And in the Beginning…
In this wacky, adrenaline and pixel driven world of digital photography, we’re witnessing something close to a reinvention of the medium rather regularly. In fact, this article looks at new hardware and software that, without exaggeration, really does represent a new beginning in the way we capture and edit our images.
When Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007, many of us were amazed at the list of jaw-dropping features the new gizmo sported. We could browse the web, send emails, and synch our calendars and address books, all while talking on the phone. But few photographers had any inkling of what creative potential lay under the LCD of Apple’s new “phone.” Boy, was that ever destined to change!
Now here we are in the middle of 2010, with another amazing iPhone hitting the stores. With more resolution, a built-in flash (of sorts) and even a second camera facing the user to facilitate video conferencing, this 4th generation iPhone will once again raise the bar on pocket connectivity and― our concern―great picture making. Sure, we expected more resolution (growing from three to five mega pixels) but, to Apple’s credit, they didn’t just jam more pixels into the same tiny chip (we all know what happens with that scenario―sensor noise). Instead, even with the added resolution, the pixel sites themselves are the same size as in the iPhone 3GS. Apple used the newest backside illuminated CCD, in which the circuitry is placed on the rear of the sensor where it doesn’t compete for photons with the image-forming parts of the sensor. One result: low light shooting (a problem with nearly all small sensor cameras) should be markedly improved with the iPhone 4.
And then there was iPad
Spring brought more than flowers and insects to the northern hemisphere as Apple introduced the first viable tablet computer. With its 10″ multi- touch screen and 10-hour battery life, the iPad is the first of surely many handheld devices that will significantly alter our concept of computing. As its most obvious behavior modification, the iPad changes the entire paradigm of where you go to compute. Now, instead of your going to the computer, the computer goes with you. Upon waking in the morning, you’ll grab the iPad instead of the paper. Need to check email on the train? Internet connectivity, great battery life and lap friendliness (much better than laptop juggling) make iPad an ideal commuter device. But how does the iPad impact your photography, other than as a sweet way to show your portfolio to friends, colleagues and clients?
First, What the iPad isn’t
With no camera on board, you won’t be capturing your images with this first generation iPad. And if the blogs and speculators are on target, it’s likely we’ll see a front-facing camera on the iPad (for video conferencing) before Apple equips it with a facing-the-scene camera, as on the iPhone. Once we understand the limitations, let’s explore how the iPad partners with your iPhone.
Getting Your iPhone Captures onto Your iPad
For the photo in figure 1, I made 12 handheld exposures on the iPhone and then―using the brilliant Auto Stitch app―stitched the overlapping images together. I could have proceeded to edit the image in the field with the iPhone but, shucks, there I was with this brand new iPad, so as you can see in figure 2, I sat down in the woods and proceeded to edit the image on the iPad instead. This is where you’re silently asking, “How did Dan move his image from the iPhone to the iPad?”
When you shoot with a normal digital camera (removable memory cards), you can use Apple’s Camera Connection Kit to download your photos. This two-part kit includes two connectors: one with an SD card slot (SDHC compatible but not SDXC) and one with USB. Apple’s done a good job here, supporting not just jpegs but many RAW formats for import (see Apple’s website).
The Camera Connection Kit can also be used to move images from your iPhone: just plug your synch/charge cable into your iPhone and connect the other end to the USB connector from the Camera Connection Kit. Up pop your images for import. But wires and connectors are so 2009! Can’t we find a no-wires way to get our photos to move wherever we want them?
What about Emailing Photos to get them from the iPhone to the iPad? If you have an Internet connection (wifi Edge or 3G network), emailing works just fine. (For a full resolution image sent via email, you should Copy it in the Camera Roll―hold down on the image for a second―and then Paste it into the body of your email message. If you email normally from the camera roll by selecting the image and tapping on the Send icon, the photo will be reduced to 480×640 pixels.)
Apps for Moving Your Photos Around
For getting photos from Point A to Point B, serious photographers will want better options than email. With a plethora of apps designed to help get your photos just where you want them, I’ll touch upon a few of the most useful, cheap (as in free), easy and designed to work with wifi, Bluetooth, and sometimes either.
Wifi or Bluetooth for Photo Transfers
Our two current (and non-ATT) wireless protocols are wifi and Bluetooth. Without going into the geek-speak details of how they compare, be aware of two things:
1. Wifi will be a faster photo-moving method in almost all situations (it has more bandwidth).
2. Bluetooth is peer-to-peer, meaning it will be available even when you don’t have a wifi network to tap into.
When shopping for apps that let you move images from your iPhone (where your camera is after all) to the iPad, think about the situations in which you’ll be shooting. If you’ll be surrounded by a friendly (and open) wifi network, it’s hard to beat Photo Transfer App ($2.99, www.PhotoTransfer App.com). You can transfer up to 50 images at once from iPhone to iPad, iPad to Computer, iPhone to computer, Computer to iPad, or any combination of the bunch. Figure 3 shows Transfer App in action, in this case being used to send images from an iPad to a desktop computer. On the left in figure 3 you see Photo Transfer App on the iPad, and on the right is a browser window on a Mac, showing the seven images about to be moved from the iPad to the Mac. Photo Transfer App is amazingly simple, fast and easy, but for it to work as advertised, all devices must be on the same wifi network. What if you’re in the field where a wifi network is missing in action? This is where Bluetooth comes into play.
Bluetooth might not be as fast as wifi, but as a peer- to-peer sharing protocol, it can come in handy as an image transferring method.
A Couple of My Favorites
IFiles ($0.99, www.ifilesapp.com). This app blows me away every time I use it. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of iPhone/iPad transfer tools. Using either Bluetooth or wifi, you can send photos and other files to and from other i-devices or your Mac or PC. You can even create zip files to email a group of images in a tidy package. At press time this app had not been optimized for the iPad, but it works just fine for me.
Bluetooth Photo Share (www.nathanpeterson.com) is a no-nonsense and free app using Bluetooth to shuttle files between your iPhone and iPad. (Note: usable only with 3G or later iPhones.) And it promises to keep all your resolution with no lossy compression. If Bluetooth is your weapon of choice, this free app can’t be beat.
iPhone and iPad as a shooting team
Fasten your seat belts! The Camera for iPad app ($0.99, http://headlightinc.com/camera.php) not only lets you fire the iPhone shutter remotely (from your iPad), it also instantly sends the image to your iPad so you can start editing on the larger screen right away. That would be cool enough, but when you learn Camera for iPad can also be configured to use the iPad as a fill flash (take the picture with your iPhone and the iPad screen will light-up to provide fill)―good grief, how can you not want to spend all of $0.99 for this app?
Editing Photos on the iPad
You’ve heard me rave about the gorgeous LCD on the iPad―a good reason for doing your post-processing on the iPad. Let’s explore other rationales.
But first, a warning: be very careful with using iPhone apps on the iPad. I was shocked the first time I edited a 3mp image on iPad only to discover the resolution had been trashed because I used one of my favorite iPhone apps. Splurge and get photo apps specifically made for the iPad. Not only will you preserve your resolution, you’ll probably discover additional features that were not included with the iPhone version.
Upgrades is an important reason to consider editing on the iPad instead of the iPhone. The new iPhone 4 with its higher resolution camera may “break” the iPhone’s photo editing apps. Surely a temporary condition (app developers are chomping at the bit to have new versions of their software), it’s still likely that we’ll go through a dry spell with reliance on some of our most trusted iPhone photo editing apps. The iPad apps, on the other hand, are ready to take on larger images with aplomb.
A Couple of Typical Editing Tasks
My purpose isn’t to overwhelm you with a smorgasbord of iPad apps to lust after and purchase. Rest assured, future photo technique features will take care of that. But I can’t resist teasing you with a couple very sweet photo apps I’m using on the iPad.
Figure 4 shows Photogene ($3.99, www.mobile- pond.com) and Filterstorm ($1.99, www.filterstorm. com) in action on the iPad. Photogene has been a best-selling iPhone app, offering a wide selection of controls with an intuitive interface. When they ported it to the iPad, they added Curves, Red- Eye removal and lots of other useful techniques. Filterstorm is a newcomer and is iPad-only. This app cleverly gives us Color Range, Gradients and locally brushed filter effects using a powerfully easy approach. On the right side of figure 4, I’m using Filterstorm to vignette the image. Simply dragging the two circles on the image locates where the vignette starts and stops. When I use Filterstorm to demo certain image processing techniques, students light-up with a “now I get it!” response that eluded them in Photoshop. It’s $1.99 well spent.
Coming Soon to an iPad Near You
Some predictions don’t need a crystal ball. In no time we’ll have apps that let us Live-View our DSLR images on the iPad’s LCD. (Who wants to mess with a tethered laptop in the field?) We’ll tweak focus, change apertures and adjust flash exposure compensation―not on the tiny camera LCD, but right on the iPad. And that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Our cameras and handheld devices will become increasingly more friendly and integrated. And, as we’ve seen with the iPhone, they’ll become one and the same.
I’ve often said, “If you don’t like change, Photography’s not the place to be.” My wife constantly cautions me that not everyone is as enchanted with this change as I am. She could be right, though I’ll never understand how that can be. Photography is such an exciting field of play. It keeps our minds alert and our wallets empty. And in six months or so, you might reread this article to remember how things were “in the beginning.”