iPhone to print matching: is it possible??

I never thought I'd see the day when I could take a photo on my phone, view & enhance it on the phone, uploaded it to an online photo host, share links with my friends, order prints, and receive color accurate images in the mail. Yet today I'm seeing that day. I've been having fun using my iPhone 4 to capture little snippets of life and then processing them with my new favorite iPhone app, PictureShow, which has basic adjustments, great effects, cool borders, and even nice texture overlays. It really comes closest to what I love to do to my images with Photoshop on my computer. I then upload the images to a photo sharing site with one of my online album iPhone companion apps.
I've tried a lot of the iPhone photo sharing apps, and I like several of them. I love SmugMug and they have several apps that connect to my SmugMug account. I also like iPicasso for connecting to my Picassa albums. But the Phanfare app is really different because it not only lets me upload images to my Phanfare site, but keeps them organized and cached on the iPhone as well (meaning you don't have to be online to see the images on the iPhone). You can take photos with the app or copy them from your iPhone albums. You can also post images directly to your Facebook albums via the app. And, most importantly, I can easily order accurate prints from Phanfare OR print directly from the app to my HP inkjet! There are a couple features I'd like to see improved, like the ability to add multiple photos at one time from the iPhone photo library (currently you have to add one at a time). And, I'd like to see the print order defaults that I setup on the website reflected when I order from the phone. Other than that, it's pretty amazing all the features you get in a free app.


So, I received my first print order in the mail this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the prints matched my iPhone 4 screen almost exactly. Wow, that is just weird. If you've been around digital imaging and printing for a while, then you know this is no small wonder. It would seem the iPhone 4 screen is incredibly color accurate and Phanfare's printing is well color managed. I really never expected it to be this easy. I wasn't expecting anything really close in color, I just wanted to see the detail and quality of the iPhone images - which was also very impressive in the 4x6 sized prints. Now, my entire thought process behind iPhone imaging has changed. I will be taking my photos and editing more seriously knowing that they can actually be made in to quality prints. Next up, larger image print tests and an Asukabook photo book all from iPhone images.


Here's a snapshot of the images I loaded in to my Phanfare album. You can see the full-sized images by clicking the collage below to go to my Phanfare site. 




iPhone's new built-in HDR, gimmick or groovy?

What are the best uses for the newly added camera HDR feature for iPhones? Apple just released a free update to their OS4 software that adds in-camera HDR to the latest devices. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a process of combining multiple exposures to achieve a single, highly detailed image. There has been third-party software available via the app store to do HDR, but never has it been quite this easy. There is simply an additional button on your camera screen to turn HDR on or off. By default, when you take an HDR image, the phone saves both an original, non-HDR version and the composite HDR version automatically. You can quickly review both images after taking them to see which you prefer. 

Here's my take on it. It's great. If you know what HDR is actually for...capturing details in extreme highlight and shadow areas of high contrast scenes - details that would normally be lost in a normal, single exposure, then you'll immediately see the benefit and quality difference the new HDR tool provides. HDR is not for every image. A well lit scene, with relatively low contrast, will not pose any challenge for a single exposure. Using HDR may make it appear flatter in contrast (when in reality, under histogram inspection, you'll see a very full white-to-black contrast range). 

Where HDR is great (and where it's intended to be used) is in extreme contrast scenes where your important detail is going to be either blown out in the highlights or obscured and noisy in the shadows. As you'll see in my quick examples and experiment, even if you used desktop software to try to rescue your normal exposure - essentially opening up the shadows and bringing down highlights, in an attempt to match the HDR image, the results will not even be close. The adjusted image cannot touch an HDR image for highlight detail and overall color accuracy and saturation in challenged areas.

I took a walk at lunch today. It is a beautiful, bright sunny day, perfect for HDR play. Let's take a look!

Notice the shadow side of the barn and the brightly lit grass. Click the image to see it larger.Wow! Look at the detail and color in the beams of light. Click the image to see it larger.Look at the sunlit grass in the back. Much more detail is preserved.Lots of preserved detail in the HDR version here. Click the image to see it larger.One of the limits of HDR is when you have moving subjects. Since the camera takes 3 shots sequentially, the subject has to be relatively still or ghosting will appear, as shown.More shadow information and detailsOnce detail is gone, it's gone. No amount of adjustment in software later can recover the lost information, detail, and color.This last pair of images illustrates how even if you took the time to download your images, work them in iPhoto, Lightroom, or Photoshop, you would not be able to "fix" the original image to achieve the level of detail and color accuracy that an HDR image provides. On the other hand, by doing some minor adjustments to global contrast on your HDR image, you'll be rewarded with snappy images that preserve tons of detail from bright highlights to deep shadow.

For creating highly detailed images in camera, with minimal fuss, the new HDR feature is a welcome new tool. Oh, and it's free :-)


Old world Seattle

As we ferried our way towards Seattle today, I took this with my iPhone and processed it with TiltShiftGen and Lo-Mob on the iPhone. It's really interesting to me how the vintage look makes me want to study the photo a bit more. It's as if the psychological effect of thinking it's vintage makes me want to look longer and gives it more appeal.