Embracing the Low Res Image

We have spent so much time struggling to get the highest resolution from our cameras, our lenses, and tripods, our RAW converters, that we often fail to appreciate the artistic value of low resolution images. Low res images are the natural result of art lenses such as Holgas and LensBabies, as well as of techniques such as cropping or shooting in low light with limited dynamic range cameras. And they are especially the province of phone photos.

The image below was shot with the iPhone 6, a phone camera capable of amazingly sharp images under good conditions. Here the conditions were, quite intentionally, far from good. The loveseat that is the subject of the image was in a nearly dark room, with only foot lighting around the edges, to keep hotel guests from stumbling in the dark. The challenge of capturing the gesture of the seat, and the drama of the  low lighting was appealing. A high overhead shot provided the desired form, and post processing in Google Snapseed provided the exposure adjustment, applied texture, image frame, and lastly the radial blur (stronger at the edges) that produces the soft, textured effect of the image.

Such an image fits in the “more poetry than prose” end of art photography, and can make a compelling stock image. Producing a series of such images, with differing subject matter, is always a good idea, since an image like this is difficult to mix with other images, unless similar effects have been used.

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C. David Tobie

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iPhone and Android Get Photoshop Touch Versions

Last year’s release of Photoshop Touch for the iPad brought iOS image editing to a new level. However, the camera in recent iPhone models are superior to those in the iPad, and iPhones are the tools most commonly in-hand for photography. So, lacking a phone version of Photoshop Touch meant being marginalized as a mobile editing tool.

Now Adobe has remedied that situation with new releases of PS Touch specifically for the iPhone and Android. The iPhone version of the app clearly uses the same engine and tools as the iPad version, with new palettes and organization to fit the reduced format of the iPhone screen. This provides a level of control, including powerhouse features such as selections, layers, and warp controls, that have not been available in most iPhone editing tools to-date.

PSTadjustments

But are these tools what users need for the types of editing most likely to be done on a phone? Yes, and no. Yes, there are certainly times when nothing but powerful tools and localized edits will do the job. But no, these are not the features most often used for phone photo editing.

PSTBrushes

Phone editing, for the advanced user, has always been a game of hop-scotch, moving from app to app for special features or unique filters. Adding Photoshop Touch to the mix simply adds new, and often familiar, tools to the toolbox, without replacing the apps already used for other types of work.

The image below is a night shot of a tree against a dark sky; difficult territory for the iPhone, with its small sensor, and weak low light capabilities. Here the noise in the sky has been used as a feature instead of a flaw, by enhancing it though a series of edits in NIK Software’s Snapseed app, a leading iPhone and Android image editor.

SnapseedVersion

Below is a version edited with the same intent in PS Touch. Touch allowed some amazing capabilities, including inverting the image for some adjustments, then reinverting afterwards. However, while the image retained more detail, the process was slower and more complex, and the artistic intent was not quite as well served. The lack of border effects in PS Touch also meant that the image would need to be saved and opened in another app, such as Snapseed, for bordering, if that was a desired effect.

PSTouchVersion

Overall PS Touch is a welcome, and affordable, addition to the phone editing toolbox; if not a complete toolbox unto itself. With any iOS image editing, remember to check the image in Datacolor’s color managed SpyderGallery app before publishing, to be sure the color is as you intended it to be.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website: CDTobie.com   Return to Blog’s Main Page

Review and Sample Images: iOS Photography App “Rays”

Digital Film Tools iOS App “Rays” is currently available as a free download. But even at its usual price of ninety nine cents, its a bargain. Rays is one of those “one trick pony” Apps, that does one thing, but does it well. Its one trick is to add convincing rays of light to your images.

Rays allows you to choose the source location for your radiating rays of light; the only limitation being that the source location must be within the image, when in some cases you might prefer it to be outside the image. There are controls for the color of your light, the length of the rays, and the intensity of the effect versus the image you are applying it to.

Here are answers to the most likely questions about Rays:

Yes, its fun. Yes, its effective. Yes the effect is quite variable. Yes, the controls are reasonably intuitive. And yes, it runs on both the iPhone and the iPad, meaning you can work on your iPhone images right on the phone, and those or other images after sending them to the iPad (in addition to photos shot with the iPad, for those who do that). I’ve been saving the big one for last: Yes, the effects can be appropriate to advanced, or even professional imaging.

Lets look at a few sample images to get a sense of just how the Rays effect can be used. A few comments on process in advance: A couple of these images were shot with LensBaby lenses; LensBaby selective focus images lend themselves to Rays effects. Some of these images have been run through NIK SnapSeed before Rays was used on them. Thats  not unusual; multiple iOS Apps are often used in the pursuit of the best mobile images. And all of these images were checked for color and sharpness in Datacolor’s SpyderGallery after they were completed. There are other Apps that will allow you to zoom in far enough to check the sharpness, but only SpyderGallery will allow you to see a color managed view of your iOS images. I do both in SpyderGallery as it saves a step.

Lets get the obvious out of the way first: yes, you can add a halo, or aurora to a person, place, or thing with Rays. Buddha seemed like a reasonable choice, so here’s an example of the most blatant use of Rays. This is not an effect I envision myself using too often. Using it with backlit trees, as in the background of this image, could be a more realistic effect.

This second example is only a bit more subtle. Rays can be used to create a focal point within an image. If the image has motion blur, focal plane blur, or both, the effects blend nicely, and even create more sharpness in a blurred image that may not be quite sharp enough without it.

This third example uses a light source within the image as a point source for the rays. By matching the tint of the rays to the color of the light source, this can be quite realistic. Moving the source location around allows fine tuning of the rays that are created, allowing you to choose a particularly effective set of rays and shadows. Images which lack a clear focal point can be strengthened by this technique. Keep in mind that, as with other iOS imaging apps, its possible to run your image through Rays more than once. So if you feel that a second source location could improve the effect, try a second pass to find out.

Next comes the use of rays with a source outside the image. Here it would have been ideal to place the source location below the bottom of the image, to more closely align with the actual light source. Short of creating a copy of the image with extra white space at the bottom, generating the desired rays, and than cropping back to the original image size, this would not be possible. I compromised on a source location at the bottom edge of the image.

And finally, here is a macro image, where the Rays effect emulates radial lens blur. Especially with LensBaby macros, this can be quite convincing.

The effects in these images run from much more blatant in the first examples, to much more subtle, or at least more realistic, in the latter ones. Like makeup, perhaps the best Rays effect is the one your viewer never realizes is an effect at all…

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

The PostPC Future of Photography

At Apple’s iPad 3 event Tim Cook referred multiple times to “the PostPC era” we are living in. So immediately I started rethinking that phrase, as it applies to photography. The simplest result is the title of this article. Another element of the same Apple event has already inspired an article from me on the release of iPhoto for iOS. The two items are not unrelated. Allow me to describe why.

Apple is often the company to come up with “the next big thing”… And even when they are not, they are often the ones who take a new thing, and turn it from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. Sure they didn’t invent the smart phone, or the computer tablet, but I hardly need to point out to you that they were responsibe for turning both into desirable products.

And Apple is cranking up the heat on integrated systems, where the hardware is only part of the deal: the software, the cloud storage, the automatic updating of libraries, the access from your other devices, and the publishing capabilities, are all part of the overall experience that keeps bringing people back for more.

Now Apple has chosen to move the name iPhoto to iOS. Not the other way ’round, as they did when coordinating Mac and iOS address books, or calendars, or do lists. This time the well known, heavily used Mac version’s name was the one selected. There are a number of reasons this makes sense, from the fame of the name, to the fact that iPhoto for iOS is not actually replacing Photos, it’s an App Store app, with a price tag.

Not all Apple products arrive fully completed, perfect, and waiting to blow us away. Some take time, and iterations. MobileMe was but a precursor to iCloud. AppleTV has yet to sprout a TV. iTunes has transcended the name iTunes. It’s often the complex, service-related products that take more generations to reach maturity.

So this brings us back to those two items in the headline: PostPC, and Photography. While this first release of iPhoto for iOS is a modest image editing tool, that does not stand out particularly amongst the third party editors already on the App Store, it has the potential to remake photography.

iPhoto for the Mac is not the pro photographer’s choice for image management or editing. But it is the overwhelming choice of other Mac users, who don’t have professional needs. It’s so successful that Adobe does not bother to build a Mac version of Photoshop Album; who would buy it when they have iPhoto for free?

So envision a version of iPhoto for iOS that spreads its wings. A more powerful, wider range of editing tools. Touch functionality for many editing tools. Gesture controls for the rest. And lots of integration: edited photos would move to your Mac automatically, as would albums and slideshows. Wireless printing would be the norm. Geotagging would locate and map all your images. Social media buttons would post what you want, when and where you want.

Much of this is already implemented. Those items that are not, are clearly on the way. And third party photo editing apps may well be invited to the party, with images checked out of the library, processed and checked back in, so that they continue to have the convenience of the integrated system.

Which leads to the truly PostPC scenario of users going for weeks, or perhaps forever, without a PC. Actually shooting, editing, printing, publishing, and storing images on a tablet, or a phone and tablet duo, with no need for a desktop or laptop computer at all. And for many, no need for a camera, either; since the cameras in the phone or tablet are becoming good enough for many users.

The only ones not invited to the party would be the advanced photographers, with RAW files exceeding the system’s capacity, and professional library apps they need to organize their files in. Where these cutoffs occur, and what outside solutions become available to improve the pro photo workflow will be a burning question, as the pros look longingly in through the window at the PostPC party all those Jpeg shooters are enjoying.

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The first image I edited and published on a mobile device; now it’s become a daily occurrence.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

iPad3 Event Shakes Things Up with iPhoto for iOS

There have been too many new products this month to be able to decide which to write about. The list includes Lightroom 4, Photoshop Touch, the Nikon D800, the Canon 5D Mark III, and the new iPad 3, to name only a few. But in terms of impact on the photo community, iPhoto for iOS will certainly be at the top of the list. Image editing on the iPhone and iPad has been developing over time, with applications like NIK’s SnapSeed, and more recently Adobe’s Photoshop Touch. But the default photo app for iOS has long been the free Photos app that ships on every iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. The $4.99 price of iPhoto for iOS will change that; now it won’t just be advanced photographers, but a wide swath of iOS users who will have an advanced imaging app on their iOS device. For many, this will change the balance of where photo editing really happens.

Serious photographers have never been iPhoto users; Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and other pro apps have been their preferred applications for photo processing. But those apps don’t run on iOS, so they have been forced to use various less powerful tools there. The real question now is: will iPhoto be the most powerful, and most convenient app for advanced photographers under iOS? And the follow-up to that will be: will serious photographers be forced to start addressing iPhoto on the Mac to coordinate with iPhoto for iOS; or will they be able to piece together a workflow that will use iPhoto under iOS, but export directly to Lightroom or Aperture libraries on their desktop imaging workstations? The ability to run images through iPhoto on the iPad, and then move them directly to Lightroom or Aperture, still in their RAW format, would allow the iPad to move effortlessly into the advanced photographer’s digital workflow.

But there are some serious bumps in that workflow. The first is an apparent limit of for RAW files of 19MP in iPhoto for iOS. Given that the more advanced cameras today are producing files at 22MP to 36MP, that reduces the number of high-end photographers who could utilize a “camera to iPad to desktop” workflow considerably. And while there is some slight chance that the sidecar adjustment files for the RAW images (assuming that iPhoto even uses sidecar files to keep track of your edits) might be compatible with Apple’s iPhoto for the Mac, and possibly even Apple’s Aperture for the Mac, the chances of them being compatible with Adobe’s apps such as Photoshop ACR and Lightroom are slim indeed.

That would mean that a “camera to iPad to desktop” workflow would probably have to be rendered out, either in iPhoto on the iOS device, or in iPhoto on the Mac, before those files could be imported elsewhere. But those rendered versions would not be the RAW files… and pros demand the RAW files, not reduced bit depth TIFF or JPG versions. Alternately, the RAWs could be moved to your library on a desktop machine, but that would lose all the edits you had lovingly applied in iPhoto for iOS. No win-win option here that I can see.

So, while the ability to use your finger to brush an area of an image lighter, or darker, or more or less saturated, and other great iPhoto for iOS functions, will be tempting, they will really only fit into the workflows of point and shoot users, or that group who own DSRLs and use them like point and shoot cameras. Those who shoot RAW, and need a library of those RAW files, will gain little from iPhoto for iOS that they don’t immediately lose when the file moves to their desktop image library. This would leave iPhoto for iOS as a way to process images quickly on site, to show to the Art Director or the Client, or to down-sample and upload to the web, but this would be a side trip in the digital workflow, not a link directly between RAW capture and RAW library steps, and any quick-edits applied in iPhoto for iOS would not be part of the final editing process.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website: CDTobie.com   Return to Blog’s Main Page