Monday, May 20, 2019

iPhonography 101 – Editing

Last time, we talked about the basic functions and some tricks of the iPhone camera to maximize the quality of the images you make. Today, we’ll focus on improving images through in-app editing software after images are made.
Unlike Photoshop edits, iPhones give photographers a Plan B and Plan C for mistakes.

Plan B: When you complete your first set of edits and/or crops, the iPhone will create and save a new image with a different name. Your original photo will no longer appear in your phone’s library, but it is still there. When you download your images, you’ll see the original plus another file that contains the edits.
However, if you DELETE the corrected photo from your phone, the original (unfiltered) image will also be deleted. I’ll explain later, but NEVER delete an image from your phone unless it is backed up elsewhere, or it’s completely useless (a photo of the inside of your pocket).

Plan C: If you completely mess up a photo with too many filters, it isn’t a problem. Close the edit. Reopen the same photo and press the “Revert” option on the bottom-right of the screen. You’ll get a pop-up screen that states “Revert to original will remove all edits made to this photo. This action cannot be undone.”
Then, choose “Revert to Original.” You’re back to where you started, and the image is uninjured.

Professional photographers learn to “crop in camera.” We include only items we want to see in the frame and/or use the edge of the frame to remove items we don’t want to see.
However, sometimes we don’t have the option to do much more than point-and-shoot before the moment is gone. In those instances, we can use a digital crop to make the image look better (banish the portable toilet beside your friend).
A strong caution about software crops: You will lose detail, and the image will suffer substantially if you digitally crop it. Your goal should be to use every pixel of the frame. If you must crop down, do so sparingly. iPhones are good at hiding their flaws – until you crop. Then, every flaw, interpolation and “invented” or “rounded” pixel becomes obvious.

With the selected photo open, select Edit in the top-right corner of the screen. Near the bottom-left of the screen the crop box will appear beside the word “Cancel” (it looks like a square with curved arrows). Tap the crop box.
This creates a bounding box around thee image. You will also notice a portion of a circle under the bottom of the bounding box with compass degrees for fine-scale rotations. At the bottom-left of the active area is a box with a curved arrow to control orientation. At the bottom right of the active area is a box with additional shaded boxes to represent crop formats.

When an image is first open in the crop area, the iPhone will try to help the photographer by applying an autorotation and crop. It selects a horizontal or vertical line as a “key,” then it rotates & crops the rest of the image to match the key line.
Depending on your shooting style, this is useful. If you’re very deliberate, you’ll need to undo this by either tapping “Reset” (back to zero degrees) or swiping left or right on the rotation wheel under the photo until it is to your desired position.

This is the most basic edit. iPhones are good at detecting horizontal camera orientation (if the camera is horizontal and perpendicular to the ground). However, if the camera is used to photograph something flat on a table (parallel to the ground), it will default to vertical orientation.
If the captured image isn’t in the desired orientation, it’s simple to fix.
With the photo open, select Edit in the top-right corner of the screen. Near the bottom-left of the screen the crop box will appear. Tap the crop box.
If the image autorotates, see if it’s OK or Reset the image to zero degrees.
The orientation box will appear in the bottom-left corner of the active area. This allows the photographer to rotate the image in 90-degree rotations. If the image is upside down, press the box twice (a 180-degree total).
If direction isn’t vital (food photos), it’s often best to rotate the image until the dominant light source appears to come from the top of the frame.
If this is the only change, hit Done.

Fine-scale rotation
As mentioned above, this is used to make subtle image alignments. The image can be rotated slightly or severely by swiping left or right over the semi-circular dial at the bottom of the bounding box.
As a genera rule, it’s wise to choose one line as a “key” within the frame and orient the remainder of the image off the key line. Often this is the horizon or a vertical line of a wall or beam.
Sometimes, photographers create visual tension by choosing a harsh, perpendicular rotation.
If this is the only change, hit Done.

When dealing with mobile social media, you can either choose the crop or settle for whatever the media platform does to your image. I prefer to make proactive choices whenever possible.
Click on the size button, the available options are Original, Square or the ratios 2:3, 3:5, 3:4, 4:5, 5:7, 9:16.
Most social media platforms will use a 4:5 crop on your image. By choosing this option first before sending to social media, the photographer chooses what is cut or remains in the image area.
Instagram prefers square images. However, it will generally accept 4:5 single-image posts. Multi-image posts will all be cropped to square (or the special template used).
Again, the photographer wants to be in control of the crop. If a photographer only shoots with Instagram in mind, s/he may as well shoot in square format to have better edge control. If the image will be on several social media platforms, it’s best to make images with the full frame, then crop to 4:5 for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Once those are posted, crop square for Instagram. At this point, there is the square version of the image, plus the original. You can download both to your computer or you can “Revert” to eliminate the square version.
9:16 is a widescreen cinematic crop. Use this crop to make custom YouTube covers for your videos from the field. It can be replaced later if needed.

Non-standard crops
The bounding box around the image can be moved to make non-standard crops. This is useful to deliberately crop something out of the frame or crop to change frame orientation. If the image will be emailed or used in a non-standardized location, this is the preferred crop.
However, for standardized media platforms, an additional crop size requirement may be applied. Once the original crop is made, a standard size can be applied to the remainder of the image. This may require additional crops until only the desired portion of the image remains.

Edit Suggestions
Over time, Apple’s basic iPhone image software has become extremely good. The automatic mode is good enough for most people. However, it is designed to present “vanilla” images, they’re good but not amazing without something else.
Luckily, there’s a full editing suite available in the photo library.
With any library photo active on the screen, choose Edit at the bottom of the screen. The bottom of the screen will now show “Cancel,” a crop symbol, a triple ball for filters (see above), a “radio dial” for settings and “Done.”
Select the radio dial.
You will see a stack of options. They are Light, Color and B&W (black & white).

Light Edits
Choose the toggle button on the far right of the screen in the Light section. You will see the following seven options: Brilliance, Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast and Black point.
Each of these can be individually adjusted for up 2.3 positive stops (lighter) in 1/5th stop increments, and 2.3 negative stops (darker) in 1/5th stop increments. Please adjust as necessary.
In photography, a “stop” is one level of light. In most photos, there is a “dynamic range” of 5 stops where 1 = black with detail and 5 = white with detail.
For my particular shooting style, my Go-To settings are typically: negative 2/5th highlights, positive 1/5th black point, and a touch of Brilliance if needed to open the mid-tones.

Color Edits
Choose the toggle button on the far right of the screen in the Color section. You will see a sliding bar of color options. This sliding bar makes changes to several background options simultaneously to speed editing. However, it becomes a hammer when a tweezer might be more appropriate.
If I’m in a hurry and the image is close to correct, I will often start with two frames worth of positive color shift to make the colors pop. This is often too much, so I back down a little if the colors start to overpower the scene.
When a more subtle approach is needed, press the three lines on the left side of the screen above the sliding scale. You will see the following three options: Saturation, Contrast and Cast.
Saturation is the intensity of the colors.
Contrast is the difference between light and dark.
Cast is the color balance from cold (shades of cyan and blue) to warm (shades of red and yellow).
Most often, the sliding scale will handle the Saturation and Contrast. However, you may need to manually adjust the Cast depending on where and/or when the image was made.
If the image was made in a completely shaded outdoor area, it is probably a cool scene that needs to be warmed some.
If the image was taken in tungsten, halogen or sunset light, it could be very warm (red to orange). So, you might need to add some negative cast to remove some of the orange tint. But the iPhone software probably tried to make the light “normal” colored by adding blue/cyan. So, it may be best to add warm light back into the scene to make it look like it did during the actual sunset.
The opposite holds true when shooting blue flowers or sky. The software may try to remove the cyan/blue shades. It’s best to slide the Cast settings to the negative side to make the cast cooler (blue/cyan).
The iPhone color and light balance options are limited, but better than depending on the camera software alone. If you want to learn more about color balance, temperatures and more, please see my blog post “BalanceThe Light.”

B&W Edits
B&W = Black & White (grayscale)
When you first tap the button, the image remains in color, but you’ll see a gray sliding scale at the bottom of the screen.
Slide through the entire scale. It will go through a series of grayscale version equating to Red, Green and Blue filters.
You can make additional changes by tapping on the three lines on the bottom-right of the viewing area. Under B&W, you’ll now see Intensity, Neutrals, Tone and Grain
Intensity adjusts color filtration separate from the other options to shift light emphasis to specific areas of the image.
Neutrals adjust the middle gray tones toward the lighter and darker ends of the spectrum.
Tone adjusts the contrast or “flatness” of the image.
Grain adjusts the amount of artificial film grain introduced into the image. Don’t use it.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

iPhonography 101 – Camera

Almost all photos and video on my Instagram page and IG business page are made and edited on my iPhone.
Not everyone has the cash to invest in a full camera rig (camera body, lenses, flash, etc.). Even those of us with “serious” cameras don’t always have them handy. However, most of us can’t leave our homes without a cell phone with a camera feature (or three).

In 2011, I wrote a magazine piece about submitting photos for publication. It addressed the difference between professional cameras and iPhones. All cell phone manufacturers have stepped up their game since then. The difference between cell phone images and professional camera images have narrowed considerably.
Additionally, many newspapers pay a little extra over the assignment fee to get some "atmosphere" cell phone images before a major event to post online. It's enough of an incentive to have a decent cell phone camera and arrive early. 
So, let’s address some iPhone basics to maximize the use of the camera you have in your pocket rather than the camera that’s safely stored in your closet.

Just the basics
This post is only going to address a basic iPhone (i7 and below). The information should be useful on most cell phones, but there will be differences between brands.
I also understand there are many ways to attach cell phones to other gadgets and vice versa to make them do many beautiful tricks. I have a closet full of add-on lenses and gadgets too. They’re fun, but I’ll only address the basic as-is cell phone camera today.

Base Information
All photography composition rules apply to cell phone cameras.
A basic iPhone view roughly equates to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera. It’s considered to be a wide-angle of view. “Normal” is 35mm to 50mm on a 35mm camera system.
This means there will be edge distortion and objects will appear farther away and smaller than normal on an iPhone. It also means the depth-of-field will be greater (more things in the photo will appear to be in focus). You will want to get very close to the main subject if you want it to dominate the frame.

Shooting Suggestions
This section will cover the basics of how to use the iPhone. Other brands of cell phones may have more or less of these features. Please check the user manual or online.

Swipe on lock screen
By the time someone wakes up the camera, unlocks the screen, finds the camera app and tries to make a photo, the moment is normally over. Here’s the fastest way to get shooting.
Wake up the camera with the wake/sleep button on the right side or the home button on the bottom of the screen face. Then, swipe left to open the camera screen without unlocking the screen.
You’re now ready to shoot without searching for the camera app.

Use volume as trigger
The two buttons on the left side of the iPhone control volume. Additionally, either of these buttons function as triggers while in camera mode. They also work in burst mode (see below).
In low-light situations, it’s best to use these buttons to minimize camera shake. You may still have rotation if you don’t stabilize the phone, but it rotates in fewer directions than pushing on the face of the phone.
To avoid any rotation, you can attach your EarPods (hardwire) to your iPhone, stabilize the phone (see below) and use the EarPod volume as a remote trigger. This ensures there is no camera rotation or shake from user interaction. This feature doesn’t work with AirPods (wireless).

Select focus and light balance
The iPhone is designed to “average” a scene for focus, color balance and exposure (amount of light included). It will ALWAYS BE WRONG with extreme scenes (white snow, black coal, monochromatic scenes of most colors, etc.). This can be corrected if you pay attention while you shoot.
You can select where focus will be by touching that area of the frame on your phone’s screen. A yellow bounding box will appear to let you know the area where you have chosen for focus and exposure.

Adjust exposure
If the exposure is too light or dark due to the subject (snow or coal), you can adjust the exposure. When focus and exposure above are selected, a yellow dot with tiny radiating lines also appears. This is a sliding exposure scale. Change the exposure of the whole scene by sliding your finger up and down near the sunshine dot.

AF/AE lock
AF means Auto Focus and AE means Auto Exposure. These can be locked to a specific distance and exposure.
Choose the distance you want to focus and the exposure you want and press the screen where focus/exposure should be. The bounding box mentioned above will appear. Continue to hold until the box becomes larger and “AF/AE LOCK” appears in a yellow box at the top of the screen. Now, you can recompose your camera without affecting the focus or exposure.
It will remain locked until you put the screen to sleep or otherwise leave the camera mode. Every photo you make will be at the same focus distance, exposure and color balance. If you have an adjustable color-temperature and lumen desk light, you can easily see the difference it makes.

Trick color balance
When shooting some monochromatic scenes (detail shots of roses for instance), the phone will try to “correct” the color of the scene. It often ruins the entire photo beyond what can be repaired with iPhoto edits.
To avoid this, you can view a “normal toned scene” (typically something white) with the phone. Then, lock or rapidly recompose the scene on the desired location and immediately shoot. Both have the same effect of tricking the camera into using the previous color balance in the new location.
The major difference between the approaches is focus. If the AF/AE is locked, the subject needs to be focused at the same distance. If the rapid recomposition approach is used, the iPhone sets a new focus before shooting the new scene – however, it won’t have time to change the color balance to the new scene.

Shoot too many
If your best shot is the last frame, you should have shot more.
The basic rule is to always shoot three to get one (pro ruleis 10:1 minimum). Something will happen each time photos are made. Shutter lag, camera shake, subject movement, blinked eyes, wrong exposure, wrong focus, bad color balance and more can ruin a single frame. It’s best to make several alternatives to ensure one works.

Hold down for burst mode
iPhones are notorious for “shutter lag” (the time between trigger actuation and the camera response). It isn’t a big deal with a photo of your lunch, but it’s a huge issue with anything involving action.
To give us a fighting chance at a decent shot, the iPhone has a “burst mode.” This feature makes about 10 frames per second while the trigger is held down. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a baseball on a bat, but you can get part of someone blowing out their birthday candles.
The vital part of this feature is selecting which frames to keep. Before you transfer and delete photos from your phone, you need to select which images you want to keep from the burst.
Tap the photo in your library. You will see a shadow box at the top-left of the screen that states, “Burst (7 photos)” or a different number. At the bottom of the screen, you will see an additional editorial feature labeled “Select…” Press that option.
You’ll be able to move left and right through the entire burst sequence. In the bottom-right corner of each photo is a small empty circle. Press that circle to select the images you want to keep. The circle will turn blue with a white check mark if it’s selected.
After you have selected images to keep from the burst, choose “Done” in the upper right-hand corner. It will give you the option to keep everything or only those selected. If “only selected” is chosen, all others will be deleted to save memory space. There is no reasonable way to recover deleted shots.

“Chimp” before leaving
The term “chimp” means to look at your photos on the viewing screen after you shoot. While it has a negative connotation, it’s still a good idea to ensure you have more than one useful shot before you leave a scene (or eat your meal). Unless you checked each frame with a magnifier before you leave, you might have a bad surprise when you prepare images later.

Zoom to check focus
When you have a photo from your library displayed on your screen, you can touch it with your thumb and finger. As you increase the distance between those to points, the photo will zoom into more detail. As you decrease the distance between those points, the photo will zoom out to the full photo.
While you are zoomed in, you can look at the focus to ensure the image is sharp. If not, shoot it again. Then repeat.
If the shot will be vital, consider carrying a lupe in your car or bag. This will let you look at the image in minute detail to ensure it’s useful.

I’ve written an entire post about eliminating camera shake, so I won’t go over it again.
However, let’s address how to manage it with a phone that doesn’t have a post hole.
Love or hate them, everyone has seen “selfie sticks.” These are basically extra-long arms so more people can fit into a selfie or more of the background scene can be included in the frame. They are ubiquitous because they’re cheap.
While I’m too ugly for selfies, I still purchased a cheap, discontinued one to repurpose it. The part of the selfie stick that holds the camera also mounts on a tripod (or other ¼-20 screw). It holds the phone in a stable position while it is attached to any other regular camera mount screw (including flexpods and clamps).

Top Settings
Across the top of the photo screen are five additional buttons. The lightning bolt is flash, HDR is for high dynamic range, “live” records a tiny (.MOV) video rather than a still photo (.jpg), the clock is for delayed timer, and the triple balls are for different color filtration variations.

iPhones have a tiny light next to the camera lens. It’s typically used in dark forests to search for masked murderers in horror movies or to find keyholes in the dark by everyone else.
It can also discharge a brighter blast of illumination (flash of light) for photos in a dark area. It can be turned On, Off or Auto.
Before reaching for the flash, understand color quality is poor compared to camera flash units. It also can “blow out” (overexpose) parts of a subject or scene.
Leave it “Off” most of the time. The camera is fairly good in low light for casual uses.
Turn it “On” when you know the scene is too dark OR when the subject is backlit or in severe sunlight that casts bad shadows.
Use “Auto” while frequently moving from indoors to outdoors. While it hurts many images, it’s an effective safety net for extreme light situations.

HDR means “High Dynamic Range.” It has more stops than the normal 5-stop dynamic range. This setting is used when you want to add texture to the darkest shadows or the brightest highlights.
For simplicity, let’s say HDR photos are basically several photos superimposed on each other to utilize the best parts of each. It’s more complicated, but I don’t want to slow us down.
You will see in the HDR photo that there is detail in both the highlights and shadows, which wouldn’t be possible with a direct photo.
However, this magic comes with some tradeoffs. For instance, the contrast tends to be muted. Also, if there is any phone or subject motion while the camera is recording the frames, there will be “ghosting,” subjects may appear translucent in several places rather than solid in one place within the scene.

The primary purpose of the timer is to let the photographer frame the image, set the time, and race into the scene to be part of the photo. It functions fine in this mode as long as the phone is stabilized (on a tripod or leaning against something immobile).
The secondary use is to avoid camera shake (blur). It’s an image-saving technique during low-light situations. Camera and/or subject shake is most likely in low light because it takes longer for the camera to collect the correct amount of light to make a properly-exposed image.
Choose your scene, stabilize the camera, instead of pressing the shutter, use the timer on a reasonable time (3 second delay). This ensures the iPhone isn’t rotating or still vibrating from your touch while the image is recorded. It’s sharp.

I’m not a fan of specialty filters. If you’re into permanently destroying your originals, that’s your choice.
If you desperately want to use software filters on your images, send the original photo to yourself as an email, save the emailed photo (it will have a new name now), and apply after filters to the second image. If you make images with a permanent filter, there’s no reasonable way to “undo” it.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Make Your Closing Memorable

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise
Lindsay (left) and Tyler Briggs (right) of Bridge City officially sign for their home in Beaumont on March 6, 2008. The Briggs bought the home and took advantage of a first-time buyers incentive.

REALTOR Magazine recently ran a piece titled "The Dual Value of Post-Closing Photo Shoots."

It validates the unique program I offer as the core of my professional REALTOR service. If my clients prefer, I'll make professional portraits and authentic moments of clients I represent along with their property and pets.

My clients get digital versions of the images shortly after the event for social media and printed keepsakes at the property closing. These are forever keepsakes that they can hang on the wall, share with their family and friends.

I'll personally photograph the properties for sellers. I'll host and document a house warming party for buyers and a pre-listing party (going away party) for sellers. These services are at no additional cost to my clients.

If you're curious, below is an example video of a C21JF Fine Homes & Estates agents' party. #pro #photos #SocialMedia #marketing #referrals #RealEstate #realty #closing #gift #invitations #housewarming #REALTOR

Friday, February 01, 2019

Curious about neighbors selling their homes?

Who is selling their homes in your neighborhood?
Check out my free interactive map of homes for sale.

BONUS: For most of y’all, it will be the first time you see me without a hat.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Farewell to NewsEagles

Well folks, I've decided to shut down NewsEagles. It will be up through February. This change will affect the SoundSlides shows on the PhotoJournalism blog, but I plan to reformat those as YouTube videos in the future.

Enough for now,