Lesson 88: Hip Heads

In yesterday’s lesson, I took a rather mundane photo of the recent sculpture addition in my local park, a giant head.  I did several edits on it and showed you what I did.  Now, for those of you who are not particularly excited by the prospect of following 17 steps to make your image more interesting, don’t forget about Hipstamatic.  This gives you the ability to create many effects in a point-and-shoot way.

We first looked at the Hipstamatic app back in Lesson 13 and again in Lessons 14, 24, 29, and 30.  The thing about Hipstamatic is that you choose the “film” and “lens” you want to use, which is the same as picking a collection of editing effects and the camera does all the work for you.

In the 3 examples shown here, I used the same lens:  Helga Viking and 3 different films.  The first is the Ina’s 1935 film.  It gives the image more color and makes the sculpture pop out more.  The second example used D-Type Plate film, which simulates an old black-and-white Tintype photo.  Finally, in the 3rd example I used the C-Type Plate film, which intensifies the contrasts and shadows and also adds a touch of color.

Your Assignment:  Dust the cobwebs off of Hipstamatic and choose a lens/film you want to use.  Take an image of your favorite subject and then try changing to a different film.  Experiment with the film that creates an effect that works best with your subject.

Lesson 80: Many Effects

One last quick tip on Paper Camera and then we’ll move on in the next lesson.  If you like the same photo with many different effects, once you have the photo open, you can choose an effect and adjustments and then click the diskette icon to save that version of  the image.

You don’t have to leave the screen to go to the next effect and try that one.  You can repeat this process through all of the effects and save as many versions of the image as you like.  All of the images remain inside the app until you go to the photos and save them to your camera roll.

This is a nice little timesaver if you want to, say, try many different effects on the same image and then view them on a larger computer screen later to decide which you like the best.

Your Assignment:  Pick a photo to experiment with many (or even all) of the effects available in Paper Camera.  Follow these steps to save many versions.

Lesson 79: Start with a Photo, End with a Drawing

Yesterday we used the Paper Camera app to create a sketch by taking a picture.  Today we’re going to use Paper Camera to turn a “regular” photo into a line drawing.

Paper Camera not only acts as a live-view of effects, it also allows you to apply those effects to existing photos.  This has the advantage that if you decide you don’t like the effect later, you still have the normal photo to work with.

However, you can’t create a “normal” photo using Paper Camera.  You can use Camera Awesome, the Apple Camera App, or your favorite camera app to take the photo and then open it in Paper Camera to apply the effects.

This means you can use any photo you’ve got on your iPhone to play with the effects.

Start by opening the Paper Camera app.  Next, follow these steps to open an existing photo from your Camera Roll and apply effects:

Your Assignment:  Pick a photo that you want to play with.  Follow the steps above to apply the effect of your choice.  Did you turn someone you love into a comic superhero?  Or maybe create a simple line drawing?  Did you have fun?

Lesson 78: Make a Sketch

 

Sketch up of bicycle
Sketch up of bicycle

Yesterday, I introduced Paper Camera.  Today, I’m going to show you a quick lesson on adjusting the Sketch Up effect to gain more control over the effect.

Start by opening up the Paper Camera app, then scroll through the effects by clicking the right arrow to get to the Sketch Up effect (or another one you like).

Point the camera at the subject and frame it the way you like.  You can see the effect in your LCD live.  If you don’t like the effect you chose, click the right or left arrow to change the effect.

Once you have the effect you want, you can adjust the contrast, brightness, and lines sliders to get a look you like.  Here are the steps one-by-one:

Your Assignment:  Experiment with each slider.  Raising the contrast makes the light areas very light and the dark areas very dark–you can cause some parts of the subject to disappear.  The brightness lightens and darkens the entire image.  The lines adjustment is the most interesting to me.  It thickens/darkens or thins/lightens the lines in the image.  You can get a very minimalist effect or a completely filled in look this way.

Lesson 77: Paper Camera

Today, I want to introduce another app.  This one is called Paper Camera.  It’s $1.99 and it’s available for both iPhone and Android phones.

I found this app while looking for an app that has the same levels adjustment PhotoForge has (see Lesson 76)–I still haven’t found one yet, so let me know if you have one!  I downloaded it out of curiosity, played with it a few minutes and then forgot about it.

Then, I was working on creating a graphic for a small business.  I’m not a graphics artist, so I was starting with a photo and doing all kinds of crazy things in Photoshop Elements trying to turn the photo into something that would work.  After spending hours shooting and editing, I realized I didn’t have the right composition to make the image work.

I packed up my tripod, camera, light stand, light modifiers, flash, and various accessories and headed back to the client’s location to shoot again.  I got there (feeling like a pack mule) and suddenly remembered the Paper Camera app.  I pulled it out, and with a single tap on the screen, created a graphic that will work.  I immediately got depressed.

But, you should rejoice!  This little app will allow you to create really funky stuff when you’re feeling like having a little fun.  What’s also exciting is that it will create the same effects in video.  And, you can see the effects in your screen as you’re taking the photo/video.  It’s pretty wild.

There are three things I don’t like about the app:

  1. It doesn’t save an unedited version of the photo–you only get the image with effects applied.
  2. It’s upside down, doesn’t rotate, and the volume-up button doesn’t work for shutter release.  I guess this could be 3 things, but it’s the combination of them that I find annoying.
  3. While the icons in the app are cute, if you’re someone who needs reading glasses but tries to get by without them, it’s hard to tell what they are.

That said, it’s still a lot of fun to see the world in line drawings or cartoon live on  your phone.

Your Assignment:  If you’re interested in this app, download it and try out the various effects.  Try flipping over to video with the “Con Tours” effect on.  It’s fun.  Here are screen shots of the different effects.  I’ll do some more details on what you can do with this app in later lessons.

Lesson 76: PhotoForge Levels

I previously promised I would talk about PhotoForge as an editing tool.  After I put together steps for a simple adjustment that can be made using PhotoForge (see below), I did a little googling so I could tell you how much PhotoForge costs.  Unfortunately, I discovered I apparently missed the news bulletin that PhotoForge’s development company was acquired by Yahoo in June and the app was removed from the App Store.

So, if you don’t already have PhotoForge, this lesson will not apply for you.  Sorry about that.  I guess this will be the one and only lesson on PhotoForge!

The adjustment I love the most in PhotoForge is available in a variety of editing tools (I’ll find another iPhone app for this in a future lesson).  I use it on nearly every photo I take, iPhone or DSLR.  It’s the levels adjustment.

“Levels” refers, to put it simply, to how bright or dark the tones are in a photo.  The “tones” are grouped into shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.  The left-most slider adjusts the darkest parts of the photo, the middle affects the mid-tones, and the right-most slider adjusts the highlights.  This allows you to, more-or-less, selectively change the exposure.  It gives you far better control than, say, the brightness adjustment in Snapseed.

For this example, I chose a photo that was an OK photo, but needed some punch.  Follow the steps below if you have PhotoForge to play along at home.

Your Assignment:  Try a levels adjustment in PhotoForge (if you already have the app).  Here are the steps:

20131013 PhotoForge Levels.001 20131013 PhotoForge Levels.002

Lesson 75: HDR Adjusted

Since we’ve been on the topic of HDR for a few lessons now, one thing I wanted to mention was that even when you used HDR photography, you can still gain more control over the end result of your image by doing post-processing.

Now, as you know by now, I love Pro HDR for iPhone HDR photos.  Pro HDR has several adjustments you can make before you save the image.  You can see details about those adjustments in Lesson xx.  However, that’s not quite the same as post-processing.  After you’ve saved the image, you still may want to apply some adjustments to make the photo look the way you want.

For example, let’s say I thought my sunrise HDR photo from the iPhone 5S from the Sunrise showdown was too dark.  I could use adjustments in Snapseed to brighten up the image.  That is, I could if my iPhone screen weren’t currently broken and I could see to edit on my iPhone!  🙂  Sorry, I had to cheat one last time and edit in Aperture.  But, my replacement phone is on its way!

So, imagine this was edited in Snapseed:

I tend to be fond of darker images with strong contrasts, so I’m not particularly enamored with this edit.  However, I often find that when I see my photos later, they look too dark to me, so maybe tomorrow I’ll like the brighter one better.

Your Assignment:  Take a photo that your pretty happy with.  Do just a few adjustments on it like brightness and contrast.  For details on how to use Snapseed, check out Lesson 41, 45, and 46.  Are there certain adjustments that seem to really help your image?

Lesson 71: 4S-5S Face-off at Sunrise

The iPhone 5S promises better photos.  It has a bigger opening in the lens for light to come through to allow for better low-light images.  It has a bigger sensor with larger pixels promising more light will reach each pixel and there will be less noise in your pictures.  What does all that mean?  We can see more details in the light and dark areas of photos, we can take better pictures in low-light conditions, and we can expect fewer annoying speckles in our photos.

Now for the test.  While out walking my dog this morning, I happened to be in time to see the sun rising over the Tennessee River just under a low-lying covering of clouds that were in the process of being swept away by the wind.  For once, I was packing both guns with my 4S in my left back pocket and my 5S in my right.

I literally took a point-and-shoot shot with each phone.  I used the default camera app with HDR off for this comparison–I didn’t even tap the screen to set focus or exposure.  I just help up each phone and shot.  Neither photo has had any post-processing done to it.  Drum roll please . . .

This is a a test of extremes.  The sun presents an extremely bright area while the water and bridges provide some very dark areas.  This is the kind of scene that challenges even the most sophisticated cameras.  Can you tell the difference between the way the 4S and the 5S each handle the subject?  Look closely at the sun.  Notice how the 4S version is a bigger blob with less detail in the clouds immediately around the sun.  Additionally, the big bridge support that’s nearly centered is slightly better exposed and shows more detail as well (this may be hard to see without magnifying the full-resolution photo).

Overall, the iPhone 5S also renders the golden light in the photo better–particularly where it is reflected on the water.

So, in short, I’m happy to see there is a visible difference between the two iPhones, but maybe that’s because I just bought the 5S and I’d really like to feel justified in making that decision.  If the difference is so minuscule to you that you can’t see a difference, well, hold the phone . . . we’ll take a look at more comparisons in other lighting conditions to see how the 5S fares.

Your Assignment:  No homework today!

 

Lesson 68: Panoramic Upgrade

One of the features of the new iPhone 5S that contributed to my decision to upgrade was the enhanced exposure while taking panoramic photos.  Panoramic photos are just plain fun.  They give you the option of capturing a scene that is far wider than your lens.  And, they let you bend reality into a half circle.

The problem with the iPhone 5S predecessors that support panoramic photos is that the exposure is set by the brightness of the area where you start your photo and then the same exposure is applied throughout the entire shot, even if the brightness of the scene changes dramatically by the time you get to the end of the shot.  This results in images like this one, taken using the iPhone 4S:

Notice how my husband and dog in front of the stone building (all in the shade) are properly exposed, but everything in the bright sun is overexposed.

What changed in the iPhone 5S is that the exposure now adjusts as you move through the process of capturing a panoramic.  The actual steps to capture a panoramic haven’t changed significantly–the only difference is that you now swipe to change modes from “regular” photos to panoramic (or square or video).  For detailed instructions on how to create a panoramic with an iPhone 4S, see Lesson 27.

The fact that the exposure now adjusts allows for panoramic photos with dramatic differences in brightness from beginning to end like this one, shot with the iPhone 5S:

Notice how even with the sun in one side of the image, the exposure is pretty decent throughout.  Of course, this isn’t quite a fair comparison–the 4S example was shot in the middle of the day.

If you’re shooting with a predecessor to the iPhone 5S, you’re best option is to try to start your panoramic in a part of the scene that is about halfway between the darkest and brightest areas of the scene, even if it means you have to crop part of the image away later.

Your Assignment:  Experiment with Panoramic photos.  What kinds of settings work best as panoramic images?  How far away do you have to be from the objects in the scene to avoid bending them into a giant U?  Can you find a way to get a decent exposure with a predecessor to the iPhone 5S?

Lesson 65: Sunset Makeover

OK, this is the 3rd and final makeover post of Gina’s vacation photos (at least for now).  This time, we’re going to take a look at my favorite photo of the 3 Gina sent me.   I love this photo.  I love dramatic contrasts and I never tire of sunsets.  This one has lots of appeal with the way the light is reflected on the lake.  The exposure is great and the focus is perfect.

Here is the original photo Gina sent me:

Original Photo from Gina
Original Photo from Gina

She felt it was too dark.  Specifically, the foreground.  Without understanding what Gina was shooting for (sorry for another pun), I looked at it and said, “Oh, this would be great shot symmetrically.”  To simulate what that would look like, I used Snapseed to crop the photo a lot (and to turn up the contrast a touch and did a slight straighten) to get this:

Cropped to simulate a vertical, symmetrical version
Cropped to simulate a vertical, symmetrical version

Gina liked it, but she said she had liked the curved beach in the foreground of the scene–that was the part that was too dark.  Realizing I had missed the beach entirely, I went back and tried again.  This time, I used the Brightness Selective Adjustment in Snapseed to brighten up the beach along with a very slight contrast and straighten adjustment.  This is what I got:

Beach brightened just enough to show itself in the foreground
Beach brightened just enough to show itself in the foreground

Gina liked both versions.  Her comment was that it was cool to see the same thing two different ways.  I agree.  I often shoot a subject vertically, horizontally, using the rule of thirds, using symmetry, standing up, laying down, and anyway else I can think of.  Sometimes I get nothing.  Sometimes I get several shots I love.  But what I hate is when I get home and look at my photos and think, “Oh, if only I would have shot  _____ way.”

One final comment:  it’s pretty tough to get an exposure that works for the beach, the water, and the sky.  The only option is the Pro HDR app, which isn’t necessarily going to work that well for a sunset (depends on how fast things are moving and how well you can hold still).   Plus, Pro HDR probably wouldn’t have created the dramatic contrast between the sunlight and dark water.  Using apps like Snapseed to adjust after you shoot lets you decide how you want different parts of the photo to look–something the camera just doesn’t always predict well.  They’re still working on the mind reading camera.

Your Assignment:  Try this checklist the next time you’re taking photos of something (of course, not all of these work for all subjects):

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