Category: Apple

Winter photos à la iPhone

Some of you might think I’ve gone over to the dark side, but really, I’m celebrating the fact that great photos are now just an iPhone away. It’s not just iPhone, though, as Google Pixels 2 and Samsung Galaxy phones, amongst others, are now capable of producing amazing photographs.

In iOS 11, iPhones now shoot HDR images as the default, and the image quality is greatly improved. It also has a fantastic Portrait mode which, through software, blurs the background. And, the “Plus” models like the iPhone 8 Plus I’m using, has both a 28mm lens and a 56mm lens.

But the real bonus for me is RAW capture. Shooting in RAW permits processing for the highest image quality possible. While the candid photos I take, the snapshots, are made using the iOS camera app that comes with the phone, the landscapes – my more serious work – is all done using one of few different RAW camera apps. I’ve written an article on this that will be published in Lumnious-Landscape.com, but for now, suffice it say, I’m loving using Lightroom Mobile and ProCamera. There are really only three of four mobile phone apps that are useful for shooting raw and these are the two best.

Lr Mobile is free and you do not need to subscribe to Adobe’s “cash grab” Creative Cloud to make use of it. ProCamera is $5.99 and well worth the cost. While I prefer ProCamera’s histogram approach to showing clipped highlights, I love using Lr Mobile’s HDR-RAW feature: it takes three shots in succession at +2, 0 and –2 EV and automatically aligns, merges, deghosts, and tonemaps the photo. While it’s a whopping 43mb in size, it is all set for full-bit-depth editing in Lightroom. Fantastic!!

Anyway, enough blabbering – here are the photos. I’ll update the blog when Luminous-Landscape publishes my iPhone Raw article. Enjoy!

Miss the darkroom? There’s an app for that!

Apple’s App of the Day today (28 Dec ‘17) is Darkr. I don’t usually look too closely at the AotD, and sometimes not for days or weeks, but, as a photographer and former large format and darkroom enthusiast, this one certainly caught my eye.

Select your camera format or work in the darkroom

Darkr takes me back to simpler times, at least that’s what my heart is telling me. It is both a large format camera (and medium and “pocket” format camera) and a Darkroom all built into an app. What a thrill it was for me to lie in bed this morning and have an upside-down-and-backwards view camera image on my iPhone (also available for iPad, but my iPad Air has only a 5mp Camera), complete with etched grid lines and a loop for focusing. Anyone who has ever worked with a large format camera would appreciated this view.

When I say “large format, l’m referring to the old-style cameras with a leather bellows in front. For years, I used a beautiful Zone VI cherry wood field camera that made beautiful 4×5″ negatives. Yes, that’s inches – about half the size of the iPad screen I’m writing on right now. But 4×5″ was just the beginning; large format included 5×7″, 8×10″ (one of Angel Adams favourites) and 11×14”. There were even 16x20l versions that shot Polaroids! It was a huge industry through the late 19th century and right through the 20th century. I bought my “old-style” 4×5 camera in the 1990s! Working with negatives and transparencies that large meant the image quality was untouchable.

But alas, that era is behind us. My Nikon D800E captures more detail than my 4×5 could and my Sony RX-10iii isn’t far behind. The methods of working on a tripod may still be there, but the mystique of working under a dark cloth with a loupe around your neck and a pocket full of yellow, orange and red filters is gone, along with developing negatives, making test strips, changing contrast grades, and burning and dodging to make prints. BUT…

Darkr brings it all back again…

Yellow filter selected. Yes, it’s upside-down and backwards – it’s large format, after all!

…without the dark cloth and tripod, darkroom chemicals and water usage. As I said, as I lay in bed this morning, I set up my large format camera, selected ILFORD HP-5 film, put on a yellow filter, used my loupe to select the focus point, chose my shutter speed, tilted as needed, and “click” made my first exposure.

4×5 neg, complete with notches in top left.

This first exposure became a beautiful and classic 4×5 negative, complete with cut notches in the top left! From there, I entered the Darkroom where the immersive experience continued sans red light and chemicals. Honestly, I do miss the other-worldly experience of entering a darkroom with the acrid smell of stop bath and the earthy smell of developer (but not the mixing and washing).

In the Darkroom, I was presented with a series of horizontal test-

Test strips. Scroll up and down to change time; scroll left and right to change contrast.

strips. Swiping up increased the time, swiping down, the opposite. Swiping left and right changed the contrast, just like a multi-contrast head on an enlarger or multi-contrast filters. The filters are even coloured correctly – the level of detail the creators of the app have included is amazing, but not without some need for improvements (see below).

Toning options are available once you have a good-looking “print”.

Once you have a basic print, there are a variety of typical darkroom options: Crop, Dodge, Burn, Blur and Tone. The dodge and burn options take a little getting used to, but are great once you do. The best part, though, is how each option you use is stored as a layer. This digital advantage lets you revisit what you’ve done and change things about, although cropping really must be done first.

Final print – my first darkroom print in over 17 years!

So, why bother? As one commenter said, “I did darkroom processing for real…and I now realise I don’t miss it at all.” While I, too, am in this category, Darkr seems to retain well the methods and thought behind using film and darkroom processing, without the hassle of chemicals and water use.

Can you make “better” black and whites in other apps? Perhaps, especially with the near-endless sliders and options of apps such as Photos, Polarr and high-end apps like Lightroom. But there’s something about simplifying options that clarifies the process. For example, test strips: rather than constantly “playing” with sliders until things “look good”, going back and forth between whites and blacks and shaows, exposure and contrast, with Darkr, you are using a combination of exposure and contrast – two options – to attain your base print.

From there, you can apply dodging (selective lightening) or burning (selective darkening), just like using adjustments brushes in Lightroom. Lastly, you may (or may not) tone the image – selenium, cyanotype or sepia – in varying degrees.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia speaking more than practicality, but I feel apps don’t always need to be pragmatic and efficient to be useful. If anything, this simplification teaches one to be more observant. To the observant, the varying times of the test strips offer insights 8nto the relationships between light and dark, as does the switching of contrasts.

Perhaps this is my own darkroom experience talking and these nuances are not readily apparent to newbies, but I see this as not only nostalgic fun, but a good training ground of sorts, from the upside-down-backwards view presented by the Large Format  option to the selections of time and contrast. The limiting factor is the 12mp camera on the iPhone. If this system could be used with a 20mp+ camera, it would certainly be more enticing. That being said, you can import photos from Photos to work on them in the Darkroom.

The best part, though, is the price: Darkr is only $3.99. Actually, it’s free, but paying the $3.99 does two things: it supports the developers to keep refining the app (I have some improvements I’d like to see, and it unlocks some of the refinements that make Darkr so much fun.

Some of the improvements I would like to see include:

  • Spot metering – I would like to read my highlight and shadow areas to allow me to use…
  • Zone system placements; shadows with detail on Zone II – the “West Coast, Ansel Adams” way or highlights with detail on Zone VIII as Fred Picker invented on the East Coast;
  • Orange filter, for when yellow is too little and red is too much;
  • Cold and warm-tone papers options would be nice, even different paper bases;
  • Adding a cold-tone selenium effect of slight purple cast would be welcomed;
  • Vertical test strips are needed to accommodate checking different parts of a print. Making the print above would have benefitted from seeing the bright white of the duvet in the same strip
  • Lastly, the app needs a way to maintain the proportions when cropping (or select an aspect ratio).

I should note that these “improvements” may already be built into the app and I missed them. I’ll be spending more time with Darkr over the next few days and hope to discover more of it’s secrets.

Steve Jobs, visionary extraordinaire, has passed away.

It is a truly sad day for computer aficionados everywhere, Mac and PC and Linux alike. With the passing of Steve Jobs – a unique and creative visionary – the world has lost a truly gifted person. I am not one to lament the passing of billionaire CEOs and celebrities, but Steve Jobs was different. Maybe it’s his Buddhist faith or that he was a vegetarian or perhaps it’s his success from humble beginnings – not just the invention, out of his family’s garage, of a whole new way of computing, but that he was an adopted child which has its own difficulties. He was a brilliant thinker and was willing to stick to his vision despite the monolithic domination of Microsoft and Windows. We’ll miss you Steve!

Low Price of Aperture a huge draw

I can’t believe the price of Aperture – since the opening of the new Mac App store, the price has dropped to $79. What a deal and definitely worth the investment if you have a Mac more recent than my MacBook Pro of 2008.

My main complaint with Aperture was its slow response at times – a product of my MacBook more than anything else. In fact, recently, I’ve noticed a slow down and spinning ball with Lightroom at times, to the point where I’ve had to do a Force Quit. Lightroom seems to hang when inadvertently going to Web Module for All Photographs (totally over 20,000).

What I love about Aperture it is fantastic healing brush – far superior to the lame “Spot Removal” in Lightroom. It’s worth having it around just for that feature – but then there are the superb Apple books – unparalleled in the publishing world except at double the price.

New iPhoto Book hot off the press

Finally – I’ve finished the book illustrating our East Coast trip from the summer of 2010. An once again, Apple does not disappoint.

 

Cover of iPhoto book: East Coast 2010

The photos were processed in Photoshop Lightroom 3 then exported as high quality jpegs and imported into iPhoto ’11. From there, I dragged them into the project file and began creating, assembling and writing. I used the ‘Modern Lines’ theme for its clean look. I tried some of the less formal themes but found that I lost “photo space” to “page space”. I want the photos to dominate, not the page or the graphics.

The book ended up being 76 pages in length with 173 photos – the best of which are full page. The bulk of the text is set in 11pt DearJoe4 – a great handwriting font available as a free, incomplete font from dafont.com or as a full font from the creator at  joebob.nl

I’m really pleased with how well everything came together. Only two complaints:

  • p75 with photos reversed compared to what I preferred

    on one of the last pages, I wanted two small photos on the left with one large on the right to keep the somewhat chronological flow and iPhoto would only allow the larger pic on the right;

  • Cut off ascenders on p72

    on 4-photo page, I wanted two full lines of text which I achieved by reducing the font size to 9pt, decreasing the leading to 0.83 but still, the very tops of the ascenders were cut off. BTW if you want a great resource for typography – have a look at Adobe’s online booklet; Typography Primer. It is very informative. It looks like a booklet Apple published about 20 years ago which they included with the Mac Classic.

These two complaints are a small price to pay for a great looking book. I could have remedied the second problem, but the first is an in-built design selection by Apple. And I can see why they keep the larger photo on the left of a right-hand page as the two smaller photos would be lost or squeezed if the larger photo was on the right.

Here are a few of the other pages:

 

The reproduction of the black and whites is superb on p9
This photo-on-photo of Dickson Falls on p21 worked very well

 

Composite of 2 photos created in Photoshop

 

One of my favourite photos is of our daughter Allison at the Habitation, Port Royal, Nova Scotia, dressed in period costume - it deserved a full page!

iPad for Photographers

A number of people keep asking me how I like Apple’s new iPad. Frankly, I love it and would have one except it’s not quite there, yet, for photographers. To make it truly useful as a content generator (as opposed to its current configuration as a content provider), I think it needs the following:

  • larger HD – 64 GB doesn’t cut it when I have 12GB of music alone,not to mention apps plus docs; photos and slideshows take space!
  • more efficient USB support for external HDs – I keep all my raw images on a portable HD; only my Lightroom catalogue is on the computer but even the data for it takes 8GB
  • multitasking – it appears to be here with iOS 4.0 – we’ll have to see how efficient it is
  • LR for iPad for ingesting images (2 USB ports needed – one for the camera, t’other for the portable HD), cataloguing; even some initial processing should be possible
  • a larger screen would be wonderful – preferably 16:9 ratio.

I know, I’m not asking for much. If you read this Steve, please take note!

Aperture vs Lightroom – Decision Time!

So the winner is…

I’ll get to that in a moment. This process of comparing the two apps has been a great learning process. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. What is unfortunate is that although both manage photos very well, surprisingly, neither of them has the processing side nailed down as well as technology current allows. In other words, what is arguable the whole point of this exercise – producing the highest-possible quality of photographs – is not done perfectly in either application.

Both apps are missing what I deem to be a key feature: Transformation. I am not much a city person, but when I photograph buildings, I want to correct the inherent perspective distortion. I don’t usually remove all of it as I do want the give the impression of size and distance. This is only possible in Photoshop. Even Photoshop Elements has it, so Lightroom and Aperture should have it as well!!!

Lightroom lacks a truly useful spotting brush; it is still back in the days of a round-only, spot-only dust removal system. I don;t have a problem with dust – my problem is with errant twigs and stems of grasses. Aperture’s Retouch brush is a true brush that allows you to work with long, thin distractions such as twigs, powerlines and hairs – even iPhoto, Apple’s free photo app, has this feature! C’mon Adobe – this is a no-brainer. Just add your Photoshop Healing Brush to Lightroom!! Again, even Elements has this feature – surely Lightroom should, too!

Aperture is slow to use. I can’t count the number of times I get a spinning ball waiting for full res images to load (MBP 15″ 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo w/ 4GB RAM and nothing else open!). If I have to wait like this I would never be able to wade through all my images. Aperture has a superior GUI, though; e.g. the image filmstrip comes up on the left side – proportionately, I have more left-right screen real estate so putting on the side makes better use of my space.

I also love Aperture’s brushes and their implementation. Anything can be a brush and can be painted in or out. However,  in Lightroom I find it helpful to be able to turn on or off the mask created through using the Adjustment Brush. As well, having multiple changes using one brush is very helpful; e.g. I can increase exposure and contrast and decrease saturation all in one easily editable brush.

Ultimately, my decision is to use Lightroom for four main reasons:

  • Aperture is too slow in reacting to rather simple changes;
  • Lightroom allows Adjustment Brush “multi-tasking”;
  • Lightroom has a graduated filter – I use graduated filters frequently in landscape images;
  • Lightroom is backwards-compatible with all my previously-processed the raw files created using Bridge and ACR. Switching to Aperture would mean having to redo past images.

So, for those who have been following this saga, there you have it. It’s Lightroom – and, may I point out, Lightroom 2. I have downloaded Lightroom 3 Beta and will commit to it when it is a full version, but this comparison was actually between Lightroom 2 and Aperture 3 – rather telling.

In the near future, I will add a Lightroom workflow to give a sense of how I make use of the app.

UPDATE:

The new header was made from within Lightroom 2 using the LR/Mogrify2 plugin from Timothy Armes found at the Photographer’s Toolbox. Great app and it’s donationware, so please donate to Timothy to get full access to it. Wonderful as it is, I still needed Photoshop to create the luxBorealis.com in the font I chose as LR/Mogrify2 only recognizes .ttf fonts and doesn’t, as yet, add stokes to fonts. BTW it would be nice to have drop shadows for fonts and images, too (just in case you’r reading this, Timothy!)

UPDATE 2:

I’ve been taking a bit of heat from the Apple community about not supporting Aperture. Let me assure everyone that I am a staunch Apple supporter and have been for 20 years now, starting with a Mac Classic! I have used Mac and Windows for the same length of time and will always be a Mac.

Why Mac?

I have been using Microsoft-based computers since I first started desktop computing back in the late 1980s. I have also been using Macintosh computers regularly since 1990. Over the last 20 years I have seen all the iterations that Microsoft and Apple have brought to the desktop computer. So before you try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about and am simply a Mac fan-boy – I have used both systems continually over the last 20 years and have explored a great deal more in computing than the average user.

It’s funny that I don’t actually remember my early experiences with Microsoft except that it was a DOS environment filled with white type on a blue screen and myriad special codes needed to get anything to work. In contrast, I will never forget the first time I sat down at a Mac all those years ago. It was a Mac SE or  Classic and it was as much an epiphany as watching that first sheet of exposed photo paper go into the developer blank and gradually appear as a black and white photo. If you’re a photographer and you’ve never experienced a moment like this then  – well I’m not quite sure what to write because the days of experiencing a darkroom certainly seem to be numbered.

[Aside: A similar epiphany moment happened the first time I used Google, literally days after it was first “on air” in 1998. I clearly remember marking a student’s term paper – I got the feeling that some plagiarism was going on so I input a phrase that seemed too good for a (then) Grade 13 student into Lycos and found nothing. Then I tried AltaVista. Finding nothing still, I tried Google. It found that exact phrase, and subsequently much of the student’s paper, in milliseconds. I was sold on Google. Google is great because it works and it’s fun – same thing with Macs.]

I remember sitting down at the Mac Classic 20 years ago and discovering how, for the first time, I could actually see on-screen what my page looked like. In retrospect, it seems bizarre how we went backwards from a typewriter – the original wysiwyg device – to a blue screen with pixellated characters that didn’t look anything like the output, then back to true wysiwyg. What’s more bizarre is that the non-wysiwyg blue monster would go on to become the more popular of the two. It is truly amazing how one thing – price – can make all the difference in the world. I am sure glad that Apple has not succumbed to the inane notion that popularity equates to quality (as is all too often the case – tonight being a good example  with the Academy Awards!)

And this mouse-thing – what a concept! And fonts galore – cool fonts with Dingbats and things – all  without silly cartridges for the printer. I have to admit at being a bit of a font geek since my high school days and Letraset. Sure Macs were twice the price – but I never got tired of computing on a Mac. And now with gestures and trackpads and music and photos and productivity all at my fingertips and anytime. I don’t know how many Windows users still shut down every time they finish. They are amazed that I don’t shut down my Mac for weeks despite intensive computing sessions with 8 or 9 apps open and dragging and dropping and communicating between them. I just do the same thing with my Mac as I do with myself every night – I put it to sleep.

So, why Mac?
Simply – Macs work, Macs don’t get viruses and Macs are fun.

Macs work right out of the box. Macs work whenever I plug something into it. I had my wireless system at home set up in minutes with my $99 Airport Express my printer and two laptops. If,when I plug something in, the driver isn’t “on-board”, my Mac goes and finds it, downloads it  and, with my permission only, installs it. No .exe files that carry nasty little bits of code that ruin machines. In fact, Mac’s can’t get infected unless you allow it by entering your password.

Did I say fun? Did I say easy to use? Take this example. As a photographer I like to create slideshows of images. I have two options

  • Option 1: the absolutely free, intuitive and excellent slide shows from within iPhoto – complete with Kens burns Effects if I want them, or not;
  • Option 2: Open a Keynote template > go to iPhoto and select the photos you want to display > click and drag them to Keynote (Option-Tab will take you there or to any other app immediately) and drop them onto the Slides pane – Voilà – the photos are instantly put in as separate slides that keep all the attributes of the template.

Oh yeah – Voilà reminded me of that other great Mac feature – decidedly unimportant to the vast numbers of unilinguals (read monoculturals) – the easy way that Macs do accents.

A note about Apple Keynote (part of the iWork suite) – I do presentations in lots of different places as part of my photo courses & workshops, at schools, at churches, … and I am always asked what software I used to create them. Invariably those that ask recognize that my presentations aren’t made with Powerpoint, but are amazed when I tell them Keynote is part of a $79 suite of apps from Apple.

I know, I know – by publishing this I’m going to piss-off a number of users who don’t agree and  I’m opening myself up to all the users out there who have wonderful things to say about Windoze. But lets face it folks, while Windows does a few things better than a Mac, Macs do a pile of things better than Windows including all the populist things like games and all the highly specialized things like linking hundreds of machines together for super-computing.

But it’s the everyday things that are made easier and more fun like writing an email, word processing and browsing the net. My Mac easily talks to and exchanges photos, music and other files with my wife’s Mac over our home network. I must admit that Windows has caught up to Mac in many ways and they are cheaper. My sister claims that she can buy three Windows laptops for the price of a Mac (not! unless they are three little netbooks) but the next time you want to do a cost comparison, ask yourself how much your time is worth – finding drivers, downloading incessant updates and security fixes, protecting your computer from viruses and restoring data after a blue screen affair or after a virus has wiped access to your hard drive.

Oh and cheaper? I think not. compare the price of OS upgrades even before Snow Leopard ($29). Mac Mail is Free. iChat is Free. iDVD is Free. iLife with iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb and GarageBand is Free. And, unlike most freebies, these things actually work! But what about Office, you say? 90% of what 90% of us use in Office is in iWork – just $79 for Pages, Keynote and Numbers together – and I can vouch for them all being wonderfully easy and fun to use – even for power users like myself.

[Still not convinced, check out the objective reports on productivity differences between the average office worker using Mac vs Windows. Macs are quicker to learn and quicker to be productive with and, because they are fun, people want to use them so they are more productive. IT people certainly don’t want to switch to Macs because it’s been shown that fewer IT people are needed to support the same number of Macs because they have fewer problems. So, the ones making the decisions are perhaps not the most objective. Lastly, looking at total cost of ownership, Macs still come out on top for year-over-year costs.]

Apple iPad – for photographers?

Apple iPadI’ve been away for a week up in “God’s country” – the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario – so I missed the hoopla surrounding the release of the Apple iPad. Some would call it a boring over-dramatization, even gaudy melodrama. I, for one, usually enjoy Steve Jobs delivery of new, revolutionary products. This time, he is showing his age with unnecessary repetition and  occasional silted delivery. However, this blog isn’t about Steve Jobs or the launch, it’s about the iPad itself.

The iPad truly is Apple’s

most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

During the launch, I would have thought they would use the Beatle’s Revolution, but I guess things aren’t yet patched up between Apple and Apple Records. That being said, I am greatly excited by the potential of the iPad.

Fifteeen years ago when I was teaching high school Geography, I conceived of a “notebook” somewhat akin to the iPad. Except mine had a stylus and was more productivity oriented than the iPad’s entertainment orientation. I like the iPad and it could certainly find a place in my life for these reasons (without having actually played with one). At the same time, I feel that I will pass on this first iteration, because, for me, it’s not quite there. For photographers as well, I feel it’s not quite there yet. Here we go:

  • the screen is gorgeous – the best on the market. Although I am not a fan of glossy screen for doing photo work, this one appears to be a keeper. And the 1024×768 size is decent, however
    • I want real estate. I would much prefer to cart around an extra pound of weight if it meant having a 15″ screen. When I move from my MacBook to something else, I don’t want to scrimp. You see, I’m looking at iPad as a way to shed weight and bulk and things. I want it to do what my MacBook does (well, almost) without having to carry my MacBook.
  • the interconnectivity is excellent – WiFi on all, 3GS if you want it (although no phone capability – so I still need to carry a phone although Skype might have something to say about that – very soon). Cameras can also be connected via the Camera Connection Kit (thanks, Dennis for pointing that out!). This makes the iPad a good replacement for the Epson Picture Viewer – but not an ideal due to the small hard drive of the iPad – 64GB maximum.
    • Productivity for me is the key. As I mention above, the iPad must be able to stand on its own so I don’t need my laptop with me as well. I live by my email, calendar and address book, so I’m pleased to see them implemented so well on the iPad. As well, iWork is an incredibly easy, intuitive and friendly set of apps that I use everyday. Keynote, alone is worth ditching PowerPoint which looks positively archaic next to Keynote. Pages kicks Word’s butt. Numbers is still maturing but still far more useful to me than clunky old Excel. I know Office is the industry standard on “every” computer (and, when needed I can export as Word, PowerPoint and Excel), but I don’t get rave reviews of PowerPoints like I do of Keynotes, and for me, as a photographer, it’s the presentation that counts. For me as a user, it is also the interface that counts and iWork has Office beat to death. However,
      • I need to come back to screen size. Sorry to harp on it, but, other than the lack of a USB, it’s the deal-killer for me. No doubt, Microsoft will come out with an Office version for iPad and there will be a whole slew of further offerings, but they will need to be workable on the 10″ screen. Maybe I need to get an iPad in my hands to see how well I can work on a small screen, but from first look, I’m skeptical.
    • the battery power is phenomenal. At 10 hours – even they overestimate by 20% – the iPad can work through a full day of use – nicely done, Apple!
    • the Apps have huge potential. I can easily see Adobe putting out a Photoshop for iPad. Being able to edit and manipulate photos on a touch screen would mean a Wacom Tablet at $200 is no longer needed. But again, the small screen size is getting in the way of real productivity

    The other potential deal-breakers for photographers and others – besides the lack of a USB – are:

    • the size of the hard drive. At only 64GB (the largest HD and most expensive iPad) is potentially 1/4 of what it needs to be. Heck, I have 12GB of music alone. And, I don’t want to just show photos – I want to upload the RAW images from my camera and at least start the file management process and perhaps some initial editing. Not impossible with only 64GB, but definitely limiting. You see, my laptop is my office – it has all the files I need to be productive anywhere. I don’t have time for the level of entertainment offered by the iPad – great if you are stuck on a commuter train for an hour everyday. But at only 64GB, I would be spending too much time swapping files rather than working on them. Let’s see, what files do I need today to be productive on the road…oops I forgot that file on my laptop…
    • the lack of multi-tasking. Why has Apple taken a step back from its leadership in multi-tasking. I am shocked by this, actually. I don’t want to close an app (like a photo, Keynote or Pages doc) just to search for another song or check my calendar or my emails

    The bottom line question for me is, can I get away from carrying around my laptop by using an iPad? Almost. The killers are:

    • screen size – it’s too small to be truly productive;
    • small hard drive – too small for RAW and manipulation;
    • lack of multi-tasking – who doesn’t multi-task these days!; and
    • lack of USB to upload photos.

    If I have some downtime after a shoot on the road, I want to go beyond just looking at my photos. And if I can’t be truly productive then I need to carry my laptop. If I need to carry my laptop then I don’t need an iPad. I would gladly pay $1000 for an iPad that had even a 14″ screen, 250GB hard drive and USB connectivity – something that would be more productive than entertaining. There’s my wish-list, Steve!

    Making Photo Books with iPhoto

    I have had a wonderful experience as of late publishing two books using Apple’s free iPhoto application. It hasn’t been without a learning curve, but what I’ve found is that even simple books are very straightforward. Being the nit-picker I am, though, I’ve complicated my life by wanting details and customization that stretched iPhoto. But I have been very pleased at how iPhoto responded by stretching and accommodating the finessing I wanted. In fact, when I took one of my books to a local printer for a quote, they were astounded with the quality before I even told them how I made it and what it cost to make.

    What I like about iPhoto…

    Tanzania - a book of fine art photographs by Terry A. McDonald
    Tanzania (Dec 2009)

    Now, before I go too far, I should warn Windows users that iPhoto is only available to Mac users. It’s a shame, really, because I have yet to see a free photo library/catalogue app for Windows that even comes close to the capability of iPhoto. In fact, I have yet to see an inexpensive app (less than $75) that does what iPhoto can do. Furthermore, building on the success of iTunes, Apple could easily offer “iPhoto Windows” as a $10 or $15 app for download only. Anyway – back to the main event…

    Lake Superior Provincial Park iPhoto book

    I wrote an earlier blog about the usefulness of iPhoto here, but in summary I find iPhoto great:

    • for easily and quickly finding photos;
    • for cataloguing photos using events, albums and keywords;
    • as a repository of high-quality, high-resolution jpegs of all my fine art and family photos;
    • for creating engaging slideshows directly through iPhoto or seamlessly integrated with Apple’s Keynote;
    • for creating photo galleries uploaded to my MobileMe site (which you may already have for your iPhone)
    • for creating photo pages usingApple’s free iWeb app then uploaded to my website;
    • for emailing photos or uploading to Flickr, PicasaWeb, Panoramio, JAlbum, etc.
    • because I can have multiple Libraries for different uses and world locations.

    There’s a whole lot more, but this is a good summary for now.

    "Modern Lines" theme from my iPhoto book Tanzania

    Now – about iPhoto Books…

    The advantage of iPhoto books versus online books is that you can work on them without being online: waiting for files to be uploaded, waiting for pages to load, etc. Some online photo book sites have mini apps you download to help prevent this, but I have yet to find them as smooth, seamless, versatile and customizable as iPhoto. With iPhoto, I am not limited to pre-determined fonts and sizes – I can use any font and most sizes up to about 72pt for titles and even 36pt for text. I can also have hard cover books with custom dust jackets – very professional looking! And all of this comes at a very reasonable price: USD 29.99 plus 6.99 shipping (for the first book of  multi-book order) for an 8.5×11 20-page, hard cover book with a custom dust jacket (front back and both flaps).

    Ordering is a snap using my Apple Account (the same one I have for iTunes music downloads). Shipping is via FedEx. I thought this would be a problem for me here in Canada with merchandise crossing the border, but there are no extra shipping, brokerage or duty charges (SSSHHHHHH – don’t tell the government, but they aren’t even collecting PST and GST!!). And get this – books I upload on a Sunday afternoon arrived at my door here in southern Ontario on Thursday around noon – talk about FAST! I can also track the books online from their origin in the Memphis, Tennessee area. Amazing, truly amazing!!

    Making a Book

    Books can be made as easily as:

    • selecting the photos in iPhoto;
    • clicking on the “Book” icon at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
    • selecting the size and style you want;
    • clicking on Autoflow for iPhoto to assemble the photos automatically;
    • adding a title and captions;
    • clicking on “Buy Book” and inputing your details.
    "Formal" theme - from my Lake Superior book

    While all of this can be accomplished in as few as 10 minutes, you will need to spend a while longer to truly take advantage of all the custom features. This list will give you an idea of the work flow I use in creating a book:

    1. Select a few photos and click “Book” at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
    2. Add more photos by selecting and dragging them from the iPhoto window to the icon of your book in the left panel;
    3. Click on the book icon in the left panel. Place each photo into the book by dragging them one-by-one from the top “filmstrip” view and dropping each onto an image placeholder(s) on each page.
      • Be sure to put the photos into a chronology or in an order that tells a story;
    4. Choose individual page layouts and a cover layout;
    5. Choose page background colour or  full photo background which can be left as it or lightened to go behind text;
    6. Edit & crop photos as needed (by double-clicking or selecting “Adjust” at the bottom of the window);
      • I tend to edit (colour balance, enhance, drop etc.) all my raw files in Adobe Camera Raw then convert them to full-resolution, highest quality jpegs for import into iPhoto, so they already tend to be optimized.
      • If you are shooting jpegs, be sure to shot at maximum size and resolution (minimum compression) so that they may be used as full-sized images in a photo book or calendar.
    7. Tweak the size and/or view of photos using the pop-up window or by Ctrl-clicking (“Fit photo to frame size” or not);
    8. Write and format descriptive text for the captions, dust jacket, title page and/or  chapter pages;
    9. Select the font style and sizes for the titles, subtitles and various text elements:
      1. Click on “Settings” and a whole host of global options is provided; or
      2. Use Command-T to bring up the font palette – this extremely powerful for setting title and sub-title fonts, font colour and drop shadows (BTW this is a feature not given in iPhoto, but built into the Mac OS yet available for iPhoto);
    10. Tweaking the descriptive captions;
    11. Proofread;
    12. Proofread again (preferable by someone else and/or from back to front);
    13. Proofread and check for the last time (seriously – any errors are forever!).

    If this isn’t enough customization, you can even switch themes if the one you’ve chosen is not working for you. Before you do so, though, I would suggest duplicating your current book (select the book in the left column of iPhoto > Control-click to get the pop-up menu > choose “Duplicate”). That way if layouts or type are messed up in the change (due to differences in layout from theme to theme) you won’t lose the hard work you’ve put into the book thus far.

    The trick with iPhoto is to spend some time playing so that you get to know all the possible features. In fact, I would suggest choosing 20 or so photos at random and creating a “Practise Book” first. Make all your mistakes there while learning the skills to produce a truly beautiful book. Good luck and have fun! The results will be truly rewarding.