Starting out with Apps

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From previous posts you'll have picked up that using my i phone as a "serious" camera is pretty new to me. I've a vague recollection of having a go at with Hipstamatic years ago but never really fathomed it out. Since then nothing. Shoot and post...cos the i phone was just for family and fun stuff.

Before I set out a couple of weeks ago to try take some street shots with my phone I browsed around for some tips. One of the things that quickly became obvious was that many of the serious phone photographers enhance their shots with Apps. So lets go get some.

Search "camera" in the App store and you just get flooded. I can make people fat, old, a sketch or a cartoon character. I can make my images into collages, mirror images, panoramas as well as loads of apps offering to be the best photo editing going. Clearly I need some help here, more research required. I looked about to see what i phone photographers whose work I admire use and came up with three Apps that seemed to be popular and decided to give them a go; Snapseed, 1-Hour Photo and Manual.

Snapseed, owned by Google, is free for i phones, i pads and androids and of the three; the one I have found most useful. Its really easy to learn and can do pretty much most the the things I need. You can crop, straighten, rotate and play about with colour saturation, lighting, exposure all really easily. It also has filters, some more useful than others. In fact only one has been useful for me; the black and white filter. It has stuff like grainy, HDR, vintage etc so if you like those things they are there. It also has a blur filter. I would use this but so far I can't see a way of making it blur in the way I want. It seems to do a circular target zone which I can make more intense or wider. and that's it.

1-Hour Photo is also free for i phones. There is loads about this App that might make you think its just all a bit gimmicky. Its key selling point is that it makes you wait an hour before you see the results; like in the old days when you had to wait for a film to be developed. It has a really limited number of changes you can make and converts all the images you take with it to black and white. No selfies. You can only shoot through the back of the camera. You can have an exposure slider or auto expose, turn the flash on or off and touch screen focus. But apart from that what you see is what you get. But so far I've been really happy with the results. The quality of the black and white images is really nice. So for black and white, when the composition is right and you don't want to play about with whats in front of you this is perfect and (weirdly) it is fun waiting an hour to see what you got.

I thought Manual was going to be the one I would use most but the truth is I did a couple of practice shots with it and that's all. Being used to working with a DSLR camera which I normally use in manual mode I really thought I would need this App. To be fair, this is probably more to do with what I have been shooting recently. Street photography tends to be about catching the moment, being observant, discreet and quick. Manual is about playing about with the camera settings to create the shot you want. So engaged portraits, posed shots, still life and the like are probably where it comes into its own. You can change the exposure, shutter speed, ISO, focus, it even has a little histogram. I found it a bit fiddly to operate. The settings are a bit close together and seem to flash past. I kept hitting the wrong one. It's also the only App I had to pay for (£1.27). I am going to hold onto it for a bit longer as I don't think I have given it a fair trial yet.

However, I have an admission to make. Old habits die hard. Whilst I have been using the Apps for some shots; all the street shots I have posted on my Flickr account in the last few weeks were taken with my i phone but edited on my Mac using Photoshop. Snapseed allows me to edit an image immediately and post it within minutes of taking it but the whole process takes place on the tiny i phone screen which leaves me feeling nervous about the quality of the image if its viewed a large screen. Will there be some glaring horror I've been unable to see on the small screen.

So up until yesterday my IOS apps were being used solely for the images I have been uploading to my newly resurrected Instagram account. Then, yesterday, I got a request from Bob Weil from wanting to feature one of my images in their weekly selection. I was so chuffed but sadly they only use images produced solely on IOS devices so, as it had been edited in Photoshop, they couldn't use it. What a bummer. So maybe its time to let go of Photoshop for a while and develop my App confidence.