Dancing with the iPhone

While my Nikon D7100 was making a 10-minute video clip at Delicate Arch in Utah's Arches National Park in October, I made this image of it with my iPhone 5. I later used Photomatix Pro to improve the shadow detail and control the highlights.
While my Nikon D7100 was making a 10-minute video clip at Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park in October, I made this image of it with my iPhone 5. I later used Photomatix Pro to improve the shadow detail and control the highlights.

A longstanding (and often over-cited) maxim in photography is, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” It’s not a great maxim, since it can become an excuse for not bringing the right camera for the right imaging task.

Abby shops at Madrid, New Mexico. This is the image as my iPhone originally rendered it, with way too much contrast.
Abby shops at Madrid, New Mexico. This is the image as my iPhone originally rendered it, with way too much contrast.

On the other hand, having a camera of some kind is always better than having no camera, and in the smartphone era, most of us have a fairly decent point-and-shoot built into our lives. That was the case for me last October when my wife Abby and I wanted to take a “day off” from our usual vacation itinerary of exploring photo ops and just walk around the small town of Madrid, New Mexico with our dogs. Madrid is, by the way, one of the dog-friendliest towns we’ve ever experienced.

Abby shops at Madrid, New Mexico. I used Photomatix Pro to play around with the tones, and ended up saving this one because it illustrates how much you can do with the app. Some will find this look neat, and some will find it garish. I think it's a little of both. In any case, it certainly improved the contrast problem with the original iPhone image.
Abby shops at Madrid, New Mexico. I used Photomatix Pro to play around with the tones, and ended up saving this one because it illustrates how much you can do with the app. Some will find this look neat, and some will find it garish. I think it’s a little of both. In any case, it certainly improved the contrast problem with the original iPhone image.

Additionally, I wanted to play around with the WordPress app on my iPhone 5 and post a few of my iPhone images from the trip on PhotoLoco, our shared experimental photography gallery.

The resulting images were predictable: I got passable point-and-shoot images right out of the camera, but in order to be of any use or interest to me, I would need to punch them up a bit. In the field for the WordPress posts, I used a free app in my iPhone called Photoshop Express. I was able to use a couple of the built-in filters to play around with color and tone, and ended up remotely posting something I genuinely liked.

I shot this image of Utah's Wilson Arch with my iPhone for the sole purpose of posting it to PhotoLoco. I used Photoshop Express to punch up the colors and darken the corners, which gave the image a far better sense of drama.
I shot this image of Utah’s Wilson Arch with my iPhone for the sole purpose of posting it to PhotoLoco. I used Photoshop Express to punch up the colors and darken the corners, which gave the image a far better sense of drama.
This is a screen shot of the Photoshop Express app for iPhone.
This is a screen shot of the Photoshop Express app for iPhone.

I should note that this activity differs markedly from the typical Facebooker/Instagrammer/Tumblrer/Twitterer, almost all of whom post overwhelming numbers of very similar, and therefore boring, images.

Another tool I use to enhance my iPhone photos, especially the ones in which contrast was overwhelming, is Photomatix Pro. In addition to being an excellent app for blending several bracketed images together to form one High Dynamic Range image, it also allows single-image enhancement, including contrast management.

Not every photo made with the iPhone needs to be heavily edited, but it’s nice to experiment with the tools available and have another avenue of expression at my disposal.

This image of small statues for sale at Santa Fe, New Mexico's Historic Plaza is pretty much as the iPhone rendered it originally, with excellent color and sharpness.
This image of small statues for sale at Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Historic Plaza is pretty much as the iPhone rendered it originally, with excellent color and sharpness.
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1 Comment

  1. Yes, I’ve learned several times that it’s nice to have a backup camera in my phone for the times I forgot my real camera. Usually though, even if I get a passable image, it’s a sharp reminder that I could have done better.

    I mentioned it last year.

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