A Glowing Effect

I recently visited Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto and it was an awesome experience. I chose a non-holiday weekday to be sure I didn’t have to deal with a large crowd. If I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have taken more time to photograph and see every corner of the place. I’m sure I missed a few spots.

As a photographer, there were a lot of challenges, mainly the various lighting conditions for each aquarium. My Nikon D7000 goes up to ISO 6400, then H.03, H.07, H.1.0 and H2.0. Working at the lowest possible ISO is always best but you have to look at the situation and make adjustments. Indoors are often darker and you also have to see if the subject can sit still or not. The shutter speed has to be fast enough so the fishes won’t get blurred as it passes by. A minimum of 1/125 is good. I pushed my ISO to 6400 which is the max I’m willing to work with. It is grainy at this point but if I had gone higher, the quality would be far worse. In some situations, photos were darker but manageable in post editing.

I read on some tips and tricks on how to photograph at a public aquarium. Some suggest that you have to keep your camera flat up against the glass to reduce glare and reflections. Or block out as much light as possible. I’m sure all these are plausible…. if I can just make a request to management to shut off the lights outside of the aquarium to create a studio experience. Holding the camera right up to the glass was hard with the fishes swimming right up to it.

Another difficulty I had was photographing the jellyfish. Their edges were less defined. I did get some good photographs. While processing the images, I checked some examples of jellyfish photos. Many of them were glowing and I wanted to achieve that same effect. Here is how I did it:

Original

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Dark Version and Light Version

In Lightroom, I created two virtual copies of the same photo and changed the settings to create a light and dark version.

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Final Photograph

In the menu bar of Lightroom, I went to Photo – Edit In and chose Photoshop. I used Photoshope CS6. I opened both the light and dark versions. I selected the dark version and copied and pasted it onto the light version. There are now two layers, the lighter one being on the bottom in the layers panel. I closed the dark version without saving. I like to Layer from Background and name it Original. Then duplicate that and call it Edited. Then I lock the Original layer. I turned off the dark layer for now by clicking on the eye. I created a selection around the jellyfish and saved the selection. With this selection saved, I can also target the same area for other adjustments. I chose Refine Edge and adjusted the Smooth and Feather section. With the dark layer reactivated, I used the eraser tool and reduced the opacity to less than 50%. With the selection on, I erased the image to reveal the lighter jellyfish below. The image within the selection was only erased. With the selection still activated, I went to the Adjustment section and chose Brightness/Contrast. A mask was created. I kept adjusting until it gave the glow I wanted. Contrast helped the image to stand out more. To make the background darker, I chose the same selection and inversed it. I created a mask by going to the adjustment layer again for Brightness/Contrast and punched in a negative number. I’ve also used Vibrance on some of my images.

Here is the final image:

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This is one way of making something glow. If you Google how to make something glow in Photoshop, there will be all kinds of samples such as creating a soft glow effect of a scenery to making text glow.

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Creativity

On my last post, I discussed inspiration and how a model came up with her Harlequin outfit and made it her own using latex material. Personality is what separates us from each other.

I must admit that it’s not easy to look at what others are doing and not compare myself. This said, I think we all must look to something to strive for better while not stealing other people’s ideas. Part of creativity is to push the envelope and come with innovating ideas – something that people have not seen before. When I think of innovation, I think of 3M. Why? Because they bring innovative ideas to products we already use and make them better. I thought their slogan went somewhere along those lines but I looked it up and they simply use the word Innovation. Why did I think of them in the first place? Because I used to work in the printing industry and I always had a connection to one of the sales reps who told me about products that can make my work life easier.

I once was in a workshop where we had a discussion about how the world came to where it is now. How the world became modernized was because of the countless people out there who thought outside the box and came up with things such as cars, the lightbulb, and telephone. Had these inventors and scientists given up on the first few tries, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

With this said, here’s who I look to in the photography field for inspiration.

Orange Roads
http://orangeroads.tumblr.com
Although the photographer mainly does boudoir photography, her portfolio shows versatility and talent. She has won many international awards for her creative fine arts pieces and has done many ad campaigns.

http://3dcreativ.blogspot.ca/2011/08/amazingly-beautiful-photos.html
This particular blog pays tribute to a talented model named Ophelia who shows off her talent as a model in various costumes.

While people I know have the wrong idea about boudoir, I think about how nice it would be if people were just more confident in themselves. Yes, when I did boudoir photography for the first time, it was highly uncomfortable. But when I think about it, how will I grow and learn if I don’t show versatility like these ladies have? It’s certainly going to be a hard sell at first, and I certainly won’t do a photo shoot if a person is uncomfortable. I just think back to the time when I worked at Fujifilm Canada Inc. producing photo books. There was a good number of people who unsuccessfully did self portraits in boudoir fashion. I’m sure it was meant for someone special in their lives, but had they invested in professional photography, the outcome would probably be better. It certainly doesn’t have to be advertised that they had done such a photo shoot. Imagine the confidence they would feel just by hiring someone who knows what they’re doing and making these ladies look good. So as me and my colleagues gather around to look at these photo books every time they passed through our hands, we all talk about what people are thinking. Because seriously, even if you’re behind a computer uploading these photos by yourself, these books do have to be produced somehow. Someone is looking for sure. I don’t know about other photographers but my main goal is to make you look good because it is up to my skills to make it so.

Inspiration

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How many of you have hung out with a crowd of creative people?

What I’ve noticed for a long time is how they seemingly live comfortably in their own skin and radiate a certain kind of mojo about them. I actually do admire them a lot for following their own paths. I especially like people with a lot of flair. I’m not just talking about creative people; anyone really who exhibits personality – the hard rocker who I came across years ago with a style of her own who exhibited kindness with confidence and a smile; and Brice Johnston who gave his opinions during tribal council in Survivor before being voted off. You get the idea.

At a photo shoot, the model came in with a couple of costume changes, both of which she made herself. Nothing elaborate, but enough to go with the theme she had in mind. She had discussed how she had all these ideas running in her mind and she can’t wait to create these costumes in latex nonetheless. The photo above is the model with her Harlequin costume. At first I didn’t get it. But as I started to edit her images, I researched what it was all about. Harlequin is not just a romantic publishing company. He is one of the most popular comic servant characters, known as zanni, introduced by Tristano Martinelli in Itallian Commedia dell’arte. He wore a checkered costume. The name itself was derived from a mischievous “devil.” (Read more on this: http://www.theharlequingame.com/the-harlequin-history.php)

Moving forward on my journey as a photographer, I have come across many professionals in my field. As I understand, it’s highly competitive and we’re all trying to get by. Still I move forward because in the end, I cannot think for a minute how my life would be like if I didn’t try. That would be a bigger regret than trying at all. On a discussion with one photographer, he said it’s a matter of finding my own mojo and being able to relate to people. My own style will come out.

On this note, I am happy to say I have an official website.

Check it out here: http://grecelnepomuceno.wix.com/portfolio

Published in: on March 7, 2014 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Portraits

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Have any of you tried pet photography?

If you have, you would know the difficulty in capturing pets because they are constantly moving around. With the guidance of the owner, you can get a pet to look at the camera with commands and calling out their name. I had the experience of photographing a handful of pets to build a portfolio. While difficult, especially with the last dog being blind, I found it tiring as well as satisfying.

I’ve talked to several people about pet photography. For those who have lost their loved ones, they have told me they wish they had professional photos done as a keepsake. Up until I had three cats, I never understood why people were so attached to their four-legged fur friends. I now know that pets are considered family and it’s tough when you lose one. I once gave one of the kittens away when my cat gave birth to three. I cried.

As I begin to practice more with pets, I managed to capture a few photos in HDR – high dynamic range. For those who know, HDR photos require more than one photo bracketed in different exposures. When merged, it will give a greater tonal range between highlights and shadows. To achieve this is extremely difficult with pets because they are always on the move unless resting. An example below is my pet cat in HDR.

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What separates a picture from a portrait is how the image is captured. A plain picture can be made extraordinary by changing the angle or zooming in to give it a different perspective.

For more images on animals and pet photography, click on the link here: http://goo.gl/IKwJQc

Happy New Year! It’s 2014.

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It’s 2014.

It’s been awhile since I last blogged.

I can say that the past year hasn’t been easy, but with hard work, I have made the switch to become a photographer. Well….so to speak. I still have a lot to learn. I have transitioned from an internship to a paying job, to two paying jobs both of which are in the field of photography, and then making the tough decision to leave one of them. I have learned a lot in the past year.

What I’m looking forward to the most is accomplishing a lot more. I must first set them and then achieve them by meeting expectations. I’ll start by getting around to editing those photos I’ve always wanted to use for my portfolio and then creating an official website. In the mean time, let’s be realistic. I still need a job to get me by so I can pay bills. The next goal after those ones are to go out and network. While I have networked in the past, I should set out a clearer path as to how I will make my passion a successful business. That means putting in place strategies. I have relied on others to help me. I really should get a handle on what I want to do. Not let people tell me how it should be. I still need to pay the bills and keep maintenance on the equipment I use to get the job done. It’s a learning curve, yes. I’m scared, yes. But the one thing I fear more than anything is not trying and later wondering what could have been instead of knowing what I have accomplished down the road.

So today is New Year’s Day. It is also Wednesday and I saw a post on Facebook where it’s labelled Wisdom Wednesday. (I also know it as Way Back Wednesday.) In keeping with the theme, I’ve added some photos to start the year on a positive note. These could easily fall under Motivational Monday also. If you’ve been around Southern Ontario in recent weeks, these photos were taken in the aftermath of the ice storm. I’ve added some inspirational quotes to them.

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For more photos on the ice storm, visit my Flickr page: http://goo.gl/xgEh34

HDR – High Dynamic Range

What is High Dynamic Range?

While many photographers know what high dynamic range is, we shouldn’t expect everyone to know it. According to Wikipedia, high dynamic range is a set of methods used in imaging and photography to capture a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. What this essentially means is that a camera at normal settings cannot capture the same tonal range as what the human eye can see. HDR helps to a create a greater tonal range between between highlights, shadows and midtones by first taking three or more photographs at different exposure levels (called bracketing) and then merging them into one.

Here are some tips for HDR:

• Great for portraits outdoors, landscapes, architecture/real estate, low light and backlit scenes
• Not so great if something is in motion like people and animals
• Use a tripod and a shutter cable release to avoid ghosting and misalignment
• Learn to automate bracketing on your camera; basic instructions for Nikon D7000 camera below
• Buy software that helps to merge the photos together
• Have a computer and external hard drive with a capacity to hold large amounts of images

Here are some examples of HDR photos created from bracketed photos.

ROM HDR-2

HDR

Wordpres

Canadian National Exhibition

Sauble Beach

Sauble Beach 2-2

Origami

Places - HDR

Sacred Stones Tour

In two samples above, I compare an iPhone photo with no editing and with the same photos created in HDR. Also, the last photo taken in a church shows greater detail in HDR. There is contrast between the backlit room and the dark wooden pews. Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult to balance the place out because of the highlights where sun is coming through the windows and the dark pews. Without editing, either the windows would be overexposed or the pews would be under exposed. In all instances, I used Photomatix to create HDR.

Here are the steps to creating HDR:

Prepping for HDR using a Nikon D7000

1. Press the bracketing button (below the flash button called BKT). In the settings display, change the exposure value (EV) to between 0.3 to 2.0 using the aperture dial and use the shutter dial to increase the steps to 3F.

2. Change the shooting dial from S (single) to CH for continuous burst mode.

3. When photographing, hold the camera button or shutter release cable down long enough for all three photos to be taken.

When merging in Photomatix, it will ask you to choose bracketed photos. A dialog will pop up and you can choose your options for processing which include alignment, remove ghosting (it occurs when something in motion passes through a long exposure photograph or when an object in a multiple exposure image don’t align) and reduce chromatic aberration [the inability of a lens to bring all wavelengths of light (especially red and blue) into the same plane of focus] and cropping. This is very important if you didn’t use a tripod. Unless you have very sturdy hands, any slight misalignment will show around the edges when the images are merged. After options are selected, click process. This will take time and the three images will turn into one. From here you have numerous options including sliders on the one side for editing. When complete, click process again and it will take you to the final stage for completion. This will include contrast, colour, and sharpness.

Creating HDR can be long and tiresome if you have several of them to do. I have learned to be selective but when the opportunity is there and I only have thirty seconds, I will take the photo. It is a hit and miss. When it does work, it’s definitely worth while. Below are more tips and advice from sources I’ve found.

Resources

HDR Software Review

Top 20 Best HDR Software Review 2016

How to Geek “What is HDR photography, and How Can I Use It?”

HTG Explains: What is HDR Photography, And How Can I Use It?

More Tips For HDR

Faking HDR Effect
http://still-scripts.com/photoshop/faking-the-hdr-effect-using-only-one-photo-and-photoshop/

My HDR Photos

Places - HDR

On Being A Photographer

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan

I was asked once by someone why I couldn’t get the perfect shot. After all I am the photographer and that I have already been working as a photographer for more than a year. Really? I’m gonna run home now to begin practicing taking the perfect photograph every time.

Sarcasm aside, what people don’t understand is that you are not going to get the perfect head shot, portrait, or whatever perfect at every instant. A professional photographer with years of experience will work quicker, yes. And even at my current job, I’m required to get two portraits in less than a minute for each student at school. I don’t have all day to get the perfect shot. What I am addressing here is the expectation that because I am a photographer now, I will always be perfect every time. That is a ridiculous expectation. If it were the case that everyone is perfect at what they do all of the time, nothing would seem extraordinary anymore. It would be normal to be good at what you do and that you should always be hitting it when you get asked to work your talent. Being successful to me is knowing what is lacking or failing – or even knowing something is already good – and trying to get something better.

Famous-Failures-Quotes-Thoughts-on-Failures-Images-Wallpapers-Pictures

Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Excite My Senses – Or At Least My Creativity

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Fan Expo. It is the first time for me, even though I’ve been told to check it out before. I, in fact, was sent on a mission by my cousin in Florida to get some autographs and photos for him. He is a Walking Dead fan. From watching the news in the past, I half know what to expect – cosplayers, Storm Troopers and lineups. This event along with Comic Con is very popular.

Lucky for me, I opted to go on a Friday with an advance ticket in hand. Though many people had taken the day off just like me, it’s not as crowded compared to the weekend. I get in with ease and start my mission to get what my cousin asked of me. I quickly find the autograph area and line up. It takes less than an hour to see Steven Yeun. He’s fairly nice and easy to talk to. For some of the other actors, lottery numbers are handed out and then signs are posted for when you can line up.

While waiting, it’s nice to hear stories and experiences from other people. I hear that Norman Reedus is super nice and likes to take time with each fan. He’ll talk with them and autograph more than one item for them as well as allow them to take photographs (if his handler would let him). I was not given the opportunity this time. He apparently also donates proceeds to charity.

I did manage to catch a glimpse of Hulk Hogan as he passed directly behind me for his autograph session as I was taking a peak at my camera. I was totally unprepared and by then when I wanted to photograph him, there was a crowd gathered around him and I had to line up for my next photo op.

Between the autograph sessions and Photo Ops, I manage to photograph some of the cosplayers.

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And of course, what would it be without my favourite – Star Wars!!! Yoda and space vehicles are made of Lego.

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And finally, treats that cater to the fan in all of us – Cakes Cove (http://www.cakescove.com). Treats in the shape of your favourite characters.

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While I did blog earlier about Celebrity Obsession (https://greceln.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/celebrity-obsessed/) and the cost of fame, I can’t help but think how fun it was to be at Fan Expo. The creativity and the effort put into the creation of these costumes worn by fans and their show of appreciation for those who bring too life all the characters they represent.

During the lineups for Photo Op sessions, celebrities such as Laurie Holden, Carrie Fisher, and Stan Lee got a rousing cheer from everyone when they passed by. Upon leaving, I felt a mix of titillation and numbness. While I feel people should focus on their own life and successes, numbers don’t lie and stats on my Flickr account are through the roof with the number of views in the thousands for this event alone. At the end of the day, I have to acknowledge that it was fun being there seeing all the famous people and cosplayers. Next time, I would like to catch some of my favourite Jays players. Paul Molitor and Tony Fernandez was at this year’s event. I hope Shawn Green can make it next time.

For more photos on this event, check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/greceln_ifoxygn/sets/72157635248729250/.

You Look Better When You Smile

So I hear it often – “I hate photos of myself.” There is something in the subconscious that trigger emotions about how people feel about themselves. For some, it’s like pulling teeth to even get them to stop and pose as well as to get them to smile. What most don’t know is that emotions can be seen in their eyes. I had already written a short blog on smiling written by National Geographic. I am adding this as a resource again at the end of this blog.

I was at an internship for almost a year. When I was given the opportunity, I took Tuesdays off – the day when new associate head shots were taken. Other associates had taken on this task. Towards the end before I left, I was in on a couple of Tuesdays and checked in on how things were going in the studio. I did lead on one occasion and introduced myself to the new group of eight associates coming into the program. I talked to them about my experience at the program and asked them questions about where they were coming from. Then we got into individual head shots and the one campaign that we have everyone do. I did find that some of them were nervous and I let them know I felt the same way when I started there. While they have the opportunity to head back to their desk after their head shots are done, they all hung around and talked and watched as each other’s photos were taken. It seemed enjoyable.

On my last week at the program, I participated in a CSR event. During this time, I was told by someone on how they felt about the process of new associate head shots. Pretty much they were just given directions, click click click, and that was it. No interaction and people felt rushed though this process. Thus creating an unhappy experience.

So what’s the issue here? Lack of communication and making people feel even more uncomfortable in front of the camera. Since leaving the internship, I have worked with children for team and individual portraits in sports photography. The challenge is trying to get them to do what you want and smile. It’s not just counting to three and then telling them to say cheese. That really is cheesy and their smile is often unnatural. You have to connect to everyone at their level meaning you need to talk to them to get them to relax. They actually look more natural in the photos. You have to think about the psychology of people and why they purchase professional photos. When you make them feel and look good, you have done your job.

Now for those whose photos are being photographed, please smile because it looks better on you. Read this article about smiling.

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/25/smile-the-science-behind-facial-expressions/

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Whatever Your Camera Can Do, My Camera Can Do Better

It’s been a few years since I picked up a DSLR camera and learned its functions. I wanted to know how to become better because the honest truth was, I was jealous of all those who took fantastic photos. DSLRs, yes, is expensive but I always felt that to produce the best you must choose the best. Since then, new hybrid point and shoot cameras have come out with interchangeable lenses.

When I first started, I went through the manual and did numerous tests to see for myself what it all meant. I took courses and workshops. I was then put to shame while on vacation because of my limited knowledge and just the kit lens. As we rounded the tip of South America on a cruise and saw Cape Horn, someone’s ultra zoom lens on her point and shoot managed to capture the lighthouse on the island with clarity. My aunt asked me why I couldn’t produced the same result. Since then, I’ve learned about the various types of lenses, how to take portraits in a studio, and worked with strobes. I have also learned about post production using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, Lightroom and Aperture.

I must admit, to become a professional photographer is a difficult choice. Everyone is buying their own cameras and editing software. It’s very competitive. I’ve heard of professionals who have been in business for years and then close up shop. I have even experienced being hired to do professional work and while I’m doing my job, everyone wants to jump in and get their own photos – whether it’s a DSLR, point and shoot, smartphone or even iPads.

If you are at an event where there is a professional photographer, please be considerate and allow them to do their job. They are being paid and want to deliver on the goods. Also, even if Photoshop is made available, we don’t want to spend hours editing people out from the background. I saw on T.V. how a guest at a wedding stood directly next to the bride and groom taking photos with her fantastic DSLR while the professional couldn’t get a clean shot.

Here are some things to consider if you are undecided on what to do. All you know is that you want better photos. Some of you don’t want to invest in such an expensive DSLR and don’t even feel like lugging around this heavy piece of equipment. That’s understandable. This information is a bit general but there is plenty of information on the internet and brick and mortar places like Black’s and Henry’s to help you make a more in depth decision.

• What will you be using the camera for? It could be any one of these things – hobby, family and friends events, landscape photography, action photography like sports, building a portfolio. Research the different types of cameras and what they can do. Forget the debate between Nikon vs. Canon. That will only limit your thinking. Know the difference between full frame sensors and crop sensors. Sony has even come out with mirrorless cameras. Just as you would research DSLRs, look at their line of lenses.

• How much are you willing to invest? Consider your budget. Even if you do have money to drop $3000 on a full frame camera, and that’s not including extra lenses, will you get a return on investment? Full frame cameras are fantastic for product photography and billboard advertisement. Essentially, if you are doing corporate work, you’ll get your money back on your investment. Consider reading your manual for the point and shoot that you already own because there are a lot of things in there that can help you take better photos. For example, you should be able to change White Balance (WB) for different lighting environments, change between modes – manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program mode, and change ISO. As I previously said, there are point and shoot cameras with interchangeable lenses. This will also allow better zoom.

• What is your skill level? Some people just don’t put any thought into their photographs and assume that all you have to do is press the button. I have come across people who don’t even wait for people to stop and smile. I have awful photos of myself when I’ve given my camera to others. On those few occasions, the person didn’t even wait for me to look at him/her, even when that person has taken photos at least twice. If you can afford it, definitely take courses and workshops to improve your photos.

• After you have chosen your camera, you wonder why your photos are no better. Are you willing to invest more money and time into editing software? It’s a lot of work. Adobe Photoshop is great but it is expensive. Consider Adobe Lightroom because it is much cheaper and you can do basic editing. You can also watermark your photos and create slideshows.

I was once asked what’s better – a smartphone or a point and shoot? The honest truth is I’ve only owned a smartphone for less than eight months. It is convenient because I usually have it on me for phone calls, I can take a photo on the spot if I don’t have my DSLR on me. Plus, I don’t have the option of receiving calls on my DSLR. That hasn’t been invented yet. There are numerous apps for smartphones for photo lovers. I specifically like Camera Awesome and even purchased their extra filters. It’s limited in that I have very little control over what I can take. I’m sure most photo apps will allow you to increase/decrease brightness, contrast and zoom in. There is only so much you can do with it. The quality isn’t the best either. It is more evident where lighting isn’t great and you can see noise in the photo. Yes, yes, flash can be used. However, flashes can be very harsh depending on how close you are to the subject.

Below, I have some examples of photos I’ve taken with both an iPhone and my Nikon D7000 camera.

Hamilton Marina

iPhone using Camera Awesome

iPhone using Camera Awesome

Nikon D7000 HDR using Photomatix

Nikon D7000 HDR using Photomatix

It is a bit extreme. I did spend more time on the HDR photo. I could have given more effort to the iPhone photo.

Here are a couple of iPhone photos both taken in a dark environment. One shows more grain than the other. I attribute the ambiance to the difference in quality.

iPhone Photos

Everyday life

Ultimately, a good photograph is based on the skillful eye of the person. Even if someone has an excellent camera, it doesn’t make him/her any better. I’ve seen photos posted on Facebook where people have uploaded blurred photos, whether it’s motion blur or simply out of focus. In some photos, people are not aware of the background and there are things like poles sticking out of the subject’s head. Below are more photos I took using an iPhone and Nikon D7000. Very little editing was used on the iPhone photos while creating HDR from my DSLR took a little more work.

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

iPhone - Camera Awesome App with Hancock filter

iPhone – Camera Awesome App with Hancock filter

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000