Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reclaiming My 365 Project

Last year, you may recall, I decided to jump on the bandwagon which was the 365 Project. And I kept up with my picture a day pretty well for the majority of the year. But when September hit and all the stuff with my sister's wedding, and then my mom passing away came with it, I just couldn't bring myself to finish out the year.

But when the first of the year came around and I saw Vivzan posting a fresh year on her Flickr, I decided I'd start the year fresh as well and start a new batch.

I realized that I really look forward to taking a picture for each day, although there are certainly days where it's hard to find something interesting or where I'm just not feeling creative. But that's when the camera on my iPhone comes in really handy. I have a 3GS, and while the 4 has an amazing camera, I've tried not to be too jealous and be grateful that the 3GS has a lot more features than the 3. It's been fun to figure out how to play with focus (translating into depth of field, which is sometimes hard to see what I've accomplished on the small screen of the phone).

I've gotten to really enjoy taking macros, although the 3GS is limited to a 4-inch range of focus (anything closer is always going to be out of focus). It can be frustrating having the white balance tied into the point of focus, but this is part of why photo apps can be your new best friend - or at least help on those not-so-creative days.

So here's my 2 cents on the apps I have (most of which I've had since last year's go-round with the 365). I prefer to not pay for my apps, but sometimes the small amount is really worth it.

On my phone now:
- Lo-Mob
PROS: my absolute go-to, and I usually have multiple treatments I like from this app. There are a lot of filter options, and you can fine-tune each part of them, plus resize and move the image around if it's being cropped. Also able to save in original file size.
CONS: a pay app, but lost cost and so worth it to me. It does run slow in terms of processing filters and saving, but again, the results are worth it.

- Instagram
PROS: this one's new to me, as in the last few months, and it has some nice treatments, is free, and has some good connections to the usual social networks so you can post to multiple places with one tap.
CONS: after using Lo-Mob, I'm spoiled by being able to fine-tune each aspect of the filter, so I get frustrated sometimes with the lack of options. But my main frustration is that I don't always want a square-cropped image, and there are no other options in this app. But if you don't want to pay for the app and want to dabble, this is a great place to start.

- PS (Photoshop) Express
PROS: has some great general photo editing tools, and even some built-in borders and filters. Put out by Adobe and it's free, so that makes you feel good.
CONS: definitely lacking in some of the basic features of PS, like adjusting brightness (one of my common problems with the white balance issues I mentioned earlier - plus the 3GS does horribly in low-light). It does have an Exposure adjustment, but sometimes that's just not what you want.

- Tilt Shift Generator
PROS: even though this was built to create tilt-shift photos, there are some great general photo filter sliders in this app. I like that you have sliders for Saturation, Brightness, and Contrast, and also that you can add a Vignette (also a slider) and have a slider for Blur, which you can pick to be either a circle or straight lines. You can also finger-adjust (dragging and expanding/shrinking) those lines or circle to pin-point the area you want to focus on. This is a great way to fudge that depth of field you might not have been able to get with the camera in the first place. This also saves in original-size resolution.
CONS: this is also a pay app, although again, the low cost was worth it for me. I do wish there was a way to see the whole photo without the sliders covering it, but if you go to Vignette or Color and hold your finger down, the slider goes away and you can see the bottom part that was covered before. Silly problem, though.

So enough talk. Wanna see some examples of what I'm talking about? I thought so.

Here's an iPhone pic I took the other day. I kinda love it, and love even more that sometimes those crazy quick ideas can make some of your favorite
shots. This is untouched, and by itself it's pretty cool. But I wanted to see what might come out of my filter apps.

Here's what Instagram did to it on the Sutro filter:I love the texture it added, and that sepia tone and the vignette are great. But I do wish it hadn't cropped it down so much to fit the square format.

So I went into Lo-Mob and found a few things I liked. This is when it gets hard to pick which one to upload for the pic of the day. These are what I saved from Lo-Mob:

Funny, I said I didn't like the square format, and then three of the four I liked from Lo-Mob were just that. But they weren't as cropped down, which I liked better. I still love the texture from the Instagram version, I just wish the cropping were more like the Lo-Mob. And some of the color choices from Lo-Mob I love, and how it becomes more of a graphic shape or symbol. See what I mean? Lots of choices, and your favorite might change day-to-day, or be dependent on your mood at the time. That's the one I try to pick - whatever's best describing the mood of the day or when I took the picture.

Now, you're saying, what about TiltShiftGen and PS Express? Well, after getting such great results with the two apps above, I didn't see any need to adjust anything further. But let's take a photo I took last Tuesday.

Here's the original, untouched, taken on my iPhone:

It's a little dark, and there's not really any depth of field.

And here's what I did to it in TiltShiftGen:

I lightened up the image a bit, increased the saturation, and put a straight (line) blur on so that the background is more blurry and the flowers are more of the focus. Only having a line or circle to work with obviously are going to limit you in how realistic the depth of field will look, but in this case it does what I wanted it to.

For PS Express, I really only use it for basic editing purposes. But it's good to have on my phone in case I need to rotate a picture or increase the exposure, or desaturate it. You might enjoy the borders and effects they have, but I haven't found them to be better than Lo-Mob or Instagram.

Obviously there are a ton of other apps around that I haven't tried, but these have worked well for me. Well enough, in fact, that I haven't felt the need to look around for anything else. I just wish they were on my desktop and laptop computers sometimes! There are times when I'll take a picture I took with my real camera and put it onto my iPhone so that I can use an app on it, but that is usually too much of a pain! Which is also another reason why I end up with a lot of iPhone pics for my 365 Project.

As always, I'd love to hear what your opinions are. And if you're doing the 365 Project too, share your link! I love to see what other people are taking pictures of.


Liz said...

what about hipstamatic? I've heard good things about that one

Chelc said...

Liz, I've heard great things about Hipstamatic, but I'm cheap and liked Lo-Mob so much that I didn't feel the need to download it as well. I know that they have different lenses, which could be handy, but I believe you have to pay extra for them, along with other add-on filter pack options they offer.

A great way to see which you would prefer is to check Flickr and search under Lo-Mob and Hipstamatic separately. I know there are photo groups for both. See what the photos look like, and which you prefer.


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