Play with your Photography!


I'm a professional photographer and have been using a high megapixel digital camera for years. I have to admit that the idea of using the iPhone's 5-MP camera—with no lens attachments—to capture images was hard to imagine at first. Then I saw some iPhone images taken by other photographers and decided to give it a try. I purchased the iPhone 4 in December 2010 and never looked back! 

The iPhone has become a huge part of my photographic life. On a recent trip to New Mexico, my iPhone not only served as my GPS system but also as a creative tool for capturing images. Many days during the trip, I only used my iPhone to capture and edit images, such as the image of St. Francis Church as shown above left. I captured the image on my iPhone 4 using Bracket Mode ($1.99, and then processed it with the following four apps:

  • TrueHDR ($0.99, I blended the bracketed images together.
  • Grungetastic ($1.99,; iPad version: Added the beige interior border.
  • AutoPainter ($0.99,; iPad version: Added a layer.

  • Iris Photo Suite ($1.99,; iPad version: $3.99, Blended with the original shot in Iris. I masked over the crosses in Iris to make them more dominant in the finished image.

The iPhone inspires me to play and experiment

The iPhone and the many photography apps available for it inspire me to play and experiment with my photography. As a creative photographer, I ask, "What if?" a lot. What if I combined this app with that app, what will it do to my image? For instance, the image above of a road sign began as a quick grab shot as I was leaving a small rural café. I wanted to remember where I had been. It was so easy to make with the iPhone.

T.A. Lobo CafeWhen I returned home from my trip, I was processing images for my blog and discovered that one of my favorite apps, AutoPainter, had a new version: AutoPainter II ($0.99, I went to the App Store and bought the app. Then, I opened the original T.A. Lobo Café image in the app, chose the Felt Tip option and was delightfully surprised at the result! After I ran the image through AutoPainter II, I added an inside border of red using Grungetastic and finished the image by adding a black outside border using Crop'n'Frame ($1.99, Crop'n'Frame has many options of borders, colors, and mats and is a terrific app for finishing off your photos for presentation.

T.A. Lobo Cafe (right)

New Mexico has many photo ops, and one of my favorite spots was walking along Canyon Road, the second largest art market in the US. I only took my iPhone that day to capture some images. Using the iPhone forces the photographer to distill the shot into composition and light, zooming in and out with your feet and changing perspectives to achieve the image in your mind's eye.

Blue Iris OriginalBlue Iris ProcessedI used CameraPlus Pro ($1.99, to capture an image of a blue iris with an adobe wall as a backdrop. As a photographer, I saw the original Iris photo as an opportunity, not the end result. However, when I captured the image with the iPhone, I paid careful attention to the composition—processing will not make a bad image better! I used Camera Plus Pro to capture the image because of its orientation and file size. (Camera PlusPro has a DSLR 2x3 image aspect ratio, unlike Hipstamatic ($1.99:, which is square or ClasscPAN.) In addition, I used the app because it has an option to reduce camera shake and another option to turn on grid lines to help level the shot. I had to kneel down and get "eye-to-eye" with my subject. Once I had the shot I wanted, I used the following apps to process it:

I captured this image of a blue iris (left) with the iPhone's 5-MP camera and processed it with a variety of apps (right).

  • Iris Photo Suite ($1.99,; iPad version: $3.99, I emphasized the cracks in the wall using the app's One Touch menu. Also, I wanted to darken down the white of the wood in the lower left of the image, so I used the app's Grunge tab to apply a grunge texture. Finally, I wanted the blue of the Iris to glow against the adobe wall, so I drew attention to them by masking out the grunge effect in the Iris.
  • AutoPainter ($0.99,; iPad version: I ran the "cracked" image in and saved that file.

  • Iris Photo Suite: I used this app to blend the two saved files and applied a grunge texture in Iris, masking out the purple Iris and saved the file.
  • Dynamic Light ($0.99, I ran the last saved image through this app.

For me the image was about the blue Iris against the orange of the Adobe wall, so I tried to eliminate and draw attention to those elements through the app process. I always suggest to my students that they ask themselves, "What is it about the scene that you love?" And then drill down the composition to just that!

A world of opportunities


Truck - Processed

The size and portability of the iPhone opens up a world of opportunities for the photographer. For example, New Mexico has an abundance of old trucks that make interesting subjects for photographers. However, they are sometimes located in hard to reach places. The truck shown here was located behind a chain link fence, so I had to maneuver the iPhone's lens between the links to capture the original photo.

Old truck: Original capture (left); processed (right)

Because New Mexico is usually very bright in the daytime, I processed with the following apps: 

  • Bracket Mode ($1.99, I captured the initial bracketed shot.
  • TrueHDR Blended the bracketed shots into one file and saved.
  • Dynamic Light Applied the Orton effect and saved the file.
  • Iris Photo Suite I then combined the Orton file with the original file in Iris Photo Suite making opacity, levels, and saturation adjustments to taste. Dynamic Light is a fabulous app and very easy to use. 

Know your apps and 
play with your photography

There are a wide variety of photography apps available for the iPhone, allowing you to capture and create impressive photos. It's critical that you test apps thoroughly so that you what they can do and when to use them. Fortunately, most of them are inexpensive. (Tip: Look for free "lite" versions of apps, which will give you an idea of the apps capabilities.) 

The iPhone and the apps mentioned in this article can not only free you of heavy (and expensive) camera gear, but they can help you produce some super compositions. So go ahead and take the plunge, check out the apps, and above all— play with your photography!

The iPhone and some well-selected apps can inspire a world of creative play.

September-October 2011
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