Tagged: Howto

Shooting Neon With an iPhone

February 22nd, 2014 Permalink

Back in 2010, I posted 10 tips for shooting neon. Now more and more people are carrying around their iPhone as their primary camera. I thought it was time to post a follow up with tips for shooting neon signs with a iPhone. Many of the same tips for shooting with a DLSR apply to […]

Back in 2010, I posted 10 tips for shooting neon. Now more and more people are carrying around their iPhone as their primary camera. I thought it was time to post a follow up with tips for shooting neon signs with a iPhone. Many of the same tips for shooting with a DLSR apply to the iPhone as well!

  1. Know Your Camera
  2. Neon is bright. Especially at night, this brightness can confuse the camera app and the exposure will not be what you want. However, most apps will let you set which spot is used for exposure and focus. For example, to set exposure and focus on the Camera app that comes with the iPhone, just tap on the screen. Holding down will lock the exposure and focus so you can compose the shot. Learning how to make the camera behave the way you want will make sure you can get the shot exposed just how you want it.

  3. Know Your Apps
  4. There are hundreds and hundreds of photography apps to choose from on the App Store. Knowing what the apps you have will do for an image is key to getting the image you want. Spend some time with each photo app you download, learning what adjustments it can perform and how they affect the image. Knowing this will help you pick the right app to get the look and feel you want.

    I like the way the Hipstamatic app combination of John S Lens and Kodot XGrizzled Film work with neon signs.

  5. Shoot Day Or Night
  6. Neon looks amazing at night, but don’t ignore it during the day. Often there are details that cannot be seen at night, and some signs no longer light up. But they still look good!

  7. Shoot During The Blue Hour
  8. Shooting neon when the sun is low in the sky will allow you to capture the glowing tubes as well as the surrounding context. This is a great time to shoot signs!

  9. Experiment
  10. Get close. Shoot reflections. Get under, behind, and above signs. Use the neon as part of the image, but not the only thing in the image. Use experimental photo apps, and combine the results of different apps. There’s no harm in trying things – pixels are free!

    Here are some apps that will do interesting and unexpected things to your photos:
    Decim8
    Percolator
    Interlacer (Full Disclosure: This app was written by me)

    This image was made with Hipstamatic and Interlacer:

    Also check out Doctor Popular’s Appsperiments

  11. Look At Other Photos
  12. There are a lot of people shooting neon with their iPhones. Look at what they are doing. Get inspired! Here are a few to get you started:
    Sean Calvey (scalvey)
    Sharlynn V (sv1)
    Frank Prosnik (innerstate1)

  13. Practice
  14. The more you do practice, the better you will get. Make time to shoot. Seek out interesting and vintage neon signs. Go have fun!

You can see all of my iPhone neon photos on Flickr.

10 Tips For Shooting Neon

September 16th, 2010 Permalink

Neon signs are a favorite subject of my photography. I have posted nearly 4,000 photos of neon, and have learned a few things about how to shoot it. Here are ten tips for shooting neon.

Two On The Line

  1. Use A Low ISO
  2. Neon lends itself to night shooting, so you may naturally think that you should shoot at a higher ISO to compensate for the dark surroundings. Don’t. Neon is bright! You can easily shoot neon signs at ISO 100-200. I shoot the vast majority of nighttime neon at ISO 200, occasionally bumping up to 400 or 640 if the sign is unusually dim.

  3. Shoot in Manual Mode
  4. Neon is bright! The contrast between the bright neon tubes and the dark background at night can easily confuse your camera’s meter. Switch to manual mode when shooting neon, and you will quickly appreciate the benefit of the extra control. A good place to start is 1/100th of a second, at f/5.6. Take a shot, review it on the screen, and adjust as needed. Usually I will adjust the aperture first, since using fast shutter speeds can result in a “marching ants” effect in the neon tubes.

  5. Shoot in RAW
  6. If your camera supports RAW imaging, use it. RAW will give you the most data. This, in turn, will give you the most flexibility in post-production, allowing you to pull out details that may otherwise be lost.

  7. Learn Your Camera’s LCD Screen
  8. On my camera’s LCD, properly exposed neon looks slightly underexposed. Learn what correctly exposed neon looks like on your particular camera’s LCD screen and you will save yourself a lot of frustration after the shoot.

  9. Shoot Day And Night Versions
  10. Neon often looks best at night. However, don’t discount shooting neon signs during the day. Many signs have painted detail that cannot be seen at night, and the shadows cast by the glass tubes can make for very interesting images.
    Air Devils Inn

  11. Get The Glow
  12. Neon signs often cast a nice glow on the area surrounding the sign. Try adjusting your exposure to capture the glow on the side of the building, as well as the neon tubing.
    That Li Po Glow

  13. Shoot During The Blue Hour
  14. The time between daylight and darkness is an excellent time to shoot neon signs. It is dark enough to allow the neon tubes to show up well, but there is enough light to see the surroundings.
    Cal West Motors

  15. Mix It Up
  16. Try shooting neon in different ways. Shoot the reflection in windows, the reflection in puddles and the color washed streets after the rain. If there is a sign in a window, try shooting the back of the sign. Try standing directly under a sign and shooting up. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
    Meet You In The Light

  17. Look At Other Photos
  18. Looking at how other people have captured images of neon signs is a great way to get inspired. Check out some of these shooters:
    Thomas Hawk
    Clearlight
    Devil Doll
    happyshooter
    loungelistener
    Tom Spaulding

  19. Practice
  20. Above all, get out there and shoot!

Do you have any tips for shooting neon signs? Share them in the comments.

Zooomr Upload Fix

November 26th, 2007 Permalink

I spend a lot of time over on Zooomr, posting photos, looking at other photos, and chatting on Zipline. There have been some pretty consistent complaints about uploads not working over the last few weeks. Most of these problems were solved last week, but some people were still experiencing either intermittent problems uploading certain photos, […]

I spend a lot of time over on Zooomr, posting photos, looking at other photos, and chatting on Zipline. There have been some pretty consistent complaints about uploads not working over the last few weeks.

Most of these problems were solved last week, but some people were still experiencing either intermittent problems uploading certain photos, or problems uploading ANY photos. I had two shots that I could not get uploaded, no matter what I did with them. After much frustration, I narrowed the problem down to some metadata that was giving Zooomr problems.

The problem area is the IPTC Caption field. Photos with any data there will not upload properly. However, it is easy to fix this when you are editing your photos. If you use Aperture, look for data in the Caption field. It will look something like this:
Aperture Screenshot

Just delete the data in the Caption field.

If you use Photoshop, click the File menu and then select File Info. In the IPTC Content section, look under “Description”. If you see any data there, delete it. It will look something like this:
CS3 Screenshot

Once that data is gone, the photo should upload correctly and appear on Zooomr. Note that any data there — even blank spaces — will cause the upload to fail, so make sure there is really nothing there by clicking in the field and hitting delete.

I hope this will help any of you that were having problems uploading certain photos. Happy shooting!