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Final Sidewalk Wilde Thing before Planned Sequestering

Nov 15, 2018

I saved the last one of these – at least until January when Pam Wilde will be re-allowed to continue her series of portraits in the front window of Artists Emporium – for using at the head of some notes I've gathered together on shooting a serious B&W series with the iPhone. I addressed the issue of the move out of the window in the last posting HERE, so I'll refrain from adding to my list of how many ways this move is kind of silly.

     Pam's latest "victim" above is Irmgarde Brown. She has been added to the project album on the Havre de Grace Street page where they appear larger, on black background and are downloadable. I figured this was a good time to assess the whole process, and at the same time see if I could come up with any improvements to what I have been doing.

Notes on shooting a serious B&W series with the iPhone

1– Hand-held vs Monopod

     I've been hand-holding these, not using my monopod out of fear of introducing the added reflection. This proved kind of dumb, lazy or both. I set up for this shot by unscrewing the iPhone clamp from one of those little cheapie table tripods for smart phones and mounting it atop my monopod. As you can see, at least at the angle I'm shooting, reflection of the monopod isn't an issue. Without it, especially now in the cold wind, I was getting too high a percentage of lost shots.

This turned out to be a big improvement, eliminating a lot of steadying and bracing.

2– Shutter Speed

     Most of the exposures in this series, aiming indoors like this, were made at 1/15 to 1/30 second shutter speed. Smart phone camera sensors, as good as they are, are awfully small and crowded for 12 megapixels. This makes for a lot of "noise" at high ISO settings. So in order to keep the quality of the image up, I hold the shutter speed down as much as possible.

3– Camera App

     I use a camera app called Camera+ 2 that allows for complete manual control while saving both a RAW file and a JPEG. It even lets you zoom in to check on focus. The only complication is that the RAW files have a completely different file name from the JPEGs (seems to be something of a universal with these third party camera apps).

Immediately upon zipping the files over to the computer with PhotoSync, I put them in list view / order the RAWS and JPEGs separatel / select the RAW files and right-click-rename / and then simply begin the renaming with the number of the first of the JPEG files. Voila – matching file names.

4– Shutter

     I set the camera to expose when the finger is lifted off the button instead of when it is tapped. It's in the menu. Much better for stability.

From my experience though this can cause issues if you hand the phone to someone else to take a shot for you. Even if you explain, they never seem to get it, reflexively tapping the button and actually increasing any shake effect because the shutter doesn't fire until the back end of the tap. You have to get used to positioning your finger on the button and then gently lifting.

5– F-stop and Depth of Field

     With the iPhone I am "stuck" shooting wide open at F1.8. Not only does the 28mm equivalent wide angle help increase how much of the image is in focus, but depth of field is increased considerably from what it would be with a larger camera and equivalent lens because of the small size of the sensor. I help that along by allowing for the fact that added depth of field always extends one third in front of the focus point and two thirds behind. Autofocusing on the portrait on the easel usually suffices here – although I have been taking the opportunity to throw in some manual focus work so I'll be ready when I need it.

6– Custom Settings

     I avoid any film emulating settings, even though they only effect the JPEGs, making no difference whatsoever in the RAW file. This is personal choice. I tried setting the JPEG for B&W a few times – it didn't seem to be any real help – I find I prefer visualizing in B&W to actually seeing it in B&W on the screen. The color film emulations have the same effect on me – I like seeing the full, flatter, duller potential on the viewing screen.

7– Flash

     Flash is turned off by default on my phone camera.

8– The Files

     The iPhone shoots generic Adobe RAW. That means almost any RAW converter does a good job on conversion.  Before putting the exposures into my cataloging program for review, I like to do a quick-review in My Preview app. There I delete any obvious rejections, saving a considerable amount of space on the hard drive.

I'm after B&W, so after RAW conversion I do most of my work on the image using my PhotoKit plugins in Photoshop. Rather than add functionality, PhotoKit plugins utilize the power of Photoshop to accomplish complex digital tasks with an analog approach – much like in the darkroom.