Friday, March 15, 2013

Five pro tips for journalists using iPad/iPhones

Let's face it. Most of us did not go to school for photography and videography. We're writers, English majors and newsies who got swept away by modern technology, where we are now expected to be professional everythingers. 

I can tell you about AP Style (and yes, the word "everythingers" is AP correct, I swear). But when it comes to providing legit tips about taking the best photos with your iPad or iPhone, I have to call in the real pros. 

I tapped the brain of Erie-based professional photographer Iman Woods  to get some insider tips. Somehow her casual iPhone pictures look like they're shot with expensive equipment. Like this oh-by-the-way shot of the sunset that she posted on her Facebook this morning. 




This is so not how my iPhone photos look. 

Here are Iman Woods' five pro tips for journalists using iPad/iPhones: 

1. HDR slows you down, but is excellent for pictures where there is a disparity between highlight and shadow.

From the camera, choose options. Slide the HDR slider to turn it on.

Here's the tricky part. If you just take the photo, the iPhone's light meter will make the exposure decisions for you. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. So you need to put your finger on the BRIGHTEST part of the scene so that the HDR exposes to keep the highlight detail. When you go back through your photos the second image will have High Dynamic Range maintaining both highlights and shadows.


2. Get an app that simulates a pro camera's drive option.

Sometimes you're photographing a subject and the image is frustratingly blurry. The iPhone's flash leaves a lot to be desired. The technical problem is that in lower light, the camera's shutter has to stay open longer to expose the shot. That produces the shake and blur. The only solutions are to increase the amount of light or stabilize the camera so it doesn't move. 


I never have a tripod for my iPhone 5 so I use the Clear Cam app (99 cents), which has two awesome functions. One is a drive mode that takes five successive pictures and automatically saves the clearest one. The other function is for still-life shots, where you stabilize the phone/pad. It takes several shots and then overlays them over each other to create a higher resolution file than is available from the camera alone. Shots nice enough to edit and blow up.

3. Learn how to edit quickly

Workflow is an important part of every pro's job. You want to be effective but streamline your time and process. When shooting on your mobile device, it's helpful to immediately weed out the blurry shots. It will simplify choosing which shots to edit later. Then go back and forth and narrow it down. Remove similar shots so that you only have the best of each pose.

4. Back up your photos.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but iTunes doesn't automatically back up your images. It backs up your device, but doesn't put the photos and videos in a format where you can retrieve them. I have a pro Dropbox account and use the app from my phone to automatically back every photo and video. If my phone is ever stolen or stops working,C I'll have easy access to my work.

5. Experiment.

We've become so accustomed to high-powered digicams, we don't realize how sophisticated our camera phones are. Even with its limitations, the iPhone 5 has more megapixels and options than my first professional digital camera.

Photographers know that it's not the equipment that limits your creativity.

If you're photographing someone for a story, put them sideways to a doorway or window. Open blinds and curtains if you don't have enough light. In full sun, find an overhang that functions like a garage. Place the subject JUST inside the shadow line and they will have beautiful light in their eyes with even illumination.

Have fun. Try to think outside the box. The best camera is the one you have with you.

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