December 29, 2016

How to Create CameraBag filters on Mac for Fotograf on iPhone.

Fotograf remains my go-to photo editing app on iOS. It has a great set of basic controls (including vignette, edge blur and sharpening) for improving images along with a variety of fundamental filters. What I really like is that it’s much simpler to edit with than the built-in Photos app.

While Nevercenter’s Fotograf is limited to the basics, their CameraBag app for Mac allows you to create advanced filters that can be imported into Fotoraf. Once the filter is in Fotograf you can’t change it, but you can mix between the filtered version and the original, as well as use all of Fotograf’s built-in adjustments. In CameraBag you can create some very functional filters like soft focus, HDR, tints and a variety of super-tweaked custom filters.

How to create CameraBag filters and add them to Fotograf.

Any setting you create in CameraBag can be exporters as a custom filter.

  • Create a setting in CameraBag on Mac.
  • From the File menu choose Export Filter and save it to your Mac desktop.
  • Connect your iPhone via cable.
  • Drag the .cbf file into Fotograf’s File Sharing section in iTunes on your Mac.

The CameraBag filters will show in Custom Filters at the end of Fotograf’s filters. When using these filters, a Filter Amount slider appears at the top of the Adjustments tab that lets you blend between the original image and the filtered version.

Try out these free filters for Fotograf.

If you’re a Fotograf user and would like to see how these filters work you can add the seven filters below that I’ve created. You don’t need to buy the CameraBag app for Mac, but you’ll need to buy the Everything in-app filter purchase in Fotograf to turn on the import function. Once you’ve done that, you can download and add the filters below to Fotograf’s file sharing folder in iTunes on your Mac or PC to import them to your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

I’ve created most of these filters to be a little hot so they can be fine tuned in Fotograf. I’d recommend starting with the Filter Amount slider at about 75% and tweak from there (unless noted below.)

Definition A black line filter that looks like a watercolor paint-by-numbers. Best use is to back off the Filter amount until you start seeing color, then use the Saturation slider to add some pastel color back in.

Halo An HDR filter with a hint of soft-focus. Creates an edge-defining glow.

Ingrained A gritty little filter that mimics the grain of a pushed, high-ISO color transparency film. Slightly saturated colors and black, clumpy grain in the shadows.

Mr. Softee is an soft focus filter with nice sharp edges. Back off the Filter Amount in Fotograf’s Adjust panel until you have a result you like. It’s designed to sharpen and blur while retaining original color and tone, so you have the freedom to control everything else.

Norman Seeff Filter A tribute, not an imitation of the 70s style of the legendary rock photographer and his diffusion magic with Kodak’s black and white, High Contrast Copy Film. Nice stuffy grays and a soft/sharp yin and yang. Designed to be used full force. Can also be used as a color-muting filter by backing off Filter Amount in Fotograf’s Adjust panel.

Pinhole I don’t consider this filter done yet, but included it for experimentation. It focuses on the center of the image and severely blurs and darkens everything else. You get some nice effects by lowering the filter amount to about 50%.

SeeRed This is a color-splash filter that emphasizes pure red and turns everything else to black and white. This one works best best at 100%.

These filters can only be used in the Fotograf app for iOS. Note that the custom filters can greatly slow down Fotograf’s preview function.

Download The Filters

Camera Bag.

Camera Bag is a fairly straight-forward and powerful photo editing app for Mac. Unlike PhotoShop, it keeps the layers invisible so you don’t have that mess to learn. The app is fun for amateurs, but it helps if you have some knowledge of the various controls and curves available in order to get the most out of it.

More on improving photos in my book The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography.

December 19, 2016

Olloclip gives you a 112mm lens for your iPhone 7+.

Until now you haven’t been able to get good results when shooting your iPhone beyond 2x optically. When the phone had only one lens, the 2x attachments (like the Moment Tele) were great. But longer lens lengths failed. The new Olloclip Active Lens attachment in conjunction with the iPhone7+’s built-in 56mm⇔ lens now gives you the first 4x optical setup. This is useful for portraits and for working at a distance from your subject. Here’s what you need:


Olloclip’s new Connect lens system is the first to allow you to use it with either lens. By default, it comes set for use with the 28mm⇔ lens. So you’ll need to push in on the button next to the 2x lens to remove it from the holder and flip it so the lens is closer to the center of the clip mount. This positions the lens over the 56mm⇔ lens.


The built-in Camera app will default to the 28mm⇔ lens when you put the lens clip on. But in the PureShot app, you’ll see the 28mm setting on the bottom left. Tap this and 57mm appears. It’s best to use the shutter-priority mode to avoid camera shake when shooting at 112mm⇔:

  • Set the dial at the bottom right to S
  • Tap the + next to the S and set the shutter speed to 1/200.


Camera+ also defaults to the 28mm⇔ lens. Tap the icon of the silhouette with the W. Then choose T for the telephoto. You’ll also need to stabilize the image:

  • Tap the + icon to the top right of the shutter button.
  • Choose Stabilizer.

There will probably be a growing list of apps that give you direct access to the iPhone7+ telephoto lens but these are the first two I’ve found.

How it performs.

The above photo is of a 1-foot-square sign shot from about 10 feet away at 4x. Olloclip’s new multi-element lenses are noticibly better than previous versions. The image of the Tele in the Olloclip Active is sharp, but not razor sharp. There is also some edge blurring on the 2x Telephoto lens when used with 56mm⇔ lens, but generally the 2x Telephoto gives consistently good results. There’s the slightest bit of pincushion distortion (lines bowed inward) but on most images you’ll never notice it.

Getting good results.

The minimum focusing distance on the 56mm⇔ lens is about 18 inches. With the 2x attached, this increases to about 4 feet. Since at 112mm⇔ you’re dealing with a real telephoto, it an be helpful to use a monopod and camera holder like the Shoulderpod or Reticam.

My take.

While certainly not flawless, the 2x Tele of the Olloclip Active lens gives you good results with the iPhone7′s 56mm⇔ lens. Most pocketable point-and-shoot cameras give you a 3x tele, so the 4x option now makes the iPhone 7 Plus a touch more useful for actual use.

Other Olloclip options.

It should be pointed out that the Olloclip attachment is designed to function best with the 28mm⇔ lens. While the Connect Olloclip lenses all appear to work with the 56mm⇔ lens, here a few that are useful:

Master your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography

October 22, 2016

Recipe: Basil Infused Olive Oil.

The only bad thing about Basil is that you always grow too much of it to use. It dries extremely well, retaining much of it’s color, but the problem is that dried basil taste’s nothing like fresh. It almost has a pumpkin flavor. Freezing it in ice cube trays is an option, but usually it winds up slimy in your dishes. (That’s okay for soup, but not so great for fresh sauces and sautéed pasta.)

A nice option is heat-infused favored oil. It’s quick to make, retains the flavor and makes a nice bread dipping sauce when you add a little crushed black pepper.

  • Start with as many fresh (washed and dried) basil leaves as you can stuff into your food processor.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of Olive oil (the simple stuff like a Berio gold, not extra virgin.)
  • Chop until you it’s thick and pourable. Add more oil if it’s too dry.
  • Pour and scrap into a saucepan and cover.
  • Set on low heat for 15 minutes. (Don’t let it boil.)
  • While still warm pour through a strainer, then through a funnel lined with a paper towel. If you don’t get the leaves out, it will go bad more quickly.
  • Pour into a sealable jar and refrigerate. Keeps about a month.

Add a teaspoon to any recipe that calls for fresh basil. When using as a dipping oil, warm before serving.

September 25, 2016

The confounding world of RAW photography in iOS.

The iPhone can finally shoot in RAW*.

*But currently there are a lot of disclaimers to that.

Note: The past few days there’s been much misinformation spread about shooting and editing RAW on iPhone. And admittedly, I’m guilty as well as the big news sites. But hopefully the correction in this post will set the record straight. Thanks to to William Wilkinson, developer of the Manual camera app for setting a few things straight.

First off: What’s RAW?

RAW is a file for storing unprocessed sensor data. Everything about RAW is wrong, including the name. RAW doesn’t stand for anything. It’s not an acronym, so why it’s it capitalized? It should stand for Really Awful Wreck” since that’s what the RAW concept has become. First let’s get some myths straight:

  • RAW files are not images. They’re crude strings of light sensor data. RAW files must be converted to an image format like JPG before you can do anything with them. Some RAW files (like the DNG files on iOS) have a small JPG preview built in.
  • RAW files from each camera model are different. Camera manufacturers can’s agree on a RAW standard. They haven’t even created a consistent standard for their own cameras. PhotoRaw, a great RAW editor for iOS, has been updated 17 times during the last year just to try to keep up with the different RAW files from new camera models. What’s sad about the camera companies not playing nice is that eventually the converters for these gazillion RAW formats won’t be maintained and all those RAW files that people shot a few years ago won’t be readable one day in the future. (By contrast, JPG files shot 25 years ago are still readable today.)
  • DNG is the closest thing to a RAW standard. Adobe’s DNG format puts the original sensor data into a universal format and will be around long after proprietary RAW files can’t be read.
  • Only certain iOS devices can handle DNG files iPhone SE, 6s, 6s+, 7, 7+ and the 9.7″ iPad Pro are capable of managing DNG files. It’s a hardware thing, so the ability will never be available with older models.
  • You can’t currently shoot DNG with the iPhone Camera app. Whuhh? Yeah, this may be added later. But the iSight cameras on your iPhone are built to do JPGs really well. And some features (like HDR and Portrait mode on iPhone 7+) require processing, so they can’t work with the DNG format. Plus 99% of iPhone users will find DNG inconvenient anyway.
  • Before editing, DNG files may not look as good as a JPG. JPGs shot with the iOS Camera app go through a massive amount of automatic processing to make them look their best. A DNG file’s preview is basically a JPG thumbnail.
  • You can’t currently edit DNG files in the built-in Photos app. Photos stores these files fine, but can only edit the JPG thumbnail of the DNG file.

So why shoot DNG anyway?

If working in DNG seems a hassle—it is. That’s why most iPhone users will never shoot a single shot in DNG. For people who post their photos on Facebook without editing them, using the Camera app and shooting JPGs is best. However if you edit many of your iPhone images, you’ll get much better results if you shoot in DNG format and process them later.

Much data is discarded when a JPG is saved in order to keep the files small. When you try to edit a JPG, data of color and tone are missing and results will be substandard. With a DNG file, you can go back and re-expose your image from the original sensor data, resulting in a cleaner, clearer, more-accurately-exposed final image.

How to shoot DNG on an iPhone.

The apps that shoot DNG grow daily and how they function varies. I’ll only covers the ones that save DNGs directly to the camera roll, since they allow you to edit them in the Photos app:

How to Edit DNG files on your iPhone.

Since you can’t edit DNG files in the Photos app, you’ll have to use another editor. After testing numerous apps, Snapseed appears to be one of the few editors that can actually work with DNG files. But there’s an iOS glitch in editing currently that will not revert the edited JPG to DNG. Save your edited DNG as a JPG copy in Snapseed and all will be fine.

How to determine if a file is RAW or not.

The Photo Investigator app was recently upgraded to show metadata for DNG files. Open an image, launch Investigator from the Share menu and it will show you if it has a DNG extension.

Is shooting RAW worth it on your iPhone?

Many pro photographers shoot JPG over RAW so you don’t have to shoot DNG even if you’re a serious iPhoneographer (I still laugh every time I write that oxymoron.) But you might find that working with RAW is worth all the effort and keeps you from lugging around that DSLR all the time. It only costs a few bucks for one of the camera apps above, so experimenting with DNG has almost no entry cost.

Master your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography

September 18, 2016

iPhone 7+ Camera: All the new tricks.

The new iPhone 7+ camera is a game changer. While features like dual lenses are available in other phones, the fact that they’re in this wildly-popular phone puts them in the hands of the masses and has opened a new world to pro photographers and camera app developers. This article will help you get the most of the new features.

Ways to access the camera.

There are now three ways. 1) Home screen icon. 2) Swipe up for camera icon on Control Center. And now: Swipe left on your lock screen.

Jump from 1x to 2x

You get the full clarity of the prime lenses only at the 1x setting and the 2x setting when focused beyond 18″. All other zoom settings use the digital zoom and can downgrade the quality. To toggle between the lenses:

  • Tap the 1x button

In addition to the built-in Camera app, Manual is the only other app currently with the 1x/2x button.

Zoom slider.

There’s a built in zoom control for those that don’t like the pinch-to-zoom function. On the 7+ the zoom goes to 10x.

  • Hold the 1x button and the arc appears.


The new 56mm⇔ lens in the 7+ focuses down to about 18″.

The magnifier.

This is an iOS 10 feature that gets enhanced with 7+ Tele lens. To enable:

  • Home > General > Accessibility > Magnifier > On

To take a magnified still:

  • Triple tap the Home button to engage the magnifier.
  • Zoom with the slider
  • Tap the Home button to freeze.
  • Tap and pinch to compose.
  • Hold Home and Sleep (on right side) to take a screenshot.

Not as nice as a macro lens, but hey, it’s built-in.


The combo of the iPhone 7/7+ cameras and iOS10 allows you to shoot and save in Adobe’s DNG format, which is currently the top contender for a RAW standard. (And it’s supremacy is a pretty much sealed now that iPhone supports it.) Strangely Apple chose not to use it in their built-in Camera app yet. Third Party Camera apps that shoot RAW are popping up every day, but at the moment there’s no great app that makes shooting and editing in RAW easy.

Currently the easiest way to try out RAW is Adobe’s free Photoshop Lightroom app for iOS that can shoot and edit DNG files. You must shoot and edit your images inside the app.

It should be noted that DNG files that are unprocessed will often not look as nice as JPGs. DNG files need to be tweaked to pull out the detail and get an improved exposure. Since these files are three times the size of the iPhone’s JPGs, a good number of shooters will find that messing with the DNG format just wastes memory and time for most images.

More to come. If you have an iPhone 7+ camera trick you’d like to add, tweet it to me. Thanks.

Master your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography