Great review of the iPhone 6 Plus camera by photographer who spent a week in Iceland with the new iPhone testing it's photographic capabilities. The results are pretty impressive. Head to Austin's website to see the results and read his story. You won't be disappointed.
App gets manual camera controls and sharing extensions
My absolute favourite iOS photography app for OS is VSCO Cam from Visual Supply company. Today I opened the app store to see an update queued for VSCO cam, and to my joy, the list of new features includes iOS8's new manual camera controls.
The update adds support for manual control of ISO, Shutter Speed, Exposure Compensation and White Balance. It took a second to figure out how they work, but it's pretty easy to discover once you play around with it for a little while. What is very interesting is the ability to manually control shutter speed. this makes it possible, and easy to do long exposures on the iPhone.
The app also gets access to the new share extensions in iOS 8 and you can now send images to any service or app that supports share extension. The update is available now in the App store.
Incidentally, If you haven't used VSCO Cam before I wrote a piece about VSCO Cam and its companion online sharing service VSCO grid on my photography blog a while ago.
A First Look at some of the New Camera and Photos features in iOS 8
With iOS 8 hitting the upgrade servers today, I thought that I would take a moment to give a quick overview of some of the new photography related features in this new version Apple's mobile operating system. I've been using the beta version of iOS8 for a few months now, and in that time I've grown used to the new settings and controls, and there are even one or two things that have become invaluable. What's new in iOS 8 can be broken down into three main areas. The Camera, The Photos App, and behind the scenes.
There are a few big improvements to the main camera app in iOS 8 that bear mentioning. The first is exposure compensation. Finally you can adjust the exposure of the shot if the scene is too bright or dark, without having to resort to some sort of auto exposure locking jujitsu to get the exposure right.
To use the controls you simply tap on the focus square and a little sun icon will appear. Now you drag up or down to increase or decrease the exposure. It's a little tricky at first, but you get used to it. This little addition actually makes a huge difference in your iPhone photography. It makes it so much easier to get correctly exposed shots.
Behind the scenes, the camera API apparently has opened up manual control of the camera settings to third party apps, including exposure and white balance, so hopefully before long we'll start to see some innovative third party apps taking full advantage of this.
The other big addition to the camera in iOS 8 is a timelapse function. In typical Apple fashion it's quite minimalist in its implementation. You don't really have any control over the interval, at least that I was able to find. To use the feature you simply slide the camera controls to the right till you reveal the timelapse option, and then press the record button to start. When you're finished it will process the results into a video file. It's pretty straight forward. Here's an example of a timelapse that I made out the window of my hotel in Brussels during the summer.
The Photos App
The Photos app on iOS sees the bigger round of improvements. There are all new controls for processing your image, including some clever semi-automatic options.
When you choose to edit an image, the surrounding screen switches from white to black and you get the editing controls. At the top of the screen is a magic wand that applies automatic corrections. At the bottom of the screen, from left to right, the controls are: cancel, crop, filters, editing controls, and done. Cancel and Done are pretty obvious.
The crop tool gives you controls for cropping and straightening your image as well as rotating. Clicking on the button on the bottom left gives you a list of common aspect ratios. Unfortunately, there's no option for a custom aspect ratio.
The filters tab gives you a set of Instagram style filters. I've been using the beta for so long now, I can't remember what the previous ones were, so I'm not going to concentrate on this section too much.
The third button gives you access to the new adjustment controls. There are three main groups of controls: Light, Colour and B&W (Black and White). Called "Smart Adjustments", tapping on one of these controls gives you the intelligent, semiautomatic slider for that option. For example, tapping "Light" will give you a light slider. Drag it one way to increase exposure and the other to decrease. It's not just adjusting exposure however, it's also adjusting highlights, shadows, brightness contrast and black point, all in a clever way, that leaves you with just one control to deal with. If you want to, you can tap on the arrow beside a smart adjustment, for example "Light", to give you the full set of options which you can tweak manually. The same applies to colour and black and white. When you are using a particular control you can swipe up and down on the slider to move to the next or previous slider without having to go back out to the main controls and back in again.
Once you've finished processing your image, you can click done to save your edits. Edits are non-destructive, and you can go back in at any time and continue editing. You can also see your original, unedited image at any time by tapping on the image itself, and you can go back to the unedited image by tapping on the revert control that appears when you go to re-edit an image that you've made adjustments to.
Overall, the new editing functions are a welcome addition, and Apple appears to have integrated most of what was in the original iPhoto for iOS app. To be honest, I don't edit my photos that much on my iPhone anyway, but there have been times when the new controls have come in handy.
Behind the scenes
There are a couple of more important additions to the Photos app, and the underlying architecture that won't really become apparent until third party apps are shipping with iOS 8 support. The new APIs in iOS 8 allow for a few important changes to the way third party apps integrate with your camera roll.
The first is extensions, which was discussed during the WWDC keynote. Extensions will give you two new options in iOS 8. The first will allow you to send an image directly to a third party app, and the second will allow a third party app to insert controls and functionality into the photos app. During the beta period there were no apps available with this functionality, so I could test this out. I'll revisit this once there are third party apps out there supporting extensions
Another behind the scenes change, which got less fanfare, but is still a pretty big deal is the fact that third party apps can now access the camera roll directly, with your permission. In the past apps would have to import images from the camera roll and then export them back. In iOS 8 they can now write directly to the camera roll, so hopefully that means we wont end up with lots of little separate libraries in each of the different apps that we use.
The other headline feature of iOS 8 when it comes to photos is the iCloud features. With iOS 8 Apple gives you the option to store all your photos in the cloud, and access them across all your devices. Currently, as I'm writing this, this feature is in beta, and I only have iOS 8 on one device, so I haven't been able to test it. There doesn't seem to be any way to access the iCloud photo library via the mac yet, even in Yosemite. This may change closer to the release of Yosemite, but for now I haven't been able to test this properly.
Apple does give you the option to still use photo stream in conjunction with the new iCloud option, allowing you to still sync to Aperture and iPhoto for the time being. To enable this you need to go to Settings -> iCloud -> Photos and turn on "My Photo Stream"
There's some nice new features for Photographers in iOS 8 but the best is probably still yet to come. The real benefit of the changes Apple has made to the underlying architecture won't become fully apparent until third party apps start taking advantage, and when they do, I suspect that iOS 8 will see quite a renaissance when it comes to smartphone photography apps.
Aside from the obvious software applications such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and so on that I use on a regular basis, my online presence and business also relies on a number of other software tools. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been using a lot of modern, lightweight some often cloud based software over traditional heavyweights like Microsoft office, so I thought I’d share some of these with you. I know this sounds kind of boring, but bear with me, you might find this interesting…
Ember is a great little mac app from Realmac Software. It’s sort of like a digital scrapbook, and you can use it for collecting images and more importantly screenshots. Ember is an evolution of Realmac’s earlier “Little Snapper” software which I really loved. In fact, I used little snapper extensively when I was writing my Aperture book for managing the screenshots. Ember adds all of Little Snapper’s features and adds iCloud syncing, a newer interface and more. I still use it primarily for organising screenshots. When I’m writing tutorials or other blog posts that require screenshots, I capture them straight into Ember. I can then use the software to crop, add annotations such as instructions, arrows, highlight a section and so on. If you need to manage and use screenshots, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Pocket is a read-it-later type tool that you can use to store articles for later reading. I’ve started using this recently, instead of Instapaper, which had been my previous choice for this kind of functionality. I like pocket more because it has a better mac app, and I find Instapaper a bit clunky sometimes.
I mostly use it for collecting articles and posts that I want to refer to later, or for articles that I want to re-blog or post to twitter. Because it works from most mobile devices too, I can be checking my RSS feeds on my iPhone for example, and if I see something I want to read later, or blog about later, I’ll add it to pocket. Then when I get back to my mac, it’s there waiting for me in the pocket app.
Byword is a fantastic tool. It’s basically a text editor that uses markdown. If you haven’t heard of markdown before it’s a simplified mark up language for writing web content (and other content too) without having to write html. It’s really simple to learn and it’s perfect for writing blog posts. In fact, I’m writing this with Byword right now.
There are a couple of things that I really like about Byword. Firstly it’s a lovely clean writing environment. Secondly, it’s cross platform, and there are iPhone and iPad versions too, which work really well. You can also use it with iCloud, so documents you write on your iPhone or iPad appear and sync with the mac app automatically. I can start writing something on my iPad for example, and then move to my laptop, and then to my desktop, all without ever having to send the file anywhere. You can also publish direct to Wordpress from Byword which is great, and it translates the markdown into HTML as it does so. When I’m working on a blog post, I’ll write all the text in byword, and then send it to my blog’s back end as a draft, and then add images and finish it off from the Wordpress interface.
Wunderlist is a great to-do list manager for the mac, iPhone, web and so on. It’s a cloud based service with apps for the various devices that I use, and it syncs across all of them. It’s a great lightweight and yet powerful to-do list manager and that’s one of the main reasons that I like it. I had previously used both Things and Realmac’s Clear as my to-do list apps of choice, but I found that Things was overly complicated when it comes to making simple lists, and Clear, which is great, kept suffering from iCloud problems.
For me Wunderlist strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and just the right level of complexity for my needs. It’s also from a cool German developer and I like supporting the software industry here in Europe whenever I can.
I use several apps for twitter depending on what I’m doing, but for overall management I use the excellent Tweet Deck. Tweet Deck is probably not the ideal tool if you just have one twitter account and your needs are pretty simple, but I use it because I can see feeds for multiple twitter accounts at once, as well as replies, lists and so on all in their own columns. It makes it a lot easier to manage multiple accounts and to make sure you don’t miss a direct message or a reply.
Early versions of Tweet deck were Adobe air based, and frankly, pretty awful. But a while ago they re-wrote it as a proper native app and now it’s much better. It’s also available for Windows and Chrome. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you have the need for managing multiple feeds and so on, then it’s perfect.
High Tail used to be known as YouSendit, and it’s a file transfer service. It allows you to send large files to clients from a simple to use desktop app (or via the web). The client receives an email with a link to the file and they can download it or save it if they have an account. There are a lot of different services out there at various pricing levels that offer similar functionality, but I really like high tail because it’s really fast, it’s very reliable and has a good reputation, and it makes it super simple to send files. I often need to send gigabytes of data to clients and this has made it a piece of cake. It’s relatively inexpensive too. It’s a subscription based service and I pay €14 a month for the plan that I use. Data is encrypted too and you can add passwords to files for added security. I use this practically every day when working on a project with clients.
This is another cloud based service that has come to be essential for me. It’s a cloud based accounting and invoicing service. What I love about it is that you can access it from anywhere, and it provides a great way to track invoices. One of the big problems one often encounters when running a business is getting some clients to pay. One of the excuses I often hear is: “I never got the invoice”. The beauty of Fresh Books is that invoices are sent via email, and when a client receives an invoice they have to click on a link to download it as a PDF. Once they do this you can see that they’ve received it, so that can’t use the “I never got it” excuse any more. Conversely, you can also see in the log if a client hasn’t opened an invoice. Normally you would have no way of knowing this, and you would have to wait until the credit period is up before you can start checking with them to check to see if they have received the invoice or not. But with Freshbooks you can see that it hasn’t been accessed, so you can gently remind your client that they they have been sent an invoice but that they haven’t opened it, and if necessary send it again. This is just one example.
It also offers the ability to take payments via Paypal, so if you don’t directly have credit card facilities, this will allow you to take credit card payments. You can also send out automated reminders if a client hasn’t paid in a set amount of time. I know this all sounds like I’m schilling for Freshbooks, but I’m not being paid by them, honestly!. The service really has changed the way I run aspects of my business since I’ve started using it. Of all the tools listed here, this is by far the most indispensable to me. I can’t imagine going back to the old way of invoicing and managing client accounts.
I hope you’ve found this roundup of tools useful. IU know they’re not directly related to photography, but they all aid in running a photography business, and in managing an online presence. There are of course lots of alternatives and at the end of the day, you need to use what works for you, but I hope this little roundup has provided some food for thought.
Instagram is one of the more popular social networks and more and more photographers are sharing images there. This is causing some degree of controversy, as for some, Instagram should only be used for images taken on a smart phone. However, I think that the network has moved on. In my feed, I’d say 50% of photos were taken with a smart phone, and the rest are images from other cameras share via the users phones. It doesn’t bother me really, and to be honest, I’m doing it to, and since I’ve started I’ve noticed much greater engagement on my Instagram account. In my opinion Instagram is now as important a social network as twitter and Facebook, and the app as much about that network as it is about sharing photos. 
The question then becomes, how do you actually post images taken with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera to Instagram, as Instagram doesn’t let you post to the network from a normal computer. If you normally sync your images to your smart phone anyway (for example, to an iPhone via iPhoto) then you’re already doing what you need to do. If not, well, there are lots of different approaches. If you have a newer camera with wifi, you can probably send images from your camera direct to your smart phone via your cameras companion app (here are apps for most major wifi equipped cameras). Alternatively you could use something like an eyefi card, although in my experience that’s pretty slow.
If you're using other software that doesn't sync, such as Capture One, Photoshop or even Lightroom, and you want to post to Instagram from your mac, there are a couple of ways to do it. If you’re using Lightroom and you have Lightroom mobile, you can sync your images to that, and then from within Lightroom mobile on your iPhone, you need to save the image to your camera roll. To do this in Lightroom Mobile, select your image and click on the share icon, then tap “share” and then “save image”. From there you can open them in Instagram.
If you’re not using Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile, an alternative is to use drop box. This is the method I use the most, as I think that it’s the quickest if you want to just post a single image.
In whatever software you're using export the image or images that you want to share to a folder within the photos folder on my Dropbox. It’s important to keep this folder within dropbox’s photos folder in order to make things a bit easier on the mobile side. When you do, they should show up in Dropbox's Photos section on your iPhone. You could pre-crop the images to a square format before exporting, but there’s no real need to do this, as you can do it in the app anyway.
Once you’ve exported your images, and they’ve synced to dropbox you need to go to dropbox on your phone and save the image. On the iPhone dropbox app, go to the “Photos” icon of the bottom of the interface, and there your photos should show up after the app has updated from dropbox’s servers. Select the image you want and using the share button, save it to your camera roll by tapping on “Save Image”. 
Now just launch Instagram, and when the camera window opens tap on the little icon beside the shutter button which should take you to your camera roll. There you can select the image you want, re-position it, and then do all the other things that you would normally do in Instagram.
There are other methods too. There are some Applications which will sync jpegs of the images in your Lightroom Library to your mobile device, and one of these could work well too, but personally I haven’t tried any. Of course the other alternative is to simply email the images to yourself, but that’s just going to clog up your email.
You can check out my Instagram feed on my Instagram page.
- I completely respect people’s opinions if they are opposed to seeing non-camera phone images on Instagram. I personally respectfully disagree, but that’s just my opinion.
- Hopefully when iOS 8 rolls out, Dropbox will be able to post directly to Instagram from the App. It’s possible that this is already the case on Android? If you have an Android device, let me know if it works this way in the comments below.
When I first created the Aperture blog several years ago, I wanted to create a website that showed people just how great Apple's Aperture could be. Over the years the site gained a great community of readers and even spawned a book, Mastering aperture, which was very well received and garnered lots of 5 star reviews. However, as with many things in life, it's time for a change. Earlier this year, Apple announced that it would no longer be developing Aperture. Personally, as Aperture hadn't received a serious update in many years, I had already moved on, and had been using Lightroom for over a year by the time the Apple announcement came. Even then, it was still a shock when the final announcement came. However, with every cloud there is a silver lining.
I had been wondering what to do with the Aperture Blog for some time. Even without Apple's announcement of Aperture's discontinuation, without any news and updates, I had already covered pretty much everything I could think of, but I still really wanted to support the community that had grown around the blog. I had several ideas, but in the end Apple's announcement meant that my decision was made for me.
So What Now
The old Aperture blog was great because of the community of readers, and the new one is for you too. When thinking about what to do something occured to me. While there's lots of photography sites out there, there isn't any mainstream blog dedicated to Photography tools on the Mac and iOS. As the existing community are all mac based anyway, and as I figure many of you probably have iPhones or iPads too, I decided that I would take up the mantle! Therefore, the all new Aperture Blog will be dedicated to photography tools on mac and iOS. I'm going to cover apps and software, as well as other tips and tricks, whether it's applescript or automator, or even things like iOS 8's new photography tools. And of course I'll cover Photos when it gets released next year.
The new blog is going to being hosted on a nice and shiny new server. Well, actually it's being hosted on on the superb Squarespace. The upshot of this is that the new site has a new look (which is a work in progress) which is nice and clean and focusses on the content, and it loads much faster, and it's fully retina compatible. The original Aperture blog is archived here, so you can still find old articles should you need to.
What will happen to the store?
The store will be closing but because there still seems to be demand, I'm keeping some of my presets still available until Aperture is discontinued, but I'm only going to offer the complete collection as one bundle (at the current reduced price). This will be online soon. Existing customers will still be able to re-download their purchases by sending me an email, and I'll send the download links.
You can help too
The old Aperture blog was great because of the community of readers, and the new one is for you too. You can help with the new website if you want. If there's a topic that interests you or you think I might want to cover then let me know. I can't get to everything, but if it's something that I think I can report on or try out, then I'll do my best to write about it.
If you want to send a link or a story that you think we might like, then send an email to email@example.com, or use the form on the contribute page.