Camera+ A full-featured camera and editing application. Version described is 3.02
- Light Table design for selecting which photos to Edit, Share, Save or get Info.
- Camera Functions
- Ability to split Focus area from Exposure area
- Can lock White Balance
- Flash: Off/Auto/On/Torch
- Front or Rear camera selection
- Digital Zoom
- 4 Shooting Modes: Normal/Stabilized/Self-Timer/Burst
- Camera options:
- VolumeSnap On/Off
- Sound On/Off
- Zoom On/Off
- Grid On/Off
- Geotagging On/Off
- Workflow selection: Classic (shoot to Lightbox) / Shoot&Share (edit/share after each shot)
- AutoSave selection: Lightbox/CameraRoll/Both
- Quality: Full/Optimized (1200×1200)
- Sharing: [Add social services for auto-post to Twitter, Facebook, etc.]
- App updates On/Off
- News On/Off
- Contests On/Off
- Edit Functions
- Flip Horizontal
- Flip Vertical
- Freeform (variable aspect ratio)
- Original (camera taking aspect ratio)
- Golden rectangle (1:1.618 aspect ratio)
- Square (1:1 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (3:2 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (4:3 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (4:6 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (5:7 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (8:10 aspect ratio)
- Rectangular (16:9 aspect ratio)
- Color – 9 tints
- Purple Haze
- So Emo
- Magic Hour
- Black & White
- Retro – 9 ‘old camera’ effects
- Toy Camera
- Special – 9 custom effects
- Depth of Field
- Color Dodge
- Cross Process
- Analog – 9 special filters (in-app purchase)
- Silver Gelatin
- XPRO C-41
- Color – 9 tints
- Simple – 9 basic border styles
- Thick White
- Thick Black
- Light Mat
- Thin White
- Thin Black
- Dark Mat
- Round White
- Round Black
- Styled – 9 artistic border styles
- Light Grit
- Dark Grit
After launching the Camera+ app, the first screen the user sees is the basic camera viewfinder.
On the top of the screen the Flash selector button is on the left, the Front/Rear Camera selector is on the right. The Flash modes are: Off/Auto/On/Torch. Auto turns the flash off in bright light, on in lower light conditions. Torch is a lower-powered continuous ‘flash’ – also known as a ‘battery-killer’ – use sparingly! Virtually all of the functions of this app are directed to the high-quality rear-facing camera – the front-facing camera is typically reserved for quick low-resolution ID snaps, video calling, etc.
On the bottom of the screen, the Lightbox selector button is on the left, the Shutter release button is in the middle (with the Shutter Release Mode button just to the right-center), and on the right is the Menu button. The Digital Zoom slider is located on the right side of the frame (Digital Zoom will be discussed at the end of this section). Notice in the center of the frame the combined Focus & Exposure area box (square red box with “+” sign). This indicates that both the focus and the exposure for the entire frame are adjusted using the portion of the scene that is contained within this box.
You will notice that the bottle label is correctly exposed and focused, while the background is dark and out of focus.
The next screen shows what happens when the user selects the “+” sign on the upper right edge of the combined Focus/Exposure area box:
Now the combined box splits into two areas: an Focus area (square box with bull’s eye), and an Exposure area (round circle resembling the adjustable f-stop ring in a camera lens). The exposure is now measured separately from the focus – allowing more control over the composition and exposure of the image.
In this case the resultant image looks like the previous one, since both the focus and the exposure areas are still placed on the label, which has consistent focus and lighting.
In the next example, the exposure area is left in place – on the label – but the focus area is moved to a point in the rear of the room. You will now notice that the rear of the room has come into focus, and the label has gone soft – out of focus. However, since the the exposure area is unchanged, the relative exposure stays the same – label well lit – but the room beyond still dark.
This level of control allows greater freedom and creativity for the photographer. [please excuse the slight blurring of some of the screen shot examples - it's not easy to hold the iPhone completely still while taking a screen shot - which requires simultaneously pressing the Home button and the Power button - even on a tripod]
The next image shows the results of selecting the little ‘padlock’ icon in lower left of the image – this is Lock/Unlock button for Exposure, Focus and White Balance (WB).
Each of the three functions (Focus, Exposure, White Balance) can be locked or unlocked independently)
In the above example, the focus area has been moved back to the label, showing how the focus now returns to the label, leaving the rear of the room once again out of focus.
The next series of screens demonstrate the options revealed when the Shutter Release Mode button (the little gear icon to the right of the shutter button) is selected:
The ‘Normal’ mode exposes one image each time the shutter button is depressed.
When the ‘Stabilizer’ mode is selected, the button icon changes to indicate this mode has been selected. This mode is an indication (and an automatic shutter release) of the stability of the iPhone camera once the Stabilizer Shutter Release button is depressed – NOT a true motion-stabilized lens as in some expensive DSLR cameras. You have to hold the camera still to get a sharp picture – this function just helps the user know that the camera is indeed still. Once the Stabilizer Shutter Release is pushed, it glows red if the camera is moving, and text on the screen urges the user to hold still. As the camera detects that motion has stopped (using the iPhone’s internal accelerometer – motion detector) little beeps sound, and the shutter button changes color from red to yellow to green and then the picture is taken.
The Self-Timer Shutter Release mode allows a time delay before the actual shutter release occurs – after the shutter button is depressed. The most common use for this feature is a self-portrait (of course you need either a tripod or other method of securing the iPhone so the composition does not change!). This mode can also be useful to avoid jiggling the camera while pressing the shutter release – important in low light situations. The count-down timer is indiated by the numbers in the center of the screen. Once the shutter is depressed, the numbers count down (in seconds) until the exposure occurs. The default time delay is 5 seconds, this can be adjsuted by tapping the number on the screen before the shutter button is selected. The choices are 5, 15 and 30 seconds.
The final of the four shutter release modes is the ‘Burst’ mode. This exposes a short series of exposures, one right after the other. This can be useful for sports or other fast moving activity, where the photographer wants to be sure of catching a particular moment. The number of exposures taken is a function of how long you hold down the shutter release – the camera keeps taking pictures as fast as it can as long as you hold down the shutter.
There are a number of things to be aware of while using this mode:
- You must be in the ‘Classic’ Workflow, not the ‘Shoot & Share’ ( more on this below when we discuss that option)
- The best performance is obtained when the AutoSave mode is set to ‘Lightbox’ – writing directly to the Camera Roll (using the ‘Camera Roll’ option) is slower, leading to more elapsed time between each exposure. The last option of AutoSave (‘Lightbox & CameraRoll’) is even slower, and not recommended for burst mode.
- The resolution of burst photos is greatly reduced (from 3264×2448 down to 640×480). This is the only way the data from the camera sensor can be transferred quickly enough – but one of the big differencdes between the iPhone camera system and a DSLR. The full resolution is 8megapixels, the burst resolution is only 0.3megapixels – more than 25x less resolution!
The above shot is an actual unretouched image using the settings from the first example (focus and exposure areas both set on label of the bottle).
Here is an example of how changing the placement of the Exposure Area box within the frame affects the outcome of the image:
To fully understand what is happening above you need to remember that any camera light metering system sets the exposure assuming that you have placed the exposure area on a ‘middle gray’ value (Zone V). If you place the exposure measurement area on a lighter or darker area of the image the exposure may not be what you envisioned. Further discussion of this topic is outside the scope of this blog – but it’s very important, so if you don’t know – look it up.
The next step after shooting a frame (or 20) is to process (edit) the images. This is done from the Lightbox. This function is entered by pressing the little icon of a ‘film frame’ on the left of the bottom control bar.
The above case shows an empty Lightbox (which is how the app looks after all shots are edited and saved). If you have just exposed a number of images, they will be waiting for you in the Lightbox – you will not need to import them. The following steps are for when you are processing previously exposed images (and it doesn’t matter if they were shot with Camera+ or any other camera app. I sometimes shoot with my film camera, scan the film, import to iPhone and edit with Camera+ in order to use a particular filter that is available).
When entering the Edit mode after loading an image, the following screen is displayed. There are two buttons on the top: Cancel and Done. Cancel returns the user to the Lightbox, abandoning any edits or changes made while in the Edit screen, while Done applies all the edits made and returns the user to the Lightbox where the resultant image can be Shared or Saved to the Camera Roll.
Along the bottom of the screen are two ribbons showing all the edit functions. The bottom ribbon selects the particular edit mode, while the top ribbon selects the actual Scene, Rotation, Crop, Effect or Border that should be applied. The first set of individual edit functions that we will discuss are the Scenes. The following screen shots show the different Scene choices in the upper ribbon.
The ‘Scenes’ that Camera+ offers are one of the most powerful functions of this app. Nevertheless, there are some quirks (mostly about the naming – and the most appropriate way to apply the Scenes, based on the actual content of your image) that will be discussed. The first thing to understand is the basic difference between Scenes and Effects. Both at the most fundamental level transform the brightness, contrast, color, etc of the image (essentially the visual qualities of the image) – as opposed to the spatial qualities of the image that are adjusted with Rotation, Crop and Border. However, a Scene typically adjusts overall contrast, color balance, sometimes modifies white balance, brightness and so on. An Effect is a more specialized filter – often significantly distorting the original colors, changing brightness or contrast in a certain range of values, etc. – the purpose being to introduce a desired effect to the image. Many times a Scene can be used to ‘rescue’ an image that was not correctly exposed, or to change the feeling, mood, etc. of the original image. Another way to think about a Scene is that the result of applying a Scene will still almost always look as if the image had just been taken by the camera, while an Effect very often is clearly an artificially applied filter.
In order to best demonstrate and evaluate the various Scenes that are offered, I have assembled a number of images that show a “before and after” of each Scene type. Within each Scene pair, the left-hand image is always the unadjusted original image, while the right-hand image has the Scene applied. The first series of test images is constructed with two comparisons of each Scene type: the first image pair shows a calibrated color test chart, the second image pair shows a woman in a typical outdoor scene. The color chart can be used to analyze how various ranges of the image (blacks, grays, whites, colors) are affected by the Scene adjustment; while the woman subject image is often a good representation of how the Scene will affect a typical real-world image.
After all of the Scene types are shown in this manner, I have added a number of sample images, with certain Scene types applied – and discussed – to better give a feeling of how and why certain Scene types may work best in certain situations.
The Clarity scene type is one of the most powerful scene manipulations offered – it’s not an accident that it is the first scene type in the ribbon… The power of this scene is not that obvious from the color chart, but it is more obvious in the human subject. This particular subject, while it shows most of the attributes of the clarity filter well, is not ideally suited for application of this filter – better examples follow at the end of this section. The real effect of this scene is to cause an otherwise flat image to ‘pop’ more, and have more visual impact. However, just like in other parts of life – less is often more. My one wish is that an “intensity slider” was included with Scenes (it is only offered on Effects, not Scenes) – as many times I feel that the amount of Clarity is overblown. There are techniques to accomplish a ‘toning down’ of Clarity, but those will only be discussed in Part 5 of this series – Tips & Techniques for iPhonography - as currently this requires the use of multiple apps – which is beyond the scope of the app introduction in this part of the series. The underlying enhancement appears to be a spatially localized increase of contrast, and an increase in vibrance and saturation of color.
Notice in the gray scale of the chart that the edges of each density chip are enhanced – but the overall gamma is unchanged (the steps from white to black remain even and separately identifiable). Look at the color patches – there is an increase in saturation (vivedness of color) – but this is more pronounced in colors that are already somewhat saturated. For instance look at the pastel colors in the range of columns 9-19 and rows B-D: there is little change in overall saturation. Now look at, for instance, the saturated reds and greens of columns 17-18 and rows J-L: these colors have picked up noticeabley increased saturation.
Looking at the live subject, the local increase in contrast can easily be seen in her face, with the subtle variations in skin tone in the original becoming much more pronounced in the Clarity scene type. The contrast between the light print on her dress and the gray background is more obvious with Clarity applied. Observe how the wrinkles in the man’s shirt and shorts are much more obvious with Clarity. Notice the shading on the aqua-colored steel piping in the lower left of the image: in the original the square pipes look very evenly illuminated, with Clarity applied there is a noticeable transition from light to dark along the pipe.
The Auto scene type is sort of like using a ‘point and shoot’ camera set to full automatic – the user ideally doesn’t have to worry about exposure, etc. Of course, in this case since the image has already been exposed there is a limit to the corrections that can be applied! Basically this Scene attempts to ensure full tonal range in the image and will manipulate levels, gamma, etc. to achieve a ‘centered’ look. For completeness I have included this Scene – but as you will notice, and this should be expected – there is almost no difference between the befor and after images.With correctly exposed initial images this is what should happen… It may not be apparent on the blog, but when looking carefully at the color chart images on a large calibrated monitor the contrast is increased slightly at both ends of the gray scale: the whites and blacks appear to clip a little bit.
The Flash scene type is an attempt to ‘repair’ an image that was taken in low light without a flash – when it was probably needed. Again, like any post-processing technique, this Scene cannot make up for something that is not there: areas of shadow in which there was no detail in the original image can at best only be turned into lighter noise… But in many cases it will help underexposed images. The test chart clearly shows the elevation in brightness levels all through the gray scale – look for example at gray chip #11 – the middle gray value of the original is considerably lightened in the right-hand image. This Scene works best on images that are of overall low light level – as you can see from both the chart and the woman areas of the picture that are already well-lit tend to be blown out and clipped.
The Backlit scene type tries to correct for the ‘silhouette’ effect that occurs when strong light is coming from behind the subject without corresponding fill light illuminating the subject from the front. While I agree that this is a useful scene correction, it is hard to perform after the fact – and personally I think this is one Scene that is not well executed. My issue is with the over-saturation of reds and yellows (Caucasian skin tones) that more often than not make the subject look like a boiled lobster. I think this comes from the attempt to raise the percived brightness of an overly dark skin tone (since the most common subject in such a situation is a person standing in front of a brightly lit background). You will notice on the chart that the gray scale is hardly changed from the original (a slight overall brightness increase) – but the general color saturation is raised. A very noticeable increase in red/orange/yellow saturation is obvious: look at the red group of columns 7-8 and rows A-B. In the original these four squares are clearly differentiated – in the ‘after’ image they have merged into a single fully saturated area. A glance at the woman’s image also shows overly hot saturation of skin tones – even the man in the background has a hot pink face now. So, to summarize, I would reserve this Scene for very dark silhouette situations – where you need to rescue an otherwise potentially unusable shot.
The Darken scene type does just what it says – darkens the overall scene fairly uniformly. This can often help a somewhat overexposed scene. It cannot fix one of the most common problems with digital photography however: the clipping of light areas due to overexposure. As explained in a previous post in this series, once a given pixel has been clipped (driven into pure white due to the amount of light it has received) nothing can recover this detail. Lowering the level will only turn the bright white into a dull gray, but no detail will come back. Ever. A quick look at the gray scale in the right-hand image clearly shows the lowering of overall brightness – with the whites manipulated more than the blacks. For instance, chip #1 turns from almost white into a pale gray, while chip #17 shows only a slight darkening. This is appropriate so the blacks in the image are not crushed. You will notice by looking at the colors on the chart that darkening effect is pretty much luminance only – no change in color balance. The apparent increase in reds in the skin tone of the woman is a natural side-effect of less luminance with chrominance held constant – once you remove the ‘white’ from a color mixture the remaining color appears more intense. You can see the same effect in the man’s shirt and the yellow background. Ideally the saturation should be reduced slightly as well as the luminance in this type of filter effect – but that can be tricky with a single filter designed to work with any kind of content. Overall this is a useful filter.
The Cloudy scene type appears to normalize the exposure and color shift that occurs when the subject is photographed under direct cloudy skies. This is in contrast to the Shade scene type (discussed next) where the subject is shot in indirect light (open shade) while illuminated from a clear sky. This is mostly a color temperature problem to solve – remember that noon sunlight is approximately 5500°K (degrees Kelvin is a measure of color temperature, low numbers are reddish, high numbers are bluish, middle ‘white’ is about 5000°K). Illumination from a cloudy sky is often very ‘blue’ (in terms of color temperature) – between 8000°K – 10000°K, while open shade is less so, usually between 7000°K – 8000°K. If you compare the two scene types (Cloudy and Shade) you will notice that the image is ‘warmed up’ more with the Cloudy scene type. There is a slight increase in brightness but the main function of this scene type is to warm up the image to compensate for the cold ‘look’ often associated with shots of this type. You can see this occuring in the reddening of the woman’s skin tones, and the warming of the gray values of the sidewalk between her and the man.
The Shade scene type is similar in function to the Cloudy scene (see above for comparison) but differs in two areas: There is a noticeable increase in brightness (often images exposed in the shade are slightly underexposed) and there is less warming of the image (due to open shade being warmer in color temperature than a full cloudy scene illumination). One easy way to compare the two scene types is to examine the color charts – looking at the surround (where the numbers and letters are) – the differences are easy to see there. A glance at the test shot of the woman shows a definite increase in brightness, as well as a slight warming – again look at the skin tones and the sidewalk.
The Fluorescent scene type is designed to correct for images shot under fluorescent lighting. This form of illumination is not a ‘full-spectrum’ light source, and as such has some unnatural effects when used to take photographs. Our human vision corrects for this – but film or digital exposures do not – so such photos tend to have a somewhat green/cyan cast to them. In particular this makes light-colored skin look a bit washed out and sickish. The only real change I can see in this scene filter is an increase in magenta in the overall color balance (which will help to correct for the green/cyan shift under fluorescent light). The difference introduced is very small – I think it will help in some cases and may be insufficient in others. It is more noticeable in the image of the woman than the test chart (her skin tones shift towards a magenta hue).
The Sunset scene type starts a slightly different type of scene filter – ones that are apparently designed to make an image look like the scene name, instead of correcting the exposure for images taken under the named situation (like Shade, Cloudy, etc.). This twist in naming conventions is another reason to always really test and understand your tools – know what the filter you are applying does at a fundamental level and you will have much better results. It’s obvious from both the chart and the woman that a marked increase in red/orange is applied by this scene type. There is also a general increase in saturation – just more in the reds than the blues. See the difference in the man’s shirt and shorts to see how the blue saturation increases. Again, like the Backlit filter, I personally feel this effect is a bit overdone – and within Camera+ there is no simple way to remedy this. There are methods, using another app to follow the corrections of this app – these techniques will be discussed in the next of the series (Tips & Techniques for iPhonography).
The Night scene type attempts to correct for images taken at night under very low illumination. This scene is a bit like the Flash type – but on steroids! The full gray scale is pushed towards white a lot, with even the darkest shadow values receiving a noticeable bump in brightness. There is also a general increase in saturation – as colors tend to be undersaturated when poorly illuminated. Of course this will make images that are normally exposed look greatly overexposed (see both the chart and the woman), but it still gives you an idea of how the scene filter works. Some better ‘real-world’ examples of the Night scene type follow this introduction of all the scene types.
The Portrait scene type is basically a contrast and brightness adjustment. It’s easy to see in the chart comparison, both in the gray scale and on the color chip chart. Look first at the gray scale: all of the gray and white values from chip #17 and lighter are raised, the chips below #17 are darkened. Chips #1 and #2 are now both pure white, having no differentiation. Likewise with chips #20-22, they are pure black. The area defined by columns 13-19 and rows A-C are now pure white, compared to the original where clear differences can be noted. Likewise row L between columns 20-22 can no longer be differentiated. In the shot of the woman, this results in a lightening of skin tones and increased contrast (notice her black bag is solid black as opposed to very dark gray; the patch of sunlight just above her waist is now solid white instead of a bright highlight). Again, like several scene effects I have noted earlier, I find this one a little overstated – I personally don’t like to see details clipped and crushed – but like any filter, the art is in the application. This can be very effective on a head shot that is flat and without punch. The trick is applying the scene type appropriately. Knowledge furthers…
The Beach scene type looks like the type of filter first mentioned in Sunset (above). In other words, an effect to make the image look like it was taken on a beach (or at least that type of light!). It’s a little bit like the previous Portrait scene (in that there is an increase in both brightness and contrast – but less than Portrait) but also has a bit of Sunset in it as well (increased saturation in reds and yellows – but again not as much as Sunset). While the Sunset type had greater red saturation, this Beach filter is more towards the yellow. See column #15 in the chart – in the original each square is clearly differentiated, in the right-hand image the more intense yellows are very hard to tell apart. Just to the right, in column #17, the reds have not changed that much. When looking at the woman, you can see that this scene type makes the image ‘bright and yellow/red’ – sort of a ‘beachy’ effect I guess.
The Scenery scene type produces a slight increase in contrast, along with increased saturation in both reds and blues – with blue getting a bit more intensity. Easy to compare using the chart, and in the shot of the woman this can be seen in reddish skin tone, as well as significantly increased saturation in the man’s shirt and shorts. While this effect makes people look odd, it can work well on so-called “postcard” landscape shots (which tend to be flat panoramic views with low contrast and saturation). However, as you will see in the ‘real-world’ examples below, often a different scene or filter can help out a landscape in even a better way – it all depends on the original photo with which you are starting.
The Concert scene type is oddly enough very similar to the previous scene type (Scenery) – just turned up really loud! A generalized increase in contrast, along with red and blue saturation increase – attempts to make your original scene look like, well, I guess a rock-and-roll concert… Normal exposures (see the woman test shot) come out ‘hot’ (overly warm, contrasty with elelvated brightness) but if you need some color and punch in your shot, or desire an overstated effect this scene type could be useful.
The Food scene type offers a slight increase in contrast and a bit of increased saturation in the reds. This can be seen in both the charts and the woman shot. It’s less overdone than several of the other scene types, so keep this in mind for any shot that needs just a bit of punch and warming up – not just for shots of food. And again, I see this scene type in the same vein as Beach, Sunset, etc. – an effect to make your shot look like the feeling of the filter name, not to correct shots of food…
The Text scene type is an extreme effect – and best utilized as its name implies – to help render shots of text material come out clearly and legibly. An example of actual text is shown below, but you can see from the chart that this is accomplished by a very high contrast setting. The apparent increase in saturation in the test chart is really more of a result of the high contrast – I don’t think a deliberate increase in saturation was added to this effect.
(Note: the ‘real-world’ examples referred to in several of the above explanations will be shown at the very end of this discussion, after we have illustrated the remaining basic edit functions (Rotation, Crop, Effects and Borders) in a similar comparative manner as above with the Scene types. This is due to many of the sample shots combining both a Scene and an Effect (one of the powerful capabilities of Camera+) – I want the viewer to fully understand the individual instruments before we assemble a symphony…)
The next group of Edit functions is the image Rotation set.
The usual four choices of image rotation are presented.
The Crop functions are displayed next.
The Effects (FX) filters, after the Scene types, are the most complex image manipulation filters included in the Camera+ app. As opposed to Scenes, which tend to affect overall lighting, contrast and saturation -and keep a somewhat realistic look to the image – the Effects filters seriously bend the image into a wide variety of (often but not always) unrealistic appearances. Many of the effects mimic early film processes, emulsions or camera types; some offer recent special filtering techniques (such as HDR – High Dyamic Range photography), and so on.
The Effects filters are grouped into four sections: Color, Retro, Special and Analog. The Analog filter group requires an in-app purchase ($0.99 at the time of this article). In a similar manner to how Scene types were introduced above, an image comparison is shown along with the description of each filter type. The left-hand image is the original, the right-hand image has the specific Effects filter applied. Some further ‘real-world’ examples of using filters on different types of photography are included at the end of this section.
Color Effects filters
The Vibrant filter significantly increases the saturation of colors, and appears to enhance the red channel more than green or blue.
The Sunkiss’d filter is a generalized warming filter. Notice, that in contrast to the Vibrance filter above, even the tinfoil dress on the left-hand dancer has turned a warm gold color – where the Vibrance filter did not alter the silver tint – as that filter has no effect on portions of the image that are monochrome. Also, all colors in Sunkiss’d are moved towards the warm end of the spectrum – note the gobo light effect projected above the dancers: it is pale blue in the original, and becomes a warmer green/aqua after the application of Sunkiss’d.
The Purple Haze filter does not provide hallucinogenic experiences for the photographer, but does perhaps simulate what the retina might imagine… Increased contrast, increased red/blue saturation and a color shift towards.. well… purple.
The So Emo filter type (So Emotional?) starkly increases contrast, shifts color balance towards cyan, and to add a counterpoint to an overall cyan tint there is apparently a narrow band enhancement of magenta – notice the enhancement of the tulle skirt on the center dancer that should otherwise be almost monochromatic with addition of so much cyan shift in the color balance. However, the flesh tones of the dancers’ legs (more reddish) are rendered almost colorless by the cyan tint; this shows that the enhancement is narrow-band, it does not include red.
The Cyanotype effects filter is reminiscent of early photogram techniques (putting plant leaves, etc. on photo paper sensitized with the cyanotype process in direct sunlight to get a silhouette exposure). This is the same process that makes blueprints. Later it was used (in a similar way as sepia toning) to tint black & white photographs. In the case of this effects filter, the image is first rendered to monochrome, then subsequently tinted with a slightly yellowish cyan color.
The Magic Hour filter attempts to make the image look like it was taken during the so-called “Magic Hour” – the last hour before sunset – when many photographers feel the light is best for all types of photography, particularly landscape or interpretive portraits. Brightness is raised, contrast is slightly reduced and a generalized warming color shift is applied.
The Redscale effects filter is a bit like the previous Magic Hour, but instead of a wider spectrum warming, the effect is more localized to reds and yellows. The contrast is slightly raised, instead of lowered as for Magic Hour, and the effect of the red filter can clearly be seen on the gobo light projected above the dancers: the original cyan portion of the light is almost completely neutralized by the red enhancement, leaving only the green portion of the original aqua light remaining.
The Black & White filter does just what it says: renders the original color photograph into a monochrome only version. It looks like this is a simple monochrome conversion of the RGB channels (color information deleted, only luminance kept). There are a number of advanced techniques for rendering a color image into a high quality black & white photo – it’s not as simple as it sounds. If you look at a great black and white image from a film camera, and compare it to a color photograph of the same scene, you will know what I am saying. There are specialized apps for taking monochrome pictures with the iPhone (one of which will be reviewed later in this series of posts); and there is a whole set of custom filters in Photoshop devoted to just this topic – getting the best possible conversion to black & white from a color original. In many cases however a simple filter like this will do the trick.
The Sepia filter, like Cyanotype, is a throwback to the early days of photography – before color film – when black & white images were toned to increase interest. In the case of this digital filter, the image is first turned into monochrome, then tinted with a sepia tone via color correction.
Retro Effects filters
The Lomographic filter effect is designed to mimic some of the style of photograph produced by the original LOMO Plc camera company of Russia (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Amalgamation). This was a low cost automatic 35mm film camera. While still in production today, this and similar cameras account for only a fraction of LOMO’s production – the bulk is military and medical optical systems – and are world class… Due to the low cost of components and production methods, the LOMO camera exhibited frequent optical defects in imaging, color tints, light leaks, and other artifacts. While anathema to professional photographers, a large community that appreciates the quirky effects of this (and other so-called “Lo-Fi” or Low Fidelity) cameras has sprung up with a world-wide following. Hence the Lomographic filter…
While, like all my analysis on Scenes and Effects, I have no direct knowledge of how the effect is produced, I bring my scientific training and decades of photographic experience to help explain what I feel is a likely design, based on empirical study of the effect. That said, this effect appears to show increased contrast, a greenish/yellow tint for the mid-tones (notice the highlights, such as the white front stage, stay almost pure white). A narrow-band enhancement filter for red/magenta keeps the skin tones and center dancer’s dress from desaturating in the face of the green tint.
The ’70s effect is another nod to the look of older film photographs, this one more like what Kodachrome looked like when the camera was left in a hot car… All film stock is heat sensitive, with color emulsions, particularly older ones, being even more so. While at first this filter has a resemblance to the Sunkiss’d color filter, the difference lies in the multi-tonal enhancements of the ’70s filter. The reds are indeed punched up, but that’s in the midtones and shadows – the highlights take on a distinct greenish cast. Notice that once the enhanced red nulled out the cyan in the overhead gobo projection, then the remaining highlights have turned bright green – with a similar process occuring on the light stage surface.
The Toy Camera effects filter emulates the low cost roll-film cameras of the ’50s and ’60s – with the light leaks, uneven processing, poor focus and other attributes often associated with photographs from that genre of cameras. Increased saturation, a slightly raised black level, spatially localized contrast enhancement (a technique borrowed from HDR filtering) – notice the slight flare on the far right over the seated woman’s head become a bright hot flare in the filtered image, and streaking to simulate light leakage on film all add to the multiplicity of effects in this filter.
The Hipster effect is another of the digital memorials to the original Hipstamatic camera – a cheap all plastic 35mm camera that shot square photos. Copied from an original low-cost Russian camera, the two brothers that invented it only produced 157 units. The camera cost $8.25 in 1982 when it was introduced. With a hand-molded plastic lens, this camera was another of the “Lo-Fi” group of older analog film cameras whose ‘look’ has once again become popular. As derived by the Camera+ crew, the Hipster effect offers a warm, brownish-red image. Achieved apparently with raised black levels (a common trait of cheap film cameras, the backs always leaked a bit of light so a low level ‘fog’ of the film base always tended to raise deep blacks [areas of no light exposure in a negative] to a dull gray); a pronounced color shift towards red/brown in the midtones and lowlights; and an overall white level increase (note the relative brightness of the front stage between the original and the filtered version),
The Tailfins retro effect is yet another take on the ’50s and ’60s – with an homage to the 1959 Cadillac no doubt – the epitomy of the ‘tailfin era’. It’s similar to the ’70s filter described above, but lacks the distinct ‘overcooked Kodachrome’ look with the green highlights. Red saturation is again pushed up, as well as overall brightness. Once again blacks are raised to simulate the common film fog of the day. Lowered contrast finishes the look.
The Fashion effects filter is an interesting and potentially very useful filter. Although I am sure there are styles of fashion photography that have used this muted look, the potential uses for this filter extend far beyond fashion or portraiture. Essentially this is a desaturating filter that also warms the lowlights more than the highlights. Notice the rear wall – almost neutral gray in the original, a very warm gray in the filtered version. The gobo projected light, the greenish-yellow spill on the ceiling, the center dancer’s dress – all greatly desaturated. The contrast appears just a bit raised: the white front stage is brighter than the original version, and the black dress of the right-hand dancer is darker. With so many photos today – and filters – that tend to make things go pop! bang! and sparkle! it’s sometimes nice to present an image that is understated, but not cold. This just might be a useful tool to help tell that story.
The Lo-Fi is another retro effect filter that is similar in some respects to the Toy Camera filter reviewed above, but does not express the light streak and obvious film fog artifacts. It again provides an unnatural intensity of color – this through greatly increased saturation. There is also an increase in contrast – note the front stage is nearly pure white and the ceiling to the right of the gobo projection has gone almost pure black. There is a non-uniform assignment of color balance and saturation, dependent on the relative luminance of the original scene. The lighter the original scene, the less saturation is added: compare the white stage to the dark gray interior of the large “1” on the back wall.
The Ansel filter is of course a tip of the hat to the iconic Ansel Adams – one of the premier black & white photographers ever. Although… Ansel would likely have something to say about separation of gray values in the shadows, particularly around Zones II – III. Compared to the ‘Black & White’ color filter discussed earlier, this filter is definitely of a higher contrast. Personally, I think the blacks are crushed a bit – most of the detail is lost in the black dress, and the faces of the dancers are almost lost now in dark shadow. But for the right original exposure, this filter will offer more dyanmism than the “Black & White” filter.
The Antique effects filter is in the same vein as Sepia and Cyanotope: a filter that first extracts a monochrome image from the color original, then tints it – in this case with a yellow cast. The contrast is increased as well.
Special Effects filters
The HDR Special filter is, along with the Clarity Scene type, one of the potentially more powerful filters in this entire application. Because of this (and to demonstrate the Intensity Slider function) I have inserted two examples of this filter, one with the intensity set at 100%, and one with the intensity at 50%. All of the Effects filters have an intensity control, so the relative level of the effect can be adjusted from 0-100%. All of the other examples are shown at full intensity to discuss the attributes of the filter with the greatest ease, but many times a lessening of the intensity will give better results. That is nowhere more evident than with the HDR effect. This terms stands for High Dynamic Range photography. Normally, this can only be performed with multiple exposures of precisely the same shot in the camera – then through complex post-production digital computations, the two (or more) images are superimposed on top of each other, with the various parts of the images seamlessly blended. The whole purpose of this is to make a composite image that has a greater range of exposure than was possible with the taking camera/sensor/film.
The usual reason for this is an extreme range of brightness. An example: if you stand in a dimly lit barn and shoot a photograph out the open barn door at the brightly lit exterior at noon, the ratio of brightness from the barn interior to the exterior scene can easily approach 100,000:1 – which is impossible for any medium, whether film or digital, to capture in a single exposure. The widest range film stock ever produced could capture about 14 stops – about 16,000:1. And that is theoretical – once you add the imperfections of lens, the small amount of unavoidable base fog and development noise, 12 stops (about 4,000:1) is more realistic. With CCD arrays (high quality digital sensors as found in expensive DSLR cameras, not the CMOS sensors used in the iPhone), it is theoretically possible to get about the same. While the top of the line DSLRs boast a 16-bit converter, and do output 16-bit images, the actual capability of the sensor is not that good. I personally doubt it’s any better than the 12 stops of a good film camera – and that only on camera backs costing the same as a small car…
What this means in practicality is that to capture such a scene leads to one of two scenarios: either the blacks are underexposed (if you try to avoid blowing out the whites); or the white detail is lost in clipping if you try to keep the black shadow detail in the barn visible. The only other option (employed by professional photographers with a budget of both time and money) is to light the inside of the barn sufficiently that the contrast of the overall scene is brought within range of the taking film or digital array.
With HDR, a whole new possibility has arrived: take two photographs (identical, must line up perfectly so camera has to be on a tripod, and no motion in the scene is allowed – a rather restrictive element, but critical) – then with the magic of digital post-processing, the low-light image (correctly exposed for the shadows, so the highlights are blown out) and the hi-light image (correctly exposed for the brightly lit part of the scene, so the inside of the barn is just solid black with no detail) are combined into a composite photograph that has incredible dynamic range. There is a lot more to it than this, and you can’t get around the display part of the equation (how do you then show an image that has 16 or more stops of dynamic range on a computer monitor that has at best 10 stops of range? or worse yet, ink jet printers, that even on the best high gloss art paper may be able to render 6 stops of dynamic range? We’ll leave those questions for my next part of this blog series, but for now it’s enough to understand that high dynamic range exposures (HDR) are very challenging for the photographer.
So what exactlty IS an HDR filter? Obviously it cannot duplicate the true HDR technique (multiple exposures)… [First, to be clear, there are different types of “HDR filters” – for instance the very complex one in Photoshop is designed to work with multiple source images as discussed above – here we are talking about the HDR filter included with Camera+, and what it can, and cannot, do). The type of filtering process that appears to be used by the HDR filter in this app is known as a “tone mapping” filter. This is actually a very complex process, chock full of high mathematics, and if it weren’t for the power of the iPhone hardware and core software this would be impossible to do on anything but a desktop computer. Essentially, through a process of both global and local tone mapping using specific algorithms, an output image is derived from the input image. As you can see from the results in the right hand images, tone mapping HDR has a unique look. It tends to enhance local contrast, so image sharpness is enhanced. A side effect – that some like and others don’t – is an apparent ‘glow’ around the edges of dark objects in the scene when they are in front of lighter objects. In these examples, look around the edges of the black dress, and the edges of the black outline of the “1” on the back wall. Notice also that in the original photo, the white stage looks almost smooth, in the resultant filtered image, you can see every bit of dust and footscrapes from the models. The overall brightness of the image is enhanced, but nothing is clipped. Due to the enhancement of small detail, noise in low light areas (always an issue with digital sensors) is increased. Look at the area of the ceiling to the right of the projected gobo image: in the original the low lit area looks relatively smooth, in the filtered image there are many more mottling and other noise artifacts. Due to the amount of detail added, side effects, etc. it is often desired to not ‘overdo’ the tone mapping effect. This can clearly be shown with the second set of comparisions, which has the intensity of the effect set to 50% instead of 100%.
The Special filter Miniaturize initially confused me – I didn’t understand the naming of this filter in reference to its effects: this filter is very similar to the Depth of Field filter which will be discussed shortly. Essentially this filter increases saturation a bit, and then applies blurring technique to defocus the upper third and lower third of the image, leaving the middle third sharp. A reader of my inital release of this section was kind enough to point out that this filter is attempting to mimic the planar depth-of-field effect that happens when the lens is tilted about the axis of focus. With a physical tilt-shift lens, the areas of soft focus are due to one area of the image being too far to be in focus, the other area being too near to be in focus. This technique is used to simulate miniature photography, hence the filter name. Thanks to darkmain for the update.
The Polarize filter is another somewhat odd name for the actual observed effect – since polarizing filtering must take place optically – there is no way to electronically substitute this. Polarizing filters are often used to reduce reflections (from windows, water surface, etc.) – as well as allow us to see 3D movies. None of these techniques are offered by this filter. What this one does do is to substantially increase the contrast, add significant red/blue saturation – but, like the earlier Lo-Fi filter the increase in saturation is inversely proportional to the brightness of the element in the scene: dark areas get increased saturation, light areas do not.
The Grunge effect does have a name that makes sense! Looking like the photo was taken through a grungy piece of glass, it has a faded look that is somewhat realistic of old, damaged print photos. The apparent components of this filter are: substantial desaturation, significant lightening (brightness level raised), a golden/yellow tint added, then the ‘noise’ (scratches).
The Depth of Field effect is, as mentioned, very similar to the Miniaturize effect. The overall brightness is a bit lower, and the other main difference appears to be a circular area of sharpness in the center of the frame, as opposed to the edge to edge horizontal band of sharpness apparent with the Miniaturize filter. Check the focus of the woman seated on the far right in the two filters and you’ll see what I mean.
The Color Dodge special filter has me scratching my head again as far as naming goes… In photographic terminology, “dodge” means to hold back, to reduce – while “burn” means to increase. These are techniques originally used in darkroom printing (actually one of the first methods of tone mapping!) to locally increase or decrease the light falling on the print in order to change the local contrast/brightness. In the resultant image from this filter, red saturation has not just been increased, it has been firewalled! Basically, areas in the original image that had little color in them stayed about the same, areas that have significant color values have those values increased dramatically. There is additionally an increase in overall contrast.
The Overlay effect has the same contrast and saturation functions as the previous Color Dodge filter, but the saturation is not turned up as high (gratefully!). In addition, there is a pronounced vignette effect – easy to see in the bottom of the frame. It’s circular, just harder to see in this particular image at the top. Like the rest of the effects filters, the ability to reduce the intensity of this effect can make it useful for situations that at first may not be obvious. For instance, since the saturation only works on existing chroma in the image, if one applies this image to a monochrome image now you have a variable vignetter filter – with no color component…
The Faded special effect filter does just what it says… this is a simple desaturating filter with no other functions visible. With the ability to vary the intensity of desaturation it makes for a powerful tool. Often one would like to just take a ‘bit off the top’ in terms of color gain – digital sensors are inherently more saturated looking than many film emulsions – just compare (if you can, not that many film labs left…) a shot taken of the same scene with both Ektachrome transparency film and the same scene with the iPhone.
The Cross Process is a true special effect! The name comes from a technique, first discovered by accident, where film is processed in a chemical developer that was intended for a different type of film. While the effect in this particular filter is not indicitive of any particular similar chemical cross-process, the overall effect is similar: high contrast, unnatural colors, and a general ‘retro’ look that has found an audience today. Just like with the chemical version of cross-processing, the results are unpredictable – one just has to try it out and see. Of course, with film, if you didn’t like it… tough.. go reshoot… with digital, just back up and do something else….
Analog Effects filters
The Diana effect is based on, wow – surprise, the Diana camera… another of the cheap plastic cameras prevalent in the 1960’s. The vignetting, light leaks, chromatic aberrations and other side-effects of a $10 camera have been brought into the digital age. In a similar fashion to several of the previous ‘retro’ filters discussed already, you will notice raised blacks, slight lowering of contrast, odd tints (in this case unsaturated highlights tend yellow), increased saturation of colors – and a slight twist in this filter due to even monochrome areas becoming tinted – the silver dress (which stayed silver in even some of the strongest effects discussed above) now takes on a greenish/yellow tint.
The Silver Gelatin effect, based on the original photochemical process that is over 140 years old – is a wonderful and soft effect for the appropriate subject matter. While the process itself was of course only black & white, the very nature of the process (small silver molecules suspended in a thin gelatin coating) caused fading relatively soon after printing. The gelatin fades to a pale yellow, and the silver (which creates the dark parts of the print) tended to turn a purplish color instead of the original pure black.
The Helios analog effect, while it’s possible that it was named for the Helios lens that was fabricated for the Russian “Zenit” 35mm SLR camera in 1958 – is just as likely to be called this due to the burning-fire red tint of virtually the entire frame. In a similar manner to other filters we have discussed, the tinting (and this is clearly another example of a tinted monochrome extraction from the original color image) is based on relative luma values: near whites and near blacks are not tinted, all other mid-range values of gray are tinted strongly red. It’s an interesting technique, but personally I would have only sparing use for this one.
The Contessa effect is named after one of the really great early 35mm Zeiss/Ikon cameras, produced in the late 1940’s. The effect as it exists here is actually not true to the Contessa: this original film camera would not have caused the vignetting seen – not with one of the world’s greatest lenses attached! However, that’s immaterial, it’s just the name… what we can say about this filter is that obviously it’s another black & white extraction from the color original – but it adds a sense of ‘old time photograph’ with the vignette, the staining/spotting on the sides of the image, and the very slight warm tint – really appears to look faded as opposed to an actual tint. It’s a nice filter, I would adjust it a bit to add more detail/contrast in the dancers’ faces (left and middle dancers’ faces are a bit dark) – but a nice addition to the toolbox.
The Nostalgia effect is now reaching into true ‘special effects’ territory. With a cross process look to start with (similar to Diana and Cross Process), some added saturation in the reds, and then the ‘fog’ effect around the perimeter of the frame – this is leaving photorealism behind…
The Expired analog effect is a rather good copy of what film used to look like when you left it in the glove box of your car in the summer… or just plain let it get too old. The look created here is just one of many, many possible effects from expired film – it’s a highly unpredictable entity. In this filter, we have strong red saturation increase – again, with no color in the front of the white stage, nothing to saturate… The overall brightness is raised, contrast is lowered, and a light streak is added.
The XPRO C-41 effect is another cross-process filter. This one is loosely based on what happens when you process E-6 film (color transparency) with color negative developer (C-41). Whites get a bit blown out, light areas tend to greenish, with darker areas tending bluish. The red saturation is (I believe) just something these software developers added – I’ve personally never seen this happen in chemical cross processing.
The Pinhole analog effect is based, of course, on the oldest camera type of all. With major vignetting, considerable grain, monochrome only, enhanced contrast and lowered brightness, this filter does a fair job imitating what an iPhone would have produced in 1850 (when the first actual photograph was taken with a pinhole camera). The issue was that of a photosenstive material – the pinhole camera has been around for well over a thousand years (the Book of Optics published in 1021AD describes it in detail).
The Chromogenic analog effect is based on the core methodology of all modern color film emulsions: the coupling of color dyes to exposed silver halide crystals. All current photochemical film emulsions use light-sensitive silver crystals for exposure to light. To make color, typically 3 layers on the film (cyan, yellow, magenta) are actually specialzed chromogenic layers where the dye colors attach themselves to exposed silver crystals in that layer only. This leads to the buildup of a color negative (or positive) by the ‘stacking’ of the three layers to make a completed color image. Very early on, during the experimentation that led to this development, the process was not nearly as well defined – and this filter is one software artist’s idea of what an early chromogenic print may have looked like. In terms of analysis, the overall cast is reddish-brown, with enhanced contrast, slightly crushed blacks and very desaturated colors (aside from the overall tint).
The Border variations
There are, in addition to the “No Border” option, 9 simple borders and 9 styled borders.
‘Real World’ examples using Scenes and Effects
The following examples show some various images, each processed with one or more techniques that have been introduced above. In each case the original image is shown on the left, the processed image is shown on the right. Since, just like in real life, we often learn more from our mistakes than what we get right the first time – I have included some ‘mistakes’ to demonstrate things I believe did not work so well.
The Ansel filter on this subject has too much contrast – there is no detail in the dress and the subtle detail reflected in the glass behind her is washed out.
The Concert filter used here looks unnatural: skin tones too red. It does make the reflections in the glass pop out though…
The Clarity scene is mostly successful here: improved detail in her dress, the reflections in the window are clearer, the detail in the stone floor pops more. I would opt for a bit less saturation in her skin tones, particularly the legs – the best technique here would be to ‘turn down’ the Clarity a bit. This can be done, but not within Camera+ (at this time).
The Overlay filter as used here offers another interpretation of the scene. The slight vignetting helps focus on the subject, the floor is now defocused, the background reflection in the glass behind her is lessened – the only thing I would like to see improved is her dress is a bit dark – hard to see the detail.
The Portrait scene punches up the contrast, and in this case works fairly well. The floor is a bit bright, and it’s a personal decision if the greater detail revealed in the reflection behind the subject is distracting or not… The upper half of her dress is a bit dark due to the increased contrast, it would be nice to see more detail there.
This Shade scene applied shows the effects rather well: the scene is warmed up and the brightness is slightly raised.
The Silver Gelatin effect is demonstrated well here: blacks are a bit purple, all the whites/grays go a bit yellow. It’s a nice soft look for the right subject matter.
The Backlit scene helps add fill to the otherwise underexposed subject. Since in this case she is standing in open shade (very cool in terms of color temperature), the tendency for this Scene to make skin tones too warm is ok. The background is blown out a bit though.
In this version, the Food scene is used, well, not for food… it doesn’t add as much fill light to the subject as Backlit, but the background isn’t as overexposed either.
Here’s an example of using the Backlit scene for a subject that is not a person – rather for the whole foreground that is in virtual silhouette. It helps marginally, and does tend to wash out the sky some. But the path and the parked cars have more visibility.
Here is the Backlit scene used in the traditional manner – and as was discussed when this scene was introduced above, I find the skin tones just too red. It does fix the lighting however. All is not lost – once we move on to other techniques to be discussed in a future post: using another app for editing the results of Camera+. For instance, if we now bring this image into PhotoForge2 and apply color correction and some desaturation we can tone down the red skin and back off the overly saturated colors of their tops.
Here’s another example of the Backlit scene. It does again resolve the fill light issue, but once again oversaturates both the skin tones and the background.
Here is Backlit scene used to attempt to fix this shot where insufficient fill light was available on the subject.
This shows the Clarity scene used to help the lack of fill light. I think it works much better than Backlit in this case. I would still follow up with raising the black levels to bring out details in her shirt.
Here are three versions of another backlit scene, with different solutions: the first one uses the Beach scene…
This version uses Flash…
and the final version trys Clarity. I personally like this one the best, although I would follow up with raising the deep blacks just a bit to bring out the first girl’s top and pants’ detail.
This is a woman at the beach… showing what the Beach scene will do… in my opinion, it doesn’t add anything, and has three issues: the breaking wave is now clipped, with loss of detail in the white foam, the added contrast reduces the detail in her shirt and pants, and the sand at the bottom of the image has lost detail and become blocky. This exemplifies my earlier comment on this type of scene filter: use it to change the lighting of your image to ‘look like it was shot at the beach’, not fix images that were taken at the beach…
Here once again is our best friend Clarity… this scene really brings out the detail in the waves, sand and her clothes. It’s a great use of this filter, and shows the added ‘punch’ that Clarity can often bring to a shot that is correctly exposed, but just a bit flat.
Now here is a very different interpretation of the same original shot. It all goes to what story you want to tell with your shot. The Clarity version above is a better depiction of the scene that either the original or the version using Beach, but the method shown above (using the Special filter Overlay, at 67% intensity) brings a completely different feeling to the shot. The woman becomes the central figure, with the beach only a hint of the surrounding…
Using the tradional approach… the Scenery scene on, well, scenery… Doesn’t work well – mid-ground goes dark, mountains in rear too blue, foreground bush loses detail and snap.
Here is the same scene using Shade. It does bring out the detail in the middle of the image, and warm up the reflection of the sky in the lake.
Another view, this time using Sunset. Here we have many of the same issues as the first shot did using the Scenery version.
Now here I have used the Beach scene type. Although maybe not an intuitive choice, I like the results: the lake has a warmer reflection of the sky, the contrast between the foreground bush and the middle area is increased, but without losing detail in the middle trees; the mountains in the rear have picked up detail, and even the shore on the left of the lake has more punch. Know your tools…
Next shown are five different versions of a group with some challenging parameters: white dresses (that pick up reflected light), dark pants and jacket on the man, theatrical lighting (it’s actually a white rug!), and bright backlighting on the left. This first version, using Portrait, with its increased contrast, helps the dresses to a more pure white look, but now the man’s head blends right into the picture – not enough black detail to separate the objects.
Here is a version using the special filter HDR. Very stylized. Does clearly separate all the details, the picture on the wall is now visible, and easily separated from the man’s head. The glow and the heavy tinting of the model’s dresses is just part of the ‘look’…
As overstated as the last version may have been, this one goes the other way. Using the special filter Faded (at 50% intensity), the desaturation afforded by this method removes the tinting of the white dresses (they pick up the turquoise lighting), and the skin tones look more natural. Maybe a bit flat…
Here is the Clarity scene type.While it does separate out his head from the picture again, the enhanced edges don’t really work as well in this shot. The increased local saturation actually causes the rug in the foreground to blend together – the original has more detail. This is one of the potential side-effects of this filter – when the source has highly saturated colors to start with some weird things can happen.
And the last version, using the Beach scene type. The dresses have punch, the skin tones are warmer, but the higher contrast once again merges his head with the picture. The lighting on the rug also looks overdone.
This is a typical landscape shot, treated with the Scenery filter. Doesn’t work. Mountains have gone almost black, sea has lost it’s shading and beautiful turquoise color, the rocks in the foreground have gone harsh.
Now here’s Clarity used on the same scene.This scene type brings out all the detail without overwhelming any one area. The only two minor faults I would point out is the small ‘halo’ effect in the sky near the edges of the mountains, and the emerald area of the ocean (just above the rocks, next to the foam on the shore) is a little oversaturated. But all in all, a much better filter than Scenery – for this shot. It’s all in using the right tool for the right job.
Now as good as Clarity can be for some things, here is causes a very different effect. Not to say it’s wrong – if you are looking for posterization and noise, then this can be a great effect.
Although the Darken scene may not seem at all what one would choose on an already poorly lit scene, it focuses attention purely on the subject, and reduces some of the noise and mottling in her top.
Now here is an interesting solution: using the special filter Faded (at 33% intensity) to reduce the saturation of the scene. This immediately brings out a more natural modeling of her face, makes her right hand look less blocky, and brings a more natural look to the subject in general.
A sunset scene using the Clarity filter. In this case, Clarity is not our BFF… the brick goes oversaturated, the shadows in the foreground are just too much -the eye gets confused, doesn’t know where to look.
Here, the Darken scene type is tried. Not much better than Clarity, above. (Hint: sometimes the best result is to leave things alone… a properly exposed and composed image often is perfect as it stands, without additional meddling…)
Here we have a number of different expressions of a train leaving the station at sunset… this one using the Sunset scene type. While it does add some color to the sky, most of the detail in the shadows is now gone.
This version shows the use of Clarity. Detail that was barely visible now pops out. The shot now is almost a bit too busy – there is so much extraneous detail to the right and left of the train that the focus of the moment has changed…
Here’s a very different version, using HDR at full intensity. Stylized – tells a certain story – but the style is almost overwhelming the image.
This is HDR again, but this time at 30% intensity.What a difference! I feel this selection is even better than Clarity – detail in the middle of the shot is visible, but not detracting from the train. There is now just enough information in the shadows to round out the shot, yet not pull the eye from the story.
The difference between the Cloudy and Shade scene types is useful to understand. Here are two subjects standing in open shade – i.e. only illiminated by open sky that has no clouds. This version is filtered with the Cloudy scene type. Note that the back wall has changed hue from the original (gone warmer) as has the street. The subjects are still a bit dark as well.
Here is the same shot, processed with the Shade scene type. The brightness is improved, the color temperature is not warmed up as much, and overall this is a better solution. (Well, after all, they were standing in the shade :)
Here is another pair of comparisons between the Cloudy and Shade scene type filters. This choice was less obvious, as the hostess was standing just outside the entrance to a restaurant, in partial shade; but the sky was very overcast – a ‘cloudy’ illumination. Notice, that since the Cloudy filter warms the scene more than the Shade filter does, her skin tone has warmed up considerably, as has her sheer top and and the menu. The top and menu are also a bit clipped, losing detail in the highlights.
Here is the ‘Shade’ version. Her skin is not as warm, and the top and menu retain more of their original whiteness. The white levels are better as well, with less clipping on the menu and the left side of her top. This shows that often you must try several filter types and make a selection based on the results – this could have easily gone either way, given the nature of the lighting.
College campus, showing the use of the Cloudy filter. Here this choice is clearly correct. The sky is obviously cloudy <grin> and the resultant warmth added by the filter is appreciated in the scene.
This version, using the Shade scene type, is not as effective. The scene is still a bit cold, and the additional brightness added by this filter makes the sky overly bright – the general illumination now somewhat contradicts the feeling of the scene – a cool and cloudy day.
We discussed learning from our mistakes… here is why you usually don’t want to use the Concert scene type at a concert…
The Darken scene type is called for here to help with the overexposure. While it doesn’t completely fix the problem, it certainly helps.
The Darken filter used again to good effect.
This example shows a powerful feature of Camera+ the ability to layer an Effect on top of a Scene type. You can only use one of each, and you can’t put a scene on top of another scene (or an effect on top of an effect) – but the potential of changes has now multipled enormously. Here, the original scene was overexposed. A combination of the Darken scene type, followed by the HDR filter at 30% intensity made all the difference.
This shows a typical challenging scene to capture correctly – a dark interior looking out to a brightly lit exterior. In the original exposure you can see that the camera exposed for the outdoor portion, leaving the intererior very dark. The first attempt to rectify this is using the Flash scene type. While this helped the bookcases in the hall, the exterior is now totally blown out, and the right foreground is still too dark.
Here is the result of using the Night scene type. Better detail in both the hallway as well as the right foreground – and the exterior is now visible, even though still a bit overexposed.
This version uses the HDR effect filter – giving the best overall exposure between the outside, the bookcase and the foreground. Ideally, I would follow up with another app and raise the black levels a bit to bring out more detail in the shadows in the foreground and near part of the hall.
A night-blooming cactus photographed before sunrise – it’s a bit underexposed. Using the Flash scene type brings out the plant well, but the white flowers are now too hot.
The Night scene type provides a better result, with good balance between the flowers, plant and trees behind.
Using the HDR filter to attempt to improve the foreground illumination of this shot. It helps… but the typical style of this tone-mapping filter oversaturates the reds in the wood, and the foreground is still a bit dark.
And here’s another attempt, using the Flash scene type. A different set of side effects.. the sunlight on the wall is now overexposed, and the foreground is still not ideally lit. Camera+ can’t fix everything… (in this case, using a different app – PhotoForge2 – which has a powerful tool “Shadows & Highlights” did a better job. We’ll see that when we get around to discussing that app).
Here’s a good use for the Flash scene. The original is very dark, the filtered version really does look like a flash had been used.
And here’s one that didn’t work so well. The Flash filter didn’t do what a real flash would have done: illuminated the interior without making any difference at all in the exterior lighting. Here, the opposite took place: the sunset sky is blown out, yet the interior isn’t helped out any at all.
Flash scene used on shot out airplane window, takeoff from London in late twilight. Doesn’t work for me…
This time, Night was used. Less dramatic – personally I prefer the original. But it’s a good example to show how the different filters operate.
Ok, just had to try food with Food (scene type)… You can see the filter at work: whites are warmed up with more red; the potatoes now look almost like little sausages, contrast is increased. I would really like it if the Intensity sliders would be added to the Scene types as well as the Effects… here a better result would be found with about 40% of this filter dialed in, I believe…
Main street in Montagu, a little town in South Africa. The HDR filter shows how to help resolve a high contrast scene. I didn’t redo this one, but I would have had a more natural look if I had dialed back the intensity of the HDR filter to about 50%.
The Scenery filter applied to an outdoor scene.I find this too contrasty, and even the sky looks a bit oversaturated.
Here is Clarity applied to the same image. Shadow detail much improved (except right under nearest arch). However the right side of the image looks a bit ‘post-cardy’ (flat and washed out).
HDR filter applied at 35%. A different set of ‘almost but not quite’ issues… Arches in shadows are too blue, the sunlit portions are blown out, and the sky is too saturated. The trees on the right are a big improvement over the previous version (Clarity) however. Sometimes you really do need Photoshop….
This is a tough shot: extreme brightness differences – my estimate is over 14 stops of exposure – way more than the iPhone camera can handle. So it’s really a matter of how best to interpret a scene that will inevitably have both white and black clipping. I used Clarity on this version – didn’t help out the highlights at all, but did add some detail in the shadows, as well as a bit of punch to her pants.
The HDR effect was used here at 50% intensity. This brough a bit more control to at least the edges of the highlights, and still opened up the shadows. Note the difference in the shaded carpet at lower left of the image from this version to the previous one (done with Clarity). I actually prefer this version – the Clarity one seems a bit too much. Overall, I think this does a better job of this particular scene.
Showing the use of the Night scene type at the last few minutes of twilight. As is often the case, I prefer the original shot, but wanted to demonstrate the capabilities of this scene type. Technically it did a great job – it just didn’t tell the story in the same way as the original.
Now this scene is an excellent example of what the Night filter can do in the right circumstance. Almost full dark, only illumination was from store windows, streetlights and headlights.
The Night scene type bringing out enough detail to make the shot.
One more Night shot – again, a very good use of this scene type.
This is an example of ‘stacking’ two corrections on top of each other to fix a shot that really needed help. You don’t always have to use the Night scene type at night… Here, due to both underexposure and backlight, the Night filter was applied first, then HDR effect at 33% intensity on top of that. It’s not a perfect result but it definitely shows you what can be done with these tools.
The Portrait scene type applied. The contrast is too much, and the red saturation makes her skin tones look like a lobster.
A very different effect, using the So Emo filter.
Just to show what Clarity does in this instance. Again, not the best choice – the background gets too busy, and her face suffers…
Here is Portrait applied to, well, a portrait type shot. But once again the high contrast of this filter works against the best result: blown out highlights, skin tones too bright.
Sometimes you use filters in not-obvious ways: the Shade scene type was applied here, and from that we got a slight improvement in background brightness, without driving her top into clipping. You can now see some definition between her hair and the background, and the slight warmth added does not detract from the image.
The Sunset filter applied at sunset… I think this is too much. The extra contrast killed the detail in the trees at right center, and the red roof is artificially saturated now.
The Scenery filter applied at sunset. Looks a bit different than the Sunset filter, above, but has many of the same issues when used on this scene: loss of detail in the shadows, too much red saturation.
The Scenery filter at sunset. If this scene type could be ratcheted down with a slider, like is possible with the Effects, then this shot could be enhanced nicely. The original is just a tad flat looking, but the full Monty of the Scenery filter is way over the top. I would love to see what 20% of this effect would do.
This shows the Shade scene type doing exactly what it is supposed to: warm up the skin tones, add a bit of brightness. Altogether a less forlorn look…
The same shot with Clarity applied. Much punchier – while I like the detail it’s almost too much. Again, Camera+ engineers, please bring us intensity sliders for scene types!
Now here’s a use for the Sunset scene type at last. While it may not be the best storytelling tool for this particular shot, it shows the nice punch and improvement in detail and saturation this filter can provide – once the original image is basically soft enough to take the sometimes overpowering influence of this scene type.
Trying the Sunset scene type once again. If I could use this at half strength it would actually make this shot a bit more colorful – but in its current incarnation the saturation is too much.
Last Sunset for this post. I promise… but just to prove that never say never… here is a sunset where applying Sunset certainly helps the sky and water. I would like the sign not as saturated, and the increased constrast cost us the few remaining details hidden in the market building at the bottom of the frame.
This is an example of the Text scene type. Ultra high contrast – really just for what it says (or other special effect you want to create using an almost vertical gamma curve!)
Now.. one last thing before the end of this post: a very short dicussion of Digital Zoom. I have ignored this topic up until now. But it’s really really important in iPhonography (actually this affects all cellphone cameras, as well as many small inexpensive digital cameras). ‘Real’ cameras (i.e. all DSLRs and many mid-priced and up digital cameras use Optical Zoom (or as in some consumer type digital cameras, both optical and digital zoom are offered). The difference is that with optical zoom, the lens elements physically move (i.e. a real zoom lens), changing both the magnification and the field of view that is projected onto the film or digital sensor. The so-called ‘Digital Zoom’ technique is a result of physical lenses that cannot “zoom”. Cellphone lenses are too small to adjust their focal length like a DSLR lens does. Also, the optical complexity of a zoom lens is far greater than that of a prime lens (fixed focal length) – and the light-gathering power of a zoom lens is always significantly less than that of a prime lens. (You can get relatively fast zoom lenses for DSLRs… as long as you have the budget of a small country…)
What the “digital zoom” technique is actually doing is cropping the image on the CMOS sensor (using only a small portion of the available pixels), then digitally magnifying that area back out to the original size of the sensor (in pixels). For example, the iPhone sensor is 3264×2448. If one were to crop down to 50% of the original area covered by the lens (to 1632×1224) the lens would now only be covering 1/4 of the original area. Do the math: 3264×2448 is 8megapixels; 1632×1224 is now only 2megapixels. What you do get for this is an apparent ‘zoom’ – or greater percieved magnification, due to the new ‘sensor size’ and the fact that the original focal lenght of the lens has not changed. The original 35mm equivalent focal length of the iPhone camera system is 32mm – by ‘cropping/zooming’ as described, the new focal length is now 4x greater, or 128mm (in 35mm equivalent terms). However – and this is a HUGE however – you pay a large price for this: resolution and noise. You now only have a 2megapixel sensor… not the supersharp 8megapixel sensor that you started with. This is like stepping all the way back to the iPhone 3 – which had 2MP resolution. Wow! In addition, these 2megapixels are now “zoomed” back to fill the full size of the original 8MP sensor (in memory), essentially this means that each original pixel of the taking sensor now covers 4 pixels in the newly formed zoomed image. This means that any noise in the original pixel is magnified by 4 times… So the bottom line is that digital zoom ALWAYS makes noisy, low resolution images.
Now.. just like in any good sales effort, you will hear grand ‘snake oil’ stories of how good this camera or that camera does at ‘digital zoom’ – and that it’s “just as good” as optical zoom. BS. Period. You can’t change the laws of physics…. What is possible (and bear in mind that this is a really small band-aid on a big owie…) is to use some really sophisticated noise reduction and image processing algorithms to try to make this pot of beans look like filet again… and most hardware and software camera manufacturers try at some level. Yes, if such attempts succeed, then you are a LITTLE better off than you were before. Not much. So what’s the answer. Don’t use digital zoom. Just say no. Unless you can accept the consequences (noisy, low resolution images). We’ll discuss this further in the last part of this series on Tips & Techniques for iPhonography, but for now you will see why I don’t address it as a feature.
Ok, that’s it. Really. Hope you have a bit more info now about this very useful app. Many of my upcoming posts on the rest of the sofware tools for the iPhone will not be nearly as detailed, but this was an opportunity to discuss many topics that are germane to most photography apps; offer a bit of a guide to a very popular and useful app that currently publishes no manual or even a help screen, and to demonstrate the thought process involved in working with filters, lighting and so on.
Many thanks for your attention.