Now Available: TK8 version 1.2.2

NOTE:  During the launch of the updated version of TK8 there is a 20% discount available on everything on the Panels & Videos page, including the TK8 plugin and Sean Bagshaw’s videos.  Add the code JulySale in the shopping cart to get the discount.  This sale ends on July 31.

The TK8 plugin has been updated to version 1.2.2.  This is a major update that incorporates new code for Adobe’s UXP architecture for plugins.  Previous TK8 customers have been sent an email via MailChimp telling them how to update for free.  Please check your email (possibly the junk/spam folder).  The latest update information was sent on either July 16 or July 18.  Contact me if you are a licensed TK8 customer but did not receive the update information. New customers can use the discount code listed above to get 20% off for a limited time.

You can check your version of TK8 by clicking on the “TK” button on the Multi-Mask module to open the preferences interface and then looking in the lower right corner. If you do not have version 1.2.2, please get it now.

Importantly, TK8 version 1.2.2 only works in Photoshop 2022, version 23.2.0 or later.  The new version of TK8 will NOT work in Photoshop 2021 or older versions of Photoshop 2022.  So, the best practice is to make sure Photoshop is updated using the Adobe Creative Cloud app before installing TK8 version 1.2.2.

There are several new features in TK8 version 1.2.2, but the biggest is the introduction of the “My Actions” module.  It’s an improved alternative to the “User Actions” section of the Combo and Cx modules. Most of us have lots of Photoshop actions scattered around our Photoshop Actions panel.  The My Actions module helps users dynamically organize the actions they actually use into a single list.  This, in turn, provides easy, one-click access to these frequently-used actions.  The video below shows how the new module works.

This video provides a quick look at how to use the TK8 My Actions plugin.

In addition to their personal actions, the My Actions module provides a place where users can list actions that contain menu items, keyboard shortcuts, and even Photoshop scripts.  As long as these are first recorded into actions, they can be added to the My Actions module.  Sean Bagshaw shows how to do this in the video below.  This ability to completely customize the My Actions module means users can now essentially create their own Photoshop plugin.  Simply record whatever Photoshop features you use most into Photoshop actions, and then add these actions to the My Actions module.  From there they can be rearranged and color-coded in whatever way works best for your workflow.

Sean Bagshaw demonstrates how to customize your My Actions module with actions, Photoshop menu items, and keyboard shortcuts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Button clicks in the TK8 plugin, like when making luminosity masks or other masks, cannot be recorded into Photoshop actions at this time. They can only be called directly using the buttons on the TK8 plugin.

Additional changes in TK8 version 1.2.2 include:

  • Most button clicks create a single history state.  This makes it possible use CTRL (Windows) / command (Mac) + Z to undo most TK8 button clicks.  Note, however, that using CTRL/command + Z does NOT reset the TK8 user interface to what it was at the previous history state.  So, only Photoshop is reset to the previous history state, not the TK8 plugin.
  • Occasionally, a green progress bar will display if the run time for a TK8-called process exceeds two seconds. This is part of Adobe’s new UXP code. Sometimes the progress bar will flash only briefly when a process completes.
  • A green outline now appears around the Lights, Darks, and Midtones buttons when they are clicked in the Layer Mask mode interface and the Edit Selection interface. This makes it easier to track which button was clicked and which mask was created.
  • For the Burn, Dodge, and Paint Color output options in the Multi-Mask module, CTRL (Windows) / command (Mac) + click on the respective output button creates a layer mask of the on-screen mask on the newly created layer instead of creating a selection of this on-screen mask to paint through. The layer mask then controls where the subsequently-applied paint shows through in the image.
  • The “png” save option in Web-Sharpening output has been updated to embed the color profile in the saved document. Other output file types already do this.
  • The ability to choose a color using the Color Picker is now available when running the Color Clone action found in the Combo and Cx modules.
  • Several other bugs were fixed and changes were made to make user interaction more efficient.

Known issues that remain unresolved at this time:

  • Adding the menu item “Edit > Fade” to an action and then adding that action to the My Actions module doesn’t work.  There will be an error alert indicating that the Fade command is not available.
  • Nik filters played as actions do not work when the actions are called from the My Actions module. However, invoking Topaz filters from the My Actions module DOES work.
  • Actions that contain Adobe ExtendScript code cannot be run directly from the module. To play an action that contains ExtrendScript code it is necessary to first create a separate action on Photoshop’s action’s panel that plays the action with the ExtendScript code and then add this new action to the module’s actions list.

There is a lot of new code in TK8 version 1.2.2, and, as such, there may be additional problems that surface and additional updates might be needed to fix them. If you contact me when you see a problem, I can take a look and see if there is a workaround that can be implemented and will post new versions of TK8 if needed. Hold onto the email containing your download link as it will always allow you to get the latest version of the TK8 plugin.

A Shout-Out to Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly is well into his second year producing his weekly “TK Friday” videos for his YouTube channel, and I think it’s time to provide a well-deserved shout-out given the difference this series has made for me and other photographers.  Dave and I collaborate on these videos to some degree.  He sources the images and processes them using the TK8 plugin, and we then run through the various steps on a weekly Skype call.  I add a few suggestions here and there, but, for the most part, Dave is in charge of the content and decides how the image gets processed.  I’m just a consultant; Dave is the creator who makes it all happen.

I think of Tony as the scientist creating something new and I think of you as the engineer showing us how to use this new creation. Always learning something new from you, Dave.

–David Bee

At its core, the TK8 plugin is a collection of Photoshop techniques useful for processing images, and it’s not limited to just luminosity masks.  It’s sort of like the letters of the alphabet.  Users can apply the techniques in whatever order suits their needs to develop an image in the same way the letters of the alphabet can be arranged to create a useful vocabulary.  In this analogy, the TK8 plugin is an alphabet of processing techniques and the resultant vocabulary is creativity.  After over a year of recording content based on the TK panel, I think it’s fair to say that Dave Kelly is an accomplished TK8 “wordsmith.”

This edit was fantastic! I followed it to the end, and it convinces me that the TK8 panel is such a powerful tool where the possibilities are endless. Your explanations are so easy to follow. Thanks again, Dave.

Jose A De Leon

However, it wasn’t always this way.  In the early days of the “TK Friday” series, I could tell Dave was still working to learn what the TK panel could do.  Still, it was obvious from the start that he was 1) good at figuring things out, and 2) was able to share what he learned with others.  It didn’t take long before Dave started challenging my own concept of what TK8 could do.  He was employing the masks in ways I had not envisioned.  He started using color grading and the mask calculator more effectively than I had.  He questioned whether the plugin could do a new task, and I had to think of a way to accomplish it.  He pioneered using Photoshop tools in combination with the plugin and found new uses for several of the panel’s functions.  Dave’s relentless experimentation has helped even me to better appreciate the potential and possibilities that TK8 has to offer. 

How you figure out the amazing techniques you demonstrate is beyond me. Very impressive and very creative. I learn so much from you. Because I faithfully watch all your videos, my post processing skills have greatly improved. Thanks, Dave!

Stephen Ehrlich

Not surprisingly, the way I process images has improved because of this series.  Seeing someone else use TK8 has always been educational for me.  Seeing someone use it every week is an absolute gift.  I’m able to see the panel through the eyes of an experienced user and learn to use it better myself.  “What would Dave do?” is a question I now ask myself when I get stuck developing an image.  It usually provides an idea of something to try that often works.

Your knowledge and enthusiasm are always motivating and enjoyable. I’m off to try some new and fun techniques!

Hali Sowle

It’s also worth mentioning that while Dave Kelly has undoubtedly influenced many photographers using the TK8 plugin, he has likely influenced the plugin itself even more.  His in-depth use has uncovered several bugs I missed when writing the original code.  He’s also shown me better ways to execute several of the actions to make the panel easier to use.  All updates issued since TK8 was released last September have contained things Dave Kelly helped correct and improve.  And, going forward, I’m looking to incorporate several features that Dave has suggested.  So, while I love learning new ways to use TK8 from Dave, I’m even more excited by how he’s helping to drive its development.  My images are getting better, and TK8 is getting better as well.

Like you, I enjoy going back to older images and reprocessing them based on my new understanding of post-processing via TK-8 panels.

Keith Pinn

I hope you’ll take time to watch some of Dave Kelly’s TK8 videos and perhaps subscribe to his channel.  He has an excellent eye for knowing what can be improved in an image and is also very good at finding ways to use Photoshop and the TK8 plugin to fix problems.  The images he works on contain a variety of subjects.  Watching him work convinces me to NOT give up on my marginal images, and indeed, I’ve resurrected several by applying a Dave-Kelly mindset as I develop them.  I have a feeling I’m not alone in this regard.   Dave has shown a lot of photographers what’s possible with TK8.

This is Dave Kelly’s latest video from the “TK Friday” series. It provides an excellent review of TK8 techniques Dave incorporates into many images as well as new techniques and new ways to use the TK8 plugin.

Exposure Blending with TK8: Two methods

Exposure blending is an editing technique to better control global contrast in high dynamic range scenes where either the shadows or highlights might be clipped. Specific parts from multiple exposures are combined to insure that there is no (or significantly less) clipping in the final image. Exposure blending recovers shadow and highlight detail. While there are a number of algorithms and apps available to create HDR blends, the consensus seems to be that the results don’t always look natural. Shadows might be excessively light, global contrast looks to be off, and there may be halos around high-contrast edges.

Manually blending exposures using luminosity masks generally overcomes these problems. Luminosity masks focus on specific tones in the image and then seamlessly blend or taper into other tones. This is an ideal characteristic for exposure blending. However, using them for this purpose is usually not as easy as simply applying a luminosity mask to one of the exposures. Additional modifications to the masks, the exposures, or the manner in which the mask is applied to the image are often needed.

I don’t do a lot of exposure blending with my images, but from what I’ve done and have seen others do, there appears to be three main goals:

  1. Recover clipped highlights and shadows. This is essentially a working definition of exposure blending. A high dynamic range scene where the sensor is unable to capture either the brightest or darkest elements needs to use at least two exposures blended together to display the full dynamic range of the scene.
  2. Eliminate or reduce noise in the shadows. Sometimes the sensor can capture a scene’s full dynamic range, but the shadows are quite noisy. Blending in a separate shadows exposure that has the shadow values shifted to the right on the histogram provides both more detail in the shadows and less noise.
  3. Create realistic contrast in the blended image. This would include local contrast in each exposure that is blended as well as global contrast in the blended image.

One thing to NOT do with exposure blending is to try and finish the image based solely on the blending process. The goal should be to make a blended exposure that is a good starting point for additional development in Photoshop. In fact, it probably makes sense to aim for a less-finished blended image as there are lot of useful development techniques that might not be available during the blending process.

Method #1: Match exposures

For many landscape images, exposure-matching is a convenient blending method. It makes creating a perfect blending mask (the luminosity mask) nearly foolproof. This is the method demonstrated by Dave Kelly in the video below. The important step in this method is making the light and dark exposures to be blended look pretty much the same in Lightroom or Camera Raw. This often involves increasing the Exposure of the dark image and decreasing the Exposure of the light image. Additional adjustments to Highlights, Shadows, Blacks, Whites, and Contrast can then be incorporated to make the dark and light images appear similar. Clipped values will not be recoverable, of course, but much of the rest of the image can be adjusted to have similar brightness and contrast. The matching is especially important in the transition zone, where the dark and light exposures “meet.” A good exposure match in the transition zone means that there will be no blending halos in areas of strong contrast (like along the horizon or the edges of buildings).

When using matched exposures for blending, it’s very easy to create a mask that works to facilitate a perfect blend since the images already look quite similar. However, it’s still important to modify the mask to make sure it brings through the best-exposed pixels from both the light and dark exposure. For example, dark values should come from the light exposure in order to decrease shadow noise in the blended image. Mask modification usually involves creating some pure black and pure white areas via a Curves or Levels adjustment of the mask or painting black or white directly on the mask. It’s just the transition zone that needs to have various shades of gray in the mask in order to blend together pixels from both exposures.

NOTE: If using smart objects of the RAW files for blending, after the blending mask has been created, consider revisiting the RAW files by double-clicking the smart object thumbnails and creating better tone, color, and/or contrast in the areas revealed by that exposure. Just remember to try and maintain the exposure match in the transition zone.

Method #2: Paint through luminosity selections

While exposure-matching tends to work well for landscape images with separate sky and foreground areas that have an obvious transition zone, more complex subjects or more complex lighting situations might require a different approach. In the video below, Emil von Maltitz uses various luminosity masks generated with the TK8 plugin to create selections that then serve as stencils for painted masks. The painted masks reveal various image elements from different exposure layers. In Emil’s example, four different exposures are used, and very little work is done on the RAW files before exporting them to Photoshop for blending. It’s the mask-painting through luminosity selections that creates the blend.

The TK8 plugin makes it easy to find the right mask, but the real key for making mask-painting work, I think, is to use a lower-opacity brush (Emil uses 20 to 40 percent opacity) and then judiciously choosing where to paint on the image to bring through the desired exposure. Multiple brush strokes with lower-opacity brushes allow the effect to be slowly built up as each brushstroke adds additional paint to the layer mask. Using more than two exposures for blending adds to the complexity of the blending process, and Emil uses groups for helping to keep the Layers panel organized. Painting through luminosity selections also requires keeping track of what parts of each exposure layer will be useful in the final blend. Emil obviously has a good sense for this, though it would likely take some practice to be proficient when using more than two exposures.

SUMMARY: Exposure-matching and mask-painting are two methods for manually exposure blending high dynamic range scenes in Photoshop. Both methods employ luminosity masks to achieve a seamless blend. Exposure-matching has the advantage of creating an excellent transition zone so that critical areas, like horizon lines, have no halos in the blended image. Mask-painting allows for using original exposure information and is ideal for bringing out details and textures in the blended image.

PERSONAL NOTE: When working with high dynamic range scenes, I almost always start by applying a linear profile to the RAW image and then clicking the “Auto” button in Lightroom or Camera Raw. This process is the best way to see what’s actually recoverable in any given exposure. The linear profile does a fantastic job of recovering highlight details. And, since it has lower contrast in the dark areas than the Adobe profiles, it often shows better detail in the shadows as well. High-contrast shadows with Adobe profiles can look nearly black. Using a linear profile plus “Auto” helps to see what’s really there.

iPhone · tography: 20 reasons to try it

Special thanks to Bob Hills and Dave Kelly who contributed images for this article. Dave’s Joy of Editing YouTube channel provides instruction on using image-processing software including the TK8 plugin.

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.