A bottle of wine, a goblet poured, natural light streaming in the window—the combination makes iPhone photography irresistible. But how well do the new editing tools, now (finally!) part of the native photo app’s arsenal in iOS 8, help improve an image that’s backlit with tricky-to-capture details?
That depends on what your image needs. Take SeaGlass in a Bottle (above, edited; below, as shot). As is typical of backlit subjects, the human eye can see much more glitter than the camera can capture. But the beauty of post-processing is that we can bring up what we saw with our iPhone and iPad apps, or with desktop software (like Adobe Lightroom, my go-to). Before iOS 8 (finally!) gave us some more robust editing options, I relied on the Snapseed app. In this instance, no Snapseed needed:
- The iPhone’s new native editing capability allowed me to tweak the original image with brightness, contrast, shadow and highlight improvements.
- And I was able to use its crop feature to crop to predetermined ratios, but also to correct the angle (removing the leaning tower of Pisa effect the SeaGlass bottle had) in a nifty action that tilts the image by degrees. Click to enlarge a slide show of the original iPhone 5s image (rather small at 960 x 1280 pixels), along with screen saves of those edits.
Disappointments with the new native edits that Apple (finally!) built into iOS 8:
- There’s no feature for details or sharpening.
- There’s no means of watermarking an image to indicate copyright.
- The filter presets are not improved, and in fact, are downright dull.
So yes, other apps will still be needed for those edits. In this case, I simply opened my final result in Adobe Lightroom to add a bit of sharpening and noise control, and to watermark my website with copyright—that’s all part of my usual workflow, anyway, so not much of a hardship. But without those functions, I’ll never be able to share direct from my iPhone or iPad—and isn’t that what iPhone photography is all about?
As for filters, alas, there’s another gap. The same filters are available, again, and are not much of an array, compared to what our many iPhone apps can offer us. The only one I considered for this image was Chrome, shown above, but I decided against its general murkiness. Being more of a photography purist than many, I am frequently most happy with my original vision of the scene I’ve photographed, and I find that filters only distort that. But they are fun to use, and certainly have their place. (Among the many artists who treat iPhone photographs imaginatively are the contributors to Sally Donatello’s mobile photography blog, where you’ll find a range of iPhone subjects from abstraction to animals to portraiture to still life, and more, in her weekly challenge here: Lens and Pens by Sally.)
My intrigue with SeaGlass Sauvignon blanc came long after my introduction to actual sea glass. While spending time at the charming Maine summer cabin of good friends, I became enchanted by the finds they made on their regular kayak trips to uninhabited islands in the Casco Bay. Locals there had led them to their discovery of sea glass, and on one special but unnamed island (since dubbed Sea Glass Island by us), patience rewarded the careful seeker. Stooping over and methodically sifting the detritus of oysters, mussels, tiny sea creatures, pebbles and grainy sand could yield these small but colorful polished slivers of sea glass on the beach. The most prized pieces were the ones most worn by the tides, the larger the better, in frosted aquas, siennas and whites; greens were the most common. Having made landfall for perhaps the thousandth time, the bits of smooth sea glass we unearthed were transported yet again, this time in the pockets of our life vests, as we paddled our kayaks back to the mainland.
The sea glass treasures I collected on my last summer visit sit in a cut-crystal bowl under the dining room window, where the afternoon sun turns them even more magical than they already are, and they often beg to be photographed. I obliged them today, using my iPhone 5s in HDR mode, and did my edits with Apple’s new native editor (finally!), on my iPhone; but when I imported my final image into Lightroom, I was displeased with the results. Some images are complex enough that using a serious editing application like Lightroom is called for, to truly bring up detail, tweak color and fine tune sharpness. The Real Sea Glass, above, is just one of those; a much larger image to start with at 2199 x 3011 pixels, it really benefited from the additional robust capabilities of Clarity, Saturation, Shadow Detail, Brighter Whites, Sharpening and Luminance (for noise reduction) offered in Lightroom.
Sea glass starts life as shards of broken glass from castoff bottles, tableware, even (most romantically) from shipwrecks, and achieves its frosted appearance from persistent rolling and tumbling in the ocean, its edges softened, its slickness reduced to a prized milky finish. Sea glass colors become significant due to their rarity and age. The process of dating found sea glass makes archeologists of its collectors; read more on that here).
SeaGlass Sauvignon blanc starts its life in California vineyards, and pouring a glass always provides me a pleasurable memory of collecting its namesake. Each pastime offers its own rewards. ♣
Get the full skinny on iOS 8’s newest camera and editing (finally!) features from Cult of Mac. See more of my photographs, made without my iPhone but made better with post-processing at my Art + Photo Shop.