september 11 sunset (aka how to spot meter on your 3GS)


I was across the street from Universal Studios visiting some old friends when I noticed one of the most incredible sunsets in recent memory – somehow appropriate on this day of remembrance.  I snapped a few shots to share with you – click through for another (both are handy wallpaper size).


These images are completely unretouched from my iPhone’s camera.  Guess it’s not bad for a cell phone after all!  Kudos to Apple for the big improvement over the previous iPhones.  If you’ve got a 3GS with the new camera, the trick to getting shots like this is to use the spot metering feature.  When you tap the screen to autofocus, it also uses that area as a guide to set the exposure.  In this sunset example, if left to decide for itself, the camera would have given me this:


See how everything is washed out?  That’s because the automatic exposure control looks at the entire image – including the dark foreground – and decides it needs to brighten the whole thing up to balance it all out.  But in this case, we don’t want balance – we want the foreground to stay dark and the sky to be properly exposed.  In order to make the camera listen, I touched the brightest part of the screen – the sun itself – therefore telling the camera I want it to only look at that part of the picture to decide exposure.  Since that part of the image is very bright, it brought down the exposure (the f-stop).  If I had wanted the image to be brighter, I would have touched a dark part of the image at the bottom.  This is called “spot metering” because you’re choosing the spot you want it to look at for exposure!

If you’ve got a 3Gs, this is the key to taking great pictures.  If you’re taking a pic of your friend against a bright background (like the sky), there is a good chance their face will be too dark since it’s bringing the exposure down to make up for the bright background.  If this happens, simply tap your friends face (on the screen, silly) and you’ll magically see them get brighter!  Simply put, just tap the part of the screen you want exposed properly.

Of course, it would be great if Apple simply built manual exposure control into the camera (would it be so hard to let the volume up and down button bring the f-stop up and down, Apple?) but, for now, spot metering is a big help.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend!  I know it’s been slow around here lately, but I’ve got some great stuff planned for next week.  Stay tuned!

8 Responses to “september 11 sunset (aka how to spot meter on your 3GS)”

  1. September 12, 2009 at 1:07 am

    As a new user of the iPhone 3GS, I was wondering if that was possible without the use of some app. Thank you!! (I know, I know–I could have RTFM… but where’s the fun in that most of the time?)

  2. September 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    That’s an impressive improvement.

    How would the manual f-stop control be better, though? (Obviously I don’t do much creative photography.)

  3. 3 mangababe
    September 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Amazing sunset! Thanks for the tip, I have a spankin’ new 3GS, love the camera, didn’t know it could do that.

  4. 4 James
    September 13, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Nice work, man. Send a link to Stu over at Prolost. I bet he’ll get a kick out of it.

  5. 5 James
    September 13, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Also: Once again, the best camera for the shot is the one you have with you…

  6. 6 seijornec
    September 13, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    At times the 3GS camera can be very impressive. I’ve been very happy with mine. Very nice shot BTW.

  7. September 30, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Great photos man!

    Very appropriate.

  8. 8 Max
    October 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    With multiple shots (as you did) you can make HDR too:

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September 2009

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