take better pictures with your iphone : your questions? answered.

May 24, 2013

iphone camera tipsJust when you thought the worst was over- oh right, turns out months after my original iphone tips and tricks post some of you still have ....a lot of questions. Hey, I can't blame you. It's a hard-knock touch-screen world out there. Here are the answers to your most-asked questions, alphabetically organized and categorized and you know, whatever.

Q. How is the image quality? What about printing your photos?
On screen? You'll never have any problems. Printed? Well, now let's talk about that. I won't sugar coat it - it depends, and there are limitations. For prints anywhere up to 10 inches x 10 inches the quality is fine. Standard 4x6 or 5x7 prints will for the most part look just as good as if you took them with a DSLR.

The down side is that you're not going to get high-quality poster-sized prints for your living room; the final images sizes just aren't big enough, and the more filters you run on a picture the more grainy it'll get. Barring those two factors, however, the output is fine for everyday snapping.

(And this is all based on the current 4S/5 capabilities, there are rumors that the new hardware will have an even higher image ratio. Larger quality images are coming, it's just a matter of time.)

There is one important caveat to all this though, which is to make sure that all your apps are saving your images to full size. Which brings us to...

flower macro incredible iphone photo

Q. Can it/does the iphone save full size images?
The built in camera saves images to the largest size it can, typically 3264 x 2448 pixels. When you use apps, some of them take it upon themselves to scale it down your image size, often without asking you, which will cause your photo to look fine on the screen but like absolute junk if you ever decide later you want to print it out. Beware!

How to change the quality settings:
Instagram - Instagram automatically saves all photos to 2048 x 2048 pixels, though it varies by the make/model of your specific phone. (It's even lower for the 3GS and 4.) It has no plans to release full size image saving in the immediate future. Images printed from an instagram picture will fuzz out if you get much larger than 5 x 5.

I have a major beef with this, like a really big hank of stinky rotting cow left out in the summer sun. I back up full size edits of all my photos before I port them through instagram. Apps that turn your instagram photos into books and magnets and car seat covers always sound neat, but be aware they're going to be using those smaller size files to do your prints. 2x2 magnets? Probably fine. Full page 7 x 7 photo book? Not gunna look so hot, from personal experience sad face frowny party.

Camera+ - From the camera screen push the menu button in the lower right corner. Scroll down the "Quality" and select "High" to save at full resolution.

Snapseed - Snapseed  recently updated to automatically save at full size. To check the size of your picture open it in Snapseed and push the question mark in the upper right corner. The size is listed below the image information.

Afterlight/Afterglow - When you're done editing your image push done. On this screen select "Max." Note that the maximum size on Afterlight is smaller than the original, there is no option to save at true size.

VSCOcam - When you're done editing push the export button and select "Full/Maximum file size."

If all you're ever going to do is look at your images on a screen it may seem silly to waste space saving at full size, but you may regret it later if you decide you want to print out one of your favorite images, and I mention this, also, from very regretful personal experience.

My official recommendation: For best results always print directly from your full-size files.


Q. How do you print your pictures?
Once you download your iphone photos to your computer via iphoto or your preferred method, you can have them printed any way you would normally print pictures from a digital camera. You can put them on a disk or flash drive (or send them electronically) etc. etc. to your favorite printing spot, print them out on your home printer, or hit up one of those photo kiosks.

I normally print my pictures through snapfish because it interfaces with flickr (which is where I backup all my full-size images). I simply select pictures from my image library and then snip-snap, send them electronically over the interwebs to my local drugstore and they're ready within the hour, on the way to Grandma's house so I don't look like the slacker mom.

I have also used blurb to print several photobooks and have been very pleased with the results. For formal prints I use a local printing service and provide them with images on a disk.


Q. Can you tell me more about Camera+? How do I use it? What is all this stuff?
Camera+ is one of several apps (yes, there are other options) that bring some of the advanced functionality of a DSLR to the iphone, which means it has a few bells and whistles that, if you take the time to get the hang of them, can really improve your images.

As I covered in my original iphone post, my favorite thing about camera+ is the exposure/focus control. While in camera mode inside the app, touch the screen with one finger to direct the focus. Add a second finger to adjust the exposure. BAM! Better light control is now at your literal fingertips.

It also has an exposure/focus lock function. After you set your focus on an object and set the exposure point, touch the lock icon in the lower left corner to lock it in place. Now you can move your camera around (physically) while the focus/exposure remains the same. This is great for capturing bokeh or tracking moving objects through space.

Here's an example of how that might be useful:

spinning plates

For this picture I locked the focus on the bars before we started spinning.

Beyond the focus/exposure, my other favorite part of camera+ is the faster shooting rate. Because it saves your images to its internal library instead of the camera library, it is able to shoot images in a row much more quickly than the native camera. This means you can crush through a ten pictures trying to catch a jumping dog without that painful lag time.

Is the actual shutterspeed faster? I can't say, officially, but experience has taught me that if I want to escape the blur and capture motion camera+ is the way to go. As an additional bonus, you can turn on the 'live exposure' option and view your ISO on the left side of the screen to gauge your light/speed.

Motion blur = BUSTED.

motion capture iphone picture

Q. Is there a zoom? Have you tried the HDR mode?
There is a zoom function built in to the iphone camera as well as one within camera+. As far as I'm concerned they're both completely terrible and look like crap, but if that's your jam knock yourself out, I'm not here to hold back your creative juices. It's okay for taking pictures of funny looking people you see at the mall, I guess.

I have not experimented much with the built in HDR function, but yes that's a feature that exists, and there's also an app for it. Essentially what it does is take several images at different exposures and then merge them into a single image, so you (hypothetically) get the best possible combination of lights/darks. You can access it inside the built-in camera by pushing "options" and turning "HDR" on.


Q. Have you tried [insert XYZ] app?
I am an app-slut in the worst way, so I will give most anything a ride around the parking lot. Often I'll try something out for one or two pictures, get bored, and delete it because the options/quality aren't ringing my bell.

The current lady of the hour is PicTapGo by the genius people at Radlab. Their new editing app is a miniature version of their full photoshop plugin, which I also have (and love), and it's delightful. Ten thumbs up high five pigtapgo!

iphone macro fly

Q. You mentioned shooting "macro," what did you mean?
I have a macro lens which adheres to my phone and allows me to take teeeeny-tiny pictures of teeeeeeny-tiny stuff. There are several companies making them but the one I have is from photojojo. There's a learning curve, but quality is outstanding. I did a full macro lens review here.

Q. What it instagram and how do I use it?

Q. What a great post! We would love to republish it for our readers without paying you, but don't worry we'd totally put a tiny link to your blog at the bottom of the article!
You seem really sweet, but I don't do anal.

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