I was recently interviewed by Scott Sheppard for NIK Radio. The interview covered a wide range of topics, including NIK and Datacolor products, my own photography, iPhone photography, and my recent experiences with the latest Nikon and Canon cameras. To hear the full interview click here, and choose the interview dated 8/9/12.
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…
There are many different mobile photo workflows. Some involve images imported to the phone from other sources, and processed in mobile image editing apps. Other images are shot with the phone, then downloaded or emailed to a computer, where more powerful apps can be used to process them, and where printing is more straight forward. Other phone photos are run through simple “one step” processing methods, to produce predetermined effects. But perhaps the most satisfying type of phone photography is when images are shot with the phone, cropped, processed and edited on the phone, and published straight from the phone.
There is an element of risk involved is this method, since it can be difficult to know how sharp images are, with no way to zoom in on them in most editing apps. Color and shadow detail decisions can be problematic as well. Although it requires a separate step, a final image review in Datacolor’s color managed SpyderGallery app before publishing can help assure that the shadow detail, neutrality, and color of images are as you see them on screen, as well as allowing zooming in to determine just how sharp the image is. Perhaps these features will be integrated into editing apps in future editions, eliminating the separate step.
Once the image has been processed and proofed, publishing to Facebook, Flickr, other photo websites, or to a blog can be accomplished directly from the phone. So the time from “snap” to “publish” can be a matter of minutes, while still allowing a significant degree of artistic control of the process.
The images shown below were all shot last November during the Merano Wine Festival, in Northern Italy, then edited in NIK’s Snapseed app, and published the same day directly from the iPhone 4. Despite the wine tasting involved, they are images which, at least at small sizes, hold their own against my DSLR-based work.
As phone cameras, and phone image editing apps, improve the field of mobile phone photography is growing madly. I’m not talking about the photos people take of their friends at parties, or their families at events, or their new car when it first comes home, or even their dog or cat being cute. I mean serious photos, possibly even art photos, taken and processed by people that also own real cameras, and real copies of Photoshop and Lightroom… but who choose to work in this new and interesting medium as well. Much more will be said about it, but what matters more than the words, is the images. I’ll be posting a number of camera phone related photos to my website in the coming weeks. But here are a few from one of my series (Through a Lens Darkly: Altered images of Tuscany) to get the conversation started.