November 4, 2017

How to create tinted black and white photos in the iPhone Photos app.

Since the early days of photography, tinting was a way to add the emotion that color brings to visceral black and white images. Images tinted in a warm sepia or cool blue can be more striking than full color images. It’s easy to turn your color images into tinted back and white in the iOS 11 Photos app. Here’s how:

  • Open the image in Photos.
  • Tap Edit.
  • Tap Filters (three circles icon).
  • For sepia, tap the Vivid Warm filter.
  • For blue, tap the Vivid Cool filter.
  • Tap Adjust (dial icon).
  • Tap B&W.
  • Use the slider to tweak the look.
  • Tap Done.

Need more on mastering your iPhone camera? The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography

October 21, 2017

How to edit RAW images shot on iPhone with Mac Photos.

iOS 10 added the ability for your iPhone to shoot RAW images. Great, but the problem is editing them. Most iOS apps don't edit RAW and those that do strangely require you to sign up, sign in and re-enter credentials frequently. If you're on Mac and syncing your photos though iCloud, you already have a RAW editor you're fairly familiar with: Photos.

How iCloud helps with RAW.

You can't shoot RAW with your Camera app or edit in Photos on iPhone, but the Photos app on your iPhone and iCloud know how to manage RAW images just fine. Using an app like MuseCam you can shoot RAW images. When these appear in your camera roll they're actually two paired files: a DNG and JPG file. The iOS Photos app only reveals the JPG, but when they sync through iCloud, both photos will be tucked under a thumbnail in your Photos library on Mac.

How to get to the RAW file for editing.

Photos for Mac is basically a JPG editor and hides RAW files. You can tell which ones they are by the stack icon with J in the upper right corner of the photo. That's telling you there's a RAW file associated with the thumbnail, but you're viewing the JPG copy it. To call up the RAW file for editing:

  1. Press Enter. This calls up the editing tools.
  2. Control click on the image and choose Use RAW as Original.

This will now show an R on the thumbnail.

How to edit RAW in Photos for Mac.

Photos is not a robust app like Adobe's Lightroom, but offers some basic editing tools when you click on the Adjust icon that will give you decent results. The same Light, Color and Black & White sliders sets that you have in the iOS Photos app are there. If you click on the Add button up top you can also add controls for sharpen, definition, noise reduction, vignette, white balance and levels. Click Done and the changes are saved to a JPG made from the RAW file and to iCloud. (The original RAW file hasn’t been doctored.)

How to Export RAW files from the Photos app.

If you want to edit a RAW file in an app like Lightroom or Luminar you'll need to export it:

File > Export > Export Unmodified Original for 1 Photo > Export > choose location > Export Originals.

This exports both the DNG file as well as the JPG.

October 14, 2017

Resyncing audio with iMovie in iOS.

There’s a horrible bug in the iOS that causes audio from Lightning or USB-connected microphones, such as the Blue Raspberry, Apogee MiC, Line 6 Sonic Port VX and Apogee One that makes it lag almost a second behind the video. Makes all your movies look like bad foreign language dubs. Fortunately it’s fixable on your iPhone or iPad in iMovie:

  1. Tap iMovie’s Video tab
  2. Tap the video to be resynced.
  3. Tap the Share icon below the video preview.
  4. From the bottom row choose Create Movie.
  5. Tap Create New Movie.
  6. Tap the Back icon to the left of the Play button.
  7. Pinch out until you get to maximum zoom.
  8. Tap the movie track twice.
  9. Tap Detach Audio. The audio track appears in green below the video.
  10. Drag the yellow box at the end of the audio track to first frame of video. Now for some noodling:
  11. Drag the audio track left and play. Repeat until they sync up.
  12. Tap Done.
  13. Tap the Share icon.
  14. Choose Save Video from bottom row.

Aligning the tracks will seem difficult the first time you do it, but it gets easier with experience.

iMovie zoom tip.

  • Put an index finger on either side of the Play head and drag out.
October 10, 2017

iPhone 8, 8+ and X cameras: Not a big leap, just a big difference in your photos.

Nope. Still 12 megapixels in the new iPhones. There are noticible improvements to the sensors, lenses and flash hardware which have some saying this is the best phone cam ever made. But the real difference is the Image Signal Processor powered by the new A11 Bionic chip.

The big improvement: ISP.

The ISP is the unsung hero of phone photography: taking raw sensor data and making the decisions on how to process that into a pleasing image. While the Sony-made camera modules in the new iPhones send more accurate image sensor data to the A11, what happens after that is where the magic begins.

There’s somethin’ happening here.

I really don’t like to delve into speculation, but I think I’ll have to in order to guess at some of the ISP magic. While the sensors on the back cameras of the iPhone are about 48 times smaller than one in a DSLR, the iPhone has many more sensors available than a DSLR does. The Plus and X models even more so, since they have two rear lenses that can supply separate focus distance data based of the subject and background to create a depth map and collect three-dimensional data. So your iPhone can compare all this data to better understand what you’re shooting and even know how you want the final image to look.

More sensors=better photos.

For instance, data from the image sensors, accelerometer and clock could tell your iPhone that you’re shooting a subject in front of the low sun at dusk and likely want a silhouette of the darkened subject against a colorful sunset. It’s also like that the enhanced optical image stabilization is aided in low light by the accelerometer and image sensor data on sharpness to work with the continuous Image buffer that’s capturing images at 12 frames per second. If you shook the camera and blurred the image as you pressed the shutter or the subject blinked, the iPhone could decide on a sharper or eyes-open frame in the sequence just before or after you pressed the shutter would be a better choice. While there’s some speculation to the magic, results of these scenarios are already visible in new iPhone images.

And no speculation on this: the depth map created from data of the dual cameras which spawned the Portrait mode (sharp subject against a blurred background) is now joined by Portrait Lighting filters. These don’t just monkey with overall colors or contrast like Instagram filters, they can lighten, darken and color individual pixels based on professional lighting algorithms to completely redefine subject and scene lighting.

Okay, one big leap: HEIF.

All this data works better with a image format that goes beyond the confines of the 25-year-old JPG. Apple added the option to shoot in HEIF (an ISO standard established in 2015) which appears to be the future of photography. It currently takes images that are a little nicer than JPG, but half the size. HEIF is essentially a package that can store different types of data (like image formats, Live Photo sequences, other shooting data) and will support new image formats as they emerge. If called for, your iPhone will automatically convert these HEIF photos to JPGs on export, so there’s no reason not to use this new format and save the space.

So the spec sheets of the new iPhones may not look that impressive at first, but the photos from the iPhone 8, 8+ and X certainly will.

Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography Updated.

I’ve updated my eBook for the new 8, 8+ and X iPhones, the great new filters and the latest Photos app. The Exhaustive FAQ also got an update with concise answers to the hottest questions. As always, upgrades to current subscribers are free. (Check for the update in your iBooks app.)

Get it from iTunes

September 30, 2017

The almost painfully-long glossary of iPhone photo terms.

This glossary originally appeared in my book The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography.

Though you “only” have an iPhone, there’s no reason why you can’t converse with the photo geeks. Here’s the language they speak:

What’s a lens? Your iPhone has one or two lenses on the top left of the back of your iPhone and the unobtrusive FaceTime lens is on the top left of the front. These are built with multiple pieces of glass that focus light on the sensor.

What’s a sensor? It’s a small light-sensitive circuit board that converts focused light into digital information about color and brightness.

What’s shutter speed? Your iPhone’s Camera app exposes the sensor to the light for a fraction of a second: about 1/15 to about 1/1000. Shutter speed works in tandem with ISO to give you a normally-lit image. A shutter speed of 1/1000 is fast enough that it can freeze motion, while a shutter speed of 1/15 is slow enough that it risks blurring the motion of the subject and blurring the overall image from camera shake.

What’s ISO? It’s a measurement for how much the camera amplifies the signal from the sensor. When there’s not enough light in the scene for a good exposure and the shutter speed can’t be slowed more without causing blur, the iPhone’s camera amplifies the sensor signal. This makes the information coming from each pixel less accurate, which is why low-light images are often noisy or gritty looking.

What’s noise reduction? The iPhone Camera app has built-in noise-reduction technology that tries to smooth out the unevenness in tone and color that sensor noise can cause. It’s most active on images shot in dim light when the camera ISO is high.

What’s f-stop? F-stop (also called aperture) determines the amount of light the lens lets in on the sensor. The iPhone f-stop is currently f/1.8 on the Wide lens and f/2.8 on the + and X model’s Tele lens. iPhone f-stops aren’t adjustable like they are on an DSLR. On the small sensor, these chosen f-stops let in much light for accuracy and give a very wide depth of focus.

What’s depth of focus? Depth of focus (or depth of field) is the range of distance where the image is acceptably sharp. This area shrinks the closer you are to the subject. If you’re focused on a subject that’s far away, most of your image will be sharp. If you’re focused on a subject that’s close, objects in front of the subject and behind can be out of focus. Professional photographers often use a wide-open (smaller number) f-stop for a narrow depth of focus to soften the background while leaving the subject sharp. While your iPhone can’t do that mechanically, the dual-lens models use their two-lens systems in Portrait mode to simulate this effect.

What’s a flash? The iPhone’s camera flash is composed of 1, 2 or 4 bright LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that fire a burst of light when the shutter opens to light the scene. Newer iPhones uses a 4-LED True Tone flash that matches the ambient scene light for more accurate color. Though these LEDs fire very fast, the light burst is not as short as professional strobes and can’t be used to freeze motion.

What’s a DSLR? A digital single-lens reflex camera is a digital version of the SLR film camera. It uses a movable mirror positioned at 45º in front of the sensor for the optical viewfinder. When you click the shutter, the mirror flips up out of the light path. DSLR sensors are about the size of 35mm analog film, roughly 48 times the size of the iPhone sensor. DSLR’s are those huge cameras people often leave sitting at home when they realize how heavy they are.

What’s a mirrorless camera? This newer technology uses a sensor that’s about 2.5 times smaller than a DLSR. It has no optical viewfinder, only a screen. Since it doesn’t have a mirror, this design allows for a smaller lens that’s mounted closer to the sensor. Mirrorless cameras are those almost-huge cameras that people leave in their hotel room when sightseeing after realizing their iPhone takes such great photos.

What’s lens equivalent or ⇔? Each sensor size requires a different focal length lens to achieve a similar view. The lens equivalent tells you how this compares to a DLSR. The iPhone’s 4mm back Wide lens gives the equivalent view of a 28mm DLSR lens, while the back Tele lens on the dual-lens models gives you the equivalent view of a 56mm DSLR lens.

What’s Optical Image Stabilization? The iPhone 6+, 6s+, 7, 7+, 8, 8+ and X models have lens and sensor assemblies mounted so they remain stable even when the camera shakes. This allows the iPhone camera to take sharper, less-noisy photos during longer exposures in low light.

What’s EXIF metadata? The Camera app keeps track of technical shooting data, like the time the photo was taken, shutter speed, ISO, which lens was used, if the flash was used, etc., and adds these data tags to the image file. This is how your iPhone knows which images to put in the Selfies album and how to organize the Memories album in the Photos app. You can use an app like Photo Investigator or Metapho to see much of this data. When viewing a photo, tap the Share button. If either of these apps are installed and their photo extension turned on, their icon will show and you can tap it to see the photo’s data.

What’s Burst Mode? If you hold on the shutter button in the Camera app, your iPhone will take a series of photos in quick succession. It’s useful for capturing fast-moving or unpredictable subjects. These series are automatically stored in the Bursts folder of the Photos app. You can choose your favorite image in the series and delete the rest.

What’s HDR? High Dynamic Range. The camera can’t normally capture detail in the lightest and darkest areas of the same scene, so HDR manipulates the data to try and capture both. In your iPhone Camera app, the HDR mode is designed to render the scene more the way the eye sees it by exposing the shadows correctly and underexposing the highlights to keep them burning out into pure white. You’ll also see photographers use the HDR special effect, which exaggerates localized contrast in the shadows and highlights.

What’s a Hybrid IR Filter? This is a filter between the lens and the sensor in your iPhone Camera that blocks out the infrared spectrum of light. The eye can’t see this light, but sensors are very sensitive to it. This renders more normal-looking images.

What’s a RAW file? A RAW file is a non-standardized file that consists of a camera’s raw sensor data and often a crude JPEG preview of the image. Adobe’s DNG format is the first universal RAW format. Your iPhone can shoot and edit RAW with an app like MuseCam.