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How an advanced photographer uses the iPhone and iPad

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I find myself straddling a line with my photography. One foot sits on the side where I don’t need anything advanced; the other foot enjoys taking photographs of sporting and musical events that require decent cameras and fast lenses. Today I’m going to share with you how Apple(s AAPL) products have completely taken over my work flow.

The emergence of the iPhone as a preferred camera

Once the iPhone 4s came out with its great camera, and because of my own general laziness, I don’t bring my “real” camera out anymore unless I specifically need it. I feel the most important part of any photography workflow is to capture the moment first, and a technically correct photo second. Obviously, if you’re shooting an event professionally you’ll want both. For most of us, though, if we are skilled at photographic composition we can take a perfectly fine photo with the iPhone most of the time. And Apple is set to improve the sharing capabilities drastically — in iOS 6, which will be available to the public this fall, I can take a photo and have it posted to Facebook(s FB) almost immediately thanks to the deep integration with the social network.

The iPhone as a camera also really impresses me. Below are two iPhone photos I snapped that I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. I was surprised for two reasons: For the shot of the kid, I was able to snap a credible photo, edit it, and post to Facebook all from my iPhone in about two minutes. For the shot of The Wall, I was amazed at how well a photo taken at night, from about 300 feet, came out on a cell phone camera.

Neal Vitullo and the Vipers, Warwick City Hall
Roger Waters, Fenway Pahk.


There are two post-processing tools I use: Lightroom 4.0(s ADBE) and Aperture 3.3. Each is a great program, and you’d be well-served with either. I like Lightroom’s workflow a little better, and the fact that unlike Aperture, my photos aren’t contained in a single database. Aperture, however, allows me to also sync my photos directly to iOS, and take advantage of Photo Stream. Because I float between the two editors, I also keep a clean copy of my master images in a separate folder.

Plug Ins:

There are two Topaz Labs plug-ins I love: Denoise, and B&W Effects. Denoise is indispensable for reducing noise from high-ISO pictures. My DSLR images of rock bands tend to be in the 32000-64000 ISO range, which generates a ton of noise.  Denoise allows me to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the noise.

I’m color blind, so I tend to convert my images to black and white since I might not be able to tell if the photo is a little extra blue. I also grew up shooting black and white (even developing photos by hand in our bathroom with my dad), so for me, B&W holds a lot of nostalgia. B&W Effects by Topaz has a wide range of presets that allows me to get close to the image I want. It also has eight Collections that encompass a broad smattering of styles.

iOS and Sharing

I sync almost all of my photos to my iPad. Usually, it’s to show them off if someone wants to see my work. Or, I’m showing the pictures of a family event with the participants. One feature for sharing I absolutely adore is Photo Journals in iPhoto for iOS. I can group the photos I want into a Journal, then share them via iCloud and just mail off a link to the Journal. I was hoping that this feature would make it to OS X iPhoto when Mountain Lion shipped, but, alas, it didn’t. In fact, for most post-processing, I find that iOS iPhoto does a remarkable job with light adjustments and cropping.

Another valuable I keep in my camera bag is the Camera Connection kit. Often after a shoot with my DSLR, I’ll import the photos from my SD card into my iPad and quickly determine the keepers on the larger screen.

Final Frame

It’s amazing at how quickly technology has altered the photography field. It seems like just yesterday I was hanging strips of negatives up to dry. If you had told me even a year ago that more than 60 percent of the photos I take would never touch my Mac, I’d have laughed. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

14 Responses to “How an advanced photographer uses the iPhone and iPad”

  1. Not enough controls for me when taking photos with iPhone… I want aperture priority at least.

    And the iPad is way too bulky for a camera. Maybe if they provide some controls over the input, then I could replace my walkaround camera.

  2. Scott Schablow

    Thanks for the tips Mark. I always love hearing about others’ work flow. I guess because after 40 years of shooting I’ve yet to create a consistent process. Flow with the go, I do. I don’t yet have an iPhone 4, but some of my best friends do. It is a marked improvement from the 3Gs that I have. But still, it’s a fixed lens camera with little control over aperture and speed (ISO as well). The iPhone or Android camera is a glorified pinhole cardboard box camera. The pinhole camera had it’s own special quality so that’s not a bad thing. I wrote a really long analysis about the comparison, but it seemed out of place. I’m anxious to see the iPhone 5 and what photographic improvement it will have.

    Have you ever tried Neat Image for noise removal? The high end version is really, really good. I haven’t heard of Denoise so I want to check it out.

  3. Have just got an iPhone 4 and have started to enjoy using the photographic capabilities of the device. I particularly like the way that iCloud and Photostream gets the photos onto my Mac without me even having to try. With the way that things are going with Apple technology, things can only get better.

  4. Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It’s refreshing to see a photographer who isn’t a DSLR snob…you CAN take great pictures with any camera if you know what you are doing. I love taking pictures with my iPhone, and I actually rarely take my DSLR out of the closet. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what it can do…but technology and convenience can be fun when they’re wed together.
    And I also remember hanging film strips to dry :) Those were the days!

  5. Thomas J. Romano

    I also like the iphone 4s camera because for certain things it makes taking pictures easy . Some instances i can take out my iphone and take a picture that comes out the way I want it. With other cameras p&s and dslr I have to sit and edit the settings to get that same picture.

    One of these is at dusk. P&S and dslr by default make the picture brighter then I actually see it. The iphone takes the picture as I see it in these settings.

    I like to take pictures that show what I am seeing. I do not need them brighter then what I see.

  6. I love iPhone4s it is a very advanced technolgy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)
    But I think the iPhone5 is kind of the same the only thing that changes is the screen ((it’s bigger)) and the charger is smaller but can’t wait to have one !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hehehe I already have a white iPhone4s

  7. veesphotos

    Great post. Do you find Topaz’s Denoise to be better than that provided within Lightroom? I use several of Topaz’s filters and love them.

  8. Pizzaman your Chuckychesse pizza is over done. The number of Mac, iPhone and iPad apps is way beyond anything on a Anroid phone. Nice post, I find the Mac, Aperture, Pages and Graphic Converter work well for me.

    • Walt Alan Wilcutts

      You did read the title, right? How a photographer uses the iPhone and iPad. It wasn’t titled this is the be all end all of photography. You’re like a shameless fanboy advertisement.

  9. Apple Girl

    Great article! I can so relate to what you are getting at with how things have changed and made it easier to take and edit photos. BTW… the two you posted are very good!

  10. Robert Mark

    Aperture hasn’t required you to keep files in a special database since version 1.5. You can use the exact same folder hierarchy from Your HD with both apps.