Rachel K. Ivey

Inside Rachel’s iPhone: Camera+ for Beginners

Camera+ by tap tap tap. My favorite camera app. Available for $1.99 for iOS devices only.

Your iPhone came pre-loaded with the native iPhone camera app. It’s a good start, but it is a long way from being the app that helps you take the best possible photos. My all-time favorite camera app is Camera+ by tap tap tap.

(Tip: The App Store can be full of apps pretending to be popular apps. When I recommend an app, I will always include the maker’s name. Look for both the name of the app AND the maker’s name before purchasing to avoid buying a fake.)

Camera+ puts more controls in your hands and adds a whole range of editing options.  This app is for beginners who just want to take better pictures with their camera, as well as, those wanting to take their iPhoneography to the next level. Because Camera+ can do so many things, I’m going to focus this week on setting up Camera+ for beginners.


Suggested Beginners’ Camera+ Menu Settings. I suggest that you set AutoSave to Camera Roll.

Let’s get the app set up. From the home screen, click on the MENU button and make your settings match what you see here. VolumeSnap turns on a satisfying camera shutter noise to let you know that you took a picture. Sound is just annoying, adding a tone every time you press a button. Turn it OFF. Do yourself a big favor and turn the Zoom OFF.

(With the Zoom turned on, you will see a slider bar on the Camera+ home screen. It lets you slide the button to zoom up to 6x closer on your subject. Even with perfect conditions (phone mounted on a tripod & perfect light) the photo quality when zoomed in is still MUCH lower than if you didn’t zoom.

A better choice would be to simply get closer to your subject. The photos in the comparison below were made with my iPhone 4S on a tripod, which minimized the amount of shakiness you get when hand-holding a camera. Unfortunately, shakiness is magnified when you’re zoomed in, so your photos are even more blurry.)

A comparison of various Zoom settings on the Camera+ app. Note the increased distortion the closer you zoom.

Grid should be turned ON for an easy reminder to think about where to place your subject in the scene. Workflow should be set to CLASSIC. This allows you to shoot as many pictures in a row as you want instead of being forced to stop and edit after each individual shot. AutoSave is set to CAMERA ROLL, which will immediately save each picture into your Camera Roll. Quality is set to FULL, which saves the biggest, best-possible version of your pictures. The pictures will take up more memory, but you’ll be glad that you could have prints made of them if you want. Sharing lets you set up Camera+, so you can share to your Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr right from the app. Since I want you to get into the habit of making your photos the best they can be BEFORE you share them with the world, I’d like for you to just leave Sharing alone. Lastly Notifications lets tap tap tap tell you when updates are available for the app. Honestly, you’re going to get those same notifications from the App Store, so this is really not necessary.
This is what your home screen will look like with the Beginners’ Settings.

On the left you see the Front/Rear camera selector button at the top and the Flash Controls at the bottom. On the right are the buttons for Menu, Camera Mode, Shutter, and Lightbox.
Just like with the native camera, touching inside the image on the home screen will bring up a box that can be drug around to adjust the exposure AND will tell the app where to focus. Just tap where you want the camera to focus and it will both focus AND adjust the exposure (brightness/darkness) at the same time. Press the Shutter to take the picture, and with Beginners’ Settings it will automatically be saved to your Camera Roll.
The settings outlined above will let you start taking pictures with Camera+ right away, but I have really just barely scratched the surface of what Camera+ can do. Next week, I’ll focus on the different Camera Modes, what my own Menu settings look like, and the Lightbox.
The Digital Photography book in the Zoom Comparison shot is by Scott Kelby. If I could only recommend one photographer/instructor/author/Photoshop guy, Scott Kelby would be the guy. Check out Scott’s website and check out all his great books. (I don’t get a dime for either those links or recommending him. I do it because I own more of his books and seminars than I can count and would absolutely lost without him.)

Inside Rachel’s iPhone: The Native iPhone Camera

Poor Unwanted Apps Folder


Your iPhone came pre-loaded with the Apple camera app. (This is referred to as the “native” camera app, meaning it was already there living its life, hunting deer, and growing maize, and generally minding its own business when you arrived on the scene with Smallpox, but I digress.) Most of you use the native camera to take all your iPhone pictures, or your iPad 2 photos, if you shoot with that. Some of you may be shooting with the Hipstamatic or Instagram built-in cameras. Depending upon which iPhone you have, it’s a pretty good or even great starting point.


There are two ways to access the native camera. One is from your lock screen. Just touch the camera icon in the bottom right and make an upward swiping motion.

Launch the native camera from your lock screen.

The other is by clicking on the icon inside your iPhone. My icon sits in a folder marked “Unwanted” along with all the other Apple apps that come pre-loaded on the phone. Apple won’t let you delete them, and since I never use the native camera, into the Unwanted folder it goes.

(Don’t even get me started on the Newstand and the way not only are you unable to delete it, but Apple also won’t allow you to stick it in your Unwanted folder like you want.)

The native camera icon.


You can take both photos and videos using the native camera. The iPhone 4s has the best camera of all the iPhones. It takes the best photos and videos. It also features a built in video stabilization, which means it helps keep the video steadier when your hands/arms are not.

All this good photo/video quality only applies to the rear camera. This is the one on the opposite side of the view screen. The front camera is the one that points at you while you’re looking at the view screen. I don’t think I’ve ever used the front camera. The quality is just horrible when compared with the rear camera. Do yourself a favor. Have someone ELSE take your picture with the rear camera. Avoid the front camera unless you just like looking bad.

Grid and HDR can help you take better pictures.



The top left button (the lightning bolt) lets you set your flash controls. You have three choices: AUTO (the camera decides if a flash is needed), ON (a flash every time), and OFF (no flash ever). I usually keep my flash “off” unless I see that my picture is too dark without it.

Most flashes built-in to any camera are just too bright and because their brightness can’t be adjusted, they wind up ruining the photo. The iPhone flash is no exception. When the flash is too bright, it overpowers all the details and the color and every thing in the shot that you want to capture. My advice is to try taking a few shots without the flash first. If the shots are too dark, give the flash a try. Use very sparingly and never use unless you can’t get a good photo without the extra light.


The middle button is where the native camera gets a little more interesting. Clicking it gives you the option of turning on or off the grid and HDR images. The grid can be seen in the image. It’s the double vertical and horizontal lines that you see. Images are most pleasing to the eye when the important parts line up off to one side or the other. Rather than placing your subject dead center, try turning on the grid and lining them up with one of the vertical lines.


HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically the camera doesn’t “see” as well as the human eye does. We see everything from very bright to very dark and all things in between. HDR images combine a very bright version with a very dark version of the same image, blending them together in such a way that the image displays a range of tones more like our own eyes view the world. When you turn HDR on, it will take two separate images and then produce one HDR image. Most “real” HDR images are a minimum of 5 differently exposed images blended, so this is a very basic form of HDR.

These shot differences are very subtle.

If you look at this image, the differences are very subtle. You can see the most difference in the upper right hand corner. On the “normal” picture it is darker, whereas the “HDR” image has brought the brightness back to that area. (I will do another blog post that covers HDR in greater detail in the future.) Give it a try sometime and see what you think.


Probably the most important function of your native camera is the small, blue square that appears when you touch the view screen. This is your exposure (brightness/darkness) adjuster. When you try to take a picture of a group of people standing in front of a window with a lot of sunlight coming in, the camera has to choose between making the people look dark (but the window look right) and making the people look right (but the window look too bright). Cameras are not very good at making this choice on their own, which is why you want to handle it on your own.

When you touch the view screen, the blue square appears. It will disappear after a few seconds. To adjust the exposure, “drag” the square with your finger to various parts of the image and it will make adjustments automatically. When you place the square in a dark area of the view screen, that dark area immediately brightens, and when you place the square in a bright area of the view screen, that bright area becomes darker. You have to drag that square around until the balance of light and dark looks right to you.

Drag square around until you find the right balance.

Here are two shots I took one after the other. For the top image I placed the square in the brightest part of the image (near the sun). The camera darkened the entire image to adjust for the overly bright sun. You can see all the details in the trees, but the sun appears less bright. The bottom image is brighter because I placed the square is in the darkest part of the image. The camera brightened everything in response to the dark area. The sun appears very, very bright and washes out all the details in the trees. In this comparison, the right exposure is going to be somewhere in between the sun and the shadows.

The last thing we need to cover on the native camera is the video camera. You can use the native camera to take still images (photos) or shoot video.  You just need to slide the selector between the two. The exposure square works fairly well for both still images and video. The native camera will automatically save both your images and your video clip to your camera roll as soon as you take the image or record the video.


Did you know that you can use the volume up button to snap your picture? When Apple upgraded their software to iOS 5.1, they added that as a special feature. You can also use the volume up button on your Apple headphones, which means you can be very sneaky about taking pictures of family members that hate to be photographed. Just hold your iPhone sideways like a camera and click that volume up button. Voila! Of course taking the photo is just the start of your journey towards improving your mobile photography. Don’t upload that picture to Facebook just yet. In the coming weeks, I’ll be showing you a few helpful hints and apps that will improve those images BEFORE you upload them.


Next Monday, I’ll show off the camera app that I love and use to take the majority of my images – Camera+ by tap tap tap.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Inside Rachel’s iPhone: A Mobile Photography/Videography/Learn to Do New Stuff Blog

I love photography and videography. I really mean it. When I say I love photography and videography, I mean that a majority of my waking time is spent thinking about it, doing it, reading about it, doing it, planning for it, doing it, and learning more about ways and things to help me do it better. This love is not at all limited to my expensive camera and selection of lens from Canon.

In addition to having a love of all things photography and videography, I am an Apple afficianado. I’m writing this on my MacBook and will be posting pictures and videos made and edited exclusively with my iPhone 4S. It’s always with me and it’s my go-to device. They say that the best camera is the one that’s with you. I whole-heartedly agree. A quick glance at my iPhone reveals that it is not full of games but of photography and videography apps, photos, videos and not much else. I have in excess of 80 apps that either make, take, edit, or otherwise create or or help me learn more about photography and videography. I have purchased many more which have been discarded in favor of better apps, and I stay up-to-date on new and promising apps, iPhone accessories, and related items.

Starting Monday, July 2nd you can check out my new weekly Monday blog series, Inside Rachel’s iPhone, devoted to all things mobile photography and videography. I will be featuring excellent apps for creating and improving your mobile photography and videography. I will also be giving you some hints and tips on how to get the most out of your mobile device. Many of the apps and techniques I suggest will also work on the iPad. If you don’t use an iPhone, have no fear. I will also be discussing mobile photography as it relates to other types of phones and will also include from time to time discussions of other aspects of improving your mobile life, in other words, cool apps you should check out, apps on sale or temporarily for free, and safety and security suggestions for your mobile phone and online world. (I have another job, too, involving the law and the enforcing of said law, so I do know a thing or two about how to keep your stuff, digital or otherwise, safer.)

If you have a question about photography or videography or about a particular app that you’d like to see featured in future Inside Rachel’s iPhone blog posts, leave a comment or send an e-mail to rachelkivey_at_gmail.com.

Coming July 2nd, 2012: Inside Rachel’s iPhone – All About Your Native Camera


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Chelsea H.S. Theater Presents Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s The King and I

In April 2012 Chelsea High School Theater took on the monumental task of mounting a production of the classical musical The King and I by Rogers and Hammerstein. Everything about the production was just perfect from the casting to the costumes to the set pieces. Featuring a cast of over 50, the students gave four performances over the course of three days and featured both first and second cast performances.


Additional cast and production images can be found here.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – A Back Injury, an iPhone 4, and a New Year’s Resolution

I am an active person. I like to run. I like to stay busy. Even “taking it easy” usually means I’m processing photos, learning from online workshops, reading photography books, sometimes simultaneously. And then I injured my back…twice…within a week.

For me, the last month has been a whirl of medical visits and lying mostly flat on my back. It’s enough to drive an active person a little crazy. Oddly enough my New Year’s resolution has been my salvation. Well, more like a combination of my New Year’s resolution AND a load of pharmaceuticals, but you get the idea.

Long before I injured my back, I resolved to start the new year by taking and editing one iPhone photo every single day of 2012. I called it the 2012 iPhone Project 366. For an active person this is a very easy task, but not so much when you’re flat on your back. Enter the iPhone 4.

Not only does the iPhone 4 make calls, but it also has an amazing built-in camera. My iPhone is not full of songs, tv shows, or movies. Mine is full of photography and videography apps. These apps can take a great iPhone image and turn it into something really unique. Having something to focus on beyond my injury each day has helped immensely, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t missed a day.

My back is healing albeit very slowly. I look forward to being back at my full strength one of these days, so I can start taking pictures in more exciting locales than my living room, physical therapy, or my doctor’s office and not just with my iPhone.

To see all my iPhone Project 366 photos to date, visit my Flickr project.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Chelsea High School Theater Presents “Juvie”

In October of 2011, the Chelsea High School Theatre presented Jerome McDonough’s “Juvie,” a play which tells the stories of the teens inside a juvenile detention facility. It is a story of poor choices and their dramatic consequences.

Two teen girls stand toe-to-toe, while another sits in the foreground of their cell in "Juvie."

Two girls get ready to fight in "Juvie."

A teen boy lies catatonic on the floor of the boys' cell in "Juvie."

A teen arsonist lies on the floor of the boys' cell in "Juvie."

Two teen girls learn their sentence in "Juvie."

A stoic "Pinky" receives her sentence in "Juvie."

A teen girl's emotions come screaming out in "Juvie."

A teen girl's emotions come screaming out in "Juvie."

Chelsea H.S. Theatre took this play to the district-level Trumbauer Theatre competition, where they received highest marks and the right to take the play to the Alabama state Trumbauer competition. This talented group of teen brought forth all the raw emotion necessary to convey their story. Additional images can be seen in the following slideshow:


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Engagement Session – Eric and Liz

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day with Eric and Liz for their engagement portrait session.  They are a hip, young couple who were interested in incorporating architectural, graffiti, and other urban elements and processing techniques in their images.

Eric and Liz stand at the end of a long walkway with the city in the background. Eric and Liz on a raised walkway at Railroad Park.

We started and ended our day at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, AL. The area around the park provided us with many interesting pieces of street art (graffiti), which we incorporated into the images. The part itself is beautiful and has a variety of great places for photography.

Eric and Liz joke around while posing by a lamp post. Who says engagement sessions can’t be fun?

After spending some time at Railroad Park, we walked a few blocks to Morris Avenue, the last portion of which features a cobblestone street and old buildings.  Morris Avenue is popular with many local photographers for obvious reasons.

Eric and Liz sit on a bench with the Birmingham skyline behind them. Eric and Liz at Railroad Park

A short walk and a quick wardrobe change and we were back to shooting in Railroad Park. We had a great time during our session, despite it being the coldest fall weekend the Birmingham area had experienced so far. After the shoot, I used the best images to create this engagement video for them.

Contact Rachel K. Ivey to book your engagement or portrait session today.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Chelsea HS Theatre Goes to Edinburgh Fringe Fest

In August 2011, I had the privilege of travelling with a talented group of high school students to Edinburgh, Scotland, to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Chelsea High School had been nominated to and selected by the American High School Theatre Festival for this prestigious honor.

Chelsea H.S. theatre students pose for a picture in front of London Bridge.

Chelsea H.S. theatre students pose for a picture in front of London Bridge.

During the nearly two weeks we spent in the U.K. these students toured London, Edinburgh, and the Highlands and performed “Story Theatre” five times at one of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s many venues. For many of them, this was their first out of country experience. It was exciting to see them so eager to explore and experience everything this wonderful country had to offer, up to and including the sampling of the Scottish delicacy haggis.  The AHSTF coordinates the performance schedules so that

Two groups of high school thespians meet and discuss their experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in front of one of the venues.

Chelsea H.S. thespians congratulate thespians from another high school on their performance.

high schoolers attend the plays performed by their fellow AHSTF high schools.  It was really something to see so many theatrically inclined students together in one location interacting with one another and appreciating each other’s work.

The Chelsea H.S. cast of "Story Theater" during a performance.

The Chelsea H.S. cast of "Story Theater" during a performance.




Romeo and Juliet

I recently had the pleasure of working with Chelsea High School’s theatre department on designing a photo poster for their upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In this production, the setting is a high school classroom and our star crossed lovers, Romeo who is emo and Juliet who is a cheerleader, are high school students.

With this basic premise in mind, I worked with Eric St. John, Chelsea High School’s theatre teacher, to create a poster in which all the necessary information on the play is present in the photograph itself.  We did the shoot inside the only remaining classroom at Chelsea High School which still has a blackboard.

Romeo and Juliet will be performed at Chelsea High School, April 14th, 15th, and 16th at 7:30pm and again on April 17th at 2pm.  Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.

Additional images from Romeo & Juliet.

Update: I was contacted by the Shelby County Reporter and asked if they could use one of my photographs in their print an online edition to accompany a story on Chelsea High School Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet. The print edition came out on 4/20/11. The online article can be viewed HERE.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Chelsea Intermediate School presents “SECRETS”

I love working with creative people. I have a friend who certainly fits the bill. He’s a local 5th grade teacher, who uses his own love of the creative side of things to inspire his students. For the fourth year now, he’s been orchestrating his students and guiding them in the process of making a movie. He teaches them creative writing, spelling, grammar, and storytelling as they write and star in their very own movie.

This year he’s outdone himself with a 30 minute movie, Secrets, which he was able to arrange to premiere at the local Rave Theatre for friends and family of his students. While, the Rave was great to our little group, they did not change out the 16 movie posters out front. This is how we would have liked to have seen the front of the theatre when we arrived this morning.



Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Glastonbury Cross

Since this is Easter weekend, I have found myself thinking about a trip I made to England in 2008. Glastonbury was at the top of my list of places to visit. My husband and I were able to make a day trip to Glastonbury from our bed and breakfast, Appletree Guest House, in Bath.

Glastonbury is a place of legend – many, many of them. To New Agers, Glastonbury is home to a nexus of powerful, earth energies known as ley lines. To Arthurian legend fans, the Glastonbury Tor is the Isle of Avalon of the Lady of the Lake. Glastonbury Abbey has the tombs of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere marked by signs, although legend has it their bodies were mysteriously removed and are no longer there. As if mystical energy lines, the Isle of Avalon, and the tomb of King Arthur weren’t enough, Glastonbury is also steeped in legends of the Biblical variety.

Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus, is said to have been a merchant who travelled as far as England in his journeys. Local legends say that Joseph brought Jesus with him on some of his travels to the area. They say that when Jesus died, Joseph brought a cutting of the tree that was used to fashion the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he was crucified. This cutting was planted in Glastonbury, where stands the Joseph Thorn tree, also known as the Glastonbury Thorn. One very interesting fact is that the tree blooms twice a year – once around Christmas (the time we celebrate Jesus’ birth) and again around Easter (the time we celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion).

To continue with the Joseph connection, there is also a spot in Glastonbury known as the Chalice Well. It is said that Joseph brought the Holy Grail with him to Glastonbury, where he is supposed to have built a small chapel. Local stories say that the Holy Grail is hidden somewhere in the area. There is a small well in the gardens at Chalice Well. The water is high in minerals, staining the rocks red overtime, and is believed by some to have healing and restorative properties. (It just tasted like mineral water to me.)

Happy Easter to you and yours.


Rachel K. Ivey Photography – Toy Town

One of my favorite techniques to play with for landscape images is Tilt Shift. The Tilt Shift effect makes the items photographed have the appearance of being small and toy-like. This effect can be achieved two ways: through the use of a special camera lens and through the use of Photoshop.
Objects that are very colorful work in Tilt Shift particularly well. When the technique is done in Photoshop, the color is increased to enhance the effect. The yellow of the school buses really shows up in the top photo. The bright red of the fire engines parked in front of a fire department in York, England helps technique turn the full size vehicles into apparent Matchbox size cars. The little pedestrians look every bit like small statutues. Beautiful, colorful umbrellas and tents on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama are particularly colorful and vibrant. Even something with less color, such as a fountain in the courtyard of Vatican City can be made to look like a toy.

Tilt Shift can be challenging. There are times when I can tell ahead of time that I will use this technique and specifically seek to take a photo with this in mind. Other times, I am pleasantly surprised at how well the photo itself seems ready for it. The Vatican Fountain was one such photo that because of the angle (taken from ground level) and the sideways light of the setting sun became a natural candidate for Tilt Shift with very little work. I love the little surprises in photography.

School children play near three school buses that look like toys.

Tilt Shift makes the buses and children look like toys.

Top! All images and content are © Rachel K. Ivey Photography.
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