Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Hidden in the Fiery Sky

Aug 26 2012

Fire Sky + Sun

Canon 5DMK3 + 70-200mm f/2.8 II, 200mm, 1/400, f/6.3, ISO 100.

Manhattan Magic Hour Sunset

Aug 19 2012

Manhattan Magic Hour Sunset.

Canon 5DMK3 + 24-70mm, 1/60 at f/4.5, ISO 320.

Absolutely magical light over Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC.

8 Macro Flower Photos to Inspire you

Jul 25 2012

yellow flower

Apologies for my lack of posting for the past few months! During my Around the World with an iPhone trip, I diverted my attentions to my travel blog and posting photos on Facebook. Anyway, after much delay, I thought I would give some love back to this blog. Here are some bokeh beautiful macros to inspire you to get out and take some shots.

Pink Rose



Rose Abstract

*and everything was still*

*Every time you go...*

*a rose by any other name would smell as sweet*

Around the World with Lisa Bettany & an iPhone 4S

Jan 18 2012

I am setting out on a trip around the world to capture photos for my very first travel photography book. I’m inspired by the freedom of shooting, editing, and sharing photos with a light-weight mobile device, so I’m leaving my professional camera gear at home and capturing the entire journey with an iPhone 4S (well actually two incase one gets tromped on by an elephant or snatched by a meer cat).

Over the past year, I’ve taken more pictures with my iPhone than my Canon 5DMKII. I’ve been really impressed by the dramatic quality improvements of iPhone 4S, and I honestly think that I will get better candid travel shots for my book with my iPhone. The best camera is the one you have with you and while I still adore my dSLR, shooting on the iPhone challenges me and makes me see capture photos in a new exciting way. Plus, it’s about 30lbs lighter than my camera gear!

When I started planning this world book trip, I had a list of about 100 places I wanted to visit spanning every inch of the globe. Unfortunately, being under a time constraint of 50 days and planning this all very last minute, I had to cut some incredible places because of technical flight details & burocratic red tape. Apparently, many cool places require travel visas which are not easily attained during Christmas holiday. Live and learn.

If you have any travel tips or suggestions for me, please put them below! I need all the help I can get!

Follow my Around the World blog and on Facebook, Google+ & Twitter.

10 tips for taking great holiday iPhone photos

Dec 20 2011

Holidays are the perfect time to capture magic moments with friends and family and take the time get creative with your photography. Here are some simple tips to get the best photos from your iPhone.

1. Shoot outdoor lights before it gets too dark

Holiday lights on the BC Parliament buildings.

The best time to capture outdoor festive lights with an iPhone is during “blue hour” just before it goes completely dark. Catching the lights while you have enough ambient light will help you avoid getting blurry photos. You can help by using both hands to steady your iPhone while using the stabilizer mode. If you plan on doing a lot of night photography consider investing in a little tripod, the Glif or the Gymbl Pro make great options. Avoid leaning your iPhone on walls or ledges unless you have a protective case, one gust of air or curious cat paw can send your beloved iPhone tumbling onto the hard, unforgiving concrete floor.

2. Capture the sentimental details

My favourite ornament lit with a small twinkle light.

It’s the small sentimental things that make your holiday special. Take shots of your favourite ornament, candles, table placings, and bows on gifts. To get great macro shots, position your iPhone at least 2″ away from your subject and tap the screen to focus. Use a second finger to get the proper exposure. Make sure you don’t get too close or the iPhone won’t focus! Also, you may want to add a bit of external light. For the above shot, I held a small twinkle light in front of the ornament to get more light on Santa and the reindeer.

Olloclip macro lens accessory on the iPhone 4S.

Olloclip macro lens accessory. For this lens, you have to get within a 1/8th of a inch to your subject to get focus which is almost impossible to do without a tripod.

3. Use your headphones as a remote to snap shots in low light

Using my headphone as a remote for holiday macro shots.

One of the challenges with taking great holiday shots in low light is camera shake. If you are shooting ornaments in a dimly lit room use a tripod and your headphones as a cable release.

4. Change your perspective by shooting from a low angle

Different perspective of the Parliament building lights with a low angled shot.

The beauty of shooting with an iPhone is that you can easily move it around and even position it on the floor to get really interesting shots. Changing the angle that you shoot from changes the size of your subject and also plays on the the light and shade and patterns on objects. Get low and make presents look huge as your kids tear open gifts. Play with perspective by shooting from underneath the tree or below a plate of cookies.

5. Use focus settings to capture amazing bokeh lights

Background bokeh can add interest to macro shots.

One way to get “wow” holiday shots from your iPhone is to position an object in the foreground of a lit tree or some twinkle lights. The lights in the background will become small out of focus light circles called “bokeh”. The trick is to position the object at least 5-10ft away from the lights. Tap to focus on the object and make sure the lights in the background are out of focus, then adjust the exposure by tapping with your second finger. If you aren’t getting any bokeh, you need to move the object further away from the background lights.

6. Compose and fill the frame for great holiday portraits

Squatchi fills the frame for this magic holiday memory.

Photographs of your friends and family are the most precious holiday memories. It’s easy to forget to compose shots with an iPhone, so turn on the grid mode and fill the frame with your subject by getting close and cropping out any background distractions. Since my friends and family are shy, Squatchi agreed to pose for me amid a fervent present wrapping session.

7. Focus on one point of interest

Swirling Snow Globe.

Holiday photos can often get cluttered with people, colours, and lights that all distract from what you are shooting. Use the Depth of Field FX in Camera+ to blur out the distractions and bring your subject to the forefront. Tap on your photo in the Lightbox and hit FX. You’ll find Depth of Field in the Special FXs.

8. Use Photo flash light to capture beautiful food photos

Holiday cheesecake lit with photo flashlight.

In between eating plates of cookies, brightly wrapped chocolates, and delicious buffets of yum, snap some photos of your holiday treats. iPhone food photography can turn ugly pretty quickly if you don’t light things properly, so if you are in a dimly lit room or restaurant, instantly add light by using photo flashlight (a continuos light source). Just tap on the flash icon in the shooting screen and choose the photo flashlight icon. Tap on your subject to get focus. Tap again with a second finger to get a second exposure point to get the perfect exposure.

9. Tell the story with captions

Make sure you capture the “story” of your holidays from decorating cookies to putting up decorations to loved ones arriving at holiday gatherings. Tell the story of these moments by adding fun captions. First, add a border and then tap the captions button.

10. Head outdoors for winter nature shots

Snapping a winter sunset.

You can capture some of the most spectacular sunsets during winter. Photograph barren frozen landscapes with stark silhouetted trees, or snow covered winter berries. It’s hard to get good photos if your hands are cold! Get some touch-screen compatible gloves so you can use your iPhone outside in cold temperatures. When your hards aren’t freezing you can spend the time to compose and focus on taking great shots.

Magic memories only happen once. Good thing you always have your iPhone in your pocket!

Using VolumeSnap and your headphones as a remote control for Camera+

Dec 18 2011

VolumeSnap on Camera+ makes shooting a breeze.

One of the challenges with taking great iPhone photos is trying to take clear photos with minimal camera shake. Using the on-screen shutter button was challenging and extremely frustrating, especially in low light or whilst eating chicken wings. To solve this problem, especially the “greasy fingers on screen issue”, Camera+ added the ability to take a photo using the volume controls on your iPhone. After a few initial “hiccups”, we are thrilled to have VolumeSnap back in Camera+!

VolumeSnap allows you to hold your iPhone like a real camera steady your shots with both hands and quickly snap shots avoiding camera shake. The great part about VolumeSnap is that it also works with the volume up control on your headphones. Just plug in your headphones and snap photos with the volume up “+” button.

Use your headphones volume controls as a cable release.

While we’ve seen some huge improvements on the low light capability of the iPhone 4S, sometimes it’s necessary to use a tripod to avoid getting blurry photos when there isn’t enough ambient light like in a dimly lit room, outside at night, or shooting macros. For these shots, you can use your headphones as a cable shutter release to snap the photo without touching your iPhone creating camera shake.

Use VolumeSnap on your headphones to avoid camera shake with macros.

Ahh, the iPhone self-taken shot. I think we all tired of our seeing giant out-of-focus arms in self-taken iPhone shots of us and our bf/gf/bff/frenemy. Just pop in your headphone and trigger the shot from a distance that’s flattering your your arm as well as your face. Remember you can also tap to get a better exposure if your shot is blowing out.

Snapping photos with your headphones is an excellent way to get incredibly candid street shots or in places where some mean security will yell at you for taking photos which happens to me almost every day. No need for full ninja gear anymore, you can listen to music while surreptitiously snapping shots with your headphones. Works like a charm!

Do you have any useful tips for using VolumeSnap to get great shots? Let us know in the comments below!

Check out Camera+ if you don’t already have it!

My 18 Favorite Portrait Photos & How I Created Them

Oct 25 2011

lovely Siri, not the iOS Siri ;)

Beautiful Siri. Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8, 1/60, f/2.5, ISO 100.

I use cheap and simple set-ups for my portraits. You can achieve most of these looks with one or two flashes ($350), some Alien Bees Cyber Sync wireless triggers ($120), a basic umbrella kit ($70), a foldable disc reflector ($40) or foam core boards ($2), and some coloured gels ($10). While some of these were taken with my pro-level Canon 5DMKII ($3500), many were taken with my old entry-level dSLR, the Canon Xti/400D ($350). You can take amazing portraits with any camera, the key is great lighting. Here are 18 of my favourite portraits and the details on how I shot and lit them:

For the above outdoor shot of Siri (the model, not your iOS girlfriend), I used a basic 2 flash set-up to liven up a dull location. I lit her face with one 580EX flash shot through an umbrella directly in front of her about 3 ft away. To fill the shadows on the lower right side of her face, I used a silver reflector to bounce the light from the flash. The second 430EX flash was shot camera left behind her to light her hair. The flashes were triggered wirelessly with the Alien Bees Cyber Syncs.

Nicole's Baby Blues

Nicole. Canon 5DMkII, 85mm f/1.8 lens, 1/80, f/2.2, ISO 100.

This was my very first shoot with my new 5DMKII. I photographed Nicole in a bus stop as it was getting dusky. Not the most glamorous location, but I noticed that the lights of the cars driving were making lovely bokeh circles in the background. I used a simple one flash set-up: One 580EX flash, shot through an umbrella above and slightly left of camera about 3 ft away from her face. The closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light. Using a shoot through umbrella also gives a lovely catch light in your subject’s eyes. If you are not a fan of the reflection of the spokes you can always clone them out in Photoshop.

AJ vintage

AJ. Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8, 1/200, f/2.0, ISO 100.

I used one of my favourite, easy set-ups on this shoot with singer, AJ. She was back lit with the sun through a large open window which gave her a natural hair light and a single strobe was shot through a large umbrella on 1/16 power to fill her face. The background was blown out and bokeh’d which I really like for this look. I used Photoshop to create a faux vintage cross-processed look. Click here for a video tutorial on how to create a similar look.

*i found you*

Kara. 5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/200 @ f/2.8, ISO 100.

This shoot was quite experimental. I wanted to completely blow out my background and create lens flare that wrapped around my subject. I used back lighting with a bare strobe (580EX) at 1/16th power directly behind Kara slightly to the right. I played with different camera positions to get the extreme lens flare that I wanted. This shot was a bit of a happy accident because the placement of the lens flare was difficult to predict. To balance the light on her face, I placed a 430EX directly in front of her about 2 ft away & diffused the light through an umbrella. This was shot at a very wide aperture (f/2.8) so I had to make sure to get my focus tack sharp on her eye, as everything else was out of focus.

Kylee Epp Promo Shot

Lovely Kylee. Canon 85mm f/1.8.

This summery outdoor shot was backlit with the sun and then lit from the front with a 430EX flash with a 1/4 CTO gel (orange to give the image warmth) which was shot through a 52 inch umbrella at 1/4 power and triggered using a more expensive wireless trigger, the Pocket Wizard Plus II. If you want to go with the Pocket wizards, the gold standard of wireless triggers, but way more expensive than the Alien Bees, I suggest getting 2 FlexTT5s. They are the most versatile and can be used as both a transmitter and a receiver.

Stunning Shauna

Shauna. Canon Xti, 24-105 f/4.0 lens, 88mm, f/5.0, 1/200, ISO 100

This girl could be a CoverGirl. She was so natural and comfortable in front of the camera. Working with a great model makes a photographer’s job so much easier. She was backlit by sun with a 580EX shot through large umbrella 10 degrees to the right to fill. I shot this at f/5.0 which is slightly higher than I normally shoot at because I wanted to make sure I had sharp focus of her entire face and hair.

*eyes wide shut*

Bella. Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8 lens, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 100.

I actually shot this photo through a glass window, so it has a slightly hazy appearance. I used two off-camera strobes: One behind the subject (bare) lighting the background, one in front with a shoot-through umbrella).


Taravat. Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8, 1/125 @ f/3.5, ISO 100.

My model was freezing during this wintery shoot, so we huddled in a back alley. I was almost ready to give up on the shoot because there was no light. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car coming slowly towards us. I asked Taravat give me a lost/mysterious expression and I snapped this. I lit her with a very simple set up: One 430EX flash shot at 1/8th power shot through an umbrella.

*i don't love you anymore*

Katherine. Canon 5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/500 at f/5.0, ISO 100.

Sometimes all you need is magic hour natural light & white reflector. Easy peasy. I experimented with faux Redscale processing in post to give it a distinctive look and without the processing the background was lacklustre and uninteresting.

light in love

AJ. Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8, f/2.0, 1/80, ISO 100.

This was actually the first test shot of a shoot with lovely AJ. I was figuring out my camera & flash settings and the flash was dialed up too high so it blew out the top corner of the shot. I used a bare flash at 1/4 power, positioned behind her head, slightly right, triggered with Cyber Syncs. I am definitely breaking the cardinal rule of exposure, but I feel like it works here. It’s is blown out & harsh, yet blurry & soft. The subsequent shots weren’t nearly as interesting, and ultimately the artist chose this shot. Rules in photography are great guidelines, but as an artist you can chose to break and bend them to suit your vision. Plus, who doesn’t like breaking rules?

Beautiful Shauna

Shauna. Canon XSi, 85mm f/1.8 lens, f/3.5, 1/200.

I positioned Shauna so she was backlit by sun creating a nice hair light. I use this technique again and again. Backlight the subject with the sun, front fill the face with soft, even light from a strobe and a shoot through umbrella. For this I used a 580EX shot through umbrella 30 degrees to the right to fill. The 85mm f/1.8 lens creates really nice bokeh in the background.


Stephanie. Canon Xti + 85mm f/1.8, 1/125 at f/4.5, ISO 100.

This outdoor dusk shot was lit with one 580EX 1/4 power shot through umbrella above & slightly to the right of Stephanie.


Jay. Canon 5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/200 at f/4.0, ISO 100.

Again, the same easy one strobe set up: a 580EX shot through a large umbrella about 2ft from Jay’s face. Getting the light source close to your subject is the key to nice even, soft lighting. If you don’t have a flash, you can achieve a similar effect using a white bounce or foam core board that you can pick up in any craft store for $2. Just reflect the light source evenly on the subject’s face.

franziska's rainbow eyes

Franziska. Canon Xti (400D) + 50mm f/1.4

Another shot without any flashes. I was a bit nervous using stands and flashes around a pool and I had enough light to go without, so I just used the soft magic hour light and a silver bounce. If you shoot an hour before sunset you get beautiful light without any harsh shadows. You have to be quick though, it only lasts about 45 minutes!

Bella & Bokeh

Bella. Canon XSi, 50mm f/1.4, 1/80, f/2.0, ISO 100.

I wanted to try a moody night shot with city light background bokeh, so I set up a cool strobey night shoot with model Bella on my apartment balcony in Vancouver. I used a 430EX shot on full power shot through window with blinds closed, camera left to hit the side of her face and body. Another 580EX at 1/4 power shot through umbrella held 50cm in front of Bella’s face by my assistant. Both strobes triggered with Alien Bees CyberSync Triggers.

Pete Cashmore

Pete. Canon 5DMKII +85mm f/1.8, 1/200 at f/3.5, ISO 100.

I coaxed my more famous half, into being photographed with the same one strobe set-up I’ve been using during the windy, rainy spring months: A 580EX shot set on M at 35mm, 1/8th power, shot through umbrella placed directly infront approx. 2 ft. away. I added a lot more contrast and the blue background colour (previously boring and grey) through post-processing.


Siri. 5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/125, f/2.5, ISO 100.

This final shot uses those little coloured gels I mentioned. I used a 580EX shot through umbrella directly infront of Siri and a 430EX flash with full CTO gel (orange) shot behind Siri, camera left to light her hair. I held a silver bounce infront and below of Siri, slightly right of camera to fill her face. The bokeh in the background is actually rain being lit by the flash. And yes, she was very cold!

I hope this helps inspire you to take some amazing shots! Once you figure out a few simple lighting techniques, you’ll be on your way to creating beautiful portraits. Feel free to share your shots below :)

Persistence Pays in Photography

Sep 6 2011

Santa Monica Pier at Sunset

Canon 5DMKII + 24-70mm f/2.8, 43mm, f/16, 10s, ISO 100.

After my big move out of my San Francisco apartment, I thought I’d take myself and my wonderful mum, who helped my move, on a little California photo vacation before heading back East. It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot the Santa Monica pier after seeing it in a number of movies/tv shows, so last night I trekked out onto the sandy beach and snapped this shot.

This shot was all about persistence. When I arrived at the beach, it was quite foggy and the light wasn’t great. The colours were muted, the sky was grey and there were a lot of pesky tourists parked right in the middle of my shot. After waiting for almost an hour, the sky suddenly turned a gorgeous shade of purple with a misty pink horizon. So, I had my sky. Next, I needed a great reflection of the lights on the pier.

My shoreside set up. About to get drenched!

I tried a number of different angles on the beach and levels on my tripod. Unfortunately, the sweet spot for the reflection and composition was very close to the shoreline which meant that when a large wave came in, I was calf-deep in salty ocean goodness. I also had to time my 10s exposure just as the waves were pulling out so that the sand was wet enough to create the best reflection.

Santa Monica Pier

Setting up the shot.

Next came the ferris wheel spin. Much to my chagrin, the ferris wheel spun very sporadically and with numerous lighting patterns. It was hit or miss, so I had to take a lot of shots. I took over 100 shots waiting for the perfect combo of tide out, good reflections, and ferris wheel spin and this photo was my very last shot. Needless to say, my mum was not impressed that this whole process took nearly 1 1/2 hours of “one more photo”. She had long since put her tripod and camera away and was hopping up and down to keep warm.

When we got back, she wasn’t really happy with the photos she took. She lamented about the fact that her less expensive, Canon XSi (450D) couldn’t take as good pictures as my 5DMKII, but I said that the difference between our photos wasn’t the fact that I had the better camera, but that I persisted longer to get the shot.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve taken almost 30,000 pictures with my 5DMKII. My first shot was out of focus. My 100th shot was over-exposed. My 1607 shot was completely black. My 3056 shot needed a lot of post-processing. But, this shot, my 29,604 shot was great straight out of the camera. Why? Because I had 29,603 shots to practice my skills, so that when I finally got to this beach to take a shot I dreamt about for years, I knew what camera settings to use, how to compose the shot, and to wait an hour and a half for great light.

The bad news is you can’t skip the steps it takes to learn how to use your camera settings, compose great shots, and perfect light. But, the good news is that anyone with a relentless determination and passion can go to this exact spot and take an equally great photo.

Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Manhattan

Aug 19 2011

Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Manhattan (Whitehall Station)
5DMKII + 16-35mm, 3 exposures, f/5.6, ISO 100, handheld.

It was a smokin’ hot Sunday afternoon in NYC when I shot this. I crouched down and waited for the crowds to pass before I snapped this shot. There are limitless locations to shoot in NYC. As a little summer project, I’m gradually working my way around the city capturing the best of NYC.

What are your end of summer photography projects?

25 Amazing Camera+ Photos

Aug 17 2011

Click to see all 25 amazing photos full-size!

I am constantly amazed by the photos people create with Camera+. It’s truly inspiring that everyone from a professional photographer to a hobbyist to someone who has never picked up a camera before can create extraordinarily beautiful photos with their iPhone.

I am ecstatic that so many people are exploring their creative side, sharing their photos online, and becoming bonafide iPhoneographers. Over the past year, I’ve seen some breathtaking images taken with Camera+ especially since we added our biggest processing breakthrough and instant “make better” button, Clarity.

I’ve hand-picked some of my favourite images to share with you today. Take a look through these inspirational photos and leave a comment to let us know what you think! For hints on how to take great shots like these, look at the recipes below each image showing the scene mode, crop, effect, and border used to edit the photo.