Archive for Reviews
When you review IOS apps you tend to experience a sense of deja vu in that so much of what you see has already been done, and done, and done… So finding new and exciting apps to share with the Current Photographer readers becomes progressively more difficult as time goes on, and so much of what I see is just a different twist on something that has already been done–and sometimes overdone. After all, my goal in writing these reviews is to share with readers apps that I actually use. And frankly, I don’t use seventeen apps that do the same thing. I select my favorite and use it.
WordFoto is not the first app of its kind that I saw. There are others out there, but I was not satisfied with them enough to actually use them for my own photos. But finding another such app ultimately led me to WordFoto.
WordFoto allows you to take or select a photo, add one or more words, and it works its magic by combining the words and photos in an attractive format. Here is a photo that I took in the app while writing this article. Yes, I stopped just now and took it, cropped it within the app, and uploaded it to Dropbox from my iPhone 4. Then I went into the “Words” menu in WordFoto and added a new word set that contains the words, “Zeke”, “cat”, and “meow”. I selected that set then went to the “Style” menu. For this photo I selected “Classic Color” and it is ready to export to the camera roll. Read More→
The first thing I noticed about LightFrame is how dodgy the viewing controls are. I tried to zoom in and out of the picture, but just ended up with a semi-zoomed-in view which was heavily distorted – not a good start. Loading up the tools in LightFrame is easy enough (assuming you guess that the “scenes” button opens up the tool palette), as is the process of using the tools themselves. Alongside the framing options, LightFrame has a number of other features, such as the ability to add a caption or sprite to the image, plus image cropping and resizing.
The textured frames in LightFrame are terrible, looking like something grabbed from a gaudy mid-90s web page. On the plus side, the plain colour frames look okay, and LightFrame’s in-built shadow creator is pretty nifty, allowing you to select the angle of light. In addition, LightFrame can create borderless frames (like the clip ones); that is, it can create the shiny effect of its real-life counterpart.
The rest of the functions in LightFrame work well enough, although the list of apps out there that will perform the exact same functions (many being free, I should add) is the size of several directories. It is also worth noting that many of LightFrame’s rivals work a great deal better. Read More→
If you are a photographer it is likely that you have at least considered signing on with a microstock agency to sell your stock photos. Some photographers make a very good living selling stock photos. But how many of us make a living selling stock photos from our iPhones? Me either. But is is possible to generate some income from photos taken on your iPhone or other smart phone?
The folks at Foap say they can make that happen. The concept is simple. Download the Foap app and sign up for an account. Then upload your photos through the app. Once your photos are approved they will be added to the Foap website where they may be purchased for $10 per download. You get $5 per purchase and Foap keeps $5. It’s pretty much that simple.
So are you ready to strike it rich by selling photos on your iPhone? My guess is that you will not. But could you generate some extra income for your iPhone photos? Perhaps. My job is not to critique the concept, but to review the application.
As a photographer, my main focus is landscapes, and my style is to try to keep my images realistic. Often, this means just using one well-balanced exposure, but at times, I need to use more than one exposure to capture what my eyes saw. Personally, I prefer to blend multiple images in Photoshop, by hand, but other photographers like the effect that HDR brings. For these folks, Photomatix is currently the king of HDR apps; amongst the challengers for Photomatix’s throne is Hydra – but is it regal material?
Hydra comes in two editions – standard and Pro – and the main differences between the two are the number of images which can be blended at one time (3 and 7 respectively), and the fact that Pro comes with Lightroom and Aperture plug-ins.
Loading images into the standalone app is easy – Hydra provides an image browsing window which allows you to view photos in your iPhoto or Aperture library, or on your hard drive. A quick drag-and-drop, and your images are ready for pre-HDR processing. The HDR-preparation process in Hydra is relatively minimal, largely consisting of EV (exposure value) and temperature adjustment, as well as manual image alignment, a crop function, and ghosting reduction controls. And just for the record, these work perfectly well.
The magic – a.k.a. HDR – happens on the develop menu. If you’re in a hurry, you can select from one of 11 presets, these ranging from “photorealistic” to “cyanotype.” For more control you can head to the adjust menu; here are all the standard image controls, which can be applied to the composite image.
There are two additional features, however, that make Hydra stand out from the crowd. The first is the option of “Snapshots.” During the HDR-adjustment process, you can make up to five different copies of your image, the idea being that you can temporarily save up to five different sets of image adjustment, and then compare them easily to choose the one that looks best. The other killer feature is “Probes.” Probes are basically local adjustments to your image, and they work in a similar way to Lightroom’s local adjustments – place a dot, and choose how large the area around it – the area to be adjusted – should be. Read More→
The original version of MacPhun’s SnapHeal app was focused purely on cloning and healing, and whilst it was a polished product, I didn’t see why Photoshop owners would want or need it. MacPhun is now releasing version 2.0, complete with new features and better processing. But do the upgrades take SnapHeal from Photoshop wannabe to Photoshop rival?
(Note: rather than reviewing 2.0 as a new app, this article will be commenting on the improvements MacPhun have added to the new version. If you’d like more information about SnapHeal, please read my original review)
Almost every part of SnapHeal has been upgraded, re-beautified or added to with new features, although many areas of change have been altered subtly or under the hood. The most noticeable non-UI change is in the area that matters most – image editing performance. Whereas previously SnapHeal was no better than Photoshop’s healing tool at cloning large areas, quite large areas can now be filled adequately using the Shapeshift function. No image editor (at present) will do a good job at removing large objects from a picture, regardless of which settings you use, but I would say that SnapHeal produces some of the most realistic cloning I’ve seen in any image editor. Having tested its abilities to remove driftwood from an image of a pebbly beach – a nightmare background for cloning – Snapheal produced a result good enough for any online use, if not for printing. That said, this isn’t cloning by hand, this is automatic, draw-a-rough-shape-and-go cloning, which makes the results very impressive. For those who want to spend time making their images pixel-perfect, SnapHeal’s brush tool is as good as anything Photoshop has to offer. As an added bonus, my tests would suggest that the new SnapHeal is quicker at processing than its predecessor.
SnapHeal 2.0 has also added full image adjustment. Happily, somewhat advanced controls such as highlights/shadows, hue and temperature adjustments are included, pushing SnapHeal into the complete image editor genre. SnapHeal’s all-rounder credentials are boosted further with the addition of a crop and resizing tool. Read More→
Since the dawn of time – well, of Photoshop, anyway – photographers have taken pictures, loaded them into their photo editor, and then seen the tempting “art” filters, only to be disappointed by them time and time again. As a result, what should be a good idea – artifying photographs – has been a technique to avoid at all costs. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 is a plug-in for Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom, which attempts to deliver a better in-computer art experience to photographers. But is it a Caravaggio, or more of a crayon?
Snap Art 3 is accessed via the filters menu, but upon activation, it springs up in a new window of its own. Unlike Photoshop’s built-in art filters, Snap Art 3 comes with a plethora of realistic options. First, you choose your favoured real-world method of putting an image on canvas. Options include pastels, watercolours and pen and ink. Each style has its own set of variables, such as paint thickness, brush stroke length and brush size. The results are very realistic and, to add a unique twist to every picture, Snap Art 3 includes a 4-digit randomisation system, which means the texture of the “canvas” can be one of 9,999 subtle variations.
Once you’ve chosen your style, you then have the option to adjust it selectively, using Snap Art 3’s in-built layer mask system. Unfortunately, this does not include adjustments such as colour or exposure, but it does allow you to change photorealism and brush effects on an area of the image, perhaps increasing the apparent realism of the artwork. Snap Art 3 does, however, include the ability to make standard adjustments to the whole artwork.
I love looking at photos. Places, people, still life, abstract…I enjoy seeing how others see the world through their camera lens. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Instagram so much. Where else can you discover the world from the comfort of your own home? That’s why I also like Trover.
With Trover, you can discover new places everyday, and post your favorite photos from the places you have been. I am just discovering this great app, but have had a good time seeing new places and recognizing photos from places that I have been.
When you post a photo, or a discovery as they call it, you may do so either by taking it from your camera or choosing from your photo library. For instance, the photo at right is one that I took out my window at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. I was able to select the location from a list. Had my location not been listed, I could have added my own. You may also add details, tips or tags to help others enjoy your discovery. You are then taken to a screen where you may post your discovery to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. Once you do that, the photo is posted on Trover for others to see.
The main menu includes the following items: Home, Your Feed, Post a Discovery, Notifications, and Invites & Settings. At the home button, you will see the Newsfeed, Friend’s Discoveries, Nearby Discoveries, What’s Hot, What’s New, Featured Discoveries, Featured Trovers, Featured Lists, Places, and Search. There is so much to discover in this app that you will find so many new places that you will want to visit. Read More→
So much of what we see in the “New and Noteworthy” in iTunes seems to be more of the same. So it’s nice to run across something unique in the App Store. Such is the case for the ArtinPhoto IOS app. This 99 cent app allows you to add a black and white sketch within your existing photo or photo taken from your IOS device. There is a free, ad-supported version also.
It’s very easy to use and, aside from the annoying photos of random hands that hold many of the available frames, it produces some very nice results. You simply choose or take a photo. Make your selection of sketch frame, sketch type, and sketch brush. Press the “Play” button, and the app does all the work for you. You can then save your photo or share it via email. Read More→
Upsizing, with current technology, is one of the thorniest tasks you can perform on an image. Photoshop can upsize your image to a limited degree without loss of too much quality, but there are numerous other specialised apps which have tried (and many have failed) to improve on Adobe’s upsizing formula. One of them, PhotoZoom Pro 4, I have already reviewed, but this review is dedicated to a competitor – AKVIS Magnifier.
AKVIS isn’t hugely pretty, but the layout of the controls within the app is sensible and clear. Your opened picture is displayed on the left, while the upsizing and adjustment tools are in a column on the right (think Lightroom). You can have one of two set-ups – express or advanced. The express set-up reduces the displayed controls to size/ppi and edge sharpness/artefact removal, whilst the advanced set-up adds sliders controlling grain, ”simplicity” (how much you want to smooth out pixelation) and edge smoothness. In the advanced set-up, there is also the option to use Unsharp Mask, but, to be honest, the last time you’d want to be sharpening your image is when you’ve just upsized it – if you use this control, watch out for jagged edges coming at you from out of the screen.
By using AKVIS’ presets, and then applying little tweaks to the controls here and there, you can get quite a usable picture, even when you upscale by 500%. Don’t get me wrong – the quality is significantly degraded, and I don’t recommend you try this stunt. For something to hang on your wall, however, the picture AKVIS produces is probably acceptable. Read More→