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As I find myself getting more and more “into” studio lighting, I was looking for a resource for my iPhone to help me with the seemingly overwhelming process. I stumbled upon an app called Strobox, and it’s pretty impressive, yet still hasn’t come into its own. This app is significantly helpful for those who aren’t able to visualize a lighting setup. For me, since I only have a few Canon 580 & 430 Speedlites as well as some constants with softboxes my setups aren’t too tricky, but If I were actually good at lighting I’d be able to map it all out in my head and call it a day. Since I’m a mere mortal I need to see what my setup is going to be before I can actually function in a studio shoot. Strobox allows me to do that.
Strobox allows the user to place several objects on the screen and position them like you would on set. I can talk about what this looks like until I’m blue in the face, but its easier if I demonstrate:
As you can see, I’ve positioned my talent, added a hair light and a snoot and a white seamless. Pretty basic setup and one I easily could have done on the fly, but like anything affiliated with photography it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. You can several elements, pretty much any type of light you’d have in your studio is represented in this app. Everything from a ring flash to reflectors is packed in this free app.
But what fun is this app if you’re not able to share with collegues? Once you save your diagram, Strobox allows you to email it. No other fancy places to upload, just a simple email; and realistically I can’t see much of a need to upload it to one of the hundreds of social network photography sites out there. If that’s what you’re looking for just spend a second to email it to yourself and upload it to your favorite ad supported site.
Right out of the gate the app is pretty useful and powerful, but like everything it’s not perfect. How can the app get better? I’d like to see an update that shows the used the approximate focus of the light, as well as the intensity. For example, lets say I had a setup of nothing but speedlites (such as my next example).
For some this type of setup will likely seem like a mess. Even though in my head I may have my two  backlights at 1/128th power, my key at 1/16 with a 105mm zoom and my main speedlite at 1/32 with a 14mm focus. For anyone looking at my diagram they wouldn’t know any of that information without my explicit instruction. And yes I know that second setup is terrible, but for arguments sake it works. I’d also like to see the ability to put gels on the lights, just for mock up sake I’d imagine this would be useful to those who like stylized gel’d shots. Again, if you’ve been doing lighting for awhile it’s probably easy to visualize a gel’d light in your head, but for us novices it would be helpful to toss it in our diagrams. A third function is simple and missing, yet incredibly useful: notes. Just the ability to jot a quick note without having to leave the app and put your thoughts into the native notes app would help keep you focused on the diagram you’re trying to map out.
All that aside, I think the app is great. Its simple and effective. My proposed changes would still keep it in that genre and not overwhelm newcomers to light. Light is tricky for a lot of us. Most of us aren’t Joe McNally or the one and only Strobist, so we have to do the best we can. This app is, so far, the most useful lighting app for photographers on the iPhone. With just a few tweaks the app can truly become a necessity to any photographer who uses the iPhone for production. And what would make the app better? An iPad version.
Check out Strobox.
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While traveling to New York City this week for a video shoot I found myself bored while waiting at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport so I explored the App stre for new apps. I generally try to use my iPhone for work related apps, but occasionally novelty apps such as lightsaber pokes its head in from time to time. At any rate, I was sifting through through the App store and came across a nifty little app called “Cross Process”.

I’m a huge nerd about cross processing and old film stocks. I love the vintage flat look with marvelous tints and vignettes. I had been looking or a way to do things like this on my iPhone but never really found an app that would accomodate the look I was going for.

“Cross Process” is a very easy to use cross process generating app fo r the iPhone. The user simply launches cross process and after a brief screengrab of instructions you’re on your way. The app allows the user to generate cross processed looks from their iPhones photo library. This is nice because as a photographer who keeps a version of his portfolio on his iPhone, I can quickly make a cross process version of a photograps; perhaps inspiring me to go home and redo some color correcting.

The other awesome feature of cross process is that the app also acts as a camera when you launch it. So you don’t have to worry about jumping from the iPhones native camera app and just use the “Cross Process” camera.

The actual cross processing has four settings in the info tab on the main page of the app. Users have the ability to turn on/off red, blue and green channels of processing along with a basic process on/off option. This allows for quite a diverse collection of cross process options from just one photo.  The “Cross Process” app also allows you to keep the original unprocessed photo in your camera roll which will allow you to go back another time to process it with a different color channel or even use the photo in another app.

So talk is talk, lets see what this app cranks out:

As you can see, the results from the Cross Process app are pretty stellar, if this is the look you’re looking for. Apps like “Cross Process” are a testament to what a simple phone camera and creativity of developers can put in the hands of people. I’m so impressed with “Cross Process” that after playing with it for a few hours that I moved it to my first page of apps. I knew I’d be using this app for all my gorilla photography and most likely will use it to take any type of photo. Even though a lot of people think this look is a fad, I consider it a throwback to some of the classic photography styles we were traditionally taught on (yes, I’m just old enough to know what film is and was even taught photography with it. Simply shocking.) For $1.99 skip your Tim Hortons Double Double and pick up this app. I love this app, and I’m pretty sure you will too. If not then just buy an extra double double to make up for buying it. Either way, you’re buying this great app and a double double, so all in all it’s a good day. Check out the developers website, he does some pretty amazing things: http://greyscalegorilla.com

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So after buying the astronomically expensive iPhone because as I told my loved one “I needed it,” I finally started buying apps. I mean, why have a $300 phone if you’re not going to buy a $2.99 app, right? So I finally got around to checking out the photography apps. Many of the photography apps listed on iTunes are for uploading to photosharing sites, thus pretty useless to me. I searched and searched for a photo-app that would allow me to take notes from locations so I didn’t need to keep a log, mainly because my handwritting is awful and down the road I want to be able to read my notes.

I then found PhotoJot. PhotoJot is a $2.99 app that is absolutely remarkable. PhotoJot allows you to take photos right in the app, gps location, take notes from locations and a slew of other features. One of the great feautes is the GPS locator.  I have always said to my fellow photo-iPhone users that the Maps program just needs the ability to jot a not down so I can keep track of locations on a map. PhotoJot is great for doing this. The only problem is, and hopefully it gets fixed in an update, that the GPS coordinates are only in Lat/Long calculations. Thus you’re not looking at a physical map. Ideally the photojot program could have a dedicated map program so you could actually see where the location is, or be able to export the Lat/Long calculation to the Maps app so you can get directions to your shoot, or to a hotspot.

PhotoJot also allows you to note Aperture/ISO/Shutter/Flash/Flash Power ratings in each “jot” so you can go back to a location and know how you’ll be shooting. One not section I hope they add with an update is a Lens section, to jot down what lens you used or would use at a location.

The interface is very very simple, clean and easy. Many times these iPhone developers get caught up in the glitz and glam of building an iPhone app and forget that the iPhone is a tool for some people, PhotoJot does a great job complimenting people using the iPhone as a tool.

I recently used the app on a trip to a state park that had a lot of photogenic spots I want to revisit in the winter time and I was able to take very clear notes about location, what to bring next time, best time of day at that location. PhotoJot is a fantastic iPhone app that any iPhone using photographer should have.

For more information about PhotoJot, visit: http://web.infofission.com/photojot.html

Until we meet again,

Nb

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Don’t expect any NY Times award winning review here. The Times fired me after my Spinal Tap review of ‘Shark Sandwich.” At any rate, I digress into it.

I had the full intention of adding Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 2 book to my book collection but it was mailed to me as a reward for hosting the NAPP photowalk. That being said I still may go pick up another copy and I’ll explain why in the end.

The Lightroom 2 book is full of updates from the Lightroom 1 book, and no surprise here that’s because of all the improvements Adobe made to the program. Keep in mind I’ve been a Lightroom user since the original Beta, thus I know my way around the program. So as a test I had my lovely fiance read the first chapter of the book and tested her by having her import some photo’s and organize. I’m ashamed to say it, but she’s a better importer and organizer than I am. Like the impatient chimp that I am, I’m more concerned about “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” the photography than I am about organizing them (we all have our vices). For a person who never touched Lightroom to read the first chapter and then was able to import hundreds photo’s and organize them with ratings, keywords and rejections should speak volumes about how well this book explains lightroom.  I have since gone back and reviewed importing to improve my workflow.

The section of the book talking about the develop module was very in-depth and to the point, much like other Kelby books. I would compare this book to his Digital Photographers  books, instead of lecturing you why you should change the exposure in the camera so you don’t have to in Lightroom because that’s the “proper way a photographer does it,” Kelby simply tells you to start your digital development with Exposure and work your way down because that’s what makes sense. The new lightroom two book, besides talking about development workflow, also gives a great deal of information about the new gradient filter and adjustment brush. I will admit I didn’t think much of the gradient filter at first, mainly because I just didn’t like the way it was affecting my photo’s, then after reading up on it in the Lightroom 2 book I looked at the tool with new eyes and now over use it (it’s kind of like when a kid gets a toy on christmas, it’s in his hands for about 72 hours then he moves on to other toys).

I’m not a huge fan of slideshows so I will admit I didn’t read this section as close as I should have, but I have the book for life so I can look back. Yes I know, awful reviewer. It’s not that I have anything personal against the Lightroom slideshow module, I just import my photo’s into Motion 3 to give them the burns effect and export out to quicktime, I’ve been doing it for years and it’s just part of the workflow.

Printing – my old nemesis. I will be honest because of Mpix I send out 94% of my photo’s to print. But for the few times I will  do a print at home, this Lightroom 2 book was a very in-depth refresher on the steps to print a decent print at home. I will likely test the fiance on this chapter next, I mean since she loved importing so much, she’s BOUND to love printing…..

Like I had mentioned, I’ve been using Lightroom for awhile, that being said the develop module, web module and export function are my best friends. Seeing as I knew many of the tricks to the sections I didn’t take much away. What I did take away though is how I will teach these sections to a class. I was hired to teach a father/photo hobbyist about lightroom and I had a little trouble explaining a few things (more or less why he doesn’t need to go into photoshop). After reviewing these three sections in the Lightroom 2 book I have a better sense on how to talk about issues people would have with these modules.

Conclusion: If you want to learn about Lightroom, or need to  enhance your Lightroom workflow, buy the book. It’s that simple. If you’re a NAPP member I believe you get a discount, so NAPP folks have no reason not to buy it. I’m contemplating “pimping my Kelby” much like others pimped their McNally books. If I do that I’ll have to pick up another copy as a backup, so you’ll get my royalty after all Scott.  As much as I love the job the bookmakers did, it is easier to turn this into a spiral bound reference book with tabs so I can flip to a section with ease. Perhaps one snowy weekend in Buffalo I will do that. Kidding aside, the Kelby Lightroom 2 book is a fantastic resource for students, first time Lightroom users, and professionals looking to enhance their workflow. When I teach Lightroom this fall and spring, this will be the required reading.

Until next time,

-Nb

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