For a client-approval mock-up, the sky was replaced on this shot… on my iPad

A local builder/realtor, The Sanford Group, asked me to photograph one of their properties as a portfolio piece. This was a relatively low budget shoot, which of course means maximizing quality while minimizing time. The client met us before the shoot at the location so we could discuss the deliverable, however he wasn't able to be there for the shoot itself. Also to complicate things, the weather turned and we were facing dull grey skies and sprinkling rain. Yay!

Gear selection

My adoration of Micro Four Thirds (MFT) is no secret. I firmly believe that the dSLR's days are numbered, and with the advent of medium format (MF) at never-before-seen prices (under $8,500 for a Pentax 645z, compared to $30k to $40k for other MF bodies), many photographers like myself will be making the move from 35mm to MFT for smaller work and MF for higher end shots. I've been shooting more and more on the small MFT cameras lately, while my Canon gear is gathering dust.

This job was a prime candidate for the Panasonic LUMIX GX7 body. In this case it wasn't about the size and weight, but about the technical abilities of the camera. The GX7 can connect wirelessly to my iPad, and provide a live view on the iPad screen. This meant I could move around the room arranging furniture while seeing through the lens, also firing test shots and viewing the high rez image, ensuring that everything was in the best place possible, all without having to run back and forth to the camera. I even triggered the bracketing sequence from the iPad, effectively making it a (very expensive) cable release. Absolutely no touching of the camera to introduce camera shake, that's for sure!

That's me, heading off to rearrange furniture while looking through the lens—from the iPad

That's me, heading off to rearrange furniture while looking through the lens—from the iPad

Granted I don't have the tilt-shift lens options on this camera, however Photoshop is so good at perspective correction that it's largely irrelevant, and certainly so for a shoot like this.

Previewing composites

I'm not a big fan of HDR, however this was one of those times where a little HDR blending was the way to go. The outdoors, while sadly grey, still needed to be compensated for. Fortunately there was some well-illuminated greenery outside the patio doors, and the cellular blinds were extremely bright but still textured. A single shot would blow all that out, so either I needed to light the room or composite multiple images. Given the budget, compositing was the way to go here.

As I mentioned though the client wasn't with us, which meant I needed to send shots to him as we went for his approval before moving on to the next setup. (OK I didn't need to, but I wanted to). Once again, the GX7 and wifi connection to the iPad to the rescue!

Not only could I copy images from the camera, I was able to composite two exposures using TrueHDR on the iPad. I fully expected to redo all these in the computer, and I did — but in the end I went back to the iOS versions! The image rendered by TrueHDR felt more natural and real to me than what I was creating in Nik's plugins. Go figure.

TrueHDR is a champ

You can only merge two photos in TrueHDR (and I've yet to find an iOS app that lets you choose more), and the controls are quite minimal, but the final image looked great!

TrueHDR lets you choose two images to merge, and generally you'll want a pretty wide gap between them

TrueHDR lets you choose two images to merge, and generally you'll want a pretty wide gap between them

The interface is very simple (and only works in vertical mode, annoyingly) but it gets the job done with fantastic results

The interface is very simple (and only works in vertical mode, annoyingly) but it gets the job done with fantastic results

I really felt that these looked better than what I was getting from the desktop software, so ended up delivering these as final images to the client. Wow!

Sky replacement using Photoshop Touch

The front of the house photo shows just how abysmal the sky was…

Lovely house! Shame about the sky…

Lovely house! Shame about the sky…

I had recently downloaded Photoshop Touch on my iPad, which has some pretty impressive abilities for a touch app. You can perform perspective correction (great for squeezing vertical lines back into place) and even create layered files, then use the magic wand to select things like that big white sky, erase that out, and using a built-in google image search (which specifically searches for rights-free images), find an image to drop behind it. In this case, it truly took only a few minutes to replace the sky.

Sky replacement on the iPad… go figure

Sky replacement on the iPad… go figure

Granted this wasn't good enough for final delivery, but it was certainly enough to show what the image will look like. Needless to say it impressed the client too, as he knew the sky looked nothing like this at the time, yet received a blue-sky photo to his phone for approval!

One beef I do have with Photoshop Touch though is that even at it's highest quality settings, it will only import 12 Megapixel images (4000 × 3000). Since iPhoto handles up to 19 MP, it's a shame to have this image quality loss when. Oh that and as soon as I enable Creative Cloud the app crashes on launch. *sigh*

Panasonic GX7 and iPad mini… match made in heaven!

Love love love this combination.

In the next post, I'll show something a bit higher end. Another property shot, but high budget and very high quality deliverable. That one was not done on the iPad ;-)

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