iPhone 10s still Doesn’t Match a Real Camera

First of all, I do love my iPhone 10s for many reasons, This is not a review of the phone, but a review of it’s usefulness as a camera. For most amateurs and for professional images in a pinch, it works very well. However, I had higher expectations.

On a recent tour in Costa Rica, I shot both with the iPhone app and with ProCam 6. The iPhone app uses the new HEIC compression. In my opinion, HEIC still suffers from JPEG-like artifacts. I see halos around dark objects on light backgrounds. It also seems to create smear distortions in low light.

I purchased ProCam 6 because of its capability to shoot raw images. ProCam 6 has fewer issues with halos, but there is significant noise in the DNG (RAW) images. This impacts the overall sharpness of the image. This is an unexpected result for a raw image.

The bottom line is that the iPhone 10s is fine for my street photo Instagram posts, but the images are not good enough for print or digital competition. I would not show them in a gallery either because the artifacts will be evident in high quality prints. I am happy that I lugged my Nikon D750 along on the Costa Rica tour.

My PSA Bronze Portfolio – The Not So Good

If you have not read my previous post, “My PSA Portfolio – The Good”, you should go back and read it since the background for the Photographic Society of America portfolio program is detailed. That post discusses the three images that were good enough to qualify for the portfolio honors. Below are the seven of ten images that did not qualify and, therefore, disqualified my portfolio from the Bronze distinction. As I indicated before, that stings, but I have learned from the experience and from the assessors’ comments. I will show their comments in italic.

The first is “Park Ranger”. Too tightly cropped. It actually was not cropped: I was very close to the subjects. Nevertheless, it would have been a better image if it had shown the rider of the horse rather than chopping the top of his torso and head off. That is distracting.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. My rationalization was that the horse was the subject and it is in sharp focus. I was shooting with an Olympus Pen-F and 25mm f/1.2 lens wide open. That was not a good choice for the subject. I need to be more conscious of my aperture and ISO settings. Maybe I should stick with my Nikon D750 at f/16 and ISO 3200. Just joking.

Loses detail in highlights or shadows. Very true, almost to the point of abstracting the background. Some areas almost seem blown out.

Park Ranger

The second, “Banned in China”, is the image of a Falun Gong who regularly meditates on the Boston Common. Weak relative to statement of intent. It was a bad choice of subject on my part because there is not strong connection between this image and Boston unless you were aware of the Falun Gong activities locally.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. The image was overly cropped to eliminate some of the other distractions that were going on in the frame. However, even the un-cropped image lacks sharpness, probably due to a poor focus point. The shutter speed was 1/2000 s.

Loses detail in highlights or shadows. This was also shot using the Pen-F 25 mm at f/1.2, causing too much abstraction in the background, especially with the poor lighting. Using an exposure compensation may have given me more detail and the option to brighten the foreground. More importantly, this was not a good situation to use such extreme bokeh.

Banned in China

The third image is called “Athletic Pants” and was shot at the annual Head of the Charles rowing event in Boston. Too tightly cropped. Having the boat cut off at both ends probably annoyed the assessors. This was as shot, without any cropping. I had the option to zoom out since I was using my D750 and 24-120 mm lens at 105 mm. The lesson here is to take many shots at different focal lengths.

Consider a different viewpoint. The idea here is that a frontal view would have captured the full length of the boat and the athlete’s face. In many cases, my access to the athletes was restricted so that my view point was limited. That is not an excuse, just a factor in street photography.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. In the case of this image, I think the sharpness is a fine point. I could argue that the subject is sharp, but the viewpoint detracts somewhat from that perception.

Athletic Pants

“The Wild One”, shot in the Boston North End, is a reference to the 1953 Marlon Brando movie and is the fourth image. I still love this image and I might be tempted to use it again for something.Crop to improve composition. This comment puzzles me a bit, because I can’t see a meaningful crop. I wouldn’t want to lose the motorcycles in the background or any of the motor scooter that the subject mounts. I suppose I could change the aspect ratio from 3:2 to 4:3 to crop the right side.

Loses detail in the highlights or shadows. This is definitely an exposure compensation issue. There are blown out areas in the background. What I saw was a background that was not critical to the message and what the assessors saw was a distraction.

Over-exposed partial. There are some portions of the images that can be adjusted to give more detail in the dark areas.

The Wild One

“Melons in the Sun” is the fifth image, shot at Boston Market. Consider a different viewpoint. I agree that a shot at about 90 degrees from where I was standing would have shown the customer. That would have added more interest to the image.

Lacks sharpness on the main subject. The shutter speed was maybe not quite fast enough at 1/100 s and f/14. I also ripped off several shots and may have been in motion. There is some softness in the features of the subject.

Loses detail in the highlights or shadows. Some of the melons, in particular, are missing some detail. A little exposure compensation would have mitigated this.

Over-exposed partial. Some of the dark areas could have been adjusted.

Melons in the Sun

The sixth image, titled “Check!”, was a scene in Mary Soo Hoo Park in Chinatown. Consider a different viewpoint. Granted, a view that included more of the game board would have been better. However, I think the next comment is the most disqualifying.

Lacks sharpness on main subject. Yes. Although I am devoted to this image, it did not use the best camera settings. I was not paying attention to the conditions at the time. It was shot at 1/25 s and f/4. There was too much motion going on for that to work.


The seventh and final image, “i m skating – lol”, is at Frog Pond. While I like the humor of the shot, it falls short technically. Crop to improve composition. The aspect ratio can be changed and the frame reduced on the right to eliminate some of the expanse of ice.

Lacks sharpness on main subject. Since this was shot at 1/4000 s and f/1.4, it is likely that my focus point was off. At f/1.4 it wouldn’t take much.

Contrast too high. I am guilty of cranking the contrast in an effort to try to make the subject pop out of the frame. It was an inadequate method to compensate for other shortcomings of the image.

i m ice skating – lol

So, what have I learned? Since I shoot aperture priority on the street, I need to pay attention to aperture. It seems that I generally shoot too wide open. In difficult lighting situations, I need to use exposure compensation to get detail in the highlights, adjusting the exposure of the subject in post. Shutter priority may be a better choice for many street situations to get control of subject sharpness. I also want to experiment with higher ISO, although I have been reluctant to do that with my Pen-F since the focal plane is not as forgiving at high ISO as my D750.

Since I do a lot of street photography, I find it difficult to balance all of the things needed to create a truly great image. I know that it is not impossible because photojournalists do it successfully all the time. I can’t wait for Spring so that I can go out and try some more.

My PSA Bronze Portfolio – The Good

Late last year I submitted ten images to be assessed by five Photographic Society of America assessors. The PSA portfolio program provides an opportunity for those of use without a long history of photographic achievement to get recognition for our work. Unlike many competitions, the images that do not make the grade receive critiques. Professional photographers receive regular and significant signs of approval from clients and successful competitions. People like me who have aspirations to be good photographers do not have such great sources of reinforcement in practice. The PSA portfolio program helps to at least partially resolve the difficulty.

There are three levels of portfolio distinctions: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The Bronze level requires ten images, Silver fifteen, and Gold requires twenty. A photographer can skip levels and go directly to Gold, but that would be foolhardy in my opinion. My quest began with Bronze.

The theme is important since each image must tell the story stated by the theme. My theme was “Boston, You’re My Home”. All of the images are street photos rendered in black and white.

The comments that I received sting a bit. The assessors comments are only provided for the images that did not do well. Of the five assessors, at least four must approve each image to qualify the portfolio for honors. Three out of ten of my images qualified. Let’s look at the ones that qualified.

The first one, “Pride”, was taken at a gay pride event in Boston. The placement of the subjects is great, if I must say so myself. The tones are balanced and the focus is sharp. The sign of Faneuil Hall in the background echos the theme.


The second image, “Reportage”, was taken at an evening protest near Boston Common. The New England Cable News reporter is in the moment and her placement in the frame is good. I also like that she is facing toward the right. I think that viewers like that since we read from right to left. The right to left movement also takes us to the camera operator. His stance says something about the height of the reporter. The focus on the subject and the camera operator is sharp.


Finally, the third image, “Touristic Lecture”, is a common sight in downtown Boston. The actor in period dress is explaining the history of the city. In this case, the subject is detached from the lecture while the actor is in motion and trying his best to make his point. The focus on the subject is sharp and helps to draw attention to her.

Touristic Lecture

I agree that those were the best of the ten. If you have any comments, please feel free to weigh in. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts on these. My subsequent posts will present the not so good.