My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Taking Better Pictures with the iPhone

To be honest, many times the pictures in my blog are with my iPhone. Not only does my iPhone have a better camera than my (admittedly) 10 year-old digital camera, but it has a better camera than my iPad. Also, the iPhone is easier to handle and maneuver than either my digital camera or my iPad. What is does not have is a good interface for editing photos and then posting them to a blog; the screen is simply too small.

When I got my iPad I paid for some photo-editing and blog posting software for the iOS so do it all on one platform. If all I needed to do was crop a photo, especially where high detail was not necessary, the iPad was fine. The problem was that I usually did do more to the photos than crop them. I would edit out the backgrounds, add text or arrows, and change brightness and contrast. So in the end, despite the dream of doing it all on the iPad, I abandoned the software packages I bought and did all of the photo editing and blogging on the Mac.

This left me back at square one, which was which device to use for my photos. As I said, I phone has better quality, but the two areas where my digital camera beat it were: wide angle shots (say, a 8' wide table); and very close-up photos (a macro feature). So, whenever I wanted to do shots of painted figures, especially 6mm ones, I tended to pull out the digital camera. Now, I will probably pull out my iPhone.

One of the things I do with my iPhone camera is take pictures of drawings on white boards, and snaps of pages of documents. The problem with the latter has usually been that I am not perfectly parallel with the document and I wobble a little while trying to take the picture, so the writing is skewed or slightly out of focus, making it hard to read and harder to successfully use optical character recognition (OCR) software with. One day I ran across an ad for the StandScan, a stand that allows you to use your iPhone to scan documents. The stand is designed to keep the iPhone parallel and at the right distance for pictures of document pages. I decided to buy it and give it a try.

The StandScan comes in a small package. As you can see by the graphic in the photo, the document goes in a tray at the bottom and the iPhone is place on top, lining up the lens with a hole in the top of the box. The box is made of plastic-coated cardboard, and thus has some "give", meaning the top will not be perfectly parallel to the bottom. I was thinking about stiffening the stand with wires so that it would be, but that is for later.

Through a slick method of folding the product, it forms a box. It stays together because their are about a dozen rare earth magnets embedded into the cardboard at key points so it 'snaps' together.

This shows the hole in the top where you place your iPhone's lens.

I bought the 'Pro' model, which has LED lights on the inside, allowing the document strong lighting for a clear picture. You can see how bright the LEDs are by comparing the darkness on top of the box to the inside.

The picture below shows the LED lights on the inside. The StandScan comes with a battery pack, but you can buy an AC adapter for $4.45.

The StandScan Pro is $29.95, so it is not too expensive, although you might think so as it is basically a cardboard box! (The version without the LED lights is $19.95.)

In another post I will report on how well it does. I can already see some gaming uses. I once wanted to use photos of my miniatures for a digital game, but as it was necessary to take perfect top-down shot of the miniatures, I needed something like this to make all of the angles consistent.

While I was trolling around the StandScan web site, however, I noticed that they had a 3-in-1 lens for the iPhone that provided a wide-angle, macro, and fisheye capability for $24.95. (I have no use for fisheye shots, but they had no cheaper lens that was only 2-in-1.) Here is the package.

Basically the lens clips onto the corner of the iPhone over the camera lens. I was mostly interested in the macro lens. Below is a shot of a 15mm elephant painted by DJD Miniatures in Thailand. That mythical beast on the side of the apron is hand-painted. (I have two such elephants from them, all with the same design, one on each side, and due to the variations in size and strokes you can tell they are hand-painted and not transfers.) This photo is the best the iPhone could do, which is pretty good if you ask me. But I could not move the camera closer without losing focus. And because the camera was far enough away, the iPhone 'flash' did not provide a lot of lighting. (In fact, I had to tweak the brightness and contrast of that photo to get it brighter.)

Putting on the lens at first I thought it was broken or dirty. Nothing would come into focus. Finally I put the camera about 1" away from the elephant and it all came into focus. Because the iPhone is so close its flash is much brighter. This photo has not been manipulated at all, save for cropping it to a smaller size.

Not only is the painting pretty darn impressive, but so is the photo. I will definitely be using these lenses in the future.


  1. Those are a couple of nifty finds. Please let us know how the StandScan works as a photo light box. With overhead LEDs, I'm curious how photos taken from the front opening will result.

  2. I sure will. I have been foregoing the photo studio that I bought because it was a bit oversized. This folds up into the size of a letter-sized file folder so it is very easy to store and quick to set up. It should be perfect for taking a quick snap of a painted miniature that I just finished.

  3. Good accessories for your iPhone. I wonder if the lenses would work for my HTC. Perhaps they have something made for it already. While my phone is better than my 10 year old camera, it is not better than the Nikon 5100 I bought myself for Christmas. I am now taking pictures exclusively with it to justify my purchase.


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").