Making Mobile Photographs that are Print and Cover-Worthy


Workshop leaders: Diane Cu & Todd Porter

Diane: Hi everyone, thank you for coming. We want to thank Blog Her Food for letting us come and speak about mobile photography. We love it because it is so accessible and it allows us to capture life as it’s happening.

Todd: No more lugging around the cameras. Your phone is amazing so why not use it?

Diane: This panel is about Making Mobile Photography That is Print and Cover Worthy. My name is Diane Cu and he’s Todd Porter. We want to help you learn how to see your image and not just take a picture. Your camera is just a tool. What’s important is the art of seeing. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting with a very expensive DSLR Canon or Nikon, or an iPhone. It’s about what you see and your food story.

Todd: The creative element you can achieve with mobile photography increases because you aren’t in cumbered by the f-stops and technical elements when you are using your mobile phone – you can focus on the essence of what you see and what your heart captures in that instant.

Diane: Everything you see on this screen was taken with iPhone. I shoot with an iPhone 4s. It’s outdated but I’m waiting for the 6 to come out before I upgrade.

(AUDIENCE: Laughing)

Todd: It’s both creative and technical what we are teaching. Some of you are so creative but the hard part is just to embrace the creative and what you see. And some of you are so creative but find it hard to utilize the tools – the technical side – to capture what your imagining.

Diane: We have shot stuff professionally even and our clients have wanted us to integrate mobile photography in to our work so they could instantly share what we are working on to engage their audience. We have taken photos with our iPhone right there on the spot that they could share instantly.

Todd: How do we connect to it? Do we just spray and pray? How do we capture it?

(AUDIENCE: Laughing)

Diane: “Spray and pray” is a real term – pray you get a good photo. With mobile photography it’s not like a long and drawn out DSLR process but capturing what you feel with your tool – the mobile phone. It’s not just about the food – what’s on the plate – that strawberry and the tiny details of it…. but the story.

We were sitting with some friends and they wanted to dig in together sharing dishes – diving in to the same plate all at once. It’s such an amazing communal experience. Strangers coming together with dirty spoons and eating together – it was so cool. This photo shares that moment and the story. Going beyond the food – what’s going on behind the just the image in the story.

We really want to impress that you always believe in YOUR story. Some people say that because there are 50 other people at an event, they shouldn’t take the time to capture it – but what you see is different from what they see – and it’s important and valid. Don’t hold back just because you think someone else will get the same shot. It won’t ever be the same shot.

How we shoot is always special. (Pointing to image of dinner plates:) You don’t always have to go in tight. Pull back a little.

Todd: We are going to give you a few tips and tidbits. For instance, the rule of thirds is an artistic way to see things and line up your shot. You take an image and divide it in to thirds – three imaginary lines - rather than having something in to the center of an image. We are drawn to things that are not centered. Use your intersection points to add aesthetic feel to it. T

Diane: Even with an iPhone. Don’t negate that you can convey a certain message and feel with your phone. There’s quality and story you can bring to life with an iPhone. We are always shooting on the ground and using our surroundings. Here’s a crack in the back yard on the concrete. Little things like that – make a simple background for a subject of some fruit. It becomes a work of art.

We like to photograph other people and things – gifts for our friends. We capture the story of our lives as it plays out. It’s ok if there’s a little blur – don’t be afraid to let your photo move with life.

Diane: DSLR cameras make people uncomfortable sometimes but there’s nothing intimidating about a mobile phone because it’s relaxed and casual. Sometimes it allows you to create the image even better. It’s such a fantastic tool.

Todd: It speaks volumes about your immediate experience and what you are about to convey when you can take real and instant photographs. You don’t miss anything. You can keep it and remember it and share it.

Diane: We want to make it clear to everyone that what each of you see is important. Some say they don’t feel good about their pictures because they compare them to others who may have 50K followers. As long as it’s meaningful to you and important to you and authentic – even with imperfection shining through – that’s what’s important.

(SCREEN: The Value of a Photo)

Todd: You don’t always have to feel that you need to clean things up.

Diane: The mess is real and beautiful. We are all drawn to it and can relate to it. When I see someone’s messy kitchen on instagram, I say “WOW I can relate” and that makes me connect. Keeping it real makes us feel good as humans.

We are big on top down shots. You gotta stand on a chair. Do it!

Todd: You might look like a fool, but it’s ok. When you go back to look at that image later – especially years later, it will remind you of the amazing dinner and the story – that part of your life.

Diane: This photo was from a trip to Cuba a few years ago.

Todd: There were 5 of us, 3 friends and us. Most restaurants there had very little as far as what you are used to here – sparse food – running out before we could even order, even. In this restaurant there wasn’t even any electricity – minimal lighting – just a candle – and we didn’t even think of taking a photo, but Dianne wanted to at the end of the meal; to capture it. She had everyone reach in for the last piece. Of all the photos on the trip it was symbolic of the feeling of the five of us together – the amazing meals – the whole essence of the trip was wrapped up in that image.

Diane: Everything might have been imperfect for the shot technically, but it is perfection to us. It’s beautiful to us and our style. Don’t get wrapped up about the details being perfect.

Todd: Here’s our last breakfast in Puerto rico. The mess of this photo – the coffee on the napkin – the spoons lying together - is symbolic to us about our relationship with each other. Being together and supporting each other to the end. It’s telling OUR story.

Diane: People say everything in digital photography has to be done with a filter if you are using the iPhone. Here’s a recipe we did for the cooking channel and this was an iPhone shot with no filter. We did some on the DSLR too – but it’s not all about filters. We are here to prove those people wrong. You can create great images with your phone for your blog.

Todd: If you capture great light it will be amazing either way.

(SCREEN: Your eyes are your lens. Your heart is your shutter.)

Diane: What you see is truly your best lens, the eyes go with you wherever you go. You are capturing your life as you see it. Use them to help you capture what is important to you. If you aren’t excited about the subject, it will show.

Todd: If your images are engaging you will know the photographer had passion about it.

Diane: Todd is going to run through a sample with you about light.

(SCREEN: Light is life. Energy. Emotion. Depth.)

Todd: So much of what we see is about light. There’s a physical aspect but also a spiritual aspect too.

(Audience Question: When you are saying iPhone do you mean all mobile technology or just that platform?)

T & Diane: *laughing*

Diane: We mean to convey all mobile, we aren’t trying to just be a plug for Apple, but we use iPhone.

Todd: We have a diagram here that looks like a clock. It explains the light as it falls on the subject. The subject is in the center, the photographer and light rotate around the position of the subject.

In this photo we are sharing 12 o’ clock light. Find the highlights and shadows on your subject to tell you where the light is coming from. I call 12 o’clock light, “Girlie” light.

Diane: It has nice shadows and highlights. Some people call this backlighting. You have strong contrast and drama. I love that (not drama in my life but in my photography).

(Audience: Laughing)

I try to choose a chair in a restaurant where I will be able to shoot with this kind of light. I seek it out.

Todd: We’ll work around the clock to see how the different positions of light affect the mood of your image.

Diane: Using backlight you are exposing in the shadows. The light in the background will be blown out and you will lose some of the subject there, so to change sometimes you have to use a secondary app if it is too dark on your subject. Also, don’t forget your up and down angles. Just standing in a different position can even move your light and shadow to change the picture.

Todd: 10 o'clock light here. Same subject. Gives a little different feel to the picture. Story and light source is your focus when you are taking a good photograph.

Light becomes more flat as you move away from back lighting. There’s no wrong or right here. It’s whatever you like.

Diane: Traditionally, in school you will hear someone say this or that light is “bad light” but I can find 20 different case studies that show they are wrong. It’s about what YOU LIKE. Your style.

Todd: Here’s 6 o’clock light and you have lost your shadows because they have moved behind the subject.

Diane: Don’t be afraid of shadows – they give you a 3 dimensional plane to give life to your image. There’s nothing wrong with straight-on-light, but you don’t have to make shadows disappear. Don’t be afraid of them.

Todd: All of these photos are the same subject but they have a different feel based on the shadows and light at different angles. Some people say about our photos – well I was at the same event and I didn’t get photos like that. It’s only because we are seeing and thinking about the light before clicking the shutter.

Diane: There are a gazillion of apps out there and while we don’t use android or other platforms, we can’t share what there is for you who do out there, but we did pick some apps that are available on multiple platforms to share today:

• Snapseed
• Vsco cam
• Filter storm
• Camera+
• Noir photo -black and white)

Todd: Vsco Cam just had an update last night and we were scrambling on it trying to get ready for this speech. Forgive us if we are a little slower on that, but if you have any of these filters right now bring them up, bring up your photo, and follow along with us.

(SCREEN: App Editing)

iane: I’m an absolute fan of Noir Photo because it gives me the drama I need. This is an image that I captured in Louisiana – down in the French quarter and I was so super lucky on this day to capture this musician in the middle of the street. Not only was I able to capture it, but while no one else was walking by. You know how the crowds are – so many people – so I waited until the street was clear and moved around to catch the backlight just right. It looked great with the drama, but I wanted to make it truly special and memorable. I pulled the white as white as they go and the blacks as black as they go. I’m going to show you how I did that in Noir Photo.

This is like opening up our underwear drawer for you.

(SCREEN: opens image of iPhone apps to see tutorial real-time, pulls up Noir Photo and scrolls through images on camera roll)
(Audience: Laughing)

Todd: When you go in to noir – it goes automatically to black and white – they have already set filters for you to try but I pick black and white. It gives a cinematic look to your photo and allows you to pull up the blacks and whites.

Diane: I don’t care what anybody else says or thinks; that’s my look. You use the dails to pull up and tone down. In this photo I was pinching in my circle of focus to the right side and adjusting for a certain area so I could get more light on the right side of the photo. I get to control the light after the fact with apps.

Todd: There are 3 panels that allow you to control the contrast of light and dark. On the right dail you can control the vignette.

Diane: This is my go to for dramatic black and white. Because this was built by cinematographers it gives you amazing control. Sometimes you just make a call on how you want the image to look and on this one I just felt like black and white.

Here’s another one – before and after doesn’t show that big of a difference. Sometimes you don’t need a filter. If you like it the way it is, leave it. I’m all about the pretty girlie lifestyle shot and I was visiting a friend who had jam cooling on her window and I was just like “oh I love this – I have to get this shot”.

Think about your angle. I’m 5’ 4” and if I always shot from this angle it would be boring. In this shot I saw what was going on. The jam. The windowpanes. The trees. Everything. I had to literally sit on the floor for this shot. You can’t tell by looking at it now. I’m very verbal and not afraid to tell someone to get out of my way.

(Audience: Laughing)

Todd: She’s a meanie.

Diane: So don’t be afraid to look weird. In this shot I wanted more vintage. A homey feel. This was old just yesterday but after Vsco Cam’s update it now allows you to rotate your images. This is the new update and I’m going to get the image in my camera roll. I selected it and here’s the menus and paintbrushes. The new app is phenomenal and allows you to get the vintage and fade look – soft and ethereal, sort of a kinfolk look. See the fade already? You can slide back and forth with filters or start over. See how that works? Just one click.

Todd: Don’t feel like you have to stick with just one app. You can always bump your photo in to another one and use multiple apps to get your final image.

Diane: These are strawberries from our garden. Sometimes when you take a photo the look is off because of the angle. You can rotate your after photo and make adjustments easily with an app. Here I used Snapseed and brought in the photo. See how washed out it was? I shot it wide specifically because I didn’t want to lose my elements when I cropped to a square. I rotated it with this straighten feature and used manual tiny movements to place the photo correctly and moved to the details panel to tune the image. In Snapseed it’s all just a scroll with one finger. You can change the image’s properties with a touch of the finger. If you go to the right it makes it brighter and to the left it makes it darker. You can pull it to the extreme to know what it does.

I have a lot of dark spaces here so I do what is called ambiance so that the highlights fill in. The next thing I do is saturate it. I can make them really red or pink. I pull it until they are bright, but not yellow. I love the dark moody stuff.

Todd: Diane likes drama.

Diane: You see the differences? Between this and this were just three adjustments. Those were mine and Todd is going to show you another few.

Todd: I use too many apps. If I can’t get it done in 30 seconds I’m over it. If anyone follows me on Instagram, you’ll know I take a lot of puppy photos. I have to remember when I’m taking photos that I take it wide so I can allow a crop for Instagram – so I’m not as worried about the distracting things in the background if I imagine my shape so I can crop that out later.

Ok so the first thing I want to do is crop first. I don’t want to vignette part of the image I’m going to crop off later. I start with my shape and pick the aspect ratio to a square and …

Diane: Are any of you using Snapseed now? Are you going to be use it more now?

(Audience: nodding and agreeing)

Todd: I like starting with tilt shift. You have two options – linear or elliptical. I like to play with the circle to allow it to stretch and change to focus in on my subject. You can use the slider to feather and change the focal plane. It gives a blurred background and more focus on your subject. I want someone who’s looking at it to have their eyes drawn to a particular point in the photo. In this case, her face. You can increase your blur strength and change the brightness, also. You can also change the inner brightness and center focus on the photograph under the center focus tab… the highlights and removing a little of the shadow to bring back some of what was lost.

Then I add a vignette. Isn’t she cute? (points to puppy on screen)

Diane: After that point you can either save to your photo library or share instantly with these options.

Todd: For a vintage look I used Snapseed. I tend to keep it simple with just a few apps. They do what I want. With this typewriter image I took out the things that were distracting that I didn’t want in this image.

(Diane & Todd playfully argue about what looks better as he pulls up an image of a typewriter, book, and pie plate with a pie in it – he is cropping off the book and leaving the shadow, she says to leave the book…)

Todd: Hey. My image.

(Audience: Laughing)

Todd: First thing I go to after my crop is Tilt Shift. I’m using Elliptical.

Diane: It’s so pretty when you add a blur. In this case I wanted to bring your eye to the brand on the typewriter. It’s ok to let the other parts of the image fade away. You know the keys are there. This gives your eye a spot to land. Snapseed has different presets and I like playing with the vintage ones. See if you find one a good color and general tone you like and use the slider for settings like style strength and texture strength. I almost always wipe that out because it muddies my center focus. Vintage is almost always de-saturating. A lot of times I like it just the way the preset is manually set. It’s pretty and quick. I love it.

Diane: What do you guys think?

(Audience: generally approving and nodding)

Question from Audience: “How do you keep your images organized on your phone?”

Todd: We don’t.

(Audience: Laughing)

Diane: This is our private life. It’s random. For our work we are anal retentive about file management but with this stuff it’s all over the place.

Todd: Maybe that needs to be our topic for next year’s BlogHer Food?!

You have also so many cool options for black and white with silhouettes. When I’m looking to determine whether to use black and white, I look for the drama and contrast to see if there’s enough to make it look good. When you start in Noir you will default to a present and you can flick through those – they already have a color tone and see how close you can get.

Then you can play with the wheel and bring up your sliders if you start to lose too much of your subject in the shadows. The sliders correspond to the different sides of your photograph so you can keep playing with the ratios sliding up and down to get close to the fine-tuned details you want to still see in the image. Find a balance so you don’t lose your clouds and then use the four squares to change the color tone if you want. Save and move on.

Next step is – now that you have all these images what do you do with them.

(SCREEN: Making your Mobile Photographs Interactive at Animoto)

Diane: Animoto is a site that allows you to make your photos interactive with text, graphics, music, and video. You can share it on Facebook and Twitter. The first 30 seconds are free and you can share music and graphics with your photo and tell a story. You don’t have to worry about copyright or royalties. A lot of times for friends, we throw our photos together and share them this way.

Todd: This slideshow is what we put together in 10 minutes.

(SCREEN: Slide show about garden with groovy music and graphics.)

Diane: Our garden is special to us and those were all mobile photographs. We don’t go out and buy gifts. When we have friends over we take photos of their kids and upload the finished photos to Animoto and it’s such a special gift to give to a parent.

Todd: We went to Cuba with a friend to celebrate his 40th birthday. We brought our DSLR only for a project but the rest of the trip was our mobile only. He loved every moment of it. There was some fear that we would miss something but we were actually able to capture so much, just in a different way; and it was great.

Diane: The next step is to print. Some think the images are not good enough to sell – not good enough for anything. We are going to show you amazing photographs and places to print them.

• Red stamp – post cards, greeting cards)

Todd: You just give them an address and they ship to you within a few days. You can do it through your mobile phone without a computer.

• Printstagram – calendars, memory boxes, gift cards)

Diane: Allows you to sell your mobile photos. We sell ours – we feel that they are that good – made on iPhone 4.

• Instaprints – sell your Instagram photos, make prints
• Online – magnets
• – canvases, framed prints, card, iPhone cases, sell prints
• Epson iPrint – print directly from phone to wireless Epson printer)

Diane: We have these and you don’t have to worry about transferring to the computer. We want to show you some photos here that we printed on our Epson. You can come up and take a look a them. This is an 11x14 – edits only done on an iPhone. We never use desktop of Lightroom or Photoshop. We want to keep to the integrity of what we do as iPhone only photographers. You are welcome to look at these later. These are great gifts.

Audience Question: “Does a mobile phone photo print bigger than 11x14?”

Diane: We haven’t used it for that but here’s that size and these are sellable prints – crisp – and there are opportunities out there for you. It’s not necessarily just about making a lot of money.

Audience Question: “How do you work formatting for printing and composing for Square format?”

Todd: When I’m composing I see square when I think about taking the photograph. When I shoot wide I place them in an invisible square that I see. Especially when mobile photography is so quick, you have to practice at it. So many times we want to use our peripheral vision… but sometimes to get the square you have to have tunnel vision. You consciously do it until you get it right.

Audience Question: “What brand of Epson model?”

Diane: We use high quality archival paper.

Todd: I’m the technical geek. We use the workhorse brand – awesome for office stuff. That’s not for photos, though. Text. Decent photos but not amazing enough to sell. The Artisan Series is amazing. We have 2 and they both nearly print the same. They are fantastic. The one for the big ones is the R300. It has different black inks. There are some blacks better for matte and glossy. It prints a better black and white. This is why we bumped up to this model rather than the one just below it. How the paper takes ink is crucial. For these, it’s a weird size. An Epson paper. We talked to someone in the camera shop who said this stuff is bad ass. Another company who supplies us with paper – red river paper – it’s the best. A lot of the other companies are just reselling their paper. It’s the best.

Diane: We know we want to make sure the paper is top quality paper. The ink will stay longer – if you want to sell them… use archival paper to prevent fade. This is what we print on to give our customers quality. When you look at the larger formats, think what the biggest paper need you will have will be and if it is worth it for you to send it to a print shop or buy the hardware because it is something you are doing on a regular basis.

This is what we do for gifts. Everyone always looks forward to them. All my mom wants is a print. These make great gifts – especially for moms.

To wrap up – we can’t emphasize enough that it is story and what you see. Whenever you pull up your mobile to take a photograph think about the story. The mobile format is so much more friendly and imperfect. I don’t care about blur. Not everything has to be sharp. I’m not out to win awards. It’s about the beauty – capturing the moment – the times that you can capture and it doesn’t have to be perfect. The more imperfect it is – the more meaningful it is.

Todd: In case you haven’t heard we got a new puppy recently. She’s going to be a big dog. She’s changing quick. Sometimes it seems like someone puts her on a stretcher and increases her length 2 inches each night. I didn’t want the days to repeat and wanted to do something different with the visual story. The more you shoot the more you learn. We are a decade plus in to shooting professionally and you learn something every time anyway. Try to capture something different each time you shoot.

Here’s my shoe (points to screen with dog and shoe photo).

Diane: We just lost another pair last week.

(Audience: Laughing)

Here she is growing – getting bigger and bigger and bigger. This is his project that started with one mobile photo – give yourself an assignment. Collect it. Print it. Share it. See how much you will grow as you take your photographs.

The images you make – your work is a reflection of your personal motto and how you live life. People ask us how we got our style and meaning. It’s about life and making sure we are humble and grounded. We had a starting point. We have a life recipe. It’s not just about photos but people and ideas and we start from that point and always draw back to those things that make us happy and together – grounded.

This is the one thing that isn’t iPhone. But it is nice. – our life recipe by Todd and Diane.

(SCREEN: photo essay put to music with this beautiful poem:
“Surround yourself with colossal dreams…
And loving family to share it with…
Sprint and soar
Laugh out loud
Be a lover
Feel deeply
Give hugs and kisses
Witness the world with an open heart.
Be a fighter.
Find strength to overcome.
Be a dreamer.
Never let go of hope and promise.
Loss reminds us to embrace those we love today.
Be a good listener.
Give back.
Eyes forward with curiosity.
Search for meaning.
Share your story.
Live your life out loud.
Believe in your beauty and be fearless.
Your eyes are your lens. Your heart is your shutter.
See. Feel. Savor life’s moments.

- dedicated to Dante and all of those who love deeply.)

Diane: Go share your story with the world. Life is so beautiful . give yourself a project to work on!

10 min questions:

Audience question: “Do you ever do collages?”

Todd: We were going to cover that and I forgot. I have one app that’s awesome for collages called Diptic.

Diane: You can come up and look at these photos. I can pass some around.

Todd: Diptic is awesome. (gives quick tutorial on how to use Diptic on screen). You can make individual image filtering and it’s fantastic and super simple to use.

Audience question: “Do you use Instagram to capture your square?”

Diane: Not really. We use the regular camera on the iPhone.

Todd: We do slightly “latergrams.”

Audience question: “Do you keep your work and personal lives out there or separate your paid and commercial from your iPhone and personal stuff. I’m a commercial food photographer but I’m nervous about having my clients see my iPhone work.”

Diane: It’s different when you work in the commercial field so you can show what you are capable of. We struggled with this for some time but after we had our portfolio and our name out there and were comfortable with it, we added the personal work to our portfolio and we talk about this in our workshops because it allows your client to know who you are. They hire you for who you are, not just what you can do.

Todd: We know we are up against amazing people, but they will tell you – they like you. They like who you are and it builds trust and connection. And it’s crucial now. Today to be a visual person - it’s amazing because it’s the age – you can go from zero to amazing because of the internet – it’s made the competition huge, but the personal connections you can establish are king. It’s not just about being a good photographer – they have to like you.

Diane: I don’t want to work with a talented jerk.

(Audience: Laughing)

Diane: Go out and make some amazing photographs.

Diane: Spit out some apps. We want to learn new apps. (to audience)

(Audience suggestions:
• Postagram
• Videolicous
• Colorsplash
• Picfx
• Mextures

Todd: (talking about texture photo filters such as Picfx and Mextures) Those make amazing gift cards – there are amazing photographers out there with just an iPhone who have never picked up a DSLR.

Audience question: Where are they selling their photos?

Diane: They start from Instagram and then they move on to building websites.

Audience Question: “Is there an Etsy for selling photos?”

Diane: One of those sites we listed is like that; where you have your own store. They print for you and allow you to have your own “space”.

Audience Question: “Do you use watermark on your mobile photographs?”

Todd: On our blog we did, and it’s a great conversation that I could go on for hours with, but some people think of them as ugly.

Diane: Let’s not think of it as a watermark but a logo. A trademark that you can put on the corner of your image to mark it. Do we do it? No. Sometimes we put the title on the photo for the blog. Is it a great idea? I’m an advocate of whatever works for you. If you are putting it out there it’s because you want it shared so others can find you again. You can add it as a graphic element so that it compliments your photo. We tried but we kind of haven’t found a logo creator to find your image – ours is white on rice couple – always a chopstick and rice. I encourage it – it can be done tastefully and subtly… but it can be a good thing.

Thank you everyone for coming!


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