Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Fixing" a photo with a free app

I don't spend a lot of time using Photoshop for "effects". I mainly use it to correct minor tweaks to brightness and levels, cropping, and the odd pimple or two. I spend my effort on getting it right before I take the photo. Other than that? Not so much. But the kids these days are obsessed with Instagram, Hipstamatic, and the like, because a crappy cell phone photo is always better when the warts are obscured, right? [Insert visual of Yours Truly yelling at an empty chair, or telling passers-by to get off my lawn.] Anyway, I don't use my phone for photos because it is a crappy camera and I have a good camera. But I know a technology speed bump when I see one, so I thought it would be well for me to spend a little time playing with a free app to "fix" my photos.

I revisited one of my all-time favorite portraits using Snapfish, a free Android app for my tablet. It has all sorts of ways to take a good photo and add clutter and noise and bad color and random light leaks (because $10 Diana cameras are hip(ster)).

OK, all snark aside, I parked my butt in a coffee shop with my tablet and four or five of my favorite photos. Alas, they are mostly nudes of people who really should not have nudes of them floating around on the Interwebs, so you do not get to see them. I ran each through Snapfish to see what I could do with them, and to see if there really was any artistic merit to it. I wanted to create a faux vintage effect with either B&W or sepia tones, some film grain, a bit of softness (Vaseline on the lens?) and a bit of telephoto vignetting. Here is the result (the original is linked above).

What do I like about it? The blackness of the water and the soft blurring of the reflection I like a lot. The blown-out skin tones reduces the tan lines and sunburn a bit, so the viewer might not even notice it in a casual viewing. The detail in the hair was brought out nicely.

Things I don't like - but are choices I made, so they're my fault - is that the grain is heavy handed. The brightness is pushed to far, and I'll call that a consequence of my tablet having the brightness dimmed versus my Mac's screen. The faux sloppy print at the edges and light leak is...amateur. No one worth his salt would print that sloppy. Hell, I only darkroom printed twenty or thirty (B&W) images in my lifetime and none of them were that sloppy. One such print did have that much grain, though it was a very deliberate choice to have it. I was being an artistic twenty year old with a 35mm, and in retrospect, it reminds me of the opening sequence of the recent James Bond movie "Casino Royale": Harsh and gritty.

So the end result of my delightful afternoon is an image I like. If I were doing it again - within the realm of possibility - I would do some things differently. It was my first day playing with a free app after all. When all is said and done, it really is a lovely photograph.

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