photography

Video To Go eBook

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For years now, Wally Cherwinski has been teaching people how to use Apple technology to shoot great video. I got to attend one of Wally’s sessions this year at the Macstock conference and in addition to being a great videographer, Wally is also an excellent teacher.

Wally has now released a brand-new media-rich the iBook, Video To Go to help you get better at taking video with your Apple devices.


BestPhotos 2.0

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I wrote awhile back how how I started using BestPhotos for doing the initial photo sort and purge on on my iPhone. The thing is, it is really easy to take a lot of pictures with your iPhone. Ask me to take a picture of a group of friends and I won't shoot just one. I’ll shoot six with the reckless abandon of someone who grew up in a family where we only bought a few rolls of film a year.

While the small iPhone screen may not be sufficient to do fine edits, it's a great place to trash photos that, for one reason or another, don't make the cut.

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Trying to accomplish this in the native Photos application is painful. Apple requires multiple tasks to get rid of photos and doesn't present them in a way that makes it easy to see the keepers versus the rejects.

BestPhotos solves all of those problems and now they have released version 2.0. With BestPhotos, just tap on an image and expands from its thumbnail so you can look at it and swipe right to make it a favorite (or hide) or left to delete it. Think of it as Tinder for your pictures. One nice new feature in version 2.0 is "auto advance” that, once you swipe a photo left or right, immediately advances to the next one in your library.

If you want to compare two images side-by-side, the application can do that too. PowerPhotos is particularly useful after a family event, where I've taken multiple pictures of groups of people and I want to quickly get rid of the rejects before looking at the keepers closer on my Mac or iPad. BestPhotos is a free download with a $2.99 unlock of all the application features .

Moment Lenses

For a few years now I’ve been using my iPhone as my camera. While I was never a diehard camera enthusiast, I have owned SLR and Micro Four Thirds cameras in the past. Don’t get me wrong; in many ways those fancier (and more expensive) cameras are way better than an iPhone, but I never could muster up the will to carry those cameras around except in the rarest circumstances. When I realized I was taking 99% of my photos with the iPhone, I decided I should get better at using the iPhone to take photos. I even put together a bag of gear for taking iPhone photography. 

An item in that bag that I have never covered properly here are my Moment lenses. Moment makes some really nice third-party glass to give you more options when you take photos with your iPhone. They have an assortment of lenses ranging from zoom to macro, and they all use a clever screw-on mechanism that lets you attach your lenses onto a special iPhone case made by Moment with mounting points. I have really come to enjoy these lenses and want to share some of the details.

The Disneyland Castle with the native iPhone lens. (Click to enlarge.)

The Disneyland Castle with the native iPhone lens. (Click to enlarge.)

Available Lenses

There are several different Moment lenses available.

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The Wide Lens

This is my favorite Moment lens. If you get just one Moment lens, this is probably the one for you. It gives your iPhone a wider view (about two times more picture) while still keeping things in your image straight without fisheye. 

This lens takes great wide, landscape shots, but it is also useful when your big, crazy family is gathered around the kitchen table. I also found this lens useful when shooting video.

The Disneyland castle with the Moment Wide lens from the same spot. (Click to enlarge.)

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The Superfish Lens

If you want a fisheye look, Moment has a lens for that too. I’ve never been a fan of fisheye-style photos, but I tried the Moment Fisheye lens while on vacation with my family and took several photos that I'm really happy with.

The Disneyland Castle from the same spot with the Moment Superfish lens attached. (Click to enlarge.)

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The Macro Lens

A macro lens is a pretty specialty item, but they are fun to have in your bag. With this lens, you can take a very detailed photo of objects at a focal length of less than an inch. That is NOT a photo you’ll be able to take with the native iPhone lens system. Here’s an image of the stitching on my WaterField Bag.

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The Tele Portrait Lens

This is a 60mm lens that seems like a copy of the zoom lens on all of the two-lens iPhones; however, it really isn’t. I mount this lens on the 1X lens mounting point on my iPhone and use it as a portrait lens. It’s sharp in the center and drops off toward the edges in a way you can only really do with glass.

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The Anamorphic

This is Moment’s newest lens. I don’t have one of these ... yet; however, I am looking for an excuse to buy one. This lens is primarily for use in video and gives you horizontal lens flares. It’s a cool idea and not something you would expect you can do with an iPhone.

The Mounting System

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I really dig Moment’s lens mounting system. People have tried lots of ways to mount third-party lenses on iPhones, and I haven’t been impressed with most of them. Clipped lenses fall off and misalign. Lenses that require you to stick or glue anything to your bare iPhone are just wrong as a matter of principle.

Moment has an iPhone case with mounting points embedded in them. In turn, the Moment lenses have screw threads at their base so you can just screw the appropriate lens into your Moment iPhone case. When you’re done with the shot, you can unscrew the lens and replace it with another or just keep the case on without the lens.

The cases are nice, but nothing amazing. When I was on vacation, I kept the Moment case on my iPhone 24/7 because I was constantly taking shots.

One of the best parts of this is that when Apple comes out with a new phone, you just need to buy the updated case, and your lenses will continue to work. That way, the most expensive parts, the glass, move forward with you to future iPhones. It’s an excellent solution.

Use Under Fire

I’ve been using these lenses now for four months, and I'm really happy with them. The Moment lenses take great photos and open up my options far beyond what I get when just using the native camera on the iPhone. I'm sure this will make some readers cringe, but when I'm going out, I’ll often make sure my iPhone has the Moment case attached, and then I’ll put the lenses in my pocket (the lenses come in little microfiber bags so they’re safe and always close) so I can then get the lens out and on to the phone with little trouble.

Moment doesn’t just make lenses and phone cases, they also have a curated selection of bags, gimbals, filters, and other iPhone camera bits at their website. Check it out

Photo Sorting and Pruning on iPhone

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately, and if you looked at my iPhone, you’d see a lot of photo bloat. You know what I mean, right? You take five pictures of people in one pose when you just need one. There is nothing wrong with that. Often it turns out to be picture number 2, 3, 4, or 5 that is the real keeper. The challenge is quickly getting rid of the non-keepers.

Flic Screenshot – Why so blurry? (Click to enlarge)

For a while now I’ve been using Flic for this. Flic is a straightforward iPhone app that displays photos from your photo library and lets you quickly keep or discard them. Swipe right to keep, swipe left to trash. The app is a great idea and an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff as your sort through photos. On vacation, I would go through this app every evening and have a more-or-less pruned photo library on days where I took a lot of pictures. However, lately I’ve been unhappy with Flic. My problem is that its picture preview mode renders images a little blurry. In my haste to get through photos, I tend to forget this and more than once I found myself trashing good photos. 

So I started looking for a replacement and landed on an optimistically named app, Best Photos. This app isn’t quite as simple as Flic. With Best Photos, you can flick up and down between photos and tap a trash can or heart icon to either trash or favorite image. You can also compare two photos on the screen at once. Best Photos is more powerful than Flic but still generally allows you to sort through images quickly. Most importantly, its photo renders are much better than those in Flic so I can do a better job in assessing keepers, which was entirely the point.

Because Best Photos already has you using gestures to move between images, it would be nice if they added a gesture to Trash or Favorite photos, rather than tapping an icon. Nevertheless, Best Photos is a better experience overall for me particularly because of the way it renders the images. 

Best Photos Screenshot (Click to enlarge)

This problem could be solved in the Apple Photos app with a setting that turns off deletion confirmation, but I have to admit I'm not entirely certain I'd want deletion to be that easy.

The New Glif

I backed the new Glif iPhone tripod mount and mine showed up a few weeks ago. Studio Neat has come a long way with this product. The newest Glif is spring loaded and pulls back easily around your phone (any size, in a case or not). You then just press down the quick release lever and you’ve attached three tripod mounting points to your phone. The whole thing easily fits in your jeans’ pocket. Quick. Secure. Portable.

If you want to go crazy, Studio Neat also sells a wooden grip with a tripod screw on top and wrist strap. You can combine this with the Glif to have a nice comfortable handle for your phone. I used it in this configuration recently at Disneyland while walking in a crowd. Combined with the iPhone camera stabilization, it took some great video for something I just pulled out of my pocket. As an aside, you’ll see some cranes in the background at the end of the video. You’ll never guess what those are for.

This third iteration of the product is so good that I'm not sure where they can go next. If you have any desire to put your iPhone on a tripod, look no further.

LumeCube's Life Lite

The LumeCube team has a new photo/video-friendly light that fits in your pocket, the Life Lite. I own a LumeCube and love it. Being able to light my subject from the back or side with a little bit of tech I can keep in my pocket is awesome. I went ahead and backed the Life Lite so now I'll have two.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

The latest iOS 10.1 beta includes the promised portrait mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. I think everyone was pretty surprised how quickly this feature made it into the betas. Several people have published example photos including Matthew Panzarino and MacRumors. My favorite example is Jason Snell's cat. Jason posted an image that rotates between a standard and portrait enhanced picture of his cat. This shows off the strengths (and limitations) of this software feature. Pay particular attention to the cat hair along the edges.

The New Glif

I've used every iteration of the Glif iPhone tripod mount and the new one looks to be the best yet. They just launched the newest version with a Kickstarter campaign and it's already fully funded but not too late to get in on the early pricing.

Camera+2 for iPad

I've been getting most of my photo editing done these days on iPad with Apple Photos, Pixelmator, and Snapseed. Camera+ just released version 2 for iPad and it is now firmly in the rotation for me. As the name implies, Camera+ gives you lots of control over the iPad camera but what I really like about the new version for iPad are the photo editing tools. 

I've always been a fan of Camera+'s "Clarity" filter which, as "push one button to make it better" filters go, a lot better than most. I also like the way you can use the brushes (via finger or Apple Pencil) to apply localized changes.

One gripe with this app though is its lack of Apple Photos extension support. Maybe there's a good reason but the app doesn't tie into the native Photos app so you have to make a copy of a photo into the app and then manually save the edited copy back to Apple Photos. That part feels stone-age to me. That aside, I like the Camera+ for iPad update. (Website)(App Store)

Unlocking Hyperlapse

I don't know how I missed this when it first posted but Austin Mann did a post on Hyperlapse that has the potential to change your game with iPhone videography. I'm going to be trying some of these techniques over the weekend. Maybe you should too.


 

Lume Cube

A few years ago I made a rule that I don't back anything on Kickstarter that includes electronics of any form. However, I've thought a lot lately about getting some simple lighting I can use with my phone and camera. This Lume Cube might fit the bill. It seems to strike the right balance between price and quality for the "more than casual" consumer photographer. In other words, pretty sure I'm about to break my rule.


 

Fireworks Photography

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Just in case you are going to be near some fireworks tonight and want to take pictures, get yourself a tripod and a camera that can keep the lens open to catch all that light. Everyone on Twitter points to Slow Shutter as a way to pull this off with your iPhone. I wrote a few years back about how I like to do this with sparklers. If you want a soup to nuts explanation, read this tutorial at Digital Photography School.