eXtensions - Thursday 14 June 2018


eXtensions - Digital Photography and Self-Improvement Over Time

By Graham K. Rogers

Reworked iPhone RAW

I am giving more serious thought these days to the ways in which I take and use photographs. While I am a fan of the iPhone and its capabilities, I enjoy using film and take my older Hasselblad out for a run when I can. A recent purchase of a good level DSLR camera has made me look more carefully at how I use it. And how often.

I was looking at some news photographs this week and thought how bad they made the subject look. This might be valid in some circumstances, like demonizing a dictator, but one of the tasks of a photographer is (in my opinion) producing the best image from a photograph. News has a difficult time with cut-backs as the media try (and in many cases fail) to deal with new delivery systems; and the actions of those organs, like the Chicago Sun-Times that sacked its photographers, relying on reporters with smartphones, are only short term fixes.

focus When I am looking at pictures I have taken, I will almost certain discard any which show the eyes in a bad way. It is particularly important in shots of people (or animals) that the eyes are in focus. That could be discounted, depending on the circumstances or effect of the rest of the image, such as in a shot where the action itself was the main concern.

Sometimes focus has to be ignored completely, for example in photographs where the subject is paramount (Loch Ness Monster, the moment of a crash), but let me not minimize the importance of a clear, sharp image.

If the eyes are caught in mid-blink (or worse), making the subject look ridiculous, I will invariably delete such images. Their use says as much about the photographer as, inadvertently, about the subject.

One way I avoid this is by using Burst Mode, either on a DSLR camera or my current iPhone. A burst has potential to reveal something I might not have originally noticed or intended. For example, I was recently taking some photographs of the BTS train near Siam in central Bangkok. My original intention was to take shots of a train heading towards Siam on a gentle downhill section of track.

As the train approached, another appeared heading in the opposite direction: two for the price of one. When I examined the shots later, I saw an orange bus moving through the pictures on the road below. My final selection was based on the relative positions of the two train sand the bus. In some frames, the bus was partially hidden by a concrete column, so those were not selected. If I had not taken a burst, I would not have had the luxury of being able to chose the right image.

Image selection Image selection

My DSLR camera has two modes for bursts. One can take up to 7 shots. The other automatically takes two shots, plus a burst if I continue to press the button. As with my previous Nikon D7000, most of the time I use the standard burst setting. Sometimes, however, I will also use the single-shot Quiet Mode.

When I first used Nikon this was a missing feature. You could always tell that someone was using a Canon camera because of the whisper-like shutter sound. This has improved in recent years for Nikon users, but the Canon still wins here. I favour this setting, for example, when I attend presentations: a noisy burst can distract, while a single, quiet shot can go almost unnoticed.

Burst Mode on the iPhone (and iPad) is underused. I looked at this a few months ago (along with Live Shots). It is simple to use and has the ability to take up to 999 shots. Instead of pressing the button once, it is held down and a burst is taken. Photos has a pre-editing Select function that displays a strip of the burst images and one (or more) will have a grey dot underneath. These have been marked as best shot (or shots) by the software.

The selections may not be perfect, so the image can be deselected (or others selected) by tapping on the shot as the user scrolls through the strip. When done, there is an option to Keep All or only those selected.

When I was a kid, I often had family experts confuse me with F-stops, ASA (now ISO), filters and more. I used to take some quite reasonable pictures with cheap plastic cameras, including a good close-up of the Queen Mother in 1960 (or thereabouts) when she made a visit to the estate I lived on.

It wasn't until the late-1980s that I began to understand that for me, the subject has to take priority over the technology. I met Tony Harvey (director of A Lion in Winter) at a dinner in New York. We walked around Soho the next morning taking photographs. I learned more from him in a couple of hours than from all the family experts or from the text books I had read.

I also find much inspiration from others, whether it be images posted on Twitter, or Instagram (or other sites). There is some output online worth aspiring to. My own best critic is myself. With the healthy comparisons of the work of others (I wish I could do that) and my own awareness of what I want to produce, I delete many images. This week, I took a couple of hundred photos at Bangkok Comic-con as the participants were preparing for the fray, eventually selecting around 30 for online use and 6 for Instagram.

Late in the week, I took over 300 DSLR photographs on a short trip out of Bangkok, along with 3 rolls of film (1x400, 2x50 ISO) and a couple of iPhone shots. Of the DSLR images, I deleted 10% right away for technical reasons, while pulling out 5 for immediate editing. Of the rest, I would hope to have around 30 (10%) that are worth using in other media. That matches what I expect for film use: one or two good shots from a roll.

Image selection Image selection

Although an original image may work for news, it is rare that a photograph will escape some form of editing. This is one of the reasons I work with RAW - even on the iPhone - as the so-called digital negative is always available and I can return to the original image if necessary: I may want to start again; or having created output from an image that I want to keep, may want to rework it in another form.

Cropping is one example: with the right image it may be possible to create two different pictures from the same original. The other essentials for me are Alignment (horizontal or vertical), Exposure, Contrast, some Saturation and, when possible, Sharpen. For the life of me I cannot understand why this is not possible in the Photos app on iOS devices. Despite filing this as a suggested improvement several times, it can only be done using 3rd party software, although it works well in Photos on the Mac.

crop crop


I may do some editing of iOS photos on the iPhone if I am on the road and have a good image I want to work on, particularly if I can envisage the use of an extension, such as filters in Tada. For some reason when such effects are applied on an iOS device, they do not synchronise to the Mac (AirDrop works fine, but then I have a duplicate). I tend to save most editing for the Mac.

I have written about this before, but with the improved range of tools in Apple Photos these days, along with the ability to edit using 3rd party extensions from within Photos - sometimes being able to work within the app (like Graphic Converter) - there is a lot going for this now in its current form. I wrote about this new life for Photos in January this year. I have not seen any updated tools or features for Mojave as yet. Aperture, which I have used for years, is set to fade away soon I have been looking for a replacement that does not involve Adobe.

With the Nikon D850 and its rather large RAW images, Aperture does not recognise the file type (I am warned), while Photos works well, albeit slowly when an image is first loaded and with a couple of quirks, which I have learned to fix. Photos and its extensions it is, then, at least for now.

Edited in Photos with an extension

See also:

  • The Wednesday File (58): Nikon D850 - A Month with the Beast

  • Moving up to Nikon D850 (3): Explorations

  • Moving up to Nikon D850 (2): Practicalities

  • Moving up to Nikon D850 (1): Rationale

  • A Selection of RAW Photo Apps for the iPhone: The First Rank

  • A Selection of RAW Photo Apps for the iPhone: A Worthy Second Rank

  • Thonburi Steam: DSLR and iPhone RAW

  • Nikon D850

  • Hasselblad Cameras

    Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)

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