My original idea for photographing Build 2012 was to use the iPhone as the only device to shoot, edit and publish photos of this event. Looking back on it I realise that the iPhone was far more than just the camera, it truly was a publishing ‘Swiss-Army Knife’ for covering the event with photos, text and video. That's pretty powerful combination, and I know it would work for small web images, but I also wanted to know if I could get good enough quality images from the iPhone to obviate the need for a ‘real’ conventional camera.
I believe the iPhone camera has a huge advantage in that it is the viewfinder and the viewing platform - the very definition of WYSIWYG. The UI for the iPhone camera is rightly celebrated as very simple, easy and quick to use, typical Apple design attributes. The stripped down camera features really help me focus (ahem!) on shooting better images, rather than messing around with camera settings. Likely a major factor for the popularity of the iPhone on the likes of Flickr and Instagram.
So, with the iPhone ready as my fuss-free and ever ready camera I wanted to know how shooting, editing and publishing would work out in the real world - during the course of the day’s conference. I did find that I could not entertain all three working modes for an extended period, stopping to retouch and edit always means missing potentially good photos. For a shorter event, say a couple of hours, this would not be a problem, but for a full day the editing and publishing had to give precedence to capturing the photos in the first place - more on that later.
The whole point of shooting with the iPhone was to keep it as minimal, lightweight and as mobile as possible so, with that in mind the equipment I carried the following gear:
iPhone 4S: (my current handset). I’ve enjoyed using all the iPhone models, but this one was the biggest game-changer for me when Apple put that amazing 8mp camera into it. I have seen image quality from the 4S that is a match for ‘serious’ compact cameras (in favourable lighting conditions). Even in poor light the 4S camera produces some surprisingly good images.
IPad 2: I expected to use this mainly for a larger editing screen, but it didn't really work out as it slowed the workflow up too much to wait on wi-fi transfer via iCloud (especially in a conference environment). Connecting the camera kit for import was also too fiddly during the event itself, I didn't want to risk missing any shots.
Glif: Awesome little gadget, absolutely could not have done this without the Glif to securely lock the iPhone onto my tripod.
Tripod: Turns out this was one of the most essential components, considering the (necessarily) low light levels in the Waterfront Hall. I know this is the main reason why I never lost any images to softness due to camera movement.
Mini LED video light: Borrowed one of these, quite useful at close quarters as a fill-in light, but would really need modifiers and softening for most uses.
Mophie Juice Pack Air: After three hours of heavy shooting, viewing and editing of stills and video my fully charged iPhone was exhausted about noon. Not bad considering, but bear in mind if you set out to do a lot of shooting you will probably kill a fully charged iPhone battery after about 3 hours. As always, the Mophie Juice Pack Air was a lifesaver.
The right app for the job at hand is essential in being able to quickly capture good quality photos, especially under such challenging lighting as is typically found at conference events. Familiarity breeds success!
Camera+: My go-to camera app, mainly for the beautifully efficient UI that enabled me to easily shoot so quickly AND get the type of shots I wanted thanks to it’s fluid splittable exposure/focus reticules and lockable AE/AF. I really only use this app to capture the shot, since Snapseed is the fastest editing solution I’ve found. However the many onboard filters and adjustments in Camera+ are excellent and it is a capable all-in-one capture/process/publish solution. Check it out.
Filmic Pro: I don’t shoot a lot of video on my iPhone, but for me as Camera+ is to stills this is to video, an excellent and well designed app for good quality video shooting. And by good quality I mean great manual override controls for those who know how to use them. Check it out.
iOS Camera: I used this mainly for the Pano feature, I've used a few apps that do this but Apple's implementation just eats their collective lunches. The iOS camera is also the fastest camera available, thanks to Apple’s cunning lock-screen access technique, usually the only camera choice when an unexpected opportunity suddenly presents itself.
Snapseed: My favourite photo processing app. Ironic to think this was the only piece of ‘Nikon’ gear I had with me on the shoot! This was a ground-breaking iOS image editor when it was launched and still holds it’s position as one of the most comprehensive and easy to use photo-editors, mainly thanks to it’s terrific use of native touch gestures, which make image editing both swift and tightly controlled at the same time. Check it out.
IPhoto iOS: I only used this to polish up the Pano shots. I find iPhoto iOS generates smoother images with less noise than most of the other iOS editing apps. It is an incredible App, but, unusually for Apple, needs a fair bit of learning to get the most from it, hence it is not as speedy to use - and has loads of features that I don’t use on my iOS device (yet). Check it out.
Instagram: I must admit I was an Instagram hater at first, it took me at least a year before I could see any value in this service for me. Turns out community and networking were my killer features in Instagram and not so much the filters. Instagram is most definitely king of the hill for community and social sharing, how could I not use it for this project! Check it out.
645Pro: An amazing iPhoto app with unmatched features for capturing the very best from your iPhone camera. BUT I'm not sold on the 'classic' camera Skeuomorphic UI, I find it to be too fiddly unless you've got plenty of time to set up your shot, definitely not the case at a busy conference.
I would have liked to use 645Pro for all my photos at Build, but had to go with Camera+ for best balance of speed and features.
*Update* The developers of 645Pro (Jag.gr) have recently launched another App called ‘Pure Shot’. This appears to have all the high-end capture features of 645Pro, but with a stripped-down modern UI. I like it and expect to use it a lot more than the 645Pro app. Seems I wasn’t the only iOS Photographer to want this. Check it out.
ColorSplash: Although I only used this for one image (not everything I shoot suits this treatment) I think it is the best App for applying spot-colour effects, especially version 2 with the greatly improved UI. I’m looking forward to the new version showing up for iPad. Check it out.
Echograph: Very impressive App for creating animated 'Cinegram' style images, which are very interesting images for using on a website due to their unique controlled animated zones. Typically these would be GIF files, but Echograph uses Mp4 video files as its default format, they look great but are a little bit fiddly to export them as standalone files, more on this later. Check it out.
Even though I consider myself a fairly experienced photographer (and particularly with the iPhone) shooting Build on the iPhone was a terrific learning experience (thanks Andy!).
This blog post was always going to be a long one, so I’m posting it in three parts. This is the end of part one, I hope you enjoyed it and learned enough to come back for part two, which covers the shooting techniques I employed.