Big Room … Little Camera



With a perfectly good, real, camera sitting on the shelf, why would some one choose to attempt a shot like this with an iPhone? Lunacy perhaps? Right now some of my friends are nodding their heads, but the kinder answer is a little more complex. Mostly, I enjoy Mobile Photography and I love lighting, so why not see just how compatible the two are. Plus, I like traveling light and it doesn’t get much lighter than this. The kit below consists of: iPhone 5s, Nikon SB-80 Speedlite (Old, but simple, powerful, and trustworthy), Radio Popper remote trigger (to fire the flash when it’s on a pole), a collapsible 36″ umbrella, a telescoping pole, and of course a tripod.

Lighting Kit plus camera

Lighting Kit plus camera

I told my friend that light-painting with an iPhone is like building a Ferrari with a shovel. At the capture end, there’s no way to trigger the camera remotely (At a distance of more than three feet), so one has to start the exposure at the camera, walk out and fire the flash at the desired angle, and then it gets interesting. It seems that with all camera apps, when you click to review the image, going back to the camera causes it to refocus (Even if focus is locked). My workaround is to use the great app NightCap Pro. With it I can do very long exposures and the cool thing is that you can see the exposure building as it exposes. So I start the exposure, walk out and do the lighting thing, and then come back to take a look while it’s still exposing. Once I feel I’ve examined it enough I end the exposure. But remember, there’s no going to the camera roll to review any images or focus will be lost, so I have to do my best to remember what I’ve shot. The trick to making it feasible is to keep it simple. This shot consists of no more than five different lighting images.

I won’t go into the challenges of processing except to say that shooting is the easy part. There are plenty of imaging editing apps out there that offer layering, but I haven’t been able to find one that will do true masking. Usually their definition of masking is erasing, and that really complicates things.

So, when you see one of my images tagged with ‘iPhone’ and ‘light-painting’ you’ll have a glimpse of how it’s done. The answer to why ….


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