PABLO - First Impression

I’ve been dabbling with light painting photography since 2010 and all this time the photographs are captured on a DSLR proper, so when today I read from the that someone has created an app for the iPhone that can capture long exposure, and display the goings on as live video, I was excited to say the least.

The app in question is PABLO, and can be downloaded for free on the App Store. Installation was as easy as downloading any app on the App Store, and on launching, Pablo requests that you create a user account. This account will serve as a platform for you to post your works, and view/like other user’s posts, just like Instagram or Facebook.

I’ll not discuss the social component of this app as it’s quite straightforward so instead I’ll dive into the image/video capture part. It gives you 3 settings to adjust:

Self Timer Delay - allows you to set a delay from 1-10 seconds to give you time to position yourself in front of camera before it starts recording

Exposure Time - set anywhere from 1s to 30s, or Manual for Bulb mode

Light Sensitivity - sets the app’s sensitivity level to the lights. This allows for light painting even in low light as compared to complete darkness as is usually required when doing light painting.

Initial tests (see images and video) produce quite interesting results. Although there seems to be a slight delay and slowness in the video, it’s certainly much more responsive than some apps I’ve tried before on the PC. A few tweaks on the sensitivity level can produce a decent shot, but what I like most about this is the live video that it produces as the light painting shot is being created, ala the Live Bulb mode feature ound in the Olympus OM-D series of cameras. 

All in all, a nice app to add to the plethora of cool photography apps for the iOS. And while images created with this app is no match for a DSLR capture, the recorded video offers a nice behind-the-scene into how a typical light painting shot is created. A small nitpick is that I'd like the app to be able to record in other ratio too instead of the default square format. An Android version is planned and will be released soon, according to the developer.

Download PABLO here and try it for yourself. 

Side note: I used the mobile phone holder from a selfie stick and mount it on a tripod for these shots. 

Initial test shot with Pablo app for iOS.

To Edit Or Not To Edit

To Edit Or Not To Edit

A quick 2 minute edit in Lightroom can bring out hidden details in the shadow area of this image.

A quick 2 minute edit in Lightroom can bring out hidden details in the shadow area of this image.


One question I get asked a lot by my students is “Do you edit your photos?”. And the answer that I give is “Why, yes of course!”. Typically that’s followed by another question, “But isn’t that cheating?”. Hm... short pause, and then I’ll go at length to explain that we photographers edit our photos not because we purposefully go all out to create a fake image (although that is a separate discussion for another day), the main reason for us to edit a photo is to create an image that’s close to our vision, the art that we want the world to see. We edit because our camera sucks at capturing the full tonal range that our eyes can see, or bring out the nuance in colours that the camera otherwise fail to record. We edit to take our photos from good to great, not to be mistaken with editing to save a bad photo to OK photo. As the great Ansel Adams like to say, “you make photo, not take a photo”. I think what he means is that you take control of the process every step of the way to achieve the final results that you first saw in your mind’s eye. And that includes planning your location, angle to shoot, when to shoot, posing your model, choosing the right lens and props to use and many other factors. Now, granted he ‘edits’ his photos in a traditional dark room, making sure all the 10 zones are perfectly represented in his masterpieces, we now have great digital tools such as Adobe Lightroom at our disposal to do the same, if not more. So there’s no reason why we should explore this equally important part of a photography workflow, one that most beginners do not pay much attention to.

So to answer the follow up question of “Should I edit my photos?”. My answer is a resounding “Yes! Why not?” But don’t edit them because you feel you have to. If you’re perfectly content with how the image turns out right after you click the shutter, then let it be. But if you’re constantly feeling that your images lack punch, saturation, shadow details or even could use a simple crop to tell a better story, then it’s time to pick up the slack and learn to make your images even better.

Side note: the accompanying image of KLCC shot at night recently is a simple example of how a quick edit in Lightroom to bring out the saturation, shadow details and lens distortion can lead to a better looking image than the RAW file that the camera produces.

Exify App for iOS

As a photographer and photography educator I'm always looking at images for inspiration or reviewing my participants' works and while Apple's iDevices work great in displaying images in their full resolution glory, they doesn't provide an easy way to inspect the EXIF metadata. A new app by the guys at Iconfactory is here to solve this problem for me, and I'll venture to say, a lot of photographers and enthusiasts out there. Exify is a simple app that's designed specifically for that one purpose only: to peek under the hood of an image to reveal all the crucial EXIF information. This is great in many ways as we can learn a lot about an image just by looking at the metadata such as ISO, aperture, shutter speed, metering mode and focal length. Exify also gives you loads of options besides that to scrutinise an image with its handy magnifier and colour sampling tools. A personal favourite is the added ability to quickly add watermark feature onto your image using Editing Extension for a quick image tagging. For USD1.99, that's a steal. Check out more information on Exify's website, or download it here.