This is how I did it. Five easy steps

Last week’s blog post was meant to be a lighthearted diversion from all the stress surrounding the election. I had gone to the Massachusetts Orchid Show and shared my iPhone images of the flowers. Now the election is behind us yet based on what I am seeing on the news and reading on social media, it is obvious we have a very long road ahead with lots of anger (on both sides) and wounds to heal.

The orchid show was packed with people and it was easy to spot the “real photographers” with their big camera bag, DSLR camera, macro lens and flash ring. All I could think of was how I am so over that hassle. My neck was hurting just looking at all that gear and one guy near me was loudly scolded for hitting one of the plants with his gear bag.

I however had my iPhone and was happily moving in and out taking pictures without bothering anyone. As I shared in my previous post, the orchids at the show were on tables that looked like this. There were ribbons and tags and lots of distracting back ground “noise”.

How the displayed looked

How the displayed looked

Yet, the orchid photos I posted looked like this.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

As promised, I said I would share I how I achieved my iPhone photos of the orchids and this is how I did it.

1.Get in close.The first thing I did to eliminate as much of the distracting background as possible was to  get in close…really close. Since the iPhone has such a wide angle lens, I was only inches away from the flowers.

2.Set the Auto Focus Lock. The closer you get to your subject the harder it is to maintain focus. This is where you want to use the iPhone auto lock feature. Simply hold your finger on the screen in the exact spot you want in focus for a few seconds (I picked the center of the flower in most cases). A yellow box will appear where your finger is placed and a yellow highlighted rectangle that shows AE/AF LOCK will appear at the top of the image. The yellow box will begin to “blink” as you continue to hold your finger in the spot. Keep you finger in the same spot until the yellow box stops “blinking”. The camera focus is now locked. Here is an example of what the screen will look like once the auto lock is set.

AF-lock is set on iPhone camera

AF-lock is set on iPhone camera

See how sharp the image is where I locked the focus? I was less than 2 inches away from the flower yet even my slight movements kept the image in focus.

3. Use an editing app. If you only learn to use ONE editing app I recommend Snapseed. Even though there are thousands of editing apps for the iPhone, I used Snapseed for this tutorial because it is both free and easy to use. For every image of my orchids I used only two tools on Snapseed, the healing tool and the brush tool. This what the Snapseed app looks like when open. You can see the healing and brush tool on the right.

Snapseed editing window

Snapseed editing window

Note: I made a short video at the end of this post showing what I did but I want to “talk” through it first.

4. Get rid of unwanted distractions.The first thing I did was to use the healing tool to get rid of as much distracting background as possible. I will be completely honest, there are much better apps for this (TouchRetouch for one) but they cost money and are not as easy to master. With the healing tool you simply run your finger over what you want to remove and in “most” cases it will disappear into the surrounding background. You might have to zoom in on your screen to remove only the part you want.

5. Darken the background. Lastly, I used the brush tool to darken the background and isolate the flower in order to make it pop. The brush tool can either be used to Dodge and Burn the image. For those of you who never did your own printing with film you won’t understand the terms but to Dodge an image is to make it lighter, and to Burn and image is to make it darker. Using my finger I rubbed the background with the minus 10 brush (burning the image) over and over until it was as dark as I wanted. Some images took longer to darken than others but in general I didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on each image.

Here is the image I started with before the edits.

Orchid before edits

Orchid before edits

and here is the after

Orchid after edits

Orchid after edits

Here is a short video my husband took with his cellphone of me first using the healing tool to remove some things I didn’t want in the image, and then the brush tool to darken the background. To save each step you will see I hit the check mark over on the right hand side of the screen.

And that is how I did it!

If you have any iPhone camera questions you would like answered in a blog post please let me know in the comment section below. Until then, keep on shooting!

11 Responses to This is how I did it. Five easy steps
  1. Linda Pakravan Reply

    Thank you! Thank you! I downloaded Snapseed and have started using it. This tutorial is the best!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Linda! I’m thrilled my post was helpful.

  2. Beth Reply

    This is great! I use Snapseed and never knew what dodge and burn meant! Keep the great tips coming

    • Linda Holt Reply

      GReat! So happy to hear this post was clear and easy to follow.

  3. Allyson Paris Reply

    Nice one, Linda! I have to go take a picture of the orchid in my dining room and see what I can do with this. So much fun!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I would love to hear how it turns out Allyson!

  4. Meredith Reply

    This is perfect explanation of “How to” Linda! I love learning this and can’t wait to put it into practice…( after a few trial runs anyway, lol) I love the ideas about diminishing the background “noise” I find that is something I want to do quite frequently to hone in on what I am trying to photograph… Thanks for this series!

  5. Donna Reply

    Linda – thanks so much for the iPhone photo tips! I just tried the ae/af lock. It makes for a very sharp photo. And I have downloaded Snapped.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Great! I love to hear this Donna!

  6. Lisa Goulet Reply

    I love your photography posts, soooo helpful. I have Snapseed and could never figure out what Dodge and Burn meant. Thanks to you, I can now use it!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      That’s great to hear Lisa! It will make such a difference in your photos.

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