Tag Archives: mobile photography apps

Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Steller

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There is a wonderful visual storytelling app for both Android and iOS mobile phones called Steller. I happened across it while doing research for a course I am writing for the Academy of Art University and recently downloaded the free app to give it a test drive. Steller allows you to create beautiful visual stories with photos, video, and text and the process is straight forward and absolutely seamless.

The design is fairly minimalist and very elegant in appearance. There are currently eleven templates to choose from for designing your stories. Each one has a different look and offer several choices when it comes to the layout of your individual pages.

  

The first step is to choose a template or theme for your story.

    
You will be prompted to choose 20 videos or photographs to import into your story. You can always rearrange and edit design layout or swap out photos and videos before publishing.

 
You will choose a title and subtitle if you have one and can change the layout of your title page as well as the image that appears here.

  
You can add additional pages as video, photo or text. The recommended length of a story is around 20 pages, however you can certainly make it longer if you feel the need.

  
You can add text below images by choosing different layouts for each page.

  

Or have multiple pages of straight text if you are feeling a bit more like Mark Twain.

   
Steller is also a wonderful community filled with talented individuals and you can create collections of the stories you like and name your collections anything you desire. You can also share and comment on other Steller user’s stories and follow them, similar to Instagram.

Once you hit publish, you can share your story within the app to your plethora of social media accounts and watch the magic happen. If you are lucky and the Steller gods are smiling down upon you, your story might be handpicked by Steller’s editors to be featured in one of their collections. When this happens your exposure increases exponentially and you might even find your story going viral.

Below are a few of my own Steller stories. You will find links to view them underneath each image and if you already have the Steller app, you can find and follow me here: http://steller.co/TracyJThomas

  

My most recent Steller story on the Kootenai Pow Wow in Bonners Ferry, Idaho made it into the top 10 most viewed stories this afternoon with over 6,140 views and was featured in both the Stellerverse and the Most Viewed collections. You can view the story here: https://steller.co/s/5EeDxX32fH6 

  

This Steller story highlights some of my quirky mobile photomontage pieces. It was featured in Steller’s Creative Collection and received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5EK56vcWwGH

  

This is a story I created on the California drought that illustrates the dire situation at Folsom Lake, the reservoir that provides drinkng water for nearly half a million residents across the Sacramento region. This story also received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5DuPxgdv3Xz

Overall, I am truly impressed with the quality and ease of use of the Steller app. The only thing I don’t like is the fact you can’t embed the stories directly into WordPress blog posts. The app provides the embed code for each story, but so far the code gets stripped every time I try it and pasting a straight link into the blog does not bring the story in either. My hope is the app’s developers will soon decide to work with the WordPress embed guidelines so Steller stories will be easier to share in all their glory.

Now go out and get your free copy and start creating your own Steller stories! http://steller.co


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Big Lens

  

 

One of my favorite mobile photography apps for editing product photos is Big Lens by Reallusion, Inc. Since I am exclusively an Apple finatic, I can’t speak to the Android version of this app, however the reviews on Google Play are just as solid as they are on iTunes.

I can’t quite agree with the Developer’s claims that this app will “turn your iPhone into a professional SLR camera.” Sorry, but there is currently no app on the market that can do that. There are indeed apps that will allow you to have some similar capabilities or at least mimic fairly well the capabilities of a lower end SLR, but the bottom line is there (currently) is no comparison between an iPhone or Android and a high-end DSLR. 

There are many in the mobile photography world who would argue vehemenently against the above sentiment, however, when it comes to straight shooting there can be no argument about the quality of the end result when comparing the unedited photos side by side. The high-end DSLR will win hands down. 

The beauty of the mobile photography movement lies in the ability to edit on-the-fly. Once a mobile photo is brought into a mobile app and edited by an experienced user it then becomes more difficult to distinguish whether it was shot originally on a mobile phone or on a DSLR.

When shooting product photography, depth of field becomes an important factor if you desire professional quality and a compelling photograph. In the past I have shot product photographs for Francis Ford Coppola’s Napa Valley wineries among others. Those shoots entailed blacking out my studio windows, positioning multiple lights, scrims, reflectors, and a plethora of high-end lenses mounted on my professional DSLR. This type of job required this type of equipment since the final images needed to be sharp and of the highest resolution possible. My iPhone would definitely not have been an appropriate tool for that particular task.

At this juncture in life, like many other crafty people, I have an Etsy shop. I like to keep my store stocked up with a variety of my handmade products so this requires a lot of product photos. Now I could go the route of spending all day setting up my studio and shooting each piece with my professional setup then spending hours on Lightroom and Photoshop editing my RAW files, but honestly, I don’t bring in enough money through my Etsy shop (yet) to pay for that type of precious time committment. So I shoot with my iPhone 6 and use wonderful apps like Big Lens to edit them into more professional looking images.

I utilize Big Lens primarily for its depth of field tools and occasionally its filters. There are several camera apps that allow you to adjust DOF in-camera while shooting, however I like to take straight shots in order to edit them any way I desire post shoot. Below I outline the process for how I use this app to edit a photograph of a piece of my handmade jewelry.

  
You can shoot with the Big Lens app but I prefer to shoot with ProCamera. When I am ready to edit my product photos I bring a photo into the Big Lens app by choosing “Load Photo” and import from my camera roll. The “Basic” and “Advanced” buttons are your choice for masking. I always use the “Advanced” button since it provides me with fine control over what I want masked in my image. 

  
Before I begin to mask, I choose the “Brush” tool in order to adjust the size of the brush. This allows me to better control the edges of the mask.

  
In the above screenshot, for the sake of example, I am only masking a portion of my bracelet. You can utilize the “Eraser” button to be even more precise with your edges or boundaries of your mask if needed.

  
I personally like to mask some of the foreground in order to create a leading line from bottom of the image towards the focal point.

  
The above is an exaggerated example of how the masking feature works. With the current settings The DOF is extreme and the transition is not very smoothe. The leading line is sharp focus and the edges fall off the cliff into an extreme blur.

  
This blur transition and intensity can be adjusted via the “Aperture” setting by choosing different F-stops and adjusting the slider until you are satisfied with the result.

  
Above is an example of the change from 100% in F1.8 to around 30% in F2.8. A bit smoother transition.

  
Once I have the DOF adjusted to where I desire, I then add one of the filters. I usually choose the “Vivid” filter so the colors will pop a bit more.

  
The colors are now popping after adding 100% Vivid to the photograph.

  

The app also allows you to adjust the “Lens” style. In other words you can create a circular blur, star-shaped blur, heart blur, etc. if you feel so inclined.  Additional tools allow you to adjust for focus and amount of blur.

  
 

There is also the ubiquitous “HDR” button on the top of the app. While some people like this feature, I do not like it in this app because it provides you with few options to adjust the intensity of the HDR effect such as contrast. Although the bright pink color is nice in the above photo, it is not true to the piece itself so I would not use this result to post on my shop.

  
One of the last wonderful things this app offers is the ability to save your images in full resolution. A very important feature when you want to present sharp, professional images.

Overall I would rate this easy to use app as a 4+. It is user-friendly, intuitive, and fun to use!

Oh, and you can purchase the handmade, hemp braided, beaded, Boho Chic, friendship bracelet featured in these photos on my Etsy shop along with much more here! 🙂

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Click here or on image to purchase your copy today!

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Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Juxtaposer

  
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One of my favorite mobile photography editing apps is Juxtaposer. This app is the mobile photomontage artist’s dream app. It was Juxtaposer that first opened the doors of my creative imagination when I transitioned to shooting and editing with an iPhone. For years I had used Photoshop for traditional DSLR photography editing and had played with a few montage creations. However, I found the use of PS for this type of editing to be time consuming, tedious, and it had a steep and somewhat complicated learning curve for the tasks involved.

I first noticed a number of mobile artists creating amazing photomontage work on the iPhoneArt.com website back in 2011. I was blown away by what these artists were creating on their iPhones and ultimately iPads. I followed several conversations and soon learned about the Juxtaposer app. From the first day I downloaded the app I was hooked. At the time the app was iPhone only and the iPhone screens were not nearly as large as they are today. So imagine me bent over my miniscule iPhone screen erasing details of photographs in order to save one small piece as a stamp to combine with another background photo. Talk about tedious! But the fact I could use my fingers to pinch and zoom and an inexpensive stylus to touch up the details made the experience fun and a lot cheaper than Photoshop and a Wacomm tablet. Plus I could say that I created these pieces from start to finish on my iPhone!

 **A few of the pieces I have created with the Juxtaposer app and favorite texture apps.**

As time went, on my iPhone photomomtage pieces all created with Juxtaposer and a few texture apps, began to place in competitions and find their way into galleries, private collections, and publications around the globe. After taking a break from several productive years creating mobile art, I have recently migrated back to using Juxtaposer on my iPad to create illustrations for a new book I am in the process of writing. The fact I can edit with this app on my iPad has improved the user experience ten-fold. Below are some of the steps I took in the app when creating a piece for the book. **Note: this piece is far from finished but I thought it would be fun to share a work in progress while highlighting this app.**

First I chose the base elements that would go into my photomontage based on a concept I had in mind.  

 

**This is the background photo I chose. I shot this several years back in Baja, Mexico.**

 **I decided I wanted this baby carriage as part of the scene. I shot this photo in a vintage auto parts store many years back.**

I opened Juxtaposer, started a new session, and I chose my bottom and top images and imported.  

  

I needed to erase everything on the top layer but the baby carriage. To do this I chose the eraser button and began to pinch and zoom the top image in order to get in close to the edges for detail.

  

When I was happy with the results, I saved the top image as a stamp so I could use it again in the future. I also decided to flip the carriage so it angled towards the cactus for better composition (another tool I love in this app).

   
   

After saving my newly created base scene, I added my main character, The Borg, from my saved stamps.

   
  

 

I then began to add more stamps to the scene, in this case the hat and pacifier.

   
      

Now that I have incorporated all my main core elements I will continue to touch the scene up by adding shadows to anchor the carriage a bit better to the ground so it doesn’t appear to be floating plus a few more items to finish the scene to my liking. This will be followed by importing the piece into a few of my favorite mobile photo texture apps.

A few of the other tools in Juxtaposer are the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, opacity, blend modes, and brush settings. my favorite feature of all is the unerase button which comes in handy when attempting to erase close to the edges. Unlike a reset button, it allows you to unerase small parts of your top layer and does not reverse all the work you just painstakingly labored over.

  
All in all Juxtaposer is a fun app with an intuitive interface for both the beginner and advanced mobile artist.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Zen in the Garden by Tracy J.  Thomas

Zen in the Garden

by Tracy J. Thomas

Giveaway ends May 24, 2015.

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Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Periscope by Twitter

  

So there’s this new app by Twitter called “Periscope.” It is not a photography app per se, but it does utilize your iPhone’s  video camera and opens up the world of on-the-go live broadcasting. Normally, I am not an in front of the camera chat type. As a photographer I would much rather hide behind the lens unless I am connecting with clients over Skype or giving an online lecture or interview. But there’s something different about Periscope that has enticed me to jump head first into the world of live broadcasts.

The first thing I loved when I downloaded the app was the easy to understand interface. It is very intuitive with just three simple icons across the bottom. 

  

The first is a television icon which is naturally where you watch live and recorded broadcasts. 

  

The next icon is what appears to be a camera with a small red dot which when pushed takes you to the broadcast screen. The third is your standard people icon that provides you with a list of your Twitter peeps and those on Periscope who are currently the “Most Loved” (those who have accumulated the most likes over time).

  

When you are ready to broadcast, you push the camera icon. On the broadcast screen you will see a Google maps button if you want to broadcast your location, a lock icon if you want to invite specific followers to a private broadcast, and a Twitter button so a Tweet will be sent out to your Twitter peeps letting them know you are doing a broadcast. 

  

At the top of the broadcast screen you type in an enticing title or whatever you want, then click “Start Broadcast” and off you go, instant live streaming 

  

During your broadcast if you have been lucky enough to garner followers and users who see your live broadcast listed on Periscope or Twitter, their names will begin to pop up on your screen as they join in to watch. If they like what they see, your watchers can tap their screens multiple times and little heart bubbles will suddenly begin to appear and float up towards the top (kind of like a standing ovation). This of course is a great motivator to continue your broadcast. Your audience can also text you questions and comments while you are recording and you can interact with them instantly with your spoken voice.

   

   

 

When you are finished with your live broadcast all you do is swipe down on your screen and choose “Stop Broadcasting.” Your video will then save to Periscope and will be viewable for 24 hours under the television icon for people to view later. You can see the number of viewers that watched your saved broadcast when you click on the video in Periscope under the television icon. 

 

If you want to, you can choose to save all your broadcast videos to your own camera roll automatically as well. The only thing that won’t appear on the videos That are saved to your phone are all the hearts, user names and comments. So if you did a broadcast and had lots of verbal interaction with those written comments and you decide to post that video to your YouTube channel, you might want to preface it with a bit of explanation so viewers won’t think you have lost your marbles. Or not. It’s your seemingly one-way conversationS just might go viral :).

I encourage you to download this app and give it a try. I am having great fun with it and believe it to be an invaluable way to connect with your readers, followers, clients, or audience. The tagline for this app is “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes.” We each have our unique way of seeing and I look forward to experiencing the world as you see it. 

Feel free to follow me on Periscope. My user name is Tracy J. Thomas. I can use all the hearts you are willing to give. You can also connect with me on Twitter: @tjthomasphoto.


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Tintype by Hipstamatic



** “Santa Clause is Dead” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

Since I shoot a lot of mobile photos I decided to start a series of posts where I chat about my favorite mobile photography apps. This first post will focus on my current fave, the Tintype app by Hipstamatic. 

From the first day I downloaded this app to my iPhone I fell in love. It is a basic point and shoot app that captures in black and white and adds plate grain and depth of field with no on-the-fly in-camera adjustments. The true magic happens after you shoot your photo with the ability in app to edit such things as style (black and white, color or sepia), crop square, adjust plate grain, sharpen the eyes if it is a portrait, and adjust depth of field.



** “The Ticket Booth” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

I have used this app quite a bit for shooting landscapes and portraits but lately I have been using this camera app to shoot street photos. It has caused me to slow down and become a more deliberate shooter since it takes some time to save each photo to the camera roll. It gives me time to think about composition and to keep my eyes open to what is happening around me.



** “The Red Shoes” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

The app does not shoot well in low light. Under those circumstances, if you shoot with another camera app such as Manual or 645 Pro where you can make ISO or Apeture adjustments you can pull the photo into Tintype to edit and apply this wonderful vintage look later.