Lesson 84: iPhoto Mobile Editing

Yesterday, I introduced you to metadata in the mobile version of iPhoto, a free app from Apple.  Today, I thought I’d show you a combination of using one of the brush editing tools and a filter to take my photo from not very interesting to a more retro look.  I particularly like how the light showing through the leaves in the foreground (left side) looks with the black-and-white effect.

 

Your Assignment:  Download iPhoto if you haven’t already.  Then open it up and select the photo you want to work on.  Here are the steps I followed for my edit:

Lesson 74: The Range of HDR

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that some HDR processing takes the image to the point that it no longer looks like a photograph.  To give you an idea of the range of HDR-type processing possible, I did several different versions of HDR images using 5 photos taken with my DSLR at different exposures and combining them using Photomatix, a software tool used on a desk/laptop to combine exposures.

I realize this is cheating since this blog is about iPhonography and not about DSLR photography, but I thought it was worth the cheat just to give you an idea of the kinds of looks people may be thinking of when someone says “I don’t like HDR.”

Here is the range of looks I created for examples:

I do not have scientific data on how people respond to these different types of looks.  However, the anecdotal evidence I have is that people do not notice the HDR effect in the more subtle examples at the left; they just think it’s a “regular” photo.  As the photo moves from looking like a photograph to looking like a painting to looking like a painting gone horribly wrong, my experience has been that most people really like the painting look the first time they see it.  They like it the second time they see it.  They might even go a little nuts over it.  Then, at some point, they start to think it looks, well, to borrow a term from my husband, “kitschy.”

Of course, there are no rules, and I have seen this look applied artistically.

For example, I really like the work of a fellow blogger and iPhoneographer extraordinaire, Davide Capponi.  Davide does extraordinary things with iPhoneography by using multiple editing apps to create something that transcends photography.  Here is an example of one of his images that started with Pro HDR.  If you peruse Davide’s work, you will find that few of his images look like photos, yet I can’t imagine anyone calling them kitschy.

To me, the difference between “kitsch” and art is hard to define.  To a certain extent, when you see the exact same look produced over and over again by many different people, it starts to look kitschy.  When you see something that is truly unique, it stands alone.

Your Assignment:  Are you interested in just taking pleasing photographs with your iPhone, or does the thought of using it as a medium to create unique art excite you?  If you fall into the latter category, I suggest you spend some time looking at Davide’s work.  Davide records what apps he used for taking the photo and for editing.  You’ll notice he often uses a combination of 4+ apps to create his final image.  Do you find yourself inspired?

Lesson 44: Fisheyes

This is our last lesson specifically on the Photojojo lens kit we started working our way through over several lessons (see Lessons 37, 38, and 39).  Today, we’re going to use my most favorite attachment, the Fisheye.

Fisheyes are not for everyone.  But in this case, we’re not talking about actual fish.  We’re talking about a lens attachment for your iPhone that causes the world to bend.  Who knew it could be so easy to bend things?

The fisheye attachment creates an effect of looking at the world like it’s in a snow globe.  Without the snow (well, unless it’s really snowing).  This effect can be overused pretty easily, but it sure is fun.  The fisheye effect is actually a super-wide lens that will put more of the scene in the photo than even the wide angle lens we looked at in Lesson 38.  As we noticed in Lesson 38, the scene was already starting to bend at the edges.  The fisheye takes that to an extreme.

Fisheyes in rooms can be especially fun–it’s often difficult to get an entire room into a normal photo.  The fisheye gives the effect of peering through a peep hole at an entire space all at once.  I also favor fisheye photos of my dog in various settings.  By putting my dog front and center, I can use the fisheye attachment to both get a photo of him and get a sense of the large scene around him.

What would you like to see in a snow globe?

Note:  If you combine the Fisheye lens with Hipstamatic, the square frame cuts off the extreme bending that occurs in a rectangular frame.  If you want to really create a snow-globe effect, Camera Awesome with its rectangular frame will work better.

Your Assignment:

Try using the fisheye attachment with people, pets, rooms, and great big open scenes.  Notice what it does to people–sometimes people don’t appreciate the Pinocchio effect.  Do you like big, wide scenes or tight spaces with the fisheye effect better?  Try combining the fisheye attachment with different camera apps we’ve used in previous lessons.  For example, try using Hipstamatic with the tintype effect shown in Lesson 29.  Try the different lens and film combinations show in Lesson 30–especially if your subject is people.

Lesson 43: Patterns

Today we’re going to return to a basic photography concept for inspiration.  Early on, we talked about filling the frame, the rule of thirds, and symmetry as different ways to create interesting compositions in your photos.  By composition, we’re talking about the arrangement of the stuff in your frame.  We also talked about inclusion and exclusion when it comes to deciding what to put in the frame and what to keep in focus.

Today, we’re going to talk about repeating patterns.  Sometimes, something that might seem ordinary and not worth photographing can become very interesting we we select a pattern from what we’re seeing and fill the frame with that pattern.

One of the aspects of what makes an interesting pattern in a photo is the 3 dimensional aspect of the subject.  For example, here are a couple of repeating patterns that don’t work so well to my tastes:

But, when we take a repeating pattern that has some dimension to it and add an angle to help guide the eye into the photo, you start to get something more interesting.  Compare the begonia angles and the walkway angles side-by-side:

Gardens create interesting patterns to work with almost by definition–the gardener has probably carefully grouped together different types of flowers to create patterns pleasing to the eye.  In this particular garden, I found lots to work with.  Not only are the plants grouped to form patterns, but the plants themselves contain patterns, such as the large hosta.  The hosta has rib patterns in its leaves, a pattern of white marks at the edge of each leaf, patterns of repeating leaf shapes, and the pattern in which it grows.  It works well in color and it works in black and white against a similarly patterned fence:

I particularly like to have a surprise in my photos that contain a repeating shape.  For example, one flower that stands out from the rest, fallen petals, a complimentary color in the background.  These are the kinds of things that make the pattern more obvious because there’s an exception.

A field of flowers can create more random patterns.  If you look at the photo that shows a field of flowers vs the photo next to it that gets in closer and just shows a few flowers as a random arrangement of repeating shapes, it give it a totally different look at feel (these were taken with a DSLR, sorry):

Your Assignment:  Look for repeating shapes with interesting textures and/or lines that can help draw the eye.  Try taking pictures of these repeating patterns from different angles and different distances.  Try using different apps–Camera Awesome is always great for realistic photos.  The black and white examples were taken using Hipstamatic with the Helga Viking lens and Black Keys film.  Do some patterns work better in color or B&W?  Do some work better from far away?  Think of photos you may have seen of the tulip fields in the Netherlands–if you haven’t see any, do a quick Google search on “tulip fields netherlands” and click on images to get an extraordinary number of examples of ways to shoot these repeating patterns).  Are there times when you could think about repeating patterns to enhance the way you, say, take a picture of a flower?

Lesson 42: New and Improved

Way back in Lesson 2, I mentioned there were several things that could be improved about the photo example that I would get to later.  I bet you thought I forgot?

Well, OK, I did, but then I remembered again.  So, here’s the photo from Lesson 2:

IMG_2613

What things can you see about this photo that could be better?

Here are the things I don’t like about it:

  1. The bright areas in the background are distracting.
  2. I think my dog would look better if I’d shot lower to the ground.
  3. My dog’s black spots are under exposed.
  4. The lighting is too gray.

So, today, we’re going to do two things.  First, we’re going to try to edit the original photo with Snapseed to see if we can make it look better.  Snapseed will help with items 1, 3, and 4, but it cannot help with the angle of the photo.

Second, I’m going to take a similar photo of my dog and see if I can’t improve upon the original photo by using a different setting that has better light, and using a lower angle.  I am beginning to realize why taking my dog to obedience classes might be useful.

So let’s edit the photo in Snapseed.  Here are the steps I went through to improve the original photo:

And here is the edited version side-by-side with the original:

The other approach is to try to capture the same photograph in a different setting that eliminates the bright areas in the background and allows me to take the photo at a lower angle to the ground.  I was planning to have some examples of a similar pose out on the grass in some lovely evening light.  Unfortunately, my dog was unwilling to cooperate.  Here is a selection of photos I got of my dog while trying to get him to lie in the same position as in the original photo:

But even that has a lesson in it:  if someone or something you love is doing something you want to remember, take the photo.  Sometimes you can’t get rid of distracting background.  Sometimes you can’t get the perfect angle before the subject jumps up and runs away.  But having imperfection is better than having nothing.  And, as we will discover over and over again on our photographic journeys, no two moments are ever exactly the same.

You’re Assignment:  Choose a photo from one of our early assignments you think you might be able to improve upon using Snapseed.  Get a little crazy with it.  See if you can create something that you really like.  Now, try to recreate the same situation with whatever bugged you about the photo fixed.  Is that even in the realm of possibility?

Lesson 40: The Morning After

Or, the afternoon or evening after a shoot . . . whatever the case may be.  It all calls for post-processing.  What is post-processing, you ask?  Well, to put it simply, it’s “gentle” photo editing.

Photo editing can range from creating a completely new picture (like we did in Camera Awesome in Lesson 12) to doing minor adjustments to make your photo look more like reality.  The latter category of editing is usually referred to as “post-processing.”  Post as in “after you’re done shooting” and “processing” as in the digital version of developing a photo.

When you take photos with your iPhone, the iPhone is making a lot of decisions for you.  It decides how saturated to make your colors, how to balance the tones so that white looks white, how bright to make the image, etc.  Sometimes it does a pretty good job.  Sometimes it guesses wrong.

Today, we’re going to download another app.  This time, it’s not a camera, it’s a photo editing tool.  Good news!  It’s free!

Sometimes people are disappointed when they realize that some level of editing is called for to get the most out of their photos.  Using photo editing tools can help  take a ho-hum picture to something much more dramatic.  Often, it’s the drama that gets lost when you take a photo; you’re just putting back what your eyes saw.

We’re going to do a simple edit with Snapseed today.

I’m using an image that has a distracting background I’d like to make less distracting.  To do this, I start by opening the app and then selecting the image I want to edit.  The graphics below will walk you through all the edits I made to this one photo:

I applied a few simple adjustments but left it looking pretty similar to the original–just a little better.  Here they are side-by-side:

Your Assignment:  Download Snapseed (did I mention it’s free?).  Follow the instructions to open a photo that you ilke, but weren’t thrilled with.  Try making the simple post-processing adjustments above.  Do you like it better?  Are there still things you would like to change about it?  What are the things you couldn’t figure out how to do that you’d like to change?

Lesson 39: 2X

This is not a lesson about shirt sizes.  Instead, we’re continuing our progress using the Photojojo lens attachments with the iPhone.  Yesterday, we looked at the wide angle attachment.  The day before, we used the macro attachment.  Today, let’s take a look at the 2x Telephoto attachment.

This is what it looks like up close:

Telephoto Lens

If you either have reading glasses handy or don’t need them, you can see the edge of the lens is labeled “telephoto” to help you tell it apart from the other lenses in the kit.  If you’ve already adhered the metal ring around the built-in lens on your iPhone, the magnet in the 2x Telephoto lens will hold the lens in place on the ring.  If not, refer to the instructions that came with the lens kit for more info.

We previously used a different telephoto lens attachment in Lesson 25 to take pictures of the moon.  That one is 8x telephoto (or 12x for an iPhone 5).  So, you might ask, why would I want 2x if I have 8x (or 12x)?  Well, the answer is simple.  Sometimes, 8x (or 12x) is too much.  Bigger is not always better.

Let’s take the example of being in a park where you want to get a picture of a spider.  The spider is close enough that using the 8x telephoto wouldn’t allow the entire spider to fit in the frame, but far enough away that with no zoom, the spider gets lost in the flowers.

Let’s consider the macro attachment.  You might wonder why you wouldn’t use that for the spider as well.  There are three considerations:  1) How big is the spider?  2) Will the spider hold still while you manipulate the lens inches (or less above it)?  3) Will you scream and throw the phone if the spider suddenly moves while you’re that close?

The 2x zoom gets you in tighter without having to get within grabbing distance.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of my spider with and without the 2x zoom (uncropped):

And a second one, just for fun.  By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, even with the 2x zoom, I still jumped when the spider suddenly ran to the top of its web.  It’s a big spider.

Your Assignment:

Attach the 2x telephoto lens to your camera.  Look for subjects where you’d like to get closer without getting physically closer.  Notice how 2x sounds like a lot, but really only brings things in slightly closer.  Can you use the 2x telephoto attachment to fill the frame with your subject from further away?  Did you get any great photos of critters that can be hard to get close to like spiders or butterflies?