Lesson 82: Halloween Tadaa

Today, we’re going to use the editing capabilities of Tadaa once more.  In honor of Halloween, I thought I would work with a holiday-appropriate image.

The original photo taken with my iPhone 5S presents several challenges.  First, it was taken with lots of distracting background.  Second, it’s so bright, it destroys the Halloween mood.

Using Tadaa, I was able to take the image from a quick grab shot to something that has more impact.  Here’s what I did (see Lesson 82 for instructions on how to open a photo for editing in Tadaa):

Your Assignment:  Give the Tilt-Shift edit tool a try.  Do you have a photo that could be improved by blurring the stuff around the main subject?  This is a good choice for controlling the portion of the image that’s in focus.  Don’t forget to hit Save when you’re all done editing!

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 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 72: 4S-5S HDR Showdown

While I was out shooting the sunrise yesterday, I also decided to give the 4S and 5S a test drive with their HDR setting.  As we discussed in Lesson 9, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is achieved by combining multiple images with different exposures into a single image, using the best exposure for each part of the image.  As I also mentioned, I did not have much success with the 4S Apple Camera app’s version of HDR.  One of the things I was hoping to see in the 5S was an improvement in the capture of details in bright and dark areas using the Apple Camera app with HDR.

That said, let’s compare the 4S to the 5S with the HDR on:

The major difference between the two (and I spent some time looking at these side-by-side at 200% magnification) is in the light areas around the sun.  Surprisingly, it’s the 4S that has more details in the clouds surrounding the sun, all the way down to the water.  On the flip side, the 4S produced an oddly shaped sun and the color in the sky looks mostly gray while the 5S seems to have smoothed out the sun a bit and captured more blues in the sky.

The bottom line:  if you’re thinking about upgrading to the 5S purely for improved HDR photos, you’ll probably be disappointed.

For grins, one more comparison–yesterday’s photos without HDR next to today’s photos with HDR:

Your Assignment:  If you haven’t checked out the Pro HDR app yet, review Lesson 9.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about HDR.

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):

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.29.10 PM

Lesson 63: Photo Makeover

As I’ve mentioned, my best friend Gina is the inspiration for this blog.  Today, she sent me a picture at just didn’t work for her.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to pull together several earlier lessons in the context of one photo.

Here’s the photo Gina sent me:

Original

She and her husband were recently on vacation with another couple and Gina wanted a shot of her friends standing in front of the lake they were staying at.  Unfortunately, it was extremely windy, making it difficult to hold the phone still.  Although the photo was shot at 7:58PM during the golden hour, the lake and sky were far brighter than the light on Gina’s friends.

The first thing I did was try using Snapseed to see if the photo was fixable.  Had I had my glasses on and realized the severity of the focus problem, I might not have tried–focus is something you really can’t change much in software.  However, ignoring the focus problem for a moment, let’s look at what can be achieved through editing:

To some degree, the lighting on the people can be helped.  I edited in Snapseed using the Selective Adjustment tool to brighten the people.  As a comparison point, I also edited the original in Aperture using several general adjustments rather than selective adjustments.  Both methods work to brighten the subjects.

So what would have prevented the focus problem?

  1. Selecting a face to set focus (see Lesson 4)
  2. A faster shutter speed, which can be partially accomplished by setting exposure separately from focus (see Lesson 8 on using Camera Awesome and Lesson 61 on picking a brighter part of the scene to get a faster shutter speed).

But how could Gina have gotten more light on her subjects’ faces?  Given that this was shot right after sunset, it might have been a good time to have her subjects facing the fading light.  They might have been lit in the last glow of the golden hour–or, they might have gotten some light bounced off the lake.  In either case, they would at least have been brighter.

The other choice, if having the lake in the background was important, would have been to apply two previous lessons:  Lesson 22 on placing people in front of landscape scenes and Lesson 31 on using the flash to fill.  The combination of these two might have allowed the flash to brighten up the people.

Since none of these things may have been possible (I wasn’t there and every situation is different), a couple other thoughts on how to prevent the motion blur:

  1. Turn on image stabilization (see Lesson 34)
  2. Prop yourself against something stable or set the phone on something stable (see Lesson 34)

And, finally, for exposures that are so disparate, this might be a good time to use Pro HDR, see Lesson 9 and Lesson 18.  It’s kind of a toss up–with a high wind, the movement might have been too much.  But, if Gina’s friends were willing to hold still for 30 seconds or so, Pro HDR might have solved the exposure problem and still achieved focus (although the blowing hair would have been a problem).

Your Assignment:  Pull up a “photo failure.”  Can you fix it using Snapseed?  If not, what is causing it to “fail”?  Do you know what to do differently the next time around?  Now, test yourself.  Pick a subject with similar challenges to your “photo failure.”  Shoot the subject every way you can think of.  Use every app you know how to use.  Shoot vertically, shoot horizontally.  Use the rule of thirds, the rule of symmetry, the rule of telling a story.  Try different angles and think about position for light.  Try with and without flash.  Try to get at least 20 different photos of that subject.  Did you get anything that surprised you in a good way?

Lesson 57: The Rule of Going Vertical

Here’s a simple tip that we haven’t talked much about:  when you find yourself struggling to get a photo you like, try shooting vertically.  I was once told by a photography instructor that roughly 85% of all photos taken around the world are taken horizontally.  By this, I mean the widest side goes left to right and the narrower side goes up and down, like this:

 

Shot horizontally (also called Landscape, even when the subject is not a landscape)
Shot horizontally (also called Landscape, even when the subject is not a landscape)

I can’t verify the statistic (I don’t even know how anyone would know that), but it is definitely true that the majority of the time, photos you see posted were shot in the horizontal (or landscape) camera position.  It’s pretty fascinating to take the same scene and look at it through a vertical frame.  Let’s compare these two photos:

These were both shot using the iPhone 4S with the Pro HDR app.  Notice how different the two photos look.  The horizontal framing cuts out the rocks in the foreground and puts the emphasis on the sky and the reflection of the sky in the water, putting the bridge mostly into silhouette.  By going vertical (and shooting from a slightly different position), I was able to include the rocks in the foreground and expose for them, which also allows the details of the bridge to show.

Each photo has its own merits and each has its own deficits.  Which one you like better is a matter of taste.  But the point is that, in spite of these being of the same subject about 2 minutes apart, they look completely different.  That’s the beauty of changing the shape of the lens you look through–it gives you a whole new way of seeing.

In addition to giving you an option on how to look at the world, sometimes subjects just work better vertically.  For example, most portraits of one person work better shot vertically if you just want the person in the frame.  Dogs also often look better vertically when you want a photo of just their face.  (Check out Lesson 3 for an example of how shooting vertically let’s you get tight on a canine subject.)  And, of course, shooting tall, narrow subjects vertically allow you to eliminate empty background space.

Your Assignment:  For the next few days, every time you pull out your iPhone to take a picture, take one vertically, too.  Compare the horizontal and vertical framing to get a sense for what works well vertically.  Many subjects work equally well horizontally and vertically, but give you completely different looks.  Did you get anything you really like?