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It's become more difficult than ever for spectators to bring decent camera gear into pro arenas. The one device that doesn't raise any eyebrows is our smartphone. But is it worth the effort to try to capture sports action with an iPhone?

Well, that depends.

Sharks-Pressure-1024.jpeg San Jose Sharks match captured with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photos by Derrick Story.

The iPhone does a great job for certain kinds of shots, such as wider overviews, crowd activity, and portraits of friends and family in attendance.

But if you want those pro-caliber action shots, it can't compete with a top-drawer DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. That said, you can come away with some memorable images.

Get the Best Seats Possible

Honestly, the closer the better when it comes to capturing action with a mobile device. The minute you have to start pinch-zooming for a decent composition, the photo game is over. But, if you can frame a decent shot with the 2.5X optical camera on the iPhone, you have half a chance.

Good Lighting Is Important

Bright, well-lit arenas allow for faster shutter speeds (to freeze the action) and for lower ISOs (to help control image noise). Many professional hockey and basketball venues have very good lighting. You can take advantage of this to squeeze a bit more image quality out of your smartphone camera.

Burst Mode Increases Your Odds

Anticipating when something is going to happen and recording a short burst of frames might yield that magic moment. The iPhone allows you to keep the best frame in a series and delete the others. I highly advise taking advantage of this feature.

Sharks-Entry-1024.jpeg I love the mood of this image, but the lighting and motion presented problems for the iPhone. Wish I had my OM-1 mirrorless for this one.

Realize that Some Shots Just Won't Meet Your Expectations

There are often great moments when the lights go down and something special happens. Go ahead and try. But realize that the iPhone is challenged by moving object in dim lighting. You may luck out, but don't count on it.

Final Thoughts

When I don't have my regular camera rig with me, I get the most that I can out of the iPhone. My hit rate goes way down for sporting events, but even if I get one or two mementos from the event, I feel it's worth the effort.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Tell More of the Story with Panoramas

Even though all of my cameras can record impressive panoramas, my favorite device is still the iPhone because of its ease of use and image quality. My only problem with it is remembering to switch to Pano when standing before an expansive scene.

Oregon-Coast-Pano.jpeg Panorama of the Oregon Coast captured with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger view.

I think we've all remarked at one time or another, "It looked so much bigger than this," when showing pictures of our travels. Part of the reason for that is that our eyes are taking in so much more information than our camera is recording, even when using a wide angle lens.

Take a look at the photo below, captured from the same location as the panorama above.

Oregon-Coast-Normal.jpeg Oregon Coast captured with a wide angle lens.

It's a nice photo, for sure, and I'm glad I took it. But if I wanted to show a more complete description of the location to someone else, then it's good to have both photos - the bog picture and the more detailed view.

I don't think anyone would want to see a slideshow of just panoramas. They have their place in the mix just like everything else. By the same token, you don't want to forget to record a few panos in locations that have compelling big pictures.

I use panos for simple things as well, such as to show the view from the back patio of a vacation location. Again, it tells more of the story and better represents what my eyes were taking in at the time.

back-door-pano.jpeg Back patio pano.

My takeaway photo tip this week is to remind you to capture a pano or two alongside the other pictures you take when in beautiful locations. They will help you tell a complete story about your adventures.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

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I'm surprised at how often I want to connect an iPhone to some sort of tripod. Yes, it's a mobile device, but it's so good at so many things.

And if you're a photographer who appreciates the imaging athleticism of the iPhone 12 and 13, then you realize that their capabilities can stretch into areas that we traditionally used a tripod for, such as time-lapse, video interviews, panoramas, and night photography.

The problem was, until a week ago for me, that I hadn't discovered a satisfactory way to connect my iPhone 12 Pro Max to any type of 3-legged beast, large or small. That is, until I found the Moment Multi-Threaded Mount for MagSafe (best deal: $29.95).

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This machined disc that feels like a slim hockey puck has a powerful magnet on one side that attaches to the MagSafe connector on the back of an iPhone 12 (or later), and an array of 3/8" and 1/4" female threads on the other. Now I can attach my iPhone to practically anything.

I can use the adapter with a MagSafe compatible case on, or just on the phone itself, making it the simplest and most versatile mobile photo accessory that I've to date. Just pop it on and it stays put.

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In addition to attaching the phone to a tripod, I can also use the adapter to connect flash adapters, microphone holders, magic arms, and anything else that uses a 1/4" thread. I can even hitch the iPhone to a camera.

If you're serious about iPhone photography, then you'll want one of these on your pocket tripod.

Product Links and Comments

There are product links in this article that contain affiliate tags. In some cases, depending on the product, The Digital Story may receive compensation if you purchase a product via one of those links. There is no additional cost to you.

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What do you do with the plethora of photos on your smartphone after taking them? It's easy to have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos in your library, but it isn't so easy to back up and keep track of them. In this course, get tips on how to manage your ever-growing mobile photography collection.

Mobile-Photo-Backup-LinkedIn-1024.jpg Check out this free video, A few things about this course from Mobile Photography: Image Management by Derrick Story

I delve into several different backup and organizational methods for both Android and iOS devices, highlighting the benefits and risks of each approach. Plus, I share tips for enhancing the appearance of your shots right on your mobile device.

Discover how to leverage your iPad as a mobile photography studio, transfer images from your digital camera to your mobile device, back up and edit photos with Lightroom, and much more.

Mobile Photography: Image Management is a course that practically anyone who enjoys photography on their smartphone would enjoy. Take a look and see what you think.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Of all the features that I use on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the ultra-wide camera is one of the most satisfying.

D-Story-SF-Giants.jpeg San Francisco Giants vs. the Washington Nationals at Oracle Park in San Francisco. iPhone 12 Pro Max using the ultra-wide camera. Photo by Derrick Story.

When you think about it as a traditional photographer, having access to a 13mm, f/2.4 lens with an expansive 180-degree field of view, in your pocket, is incredible.

I've always liked wide-angle photography, but didn't shoot as much of it as I would prefer because the lenses were bulky. So many times when I was putting together my nimble kit for the day, those optics were left behind.

All of that has changed. I can now carry a camera with just one prime lens (such as the Fujifilm X100V or Olympus PEN-F) with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in my pocket. The smartphone covers ultra-wide and mild telephoto, while the camera is used for my normal lens work.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is my first phone with the wide optic, having upgraded from the iPhone X (which I love!), and I must say, that 13mm lens has changed everything.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

I've always been fond of the iPad mini. But my affection grew deeper when Apple released iPadOS that opened the door to more capability. Now, a year later, I can't imagine work without it.

Derrick-Story-DSCF2410-iPad-mini-1024.jpg

Even though I use this tablet for everything from reading the NY Times, to checking email, to running TheFilmCameraShop, my focus for this post is its usefulness for photography. Considering that this device fits just about anywhere, I'm impressed with how versatile it is.

Powerful Imaging Apps

Here are my "go to" imaging apps that I use with the mini.

  • Photos for iPadOS - Photos is one of those apps that I think photographers don't take seriously enough. The editing tools are solid, and if you shoot with a modern iPhone, there are amazing things you can do with this app, such as changing the depth of field of your portrait shots in post production.
  • RAW Power - Not only can it tap right in to your Photos library, once you're there, RAW Power puts an incredible set of editing tools at your fingertips. Whether the images are imported from a digital camera, or captured with an iPhone, you can get the most out of them with this app. It even has Depth Effect adjustments for iPhone portraits. (I also use it regularly for my infrared work because it has a channel mixer and LUT capability.)
  • Pixelmator Photo - Like RAW Power, Pixelmator lets me tap your Photos library, or work at the file level, and can easily switch back and forth. If there's a picture I want to edit on your iPad, Pixelmator can get to it. Plus it has fantastic tools including a Retouch Brush and Channel Mixer. Lots of creative filters to experiment with are included in the app. And Pixelmator has incorporated Machine Learning into the software for excellent automated results. I can even "sample up" my 12MP iPhone files to higher resolution. All of this on an iPad mini that goes just about anywhere.
  • Lightroom Mobile - For those in the Adobe ecosystem, Lightroom Mobile is the perfect addition to the iPad workflow. This app has continued to evolve intelligently, and add to the mix its big brother, Photoshop for iPad, and that's a powerful tandem. All of your work can be stored in Adobe Creative Cloud, so you can pick up right where you left off when you return to the computer (if you ever do...).

Apple Pencil

When Apple refreshed the iPad Mini, they added Apple Pencil capability. This is a feature that I wanted, but I wasn't sure how much I would use in day to day life.

As is turns out, the pencil is in my hand quite a bit. I particularly like it for marking up photographic illustrations when I'm trying to explain how to do something. But I also like it for image editing and making handwritten notes. It's as fun as it is useful.

A Real Web Browser

There are so many things about iPad OS that I like. But the most important is a real web browsing experience that allows me to use the device for administrating my blog and managing the store. I can now do anything on the tablet that once required a laptop. Fold in the touch screen and Apple Pencil, and it's an enjoyable tool for real work.

Related to this are its connectivity options. I do use WiFi when I can, but the cellular expands its boundaries. Since I use AT&T for the iPhone, I opted for Verizon with the iPad. Rarely am I unable to connect to get work done, regardless of my location.

For this photographer/writer, it's vital that I am able to work from anywhere. Combine the real web browser with outstanding connectivity options, and I can.

Final Thoughts

Nimble photography has been a mantra of mine for years. But that practice isn't limited to my camera gear. Everything has to work together for me to be truly agile in this world.

Last night, I transferred an IR shot from my Olympus E-M10 Mark III to the iPad mini via WiFi. I edited the image in RAW Power, then published it online.

Fantastic tools that fit in my jacket pocket. That's what Nimble Photography is to me.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Since I've been working more with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I've found myself wanting to push the envelope for those lovely ProRAW files. One of my old friends, Raw Power for iOS not only taps ProRAW capability, it has some unique tools that you won't find in the standard Photos app. One of my favorites is the ability to add LUTs (lookup tables) to my pictures.

Raw-Power-LUT.jpeg Raw Power running on an iPad mini editing a ProRAW picture. Here I'm applying a Fujicolor Provia film simulation LUT.

Not only does the app come with a nice selection of built-in LUTs, such as a collection of Fuji film simulations, but you can add your own. For example, I've added a handful of Red/Blue swap LUTs so I can quickly edit my IR shots in Raw Power on the iPad. (Raw Power also includes a great Channel Mixer!)

If you're upping your iPhone photography game, especially with the new models, then why settle for the "out of the can" look? Work those files! And tapping LUTs is one fun and easy way to do so.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Apple ProRAW - The Best of Both Worlds

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As interested as I am in iPhone 12, ProRAW is what really caught my eye during the last Apple Event. There's a key phrase in Apple's description that I think sums it up well:

"ProRAW gives you all the standard RAW information, along with the Apple image pipeline data. So you can get a head start on editing, with noise reduction and multiframe exposure adjustments already in place -- and have more time to tweak color and white balance."

"Get a head start on editing" is really the beauty of this for mobile photographers. Many of us shoot with both an interchangeable lens cameras and an iPhone. But the workflows are much different.

For my Olympus PEN-F for example, I shoot in RAW+Jpeg, use the Jpegs when I nail it, and go to the RAWs if the photo needs a bit more work. On my phone, I rarely shoot in RAW because I have to use a different camera app and the workflow isn't as smooth. Plus, editing RAW files on the phone isn't that fun.

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With Apple ProRAW, I don't have to start from scratch with my mobile RAW files. I can enjoy the magic of computational photography, then tweak the results to my personal tastes without compromising the file. This is something that I would love to see expand beyond iPhone photography.

The catch is, you'll need a new iPhone to use it. I won't be able to tap ProRAW from my perfectly capable iPhone X (a device that I'm quite fond of). If I were to upgrade, being the photographer that I am, I would certainly opt for the iPhone 12 Pro Max with the 65mm telephoto and the Sensor-shift OIS for the 26mm camera. That bad boy will cost $1,399 with 512GB of memory. Whoa. I truly am buying a camera system, aren't I?

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We're not exactly sure when ProRAW will be released. We do know that it won't be on the iPhone 12 as shipped. So there will be some waiting time. That's not really a huge problem since there are plenty of other features to explore and learn in the meantime.

So I think I'm going to wait and see how things shake out. I'm not shooting as much right now anyway because of the pandemic. I'm totally in love with my Fujifilm X100V when I do get out. And as I said earlier, I'm still quite enamored with my iPhone X.

But I am very enthusiastic about Apple ProRAW. And I know there will be a day when it will be my go-to format for mobile photography.

When I talk about camera manufacturers paying attention to what's happening in the smartphone space, this is the kind of stuff I'm referring to. Imagine having ProRAW on your favorite digital camera? That would be sweet. Stay tuned.

How to Watch Photos for macOS Catalina and iPadOS

Learn everything you need to know about Photos for the Mac and iPad by checking out my latest course on LinkedIn Learning and on lynda.com. This course is perfect for Mac and iPad based photographers who shoot with iPhone, Mirrorless, and DSLR cameras. It covers both photography and movies. And if I say so myself, it's a lot of fun.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

The most tantalizing feature in the new Pixelmator Photo 1.4 is ML Super Resolution, which uses machine learning to enlarge images with just one tap. The feature was designed for Apple's new powerful iPad Air, but I decided to test it on my iPad mini 5 to see if this was a viable tool for me as well. I'm happy to report that it is.

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If you're not familiar with Pixelmator Photo, you should check out my review from October 2019 titled, Pixelmator Photo - Incredible iPadOS App. This year's update includes double-tap gesture support with Apple Pencil, a comparison slider, and ML Super Resolution.

I opened an iPhone X Jpeg in Pixelmator Photo and checked its resolution, which was 4032 x 3024 pixels. I then enabled ML Super Resolution and checked again. Now the info box read 6048 x 4536 pixels.

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I think the best way to appreciate the sample-up difference is in terms of print size. The original iPhone picture could be printed at 13"x10" at 300 dpi. The sampled-up version could be printed at 20"x15" at 300 dpi. That's a big difference. What it means for me is that I can now make a legit 13"x19" print from an iPhone picture... from my iPad mini.

I magnified both versions of the shot and didn't discern any loss of detail or smearing. In fact, the Pixelmator image looked better, even after sampling up.

original.jpg Original iPhone Photo (above)

pixelmator.jpg Sampled Up Pixelmator Version (above)

All of this is terrific news for iPad photographers. Yes, you can sample up images on your computer. That's not the point. What's interesting here is that you can sit back with an iPad in hand and do serious image editing, and enjoy it more while doing so, and practically anywhere that you want.

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Oh, and just one more thing: Pixelmator Photo is available now for $7.99.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Even though Photos for iOS is my home base for managing and editing images on the iPad, I've been using Darkroom to augment it for additional image editing tools.

IMG_0150.jpeg The Adjustments panel in Darkroom.

Darkroom works well as both a standalone app, or as a plugin for Photos. It's equally adept at editing RAWs as it is Jpegs. My normal workflow is to open the image in Photos, and if I need to do something beyond its tools, I tap the "3 dots" in the upper right corner and access Darkroom. Any work that I do there is fed back to my Photos library.

Aside from its excellent set of tone and color tools, Darkroom also features lots of extras, such as an extensive Filters library, outstanding cropping tool with perspective controls, and even a framing workshop where you can add borders to your images.

IMG_0153.jpeg The Cropping tool in Darkroom.

The app also encourages you to take more risks with your image editing because it supports a robust History interface that displays all of the adjustments you've made, and allows you to go back in time to any spot in the process. If you don't like the direction you're going, just return to the edit before it all went wrong.

IMG_0152.jpeg The History interface in Darkroom.

You can use the app for free, which has lots of power, or you can upgrade to Darkroom+ that gives you a ton more including Curves, Selective Color, Video Editing, Watermarking, Premium Filters, and on and on. The additional tools are available via subscription ($19.99 a year) or for one total price of $49.99.

If you enjoy image editing on the iPad, Darkroom can certainly enhance that experience. The free version is wildly powerful, and if you get hooked, Darkroom+ is a comprehensive package.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.