Photographing Double Rainbows :: Digital Photo Secrets

Photographing Double Rainbows

by David Peterson 4 comments

Many if us are surprised that iPhone photography is gaining the ranks of approval among serious photographers. Photographer Heather Hummel read the ebook I reviewed on iPhone Photography and it gave her inspiration to use her iPhone to capture this wonderful image of a double rainbow on a ranch in Colorado (USA) rather than her DSLR camera. Heather's image utilized many of the apps and steps used in the ebook, so I asked Heather to share with us how this image came to be. As you'll see, it's not as simple as what meets the eye, but with the right apps and some willingness to learn, you can create some pretty cool panoramic images with your own iPhone.

Take it away, Heather...

Thanks for having me! As a recent reader of Misho Baranovic's iPhone Photography book, I'll admit I was more intrigued by iPhone photography than I thought I'd be. I never leave home without my Canon T3i, so it's rare that I use or need my iPhone camera in a pinch. But, the tips in the iPhone photography book certainly added to my curiosity and knowledge of iPhone capabilities. I'm more tempted than ever to use them now. It helped that I was already familiar with one of the app he recommends, the AutoStitch app. That's the app that allowed me to capture this double rainbow right in my own backyard.

I had just come home from grocery shopping and it was pouring rain. I was sitting in my car waiting for it to let up, and with the sun making its way out, I knew it wouldn't be too long of a wait. What I didn't know was that within minutes I'd have this incredible double rainbow just outside my driver's side window. When it appeared, I grabbed my Canon (like I said, it's always in reach, even when I go grocery shopping!), and rolled down the window just far enough to get the lens through but not so much to get drenched! Sadly, even with my Canon's 18mm-135mm lens set to 18mm, and as you can see in this image, I couldn't get the entire rainbow in. I was too close to the rainbow and stuck in my car in a downpour.

Double rainbow taken with 18mm lens and Canon DSLR camera

My iPhone, also usually within reach, saved the moment. Even though it wouldn't let me give me a wide enough angle either, I knew I could utilize the AutoStitch app.

There are two main tricks to using the AutoStitch app effectively. The first is to take about five or six images in a row, allowing the images to overlap about 30%. The second is to keep your camera as level as possible so that the line of ground or sky stays consistent. Between these two steps, the AutoStitch app can process your image most accurately. If you can accomplish that, the steps through the AutoStitch process are pretty simple once you see it done.

These are the five images I captured before using the app. Notice how they overlap a bit and the ground and sky stay level. I'll also note that you'd want to keep the focus and exposure consistent as well.

Once these were all captured, I opened the AutoStitch app. The following steps walk you through the stitching process that leads to amazing panoramas!

Step 1: Check The iPhone Gallery

Ensure that your five images are stored in your iPhone's photo library, as shown below. Note: I had my camera in HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, so for each image, there are actually two exposures: Normal and HDR. Realize that when shooting in HDR mode, it takes an extra few seconds for each image to process, so if you're in a hurry, be sure to turn off HDR if it's going to slow you up to the point of missing the shots.

This screenshot shows both exposures, Normal and HDR, for each image. I've labeled them #1-#5 and Normal or HDR so you can see the sequence more clearly. The last two are the AutoStitched ones that I refer to at the end. (The ones at the top are of my favorite coffee shop. They just happened to be in the screenshot!)

Step 2: AutoStitch

Open the AutoStitch app and choose "Select Photos."

Step 3: Select Images

Select the five images you want to stitch together by simply tapping them. In my example below, you'll see every other image is checked because I chose the first image (Normal) of #1-#5 of the two exposures (Normal and HDR). You'll have to decide in your own situation as to which one to choose. Naturally, if HDR is turned off, there will only be five images.

Once selected, tap on "Stitch" in the bottom right corner (shown in image).

Step 4: Wait!

The app processes your images by aligning them and extracting features. All you have to do is wait about 20 seconds.

Step 5: Crop the Image

Once processed, you'll see your image displayed. The edges will be ragged, so I always select the "crop" option on the bottom, which brings you to the screen below. This is where you can adjust the cropping yourself or go by the default selection. You can see the ragged edges above and around the crop lines. Once you tap on "Crop" your image will show as a panoramic with straight edges.

Step 6: Share or Save

Lastly, is the option to share or save your image. Tap on the arrow on the bottom left corner and you'll be given the sharing options shown below.

I usually send my panoramic image to the Camera Roll, and then open up Photoshop Express to edit it. But, there's also the option to send it right to any photo processing app you have (bottom choice). I am personally in the habit of saving it in my Camera Roll first.

In the screenshot image at the beginning of this post, the first panoramic (on the bottom and labeled AutoStitch) is the original, and the second version (labeled Photoshop) is the result of a little tweaking in the Photoshop Express app, which led to my final image. All I did in the Photoshop app was adjust the exposure and contrast a bit to bring out the rainbow colors.

This isn't the only time the AutoStitch app came in extremely handy. It's great for any sweeping landscapes or other wide-angled shots. I have used it more than I thought I would, and since it's only $1.99, it's been worth it.

One thing I'll note is that I've also seen a lot of great photography coming from iPads, and much of the advice here and in the iPhone Photography book should apply to iPad users as well. I hope this helps everyone! Happy iPhone shooting!

Thanks Heather. Very well done! I appreciate you allowing me to share your photo with my readers.

Heather Hummel is a landscape and portrait photographer with Pulse Images. She is currently based out of Colorado, but she's always on the move to the next adventure with her Canon T3i, iPhone and two dogs!

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  1. Lawrence Coleman says:

    jukka writes: "Rainbows fit nicely in fullframe 17mm."

    Not true for Heather's APS sensor, and for a double rainbow.

  2. jukka says:

    "I couldn't get the entire rainbow in. I was too close to the rainbow and stuck in my car in a downpour."

    It wont help if you go more far as the viewing angle of the full rainbow is always same.
    Rainbows fit nicely in fullframe 17mm.

  3. Etienne TOUSSAINT says:

    Heather could have done just the same thing using her Canon camera and stitching either in Photoshop Panorama Photomerge or in (my favorite) Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4. And probably with a better final picture quality.

  4. Loren Dolezal says:

    Thanks for the tip on panarama proceedure using Photoshop Elements.
    I haven't spent much time exploring the program but I'm learning.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.