Monday, January 7, 2013


I have been happily using my iPhone as my sole camera for a year now. Watching my mom, who just got her first iPhone (which is also her first smart phone) begin taking pictures with hers made me very aware of all the extra apps and techniques that help me get a big camera picture with my little phone camera. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Above is a pretty decent picture of my daughter. Rule number one is: an app can only work with what you give it! I took a BUNCH of pictures of my kid to get this picture. I only started shooting because the light coming in the window was hitting her face and looked really nice (that's rule 2: good natural lighting helps a LOT! You want the light ON your subject, though, NOT behind them!)

So my kid was watching TV (that should be rule 3; looking up or off in the distance or giving you a side glance is often WAY better than looking right at the camera and smiling) and the light was good, so I got down on the ground (rule 4: get on your subject's level) and shot and shot and shot! Above are the out takes!

All of the pictures were vertical rectangles to start with. In this case, a square seemed the better choice (and I wasn't really planning to print this image) so Instagram seemed like the easiest/best choice for enhancements. Below you can see the original image cropped to a square compared to the final Instagram image.

For my mom, who has heard of, but never used Instagram, the site has several preset filters to alter a photo for several different looks. Of all the editing that I do, it is the easiest because the work is mostly done for you. Instagram does have a social networking component where you "share" your photos, initially on Instagram but they can also go to Facebook and Twitter, and other people can see, "like", and comment.

My favorite app for when I really want to edit a photo, similar to how I would edit on my laptop using photo shop, is photogene2. At one time I had the actual adobe photo shop app. It was free and I e en paid for an upgrade with extra frames and options, but I found it limited. I wanted to be able to adjust the exposure and saturation like I could on the laptop. It just wasn't the same. Photogene2 allows me more if the options that I was used to on photo shop. I was SO happy when I found it, I did a whole separate post about it.

I'm still really happy with the photogene app and it is my go-to editing software for pictures that I intend to print. I especially like that when I crop a picture, I can set the size ratio to match the final print size that I want (usually 4x6).

Here's a comparison of an unedited image and the final photogene2 image. I read somewhere that when photographing kids, zoom in really close and then go one step closer. I had that in mind when cropping this picture. I had to decide that seeing the angel wing wasn't as important as those sweet angelic faces. Besides, I think you get that they are angels, even without the wings!

But wait, there's more! I recently found (or the iPhone genius app search found for me) the Big Lens app. It claims to turn your iPhone photos into DSLR look a likes by letting you blur the background to enhance the depth of field (or some sort if photo jargon).

Above are two photos that are only different in the use of Big Lens to blur the background. Unlike Instagram, that blurs in a round or rectangle shape only, this app has an advanced mode that allows you to selectively mask and separate the foreground from the background. It also has filters that correspond to different aperture settings in a "real camera". Below are a few "before" and "after" comparisons with both blurring the background AND using the Big Lens filters AFTER an initial edit in photogene.

I think I used the two different "lens flare" filters in Big Lens for additional manipulation in both of these examples.

My newest favorite, Snapseed, may just end up combining the best of my favorite apps in one neat package! It seems to have more preset filters than Instagram, but you can adjust each and every feature of each filter AND you can select various parts of the picture to alter, similar to photogene and Big Lens. I haven't played with it as much as the others, I just discovered it this week, but the possibilities seem endless!

Here is a before and after showing one image that I manipulated with Snapseed.

Now that you have all these great edited photos, what should you do with them? As mentioned before, I still love the Walgreens app for uploading and developing pictures directly from your phone to any Walgreens. However, I am also having a lot of fun sending photo cards electronically using the Red Stamp app.

Red stamp has tons of preset layouts just waiting for your photo and personalized sentiments. Once designed, the e-cards can be emailed, sent as a message, posted on Facebook or saved as a photo.

I had some fun on New Years Eve designing cards and am currently using one of these as my profile picture on Facebook! I have also taken a few pictures of the kids with gifts and designed and sent thank you cards electronically.

Hopefully this post helps you have a New Year full of great memories AND great photos!

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