A new version of the TK8 plugin (version 1.1.3) is now available at the download server. This is a free update for customers who currently have a license to use this software. To get this update, do ONE of the following two things.
1. Get a fresh download folder using your original download link. Search your email for “e-junkie.com” (the download server) or “Tony Kuyper” to find your TK8 download link. Then use the download link in that email to get a fresh download folder.
2. Follow the procedure to generate a new download link in the email that was sent to TK8 customers on Friday, March 18.
There are installation directions in the download folder. It is NOT necessary to uninstall your previous version of TK8. Installing TK8 version 1.1.3 will overwrite any version currently installed.
Hold onto your email with the download link as that link will allow you to get future updates also.
Once you have installed the new version, click the “TK” button to open the preferences on each module and make sure you see “v 1.1.3” in the lower right corner.
This is an important update. Please install it. Some of the more significant changes are listed below.
Fixes a possible memory leak that can sometimes occur in version 1.1.1 and earlier.
Restores the visually mechanical look of the buttons when they are clicked.
In Edit Selection mode, after executing “Save Mask,” the “_TK_Edit_Selection” layer mask is selected again so additional selection editing can be done.
Outputting a mask created by the Multi-Mask module as a selection now selects the layer mask of the active layer (if one is present) as the painting canvas since painting on a layer mask through an active selection is a common way to use a mask selection.
Unlocking locked layers when the “Free Transform” button is clicked has been further refined.
Several other minor bugs and typos are also addressed in this update.
Photoshop 2021 or Photoshop 2022 is required to use this version of the TK8 plugin. Older versions of Photoshop do not support the UXP architecture used to code the plugin. The same version of TK8 works on both Windows and Mac, including Mac “M-chip” computers.
I hope you continue to find the TK8 plugin useful. Please contact me if you have any questions.
As discussed in the last article, I’ve been experimenting with my iPhone camera and am surprised at the image quality. The comments in that post indicated that many people are further along incorporating their smartphones into their photography than I am. Even though I’m still a novice, I’ve had more fun with iPhone photography during the last three months than anything else in the last decade. The iPhone is a new toy, yes, but it’s also a new tool. It does things my DSLR can’t, and it works so well that it can’t help but spark new creative excitement.
What follows is a list of things that have impressed me about using my iPhone for “serious” photography. It’s based on my own, limited experience and from the thoughts gleaned from the comments in the previous post. Basically, I feel I have made a mistake ignoring smartphones cameras until now. As Inés from Barcelona commented, “We restrict ourselves by not giving a second chance to obvious things.” I’m certainly guilty of that and hope the list below encourages others, who have not already done so, to give smartphone photography a chance. If you have additional thoughts on why you like to use your smartphone for photography, please leave a comment. I’ll update this list with new items.
Extremely lightweight equipment. My first-gen iPhone SE weighs 112 grams (less than 4 ounces) according to my kitchen scales, and it fits in my pocket when not in use. My camera bag and contents (an APS-C camera and three lenses) weighs 5-1/4 pounds. Guess which one I prefer to carry.
You always have your camera with you. Once you start thinking about your iPhone as a “real” camera, you quickly realize that if you see a picture, you can take it. Consequently, you’re more alert for picture possibilities and start finding them everywhere. The whole world is a photograph. You just need to come up with a composition. You can still plan your photo vacations and special outings, but there will be more picture opportunities in between.
Menus. What menus? DSLR settings menus are something I definitely DO NOT MISS with the iPhone! Even setting up completely manual shooting on my mirrorless DSLR took a couple of days. The English instruction manual is 50 pages long, and only tells you the names of the buttons and menu items. To actually figure out what each does, you need to go online and wade through the 354-page PDF. Really? Yes, REALLY! I still am not confident that I have the optimal settings for the way I shoot, and it’s hard to even contemplate trying something new and having to find and choose alternate settings. My first camera was a manual Nikon FM2 and I’ve longed for that level of simplicity in a camera since getting my first DSLR. The iPhone comes pretty close.
Smaller files, quicker processing. My iPhone has a 12-megapixel sensor. We’ve gotten so used to waiting for Photoshop to finish processing some steps that we think it’s normal. However, smaller files always process faster than big files, and sometimes the difference is quite noticeable. Now that I’m working with smaller files, I’m definitely liking them. I know, sensor megapixel counts are higher on some smartphones and heading higher on the iPhone as well. I’m more than happy to have just 12-megapixels on my current iPhone and am not all that excited to move higher.
More fluid and creative processing. This is a corollary to having smaller files. When things process faster, you’re likely to try more and different adjustments. This in turn enhances creativity as you try out different “what if” scenarios. Instead of waiting on the computer to finish, it’s waiting for you to come up with your next adjustment. Processing iPhone images adds a new sense of “flow” to your workflow.
No processing limits. Responsive processing doesn’t mean much if there are other workflow limitations. This was certainly a concern for me when I started working with iPhone images, and, fortunately, I’ve not encountered any. Topaz, TK8, Lightroom/Camera Raw, luminosity masks, Nik, linear profiles . . . they all work fine. I can easily get RAW files using the Lightroom Camera app. I can make a linear profile for any iPhone once I have the Lightroom camera’s DNG. I can do my normal adjustments in Camera Raw, and everything works fine in Photoshop. In fact, I’m finding that on some iPhone images respond so well to processing that I can cutback in other areas. For example, Topaz Sharpen AI does an incredible job. It’s one of my last processing steps and it brings out an amazing amount of detail. So much that I can decrease the amount of web-sharpening and print-sharpening that I apply and still have exceptional output. It seems that these auxiliary programs really hit their mark with iPhone images. NOTE: If you use Lightroom Camera on the iPhone and Bridge/Camera Raw as your RAW converter, the Adobe Lightroom Downloader is one option for moving images from the cloud (where Lightroom Camera stores them) to your computer. If you use Lightroom as your RAW converter, you should be able to sync the cloud files directly to your Lightroom catalog.
Image quality is way better than expected. It’s hard to imagine such a tiny camera being able to produce high-quality prints to at least 12 x 16 inches, but that’s the iPhone reality. There are still plenty of situations where a DSLR will out-perform the iPhone, but there are also plenty of situations where it would be hard to tell the difference.
No sensor dust. This is bigger than you might think. Removing sensor dust is one of the more-tedious, least-creative aspects of image processing. It seems the iPhone cameras are well sealed and even the clearest sky is dust-free.
Chromatic aberration. What chromatic aberration?. That’s right, chromatic aberration (CA) is almost nonexistent. For this article, I wanted to see if I could create some. An image of twigs backlit by the sun was needed to find any. Still, the center of the image and the corners were both surprisingly free of it. Checking “Remove chromatic aberration” in Camera Raw easily removed what little there was from the iPhone DNGs I used for evaluation. I’m thinking the fixed focal length lens might contribute to the lack of CA. Regardless, the iPhone certainly has less CA than most zoom lenses I’ve used, and CA is definitely NOT a limiting factor for iPhone photos.
Accurate auto-focus. Wonderful depth-of-field. Since starting to use my iPhone camera, I’ve made very little use of its manual focus feature (even though it’s as easy as tapping on the screen). Instead, I’ve been relying on auto-focus and, not only am I nailing the focus on almost all my images, but the depth-of-field is great too. Near and far elements are both appropriately and surprisingly sharp. Initially I thought this was due to the lens’ short 4.2-mm focal length. However, I’ve been informed by a reader that this probably isn’t the case. Perceptually, though, the near-to-far sharpness is nothing short of fantastic. A judge in a recent photo contest at our camera club mentioned this on both my iPhone entries. No focus-blending was involved and both entries were hand-held. Even though I don’t have a good explanation for why this occurs, I absolutely love it. Not having to futz with focusing or focus-blending makes photography all the more fun. In practical terms, what this all means is that focusing the iPhone camera is super easy because you can just use auto-focus, and, with the excellent depth-of-field, it’s hard to miss the focus. Yes, there are situations where you’ll want to be more precise and maybe even lock the focus, but for many pictures, it’s not a concern. Just click the shutter and the image is in focus, and the composition will consistently have excellent sharpness for both near and far elements in the scene.
Manually setting focus and exposure (if you choose to do so) is also super simple. Just touch the screen. No dials, no buttons, no joystick, no focus ring, no settings to choose, no menus. With the iPhone camera app itself, it’s possible to set both focus and exposure by tapping the on-screen image. To adjust exposure, slide your finger up or down. To lock both exposure and focus, long-press. There are several camera apps that have slightly different methods to set exposure, but the touch screen is always easier to use than a DSLR and also easier to learn.
Composition happens at a totally different level. I only have a 4-inch screen on my iPhone SE, but it still feels 10 times bigger than the low-resolution LCD on my APS-C camera. That might be related to the fact that the camera and lens weighs 6 times what the iPhone weighs and needs two hands to operate. Composing using just one arm and trying lots of different angles makes the process more dynamic and experimental. High, low, tilted, looking up, looking down, and upside down can all be tested in about the time it takes to raise a DSLR camera to your eye. In addition, the iPhone screen is completely WYSIWYG. It’s like you’re holding a small print as you compose the picture. I’m still adapting to this but am finding it easier to see potential images and also to try images I wouldn’t have attempted previously simply due the bulk of a regular camera. I’m also starting to think there is some value in viewing the composition a little way away from your body. While I’m used to composing through a viewfinder, composing at arm’s-length might be better.
Compose in monochrome (with a twist). Like DSLR cameras, the iPhone offers a monochrome “filter” that can be activated for taking black and white images. I find it a useful aid for composing in monochrome, though I still take the image in color and do the conversion in either Camera Raw or Photoshop to keep all the sensor data intact. The neat thing about the phone camera, however, is that I can keep the iPhone Camera app’s monochrome filter turned on for compositional purposes and then quickly change to the Lightroom Camera app to expose in color. So, it’s like having two different cameras in the same device. One set to compose in monochrome and the other set to compose and capture in color.
Some zooming is possible. The iPhone doesn’t have optical-zoom, and its digital-zoom crops pixels from the final image. I accidentally developed a picture where I had zoomed in slightly to get the composition I wanted. I had forgotten about this until I went to print the image and saw its size was only 5.5-megapixels instead of the normal 12-megapixels. I printed it anyway and found the results look good. The individual bricks on the side of the skyscraper were still well-resolved. It appears that 1) cropping out half the pixels can still produce a decent 12 x 16-inch print, and 2) maybe I can print my 12-megapixel images even bigger. NOTE: With the Lightroom Camera app, the cropped version is initially displayed in Camera Raw, but bringing up the Crop tool provides access to all pixels captured by the sensor, so it’s possible to re-frame/re-crop the image using an uncropped version.
Street photography goes unnoticed. I don’t do much of this (yet), but lifting a smartphone to take an image has a different impact on pedestrians (essentially none) compared to pointing a camera at them. Plus, if you want to be really secretive, you could use the iPhone volume buttons as the shutter release and shoot from waist-high.
In-camera apps. The iPhone camera is just a device that can be accessed with a variety of different apps. On its own, it only takes jpeg images. And even though these are quite good, I prefer developing the image starting with a RAW file. Well, no problem. I installed the Adobe Lightroom app, and it uses my iPhone camera to create DNG images, and so now I have access to RAW sensor data that work great in Camera Raw. I’ve not explored the huge variety of apps that work with the iPhone camera, but they can certainly “extend” the camera’s capabilities beyond its original “jpeg” functionality. Additionally, once you take a picture with the iPhone, there’s another set of apps that allows you to develop it directly on the iPhone. The Adobe Lightroom app has this capability. However, I still prefer to work with my images on my desktop computer where I have a calibrated monitor, software, and peripherals that I’m comfortable using. Developing an image on the phone by tapping and sliding my finger across a small screen probably isn’t a road I’ll follow. The point, though, is that the iPhone is not just a camera. It’s also an ecosystem of software that can help you take better pictures and be more creative.
Surprising stability. I mentioned this in the previous article. The optical image stabilization works great, even in low light. Shooting without a tripod is liberating, and the iPhone lets you do that. Newer iPhone models have more advanced “sensor shift” image stabilization in some of the cameras, but I’m already very happy with the stabilization of my old iPhone SE. It provides crisp, in-focus images, which is just amazing when you consider how it’s held in front of the body and sometimes at odd angles.
You now have a second camera in case you need it. Even when you have your DSLR along and it’s working fine, the iPhone comes in handy for making quick shots for future reference, for testing different compositions, or when you have some downtime when the light isn’t so good. And developing and printing some of these images provides a potential segue into appreciating what the iPhone can do.
There are YouTube videos (of course). Emil Pakarklis hosts the iPhone Photography School channel and it has lots of great tips for taking beautiful images with your iPhone.
You’re unlikely to run out of options to explore. Examples include in-camera HDR, panoramas, and live-image motion blur. iPhone lens attachments are available as well as a wireless remote release. And there are different styles, like portraits and iPhone macro-photography. In other words, for the foreseeable future, I’m not going to run out of things to do with my iPhone camera. I’m not into taking selfies or food pictures for Instagram, and it’s comforting to know the iPhone has so much more to offer.
All the above basically add up to smartphone cameras being a fantastic creativity generator for photographers. The sheer joy of being able to make excellent images with a camera this light and compact has to be exciting for anyone who enjoys taking and processing photos. As mentioned in the previous article, the turning point for me was seeing a surprisingly good print from an iPhone photo that was captured under less-than-ideal conditions. This changed my mindset regarding this device. I’m now frequently taking the iPhone along as my only camera and coming back with plenty of good pictures. I also photograph things I would have previously overlooked and experiment more with composition.
Summary: The main thing, I think, is to simply accept how good smartphone images can be. Expectations then change accordingly, and this tiny camera can find its proper place in your photographic toolkit. If you treat it like a “real” camera, you won’t be disappointed.
In late 2021 the camera club had an assignment. Take an image with your phone, convert it to black and white, and share it at the next meeting. My phone camera is an old iPhone SE. It was released in 2016 and I bought it in 2019. It’s outdated at this point, but the phone works fine, and that’s the main reason I have it. I had occasionally taken snapshots with it to check compositions for my DSLR camera; however, these were never meant to be “developed” as actual pictures. They were only taken to see if it would be worth bringing out the “real” camera to take a “real” picture.
The image below is one where I did use the “real” camera (Fujifilm X-S10 with an 18-55 zoom lens) after making a test shot with the iPhone. This stairwell was a dark place and the “real” camera (set at auto-ISO, aperture-priority, and a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 sec) ended up choosing an ISO of 12800. As a result, the image had so much noise that I decided to exaggerate it a bit and make the developed image look like a charcoal sketch.
I still had the iPhone version of the image (a 2.4 megabyte jpeg) and decided to see if it would work for the camera club assignment. I had never tried to develop these phone images in Photoshop, but had already figured out how to create the charcoal-sketch look for this scene and assumed this approach would work for the iPhone image as well.
Turns out there was a problem, though. The noise was missing from the iPhone image. This was immediately obvious. Does this old iPhone have a good algorithm for suppressing noise? Apparently so. . . and/or perhaps it didn’t need to use ISO 12800. Regardless, it was surprisingly noise-free, and I wasn’t going to add a bunch of it back just so I could turn it into a charcoal sketch.
Another surprise was the lack of motion blur from being handheld. I was holding the phone over the railing and also leaning forward so my feet wouldn’t be in the picture. If I did this with my “regular” camera and lens, the image stabilization mechanisms, due to their overall weight and my unbalanced position, would struggle to achieve the same results. However, this old iPhone didn’t seem to have any problems. I have since learned that the camera in this phone has “optical image stabilization,” so this was likely the reason for the lack of motion blur. The image below is from the iPhone.
It’s clearly a better image than the charcoal sketch (even the composition is better), and since I started from the camera’s .jpg file (2.4-megabytes), it was also a snap to develop in Photoshop. If anything, the image could probably use a little added grain as some parts looks a bit smooth.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This is a tiny image from a tiny camera that’s only meant to be seen on the internet. Even a marginal jpeg looks halfway decent when downsized and sharpened for online display. That was my thought too for the camera club assignment, i.e. they’d never know the difference. The downsized, sharpened image would likely look good enough to pass inspection on Zoom.
But now I was curious. What would happen if I tried to enlarge and print this image? My standard evaluation print is on 13×19 paper (33 x 48 cm). So, using this paper, the iPhone jpeg would need to be enlarged to 12×16 (3:4 aspect ratio) at a resolution of 360 pixels per inch. That comes out to 24.8 megapixels, so basically doubling the capture dimensions (12.2-megapixels). That’s within the range where prints can still look OK, but this is a handheld jpeg from a sensor that has an area of 0.1 square inch (the tip of your pinky finger if you were to flatten it slightly) taken in poor light while leaning out over a stair railing. Certainly enlarging it is going to be problematic compared to a down-sizing it, right?
Nope! Not even close. The print looks perfectly good even when I put my glasses on so I can view it from that unreasonably close distance of approximately six inches that is somehow necessary to “properly evaluate” a print when you’re a photographer. Even more, it totally blows away the charcoal-sketch print from the “real” camera at any viewing distance.
So, thanks to a camera club assignment, I learned that a 2.4 megabyte jpeg from an old 12-megapixel iPhone can sometimes produce a significantly better image than a 27-megapixel RAW file captured with a one-year-old APS-C camera at f/11. That doesn’t seem quite right, so there was only one thing to do: take more pictures.
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the last couple of months, though it has been with the iPhone only. I’ve not been making comparison images with the DSLR. I wanted to see what it’s like to just use the phone as my “real” camera and what it would do for my photography. The gallery below is a sampling of various experiments. All were captured with the iPhone SE (29-mm equivalent lens, f/2.2 aperture). Click any image to open the gallery and see larger versions.
Beyond the initial revelation that this camera is fully capable of taking decent images, there was the additional surprise at how well these images respond to Photoshop manipulation. Luminosity masks, sketch actions, zone-mask blending, perspective alignment, burning, dodging, and much more worked fine. I can’t push the pixels as far as I can with the DSLR images, but there are still lots of adjustments that work well. This may say more about the capabilities of Photoshop than it does about the camera, but it does indicate that the camera didn’t significantly limit what I could do in Photoshop, even when using jpeg images as the starting point. The small size images are also a breeze to work with. Photoshop never has to struggle, and this makes processing more fluid and spontaneous. I have also learned how to make a linear profile for the iPhone camera, and this opens even more possibilities.
I’m coming off decades of using “regular” cameras to take pictures. 35-mm, medium-format, and 4×5 film cameras in the 20th century, and then full-frame and APS-C cameras in the 21st century. Photography has always been a wonderful creative outlet regardless of the equipment, although in the past it was more difficult to separate the two. Recently, however, thanks to the camera club assignment, I’m seeing that creativity is not only possible with significantly less equipment (just a smartphone), but it’s likely enhanced. As the camera shrinks to essentially a hand-held view-screen with a few on-screen controls, I’m able to focus almost entirely on the creative aspects of the art form rather than the physics and physicality of capturing light. In other words, the camera doesn’t get in the way. Instead, it’s more about how the camera collaborates to help me compose subjects and see light, and is less about how the camera is going to capture it.
After using the iPhone exclusively for a bit, I’m not missing the bulky DSLR equipment at all (no surprise). And let’s be honest. Many 21st century cameras are bigger and heavier than their 20th century ancestors. My digital APS-C Nikon D7200 camera, for example, weighed significantly more than my full-frame Nikon FM2 film camera from the 1980s. We’ve “gone digital” with photography, but, unlike most things that have gone digital, photo equipment has gotten bigger, not smaller. It’s only smartphones that have significantly miniaturized the process overall. Yes,there are some compromises, but there is still plenty of image quality with smartphones for both online images and prints.
This article isn’t meant to be an argument to abandon regular DSLR cameras and lenses. They definitely have their advantages, many people are comfortable using them, and I’m certainly not claiming that smartphone images are always better than those made with more traditional camera/lens systems. However, I do think that for a variety of photos and photographers (like me), even an old iPhone might offer more creative possibilities than a new camera or lens. I’ve found that the quality of smartphone images better than expected and they can be enhanced in Photoshop better than I imagined. I’m certainly happy to have (finally) found this creative tool and would encourage everyone to explore some new light with their smartphones. You no doubt already have one in your pocket or purse and it’s likely newer and better than my iPhone SE.
I’m thinking of maybe doing a couple of more posts on “iPhone·tography.” Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on taking and working with smartphone images.
Learning to “photograph from the center” is one of the keys, I think, for making truly successful images. This “center” is that point where we can block out the rest of the world for a period of time and focus ourselves, as well as our cameras, on the light we are trying to capture. We find this “center” by placing ourselves in an environment and near subjects that speak to us in special ways. Pictures from the center, once developed, reveal not only the light in that moment as seen by the camera, but also the personal light that the photographer brings to the experience. It’s a glimpse into the motivations, sense of beauty, and types of connections valued by the individual taking the picture. To a large extent, then, photographing from the center is as much about releasing ourselves into world as it is about capturing light from it.
These are the thoughts that came to mind as I watched Sean Bagshaw’s new complete workflow series featuring his photograph “Umpqua Autumn.” This is an image that obviously comes from a “centered” photographer. Sean takes the picture in a place he clearly loves and is able to focus wholly on the environment that surrounds him. He finds numerous compositions and then in the chapters of the series walks us through his workflow to expertly develop one of them. In doing so, he not only brings out the best light in the scene, but he also pulls us into his center to appreciate the experience of being there to witness and participate in this moment of light and beauty.
The Umpqua Autumn Complete Workflow video series is now available, and it can be appreciated on many different levels.
Yes, there are many new Photoshop techniques covered in this series.
But as you watch the series, don’t just focus on the technical aspects of developing an image. Keep in mind the larger concept of “photographing from the center.” While it’s not explicitly covered in one of the chapters, it’s an undercurrent to all of them and is subtly present throughout the different phases of the photographic process, field to finish. Finding your personal center and photographing from it is just as important as learning new Photoshop techniques. Watching this course will hopefully help you improve both.
Because it so closely aligns with my own creative viewpoint, I am extremely pleased to be able to offer Sean’s new course on my website. Until the end of February, there is a 20% discount on it and all other items, including Sean’s other video courses and the TK8 plugin. To get the discount, simply enter the following code in the shopping cart: Vid20. Previous customers should also check their email from January 31 for additional savings.