After -- processed with PerfectlyClr


Before - Image as it came from the camera


Two things happened in my photography life recently – I decided to use my iPhone as a camera and do so a little more seriously than before. Then I picked up a copy of Peterson’s Photographic Digital Photography Guide, a magazine. The issue I picked up is volume 13: “Create great images with your iPhone.” It’s a special issue devoted entirely to iPhone for photographers.

What I’ve learned so far is that the power of a smart phone is vast. And the image quality possible from these smart phones is excellent. Beautiful images can easily be created using the camera and available photo apps. The apps I’ve downloaded cost between $1.99 and $2.99. If you are interested in the technical specs for the iPhone 4 camera (not the new 4s — that’s even better) try this blog.

I’ve always tried to use cameras with a lot of build-in capabilities. Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras with fixed lenses and lots of capabilities have been my chosen companions more often than a camera system with interchangeable lenses. I like to travel light and be able to take photos wherever and whenever I am so moved. I do own a Panasonic Micro four thirds camera and three lenses but use it much less often than my super P&S Panasonic LX5 with its excellent Leica lens.

(Note: Answers.com defines a Point and Shoot camera:
“Of, relating to, or being a camera that adjusts settings such as focus and exposure automatically. Read more.” But this definition doesn’t really cover cameras like my LX5 that have fixed lenses but full manual controls. It is the most used term for such cameras tho. A micro four thirds camera uses interchangeable lenses like an SLR, but has no internal mirror using an electronic viewfinder instead of through the lens viewing. This design makes the cameras smaller — in some cases much smaller than an SLR but with excellent image quality that rivals that of most SLRs — Single Lens Reflex — if you need a definition please Google it.)

The iPhone smart phone is a powerful palm sized computer that has a photography system built into it. The system can be augmented with applications (apps) from third party vendors at a very low cost each. Using this system it is possible to create beautiful images of very high quality. The phone can create image files as large as 18 mega pixels (18 million pixels). Enlargements as large as 16 by 20 inches or larger are possible. Instead of trying to load a large, powerful program like Photoshop into a small computer, developers have created apps that do one or a few things — such as crop a photo — so a number of apps are needed for building your iPhone photography system.

But before I thought about the photography tools available inside an iPhone, I took some photos and posted them to my Facebook wall and used one or two here in my Photography Blog. They looked good but not great. Then I came across Peterson’s Photographic and the excellent series of articles by Dan Burkholder. Dan is a master printer and photographer and he runs workshops, including a series in iPhone photography. From his website ):

“The images on this page were captured and processed on an Apple iPhone through an assortment of inexpensive imaging apps. The iPhone is more than just a tiny camera on a cell phone. For the first time we have both camera and darkroom in the palm of our hands. Dan’s iPhone workshops will cover the steps used to capture and process images like these and then print them on fine art digital paper and canvas.”

Dan not only captures high quality images using his phone, he also processes them using sophisticated techniques right in the phone itself, using it as a digital darkroom. His images tend to be over processed for my taste – I like simpler – “straight” photography. But there is no doubt that his images are beautiful and are evidence of lots of processing and artistry.

Right away I was able to use an app recommended by Dan – PerfectlyClr. I also looked for and found another one on my own – Crop. You see, I was in Brooklyn helping my wife help her nonagenarian parents and wanted to take some photos in their neighborhood at twilight because the sky was particularly beautiful. I did and I posted one to Facebook getting some applause. But a little later I came across the magazine, downloaded the PerfectlyClr app – processed the image with a single click – and presto – it was an improved image — and as Dan promised all within the phone. In addition to a one click mode, PerfectlyClr has “Pro” controls giving the photographer control over things like contrast, color vibrancy, sharpness and noise. A mini Photoshop?! I haven’t achieve anything like great results yet but good results show promise of getting better still.

In addition to PerfectlyClr I purchased and downloaded an app which may prove to be even more useful. Its called ProCamera and it replaces the camera app that comes with the phone. ProCamera gives the photographer much more control over focus and exposure and has other helpful features including a level. Using various apps one can also do HDR (high dynamic range) photography, can stitch multiple images together (that’s how large files are created) and use creative processing techniques such as adding texture and other artistic, painterly effects — all within the iPhone.

So my next steps will be to do more photography with the iPhone and see how much post processing I’m comfortable doing with it. It might be easier to simply download the images to my computer and use Lightroom or Photoshop (powerful computer photo editing software) on my wide screen monitor. But sometimes all I have is my palm computer, a gateway to the Internet and with the camera system — the real world.

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