, showing the white underneath. The curve may not be as high reaching as the mighty mouse, but it still does the job.

The back surface of the mouse is now a touch-sensitive surface allowing you to swipe, pinch, zoom, and scroll to your heart’s content. And this is probably the mouse’s best feature, and it’s worst.

I love the inertia scrolling, and that was the selling point for me. The smooth scrolling of the screen at a quick flick of the finger on the mouse is just gorgeous. The single and double fingered swipe, however, is where I find my most problems with the mouse. While it functions as it should, scrolling windows sideways, it is far too easy to swipe mistakingly, making you scroll and move things when not intended. This is quite annoying as it’s fairly easy to do, and I have done it quite often already. Holding the mouse with my thumb and pinky on either side, my forefinger is used to swipe left, right, up and down. However, I find my middle and ring finger—even at the slightest touch on the surface—often moves the screen or window when I did not want it to.

Not to mention, the two fingered swipe to the left and right is an awkward feel and will take some time to get used to. Despite all of this, I feel the mouse’s advantages outweigh its disadvantages, and am overall happy with its purchase.

After all, I did get $5 off the retail price of $69, as I bought it during the black friday sale.

I can’t comment on the battery life as I haven’t exhausted the included 2 batteries yet, but I can’t imagine this to be too much of a hinderance.

To end off, I’m happy with the looks, quality, build, and ease of use with this mouse. A little sensitivity of the touch sensitive surface and the somewhat awkward feel holding on to the mouse while swiping to the left or right, are my only complaints; neither of them, however, would be a deal breaker in purchasing this mouse though.