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Friday 5 August 2016

Digital Manipulation with Collage

I have been making some collages out of magazines as backgrounds for my photographs but I made one which didn't seem to work with most of the photographs I came up with:

This is the best I got blending it with a photograph and using the apps iColorama, SketchClub, Bicasso and Repix:

But I decided to rework it with paint and see what I could do so this is the original collage which has been painted over:

Instead of trying to combine it with a photo I decided to just manipulate it in iColorama using Edges, Threshold and Style>Shape. After blending all of these together and applying a paper texture this was my final result:

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Part 3: The Six Categories of Photo Apps

1 - Camera Apps
I use Camera+ if I want a high resolution photo otherwise I go with the standard camera app on the iPhone which is pretty good if you want auto. If I want old film effects then there is Hipstamatic which has an entire following of people. Can end up to be expensive if you go for a lot of the film effects but quite addictive.

Then there are lots of camera apps which give special effects when you take the photo or you can also use them afterwards. Two of these that I use are AremaC by Dominik Seibold. Has endless choices that users have designed that you can download. The second is ColourBurn by Xiaodong Wang. Often use a silhouette from this to blend with another photo.

 2 - Tuning or Photo Enhancement App
If you have a photo that requires just a little improvement than Snapseed is the way to go. It's free and does such a great job of improving the basics like contrast, highlights, shadows and colour. The criticism by high end users is that it only saves in .jpg but for the ordinary person in the street it's less of a concern. If you start with a high resolution image it will still save it at the same resolution but as a .jpg and most people are taking photos as .jpgs in the first place so there is only a slight loss of quality if this is the only save you make.

However, top artists will often want to take their image into lots of apps to do various manipulations and then they want it in a 'lossless' format where the image does not degrade each time you save it. These formats are .png or .tiff. Images are taken with an app like Camera+ which allows you to save photos as a high resolution .tiff file. Then they will take their image into apps which allow you to save as .png or .tiff file. So many will use Enlight instead of Snapseed which allows this.

3 - Repair, Healing and Selection Apps
Facetune by Lighttricks - you can't do without this for improving facial features in my mind.

Healing and Clone
Photoshop Fix by Adobe - free so go for it. Does a good job of healing.
HandyPhoto and Retouch by Adva-Soft - both good for healing. Cloning a bit tricky. HandyPhoto also does selections, extends photos and more.

Selections (I use all of these for different selections)

Eraser by HandyCloset (make sure you get the right one!) - good for removing a colour because of it's threshold slider.
Photoshop Mix by Adobe - free - good for distinct shapes like a red flower against a green background. You have to press your finger on the screen to see the back photo which I find annoying but it is good and you can have more than one layer.
Superimpose by Pankaj Goswami - also good for one colour removal and more complex cuts but I tend to use a sketch app for complex cuts these days.

4 - Sketch App with Layers
A sketch app is mostly used to make a drawing from scratch or to paint on top of an existing photograph but it is well worth learning a good sketch app as a repair tool or to add back definition. If an image is slightly blurred in places, it is possible to make it sharper by taking it into a sketch app and drawing around the blurred object with it's colour or even with a thin line of black. Also, I will patch over a problem area with the necessary colour - sometimes what you need rather than healing or clone.

Personally I think the best sketch app around is Proceate because it's so incredibly powerful and has so many tools and allows more layers than any other app I know. It is also being continually developed by it's makers so it gets better all the time. However, this also means that it has a steep learning curve. If you know you are going to be drawing a lot then persevere with this but if you want an easier sketch app that you can pick up easily I would go for SketchClub. I started with this one and although I probably am starting to use Procreate more, I love the Sketchy pencil in SketchClub which is more forgiving than the brushes in Procreate and for an outline I often go here.

5 - Painting/Effects App
There are so many of these but by far the best is iColorama. So much you can do in this app but again like Procreate there is quite a steep learning curve. The developer is also continually updating this with new features so it's worth getting to know this app well too. The secret is just to try out different options on a photo. Open a photo in iColorama, go to a menu option like Style, choose an effect like Flow and just click on each of the presets and see what they do. Mess around with all the sliders. An effect doesn't always work with every photo so try another photo and go through all the presets with this as well. The more you try things out the more you will learn what you can do with it.

I use the blending options a lot with iColorama. Open a photo, go to Effects, then Blend. At the bottom right there is an option to choose another photo, select a texture photo from your camera roll and then blend it by going through all the presets on the bottom right. If it doesn't work very well, try another texture. Remember to try all the sliders again.

Although I use iColorama as my basic painting app, I use a lot of other ones to finish off an image or to try something different along the way:

Blending Apps or Double Exposure
Union by Pixite - another of my favourite blending apps
Diana by Stettiner Games - just a fun way to see if you can come up with a good double exposure combo. It randomly blends photos in your camera roll but you can lock one and randomly choose the other.

Manual Painting
Repix by Sumoing - One of my favourites. Often use it at the end of my edit to spice up an image.
CleverPainter by SU BINGXI
PaintCan by Adobe (free but low resolution - pity)

Becasso by Digital Masterpieces
Glaze by Gilles DESEUSTRE
Brushstroke by Code Organa
Artomation by futurala
Aerograph and Imaengine both by Luis Manuel Rivas
Superphoto by Moonlighting - has some great effects but requires a high spec ipad like the iPad Pro

Geometric Shapes, Lines etc
Matter, Tangent and Fragment by Pixite - don't use them much but has some stunning effects.
Trimaginator by Paul Ollivier - again, don't use much but have had some excellent results when I have needed it. Quite extreme results.

6 - Grunge/Texture Apps
Stackables by Samer Azzam - the one I use the most for adding grunge or textures
Shift by Pixite - use this one a lot too
Mextures by Merek Davis Com - not my favourite but liked by many
DistressedFX by We Are Here - again not one I use much but used by others

Of course you can always use Union, iColorama, Procreate and SketchClub to blend your own textures into your photos. Have a look online for photo textures but take note of any copyright requirements. One of my favourite places to get them is Shadowhouse Creations (He gives them free but do donate if you use a lot of them - he deserves it!).

So that's about it. In my next posts I will post some pics done with these apps.

Part 2: Must have apps for Photo Manipulation: the Photo Apps

Unlike Photoshop where you can do everything in one piece of software, apps on devices usually have a specific function and sometimes you might only use an app once every 3 months but at that point it's an app you might really need, like Handy Photo for example, which enables you to extend the side (or sides) of a photo, guessing what might be there. If you have a photo and need a bit more sky, you drag out the top border and it automatically fills in more sky if that is what was there in the first place (it also happens to do a good job of getting rid of objects in a photo you don't want amongst other things). However, there are some apps which do more than others.

Five Top Photo Apps
If someone said I could only have 5 photo apps on my iPad, these are the ones I would choose and I will explain later.  A tuning/enhancement app (Snapseed - free - but I might go for Enlight because of it's lossless format), a sketch app with layers (SketchClub or many others would choose Procreate and I would too if I knew it better!), a painting/effects app (iColorama - no contest here), a selection/cut out app (difficult one but probably Eraser - but I use Superimpose and Photoshop Mix as much), a healing app to take away unwanted spots or objects (Handy Photo only because of it's ability to extend photos otherwise it would be Photoshop Fix which is free).

3 Free Apps that cover all your photo improvement requirements
If you only want to improve your images and not actually give them painterly looks you can get by with totally free apps: Snapseed, Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix.

Image Resolution
Before I get started on the apps themselves in Part 3, I want to talk about image resolution. If your intention is to print your photo manipulations or sell them on the internet, you need to make sure they are saved in high resolution so they still look clear when you print them. Be aware that some apps will reduce resolution when they process your images so always check your image size after processing with an app using the ViewExif app mentioned in Part 1.

Also, every time you save a .jpg file, you lose some definition so if possible save your file as a .png or .tiff file right from the start. If I am going to do a lot of manipulation to an image and it has a low resolution to start off with I will increase it's size right from the beginning. Sometimes increasing the size distorts the photo but as I often make significant changes to the photo anyway this doesn't worry me. However, if you want to just 'tune' a photo a bit - increase the contrast or colour etc - there is a limit to how much you can increase the size without it distorting. You have to accept that it's just not going to be an image you can make a large print of and put on your wall.

Big Photo by Zynsoft Inc
In my mind this is the best app for resizing your image whether you want to make it smaller or larger. Also, it is another app I use to view information about my photo. However, I have saved a couple of blank canvasses at high resolution (using SketchClub or Procreate) and will often bring my photo into these to get the right size and placement - only if I am going to change it a lot though. Otherwise I will use Big Photo if I by chance am forced to do it at the end which I try to avoid. As I mentioned before resizing it considerably will cause it to distort because the app has to work out how to fill in the pixels and it doesn't always get it right.

Saturday 9 July 2016

PART 1: A list of must-have photo apps: Before you even start manipulating your photos

Many people ask me what apps I use for my photo manipulation so I have put together a list of ones I use currently. It varies from year to year because new ones come on the market or old ones get better and vice versa. Remember that everybody has a different list and these are my preferences. Also, apps that are good now might not be good in the future. Here's Part 1...
AppZapp by ConIT AG
Firstly, a lot of apps add up in terms of cost so if you want to save a couple of pennies download the AppZapp app which will tell you when apps are going free or cheaply - you can set up the app to contact you if an app you are interested in goes cheaply or free. Be warned it is addictive to pick up apps! Also, the Apps Gone Free site:

Let me start by encouraging you to use your own photos as much as possible in your art. It means you never have to worry about copyright and it really is your own art. If you go out one day with the purpose of just taking photos it's surprising how much you can find. I did a 365 day photo project and had thousands of photos at the end of a year that I could make use of. Keep your iphone at the ready and take photos whenever you get the chance. Even just photography stuff around your house like fruit, vegetables, crockery etc.

Here's a couple of jugs:


After in 15 minutes

Camera + by tap tap tap
A good manipulation almost always starts with a good photo. The iPhone camera app is very good but if you want one that enables you to have manual control and also enables you to save at high resolution look no further than Camera+. And if you want to understand all the controls watch Jack Hollingsworth's videos on Focus, Exposure and White Balance: Also, to get inspired and see what you can do with an iPhone watch his picture perfect photos on youtube Adorama TV:

Hipstamatic by Hipstamatic
Want to take retro shots or apply interesting old camera effects this is the one to go for. Check out Hipstography to see what you can do. The drawback is that after buying the App, you have to buy the different films and lenses to get the effects (combos). Start off with one or two of their retro packs to get going. Also in the new version you can change the effects you have applied or remove them completely.

Here are two photos taken with different effects in Hipstamatic.

Photo Transfer Pro by Bitwise
If you take a lot of photos on your iPhone backing up is an absolute must - don't delay - do it now! If you have a Mac, you can link up your iPhone and copy your photos straight across but if you have a PC, Photo Transfer Pro is a must. Also, you can transfer photos across from an android device to an iPad for example not just over wifi but using bluetooth (you can obviously do this between iPad and iPhone too - don't forget Airdrop for this also).

ViewExif by Steven Zhang
I can't understand why Apple doesn't make it easier for us to see info about our photos in the picture viewer. However, this app will show you all the info about the photo from within the photo viewer. Once you have installed the app, you can open it and it will show you how to set it up in the settings. Then you can go into the picture viewer, tap the share button (box with the up arrow), tap ViewExif and see all the info about the photo's settings as well as the name, size and date.

 Next, is Part 2 where I start getting into the nitty gritty of the apps I use for photo manipulation...

Friday 8 July 2016

More Collage Papers

Spent today doing more magazine collage papers, altering them with paint this time. Took a photo of a collection of them and did a quick manipulation on the iPad using this and a photo of a tree and bird I had.

This was the original group of papers that I photographed:

I cropped this and went into iColorama applied Vibrancy, High, Simplify and Flat. Here are two versions.

I then went into Union and used the last one as a background, the former one as a foreground and I added my black and white tree and bird silhouette as a mask. I then added a moon. After a bit more playing around in iColorama I produced these three versions:

This last one I tuned up a bit in Repix.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Collage Course

I'm doing an online collage course the next couple of weeks with Laura Lein-Svencner and am enjoying it immensely. We started making some of our initial magazine collage papers this week and I couldn't resist photographing the papers and blending three of them together. Here are a couple of the results: