As an Electrical Engineer and a long time photographer, I’ve been interested in computational photography for a while. You can read some of my earlier posts on the subject at this link. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
I’d change this slightly from”instead of” to “instead of or in addition to”, but that’s a small quibble.
Moore’s law keeps driving the computing capabilities in phones and cameras ever higher and it’s fascinating to see what companies do with the extra potential.
I made the image above on our recent trip using an iPhone 8+ and Apple’s “Live Photo” mode. After I made the photo, I edited it on the phone and enabled the “Long Exposure” effect. The Long Exposure effect of blurring the moving water is computed from ~3 seconds worth of frames that Live Photo captures. This is Apple’s web page explaining the feature. Here’s what it looked like before I changed the mode – it’s not nearly as photogenic:
Until iOS 11 added this feature, I wasn’t too interested in Live Photos. Now, I’m watching for places to use it. You can get a better image with your high-end camera and traditional optical techniques, but this is easier and a lot of fun to play with.
Here are some hints:
- Pick a suitable subject: moving water, traffic on a road, blurring people in a crowd, etc.
- Motion blur with a traditional optical approach requires a slow shutter speed – either low light or using filters. Since computational methods works by processing multiple frames, you can use it in bright light without filters.
- Apple says it works on their newer phones (6+ and later). You’ll need to have iOS 11 (or later) installed.
- The Long Exposure effect has to align Individual frames and then crop where there’s no overlap so you’ll lose pixels around the edges. Ideally, use a tripod – but that sort of defeats the idea of pulling your phone out of your pocket, doesn’t it? Just hold the phone as steady as you can to minimize cropping.
- Make several exposures and pick the best one later.
- Long Exposure resolution seems to be lower than default iPhone photos. This isn’t a huge problem for the moving parts of the frame – they’re supposed to be blurry. For the static portions, you can load both versions into layers in Photoshop and use masking to paint in higher resolution where you want it. I did this for the first photo above.
- You can set a Long Exposure photo as your wallpaper. You’ll see the static Long Exposure version until you press on it from the lock screen. Then it changes to show the three-second animation – cool!
I hope Apple enhances this in future updates. It’d be good to have some control over the blur effect. 3 seconds is nice, but some subjects will look better with less (or more?).
iOS 11 includes other updated computation photo capabilities (e.g. portrait lighting) – but that’s a subject for another day.
Photography’s changing fast – it’s a wonderful time to be a photographer, isn’t it? In today’s digital world, many advances are likely to be computational and not optical. Keep up – don’t be left behind!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some photos!
©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.