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Slow BnW iPhoneography?

I’ve gotta tell you, I struggle moving away from mobile photography as my favoured way to shoot. I’ve had all kinds of cameras, from analogue SLRS, a Sony A7s and various mirrorless – but despite the difference in quality, I have just as many interesting shots from iPhones and it sure makes photo management and editing easy (aka fun).

Perfunctory Random Windshield Test Shot: successfully deep.

Shooting is for the most part easier, depending on where my head’s at. But one thing that keeps photographers away from phones is the lack of control. For many photographers the process is important, and a photograph should be deliberate. That the results could be the same with an automatic process is irrelevant.

It’s for this reason that frankly I find jpeg photography to have more integrity than RAW. There are no real second chances. Yes in analog photography you’d have an opportunity to develop a photo in a certain way, and make many of the types of changes folks to in Lightroom, but even then, I feel there is more integrity in just taking and accepting the shot.

Our glorious drying board above the skink in our laundry/kitchen. Can I get a WTF?

Blackie knows a black and white photo is not a straight tonal conversion, and knows how important it is to tease out the light. I’m not what’s happening under the hood, but with the exposure offset means you can achieve great tonal balance fairly easily. It’s right there under the preview by default: the core mechanism of control.

A couple of things bug me. Blackie’s grain is very rough. I believe it applies a slight grain by default as part of it’s film emulations, and this is quite nice. Any amount of grain via the mods menu though, and it looks very dotted. Check it out:

Blackie’s grain is not pleasurable. It seems very rough. This is grain at about 25%.

This is a very slight grain addition, and it really mucked up this family shot.

Also, the borders aren’t even. I get that the photo’s original field of view is not cropped and that original aspect ratio gets maintained, but couldn’t it be an even canvas expansion? I’d prefer that. but with time it bugs me less.

Obligatory wet-windshield small sensor bokeh. I like such photos because the tonal balance becomes more apparent in the lack of detail. I feel the app did a good job of exposing here. I think blackie adds some slight grain by default.

Blacks will be Blacks

Blowing blacks is only slightly less of a concern to most photographers than blowing whites, but if you attempt to keep highlights within reasonable levels, your blacks are going to bottom out like a [insert metaphor when I have one]. There are some things you can do to prevent this such as not turn contrast up 80%. When I took the photo below I also had some fiddly things done with the settings including brightness down, shadows and highlights up, which makes no sense.

All of Blackie’s films are pretty good. The one I’m using at the moment (XP2, for the shots below) reduces the white point a few percent.

Check out the film emulations here. There are a few more, but these are the ‘deeper’ ones that I like. In case the captions aren’t showing, from left to right: ios noire, xp2, hp5, t-max, tri-x.

Light bounces around between and through the fronds. This is something that only black and white can show. Colour hides the subtle graduations of tone.  I could have exposed this shot a little more, perhaps, and used a higher contrast ‘film.’

This I guess is the limitation, and glory of Blackie. You select a preset and it’s like having  loaded a film. But that’s it, you’ve got to work with it, and know what you’re shooting with.

I have so many photographs of this plant (below). I like recapturing the light around my place. In this particular shot, it was the large different between the sun on the metal and the light bouncing off them. I love when light bounces off some objects into shadows, creating gradients and bleeds. It’s very subtle on the tiles and frame around the window. The more subtle the more I want to photograph it. There’s something about the ephemerality as well – the sun would surely not be at this angle for long.

As you can see in the blown highlights below, Blackie does nothing to remove the basic limitations of small sensor photography. But it goes a long way to alleviating them. I’m still not sure about how Blackie’s top-end curve seems to isolate the last 1% and make whites look occasionally jagged.

All in all Blackie is another tool in your iOS arsenal. I think for best results I’d stick with the iOS default noire, as it seems to take photos more intelligently, such as opting for HDR at times. But in the right situations, Blackie’s film emulations could really shine.


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