Chuseok here in Korea. It is kind of like Thanksgiving for those of you who aren’t up on your Korean culture. Sitting in a coffee shop it feels a bit weird. I used to hear how Chuseok is a family holiday but it seems like all the families are here in this cafe, ha. I suppose it is a case of tradition versus modernity much like the rest of Korea.
I started mobile photography with the above photo. It’s a grainy mess, I know. I took it with the 3mp iPhone 3GS. Photography for me is about memory. This photo is a hard one for me. I took it the morning my Dad passed away. After a night of partying in Seoul to start a long holiday I woke up to the news in this motel. I had other cameras with me. I don’t know why I took this with my phone. Don’t know why I took it in general. Glad I did though.
For a while, people have been asking me to share my iPhone editing workflow. As most of you may know I edit 99 percent of my photos directly on my phone. This isn’t only the photos I take with my phone, but all of the photos I take in general. I have never really shot RAW so it has never been a problem for me when editing (Snapseed which I will talk about in this post edits RAW for those curious). The first question I usually get about this topic is “why?”
Not particularly easy to answer this. I suppose the first reason is as simple as me being lazy. I am too lazy to get home and edit photos on my computer. When I get home, usually the last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer. I spend a lot of my time in Korea on the go. I spend hours and hours in trains and or on buses which gives me a lot of time to edit. The phone is the easiest way to do so. On top of this, the tools on phones have gotten so much better than the past that it isn’t as much of a “stretch” as it used to be. I’ll get into the details soon, but I generally just use Snapseed and sometimes the basic Apple editor. Snapseed has gotten to be really good, to the point where I don’t miss anything from my computer or something like Lightroom. I used to use VSCO, but honestly I think Snapseed is a more powerful tool especially on IOS.
I’m using iPhone photos for the post even though as I said I edit everything on my phone. Just using iPhone photos mostly because I am lusting after the iPhone 7. I like the SE I have been using but while I like the smaller form for my hand it is hard to edit on, ha. The later of which is more important at the moment.
I find it funny that 90 percent of the photos I have kept that I took from before 2013 are iPhone photos. Not sure why that is. Probably because they are the only “honest” photos I took during that time. This above one is one of my favourite earlier photos. I had a Leica M9 with me on that trip yet my favourite photo came from my iPhone. Go figure. I much prefer the Snapseed edit to the one I did at the time as well.
Anyway, back to workflow. As I said, I use Snapseed for nearly everything I do. Snapseed has the great ability on IOS of being non-destructive. When you edit a photo, it just adds a layer on top of the photo similar to Lightroom all the while keeping the original untouched. I really like this as sometimes depending on the lighting conditions where I edit the photo (I mean the screen brightness when I edit) I sometimes need to go back and re-edit. The fact that Snapseed allows me to go back and just edit one “layer” of the original makes things a lot less complicated. On Android, for example, you have to edit the entire photo again as when you finish editing a photo it always exports the image not allowing further tweaks of the original edit.
Here is a picture of the preset I use for all black and white images in Snapseed. People have asked for this a lot so I figured a picture would help. Because of the way IOS works Snapseed will “forget” your preset once a week or so so what I do is just go back to one I my recent photos and copy it again. When I say copy it, I mean you can literally copy and past the preset using the three dots in the top right corner. Each of the layers on the right can be re-edited from the preset by clicking them so if I under of overexposed a photo I can edit it slightly differently than my preset similarly to what people do in Lightroom.
So, I will go through the settings one by one. The first setting on the bottom or first “layer” is the only one that usually changes from photo to photo. Tune Image is basically a way to edit the curves of the photo. I will edit the shadows, brightness, and highlights depending on the way the photo was exposed. I will normally just keep the preset as it is which is plus 10 for shadows and minus 10 for highlights. I’ll only tweak them further if need be. On the above for example I had to bring the shadows up a bit more as I wanted a bit more detail in them. I never spend more than 20 to 30 seconds in this setting.
The second layer of my preset is the Details layer. This is structure (clarity for Lightroom users) and sharpening. I never change this from the preset which is plus 5 to structure and plus 15 to sharpening. I actually don’t really like photos being particularly sharp.
The third layer is the “secret ingredient” I suppose. I think this would be the one most responsible for the current look of my photos. I have figured out that the Noir setting is very, very similar to the Nik film presets from their Lightroom plugin. The grain is nearly identical to that of the grain in Silver Efex. Considering Nik also made Snapseed this isn’t particularly surprising. I use the H1 preset found inside Noir. I leave it as is as I like it as such. The only thing I will change from time to time is the “wash” setting. I usually like it but sometimes it crushes the blacks so I will sometimes turn it down a bit.
The last layer is the most simple. I use the generic black and white preset. The main reason I do this is because the Noir filter adds a tint I don’t really like and the black and white brings it back to normal-ish monochrome. I know people are going to try and explain to me how this still doesn’t make an actual monochrome image but to be honest I don’t really care, ha. They look good to me this way. I also add a bit of contrast in this setting. The preset has plus 15 to contrast.
The original Snapseed was quite crude. I edited the above in Snapseed in 2012. I remember thinking it was very heavy handed at the time and that was during a time where heavy handed Japanese photographers were like gods to me. It has changed a lot since then and now I think for me it is literally everything I need from an editing program.
I have a rule in my photography that goes something like this:
If it takes me more than 1 minute to edit a photo I delete it no matter how much I like it.
I did this originally because it taught me to get things right in the camera. Usually if I am taking more time to edit a photo it is because I made a mistake in the first place. Now, I follow the rule more as a matter of habit. On the phone, it is pretty easy to edit quickly and painlessly.
Edit: The one setting I haven’t mentioned here is that oftentimes I will crop iPhone photos to 3:2 aspect ratio. The photo I used to show my preset was taken on a different camera and didn’t need the crop so it didn’t appear in the preset. I don’t always do this but I do prefer 3:2 99 percent of the time. I usually save two versions of iPhone photos one with the original aspect ratio and one in 3:2. All the examples in this post are 3:2.
I am not saying this system is perfect as it certainly isn’t. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend it. Pixel peepers will rip me apart for writing this, I’m sure. That being said, I literally couldn’t care less. I edit this way because it works for me and it is an evolution of the way I have done so for the last couple of years.
Some people will be curious as to why this is part 1. Part 2 will cover my colour preset and a little about the way I import and archive photos (still use Lightroom and a tiny Asus tablet PC for this) from cameras that aren’t my phone. Also, I will cover any questions you have so feel free to comment or email me about anything you’d like me to talk about in the next post.
***A Year, A Camera Update***
So, this is probably going to be funny to some but it wasn’t particularly for me. I will be pulling down (or just editing to reflect what has happened) the post about the Epson RD1X. After using the camera for just a couple of weeks the mint looking one I had started to have all sorts of issues. I tried another (RD1) which had its own plethora of problems. Because I was still within a certain amount of time I returned the one I had and after having issues with the second I decided to just take the money. I am pulling (or editing) the post because already two of the four people who emailed me saying they bought an Epson on my “recommendation” have reported having pretty serious issues with their own. These are old cameras, and I suppose it serves as a lesson learned that sometimes in the digital world it is hard to rely on old technology. I used the money to buy the camera that was second on the list (list highlighting the things I would need and want from a camera over the course of a year) I made from the post, the Olympus Pen-f. Being newer, with a warranty I feel a little more comfortable with it. I have not posted about the camera yet not out of embarrassment for how the first post went but because I have not decided on a lens yet that I would like to use (suggestions open but am leaning towards the 25mm 1.4).
I am obviously overthinking the whole thing, ha, but I really want to make a go of this.
Then again, as a frequent commenter Bob wrote on the last post I should probably just shut up and shoot 😉
Anyway, as always any questions you have about any of this feel free to comment or email me (jtinseoul at gmail dot com).