Composition Techniques – Framing

Thoughts on Framing

As a Composition Technique

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Lots of example images

Maybe a few will give you some ideas

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Here are some thoughts on the use of framing as a composition technique. (Click on images to enlarge.)

12mm lens about 8 inches from Darling’s (her name) nose

1. Framing provides several benefits including:

  • Provide a sense of time and place. In the examples of part 1, we immediately know that it’s spring. This, in turn, may trigger viewer emotions and memories of spring in another time and place.
  • Photographs are 2-dimensional. As photographers one of our biggest challenges is to add depth to our images. A frame in the foreground is an immediate sign to the viewer’s brain that the scene, in reality, has depth.
  • Add a foreground element of interest.
  • Focus the viewer’s eye on the subject

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2.The frame can be anything

  • Natural

  • Placed on diagonal for dynamic effect
  • Waited for nearly an hour for this moon alignment
  • Blade overlapping heron’s leg is not good

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  • Man made

  • A frame within a frame within…

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  • Human

  • Is there any doubt as to the subject; the rest is framing and context
  • Embellishment on an otherwise  typical landscape image

__________________________________________________________

  • Try a lighted subject surrounded by dark toned shapes for a dramatic effect
  • Are those needles overlapping the moon a problem? See “separation” further on in this section.

__________________________________________________________

  • Use your imagination; there are lots of frames out there if you look for & see them
  • Note the clear separation, no overlap between all of the (4) major elements. This is why we use tripods – composition and not camera shake.
  • A obvious frame except to the hordes of tourists (I waited for) clustered around the statue taking snapshots.
  • The pine branches are more for depth than framing
  • Look around, frames pop up in the most unusual places

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3. You can use a frame

  • That’s a natural complement to the subject and overall scene, or
  • What could be more natural than this?
  • Two months after I took and posted this image, I saw a nearly identical version in the Washington Post.

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  • One that’s a stark contrast of a man-made object framing a scene of pure nature, or vice versa.
  • Mary’s Rock tunnel, Skyline Drive

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4. Look for a frame whose outline/contour roughly approximates the shape of the object being framed for a pleasing effect.

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5. Separation – this applies to composition in general. Be sure to maintain separation between the frame and important elements of the scene. In particular, do not have the framing element overlap the main subject – a slight overlap might come across as a careless mistake. Go back & look at the moon silhouetted by pines – with a few overlapping pine needles. Does that example suggest that there are exceptions to every rule or does it prove the rule?

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6. The frame can be in or out of focus. The shoot-through technique we considered in the craftsmanship section on focus would be an example of an out of focus frame. Recall, however, the out of focus foreground elements can be tricky if not done well as the human vision system does not “accept” them readily. The good news here is that the eye is drawn most naturally to the area of greatest contrast – in the case of an out-of-focus frame, it’s drawn quickly (albeit possibly troubled) to the subject. When the frame and subject are both in focus there’s the risk of the viewer wondering which is the subject. You pays your money & takes your chances.

Stopped down wide-angle for greater depth of field

Wide open telephoto shoved into the blossoms for shallow DOF

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7. Be Bold. As I mentioned previously, half-hearted attempts at creativity often will be viewed as a mistake. For example, don’t use a frame consisting of a few leaves peeking in from the edge of your image. That will look like an error – one where you failed to examine the edges of your viewfinder for potential infringements and distractions. Try reflections as in the next examples.

My first image with a then new 12 mm lens. Made from just a few inches from the mirror. Needed a subject that would take advantage of “wide” and also demonstrate the large depth of field possible with wide-angle lenses.

Windows – either looking through or with reflections – are good sources of frames (pun?)

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8. Usually, framing is done best with a wide(r) angle lens – but not always. These two images demonstrate perspective, an important element of composition which we’ll address in detail later. For now, look at the two images closely.  The top image was made with a wide-angle (16 mm) and the bottom with a telephoto (135 mm). The line of sight was identical for each, I just moved farther from the gazebo for the bottom image (about twice the distance as compared to the upper image).  In this case the cherry tree framing is probably more effective with the telephoto – but it’s a function of the framing (a less than stellar choice which was made to illustrate this point). Notice how the telephoto compresses distances from front to rear –  with the telephoto the foreground trees appear to be almost in line with one another. It also reduces the angle of view side to side – note that the pond and the red trees beyond the pond in the wide-angle image are completely off the left side of the frame in the telephoto. This is one effect of zooming with a lens as opposed to zooming with your feet. Try this yourself!

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9. The compositional framing device, unlike traditional picture mats & frames, does not have to completely surround the scene/subject. Any single side/top/bottom or combination can be used effectively. Look through all of the previous images for examples of just about every combination.

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Composition Techniques – Framing

Yesterday’s post – “…. more than just a subject”

Mentioned framing

Today we have a post from the blog’s early days

An in-depth illustration of framing from April 2010

.

_____ Here is that old post _____

Here are some thoughts on the use of framing as a composition technique. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Consider doing the above rather than the one below

The fence is there for a reason 😉

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And the same with this next pair

In each pair –

One is a well composed image

One is a documentary image – see what I saw

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1. Framing can provide several benefits including –

  • Provide a sense of time and place. In the examples of part 1, we immediately know that it’s spring. This, in turn, may trigger viewer emotions and memories of spring in another time and place.
  • Photographs are 2-dimensional. As photographers one of our biggest challenges is to add depth to our images. A frame in the foreground is an immediate sign to the viewer’s brain that the scene, in reality, has depth.
  • Add a foreground element of interest.
  • Focus the viewer’s eye on the subject

__________________________________________________________

2.The frame can be anything

  • Natural
  • Placed on diagonal for dynamic effect
  • Waited for nearly an hour for this moon alignment
  • Blade overlapping heron’s leg is not good

__________________________________________________________

  • Man made
  • A frame within a frame within…

__________________________________________________________

  • Human
  • Is there any doubt as to the subject; the rest is framing and context
  • Embellishment on an otherwise  typical landscape image

__________________________________________________________

  • Try a lighted subject surrounded by dark toned shapes for a dramatic effect
  • Are those needles overlapping the moon a problem? See “separation” further on in this section.

__________________________________________________________

  • Use your imagination; there are lots of frames out there if you look for & see them
  • Note the clear separation, no overlap between all of the (4) major elements. This is why we use tripods – composition and not camera shake.
  • A obvious frame except to the hordes of tourists (I waited for) clustered around the statue taking snapshots.
  • The pine branches are more for depth than framing
  • Look around, frames pop up in the most unusual places

__________________________________________________________

3. You can use a frame

  • That’s a natural complement to the subject and overall scene, or
  • What could be more natural than this?
  • Two months after I took and posted this image, I saw a nearly identical version in the Washington Post.

__________________________________________________________

  • One that’s a stark contrast of a man-made object framing a scene of pure nature, or vice versa.
  • Mary’s Rock tunnel, Skyline Drive

__________________________________________________________

4. Look for a frame whose outline/contour roughly approximates the shape of the object being framed for a pleasing affect.

__________________________________________________________

5. Separation – this applies to composition in general. Be sure to maintain separation between the frame and important elements of the scene. In particular, do not have the framing element overlap the main subject – a slight overlap might come across as a careless mistake. Go back & look at the moon silhouetted by pines – with a few overlapping pine needles. Does that example suggest that there are exceptions to every rule or does it prove the rule?

__________________________________________________________

6. The frame can be in or out of focus. The shoot-through technique we considered in the craftsmanship section on focus would be an example of an out of focus frame. Recall, however, the out of focus foreground elements can be tricky if not done well as the human vision system does not “accept” them readily. The good news here is that the eye is drawn most naturally to the area of greatest contrast – in the case of an out-of-focus frame, it’s drawn quickly (albeit possibly troubled) to the subject. When the frame and subject are both in focus there’s the risk of the viewer wondering which is the subject. You pays your money & takes your chances.

Stopped down wide angle for greater depth of field

Wide open telephoto shoved into the blossoms for shallow DOF

__________________________________________________________

7. Be Bold. As I mentioned previously, half-hearted attempts at creativity often will be viewed as a mistake. For example, don’t use a frame consisting of a few leaves peeking in from the edge of your image. That will look like an error – one where you failed to examine the edges of your viewfinder for potential infringements and distractions. Try reflections as in the next examples.

My first image with a then new 12mm lens. Made from just a few inches from the mirror. Needed a subject that would take advantage of “wide” and also demonstrate the large depth of field possible with wide angle lenses.

Windows – either looking through or with reflections – are good sources of frames (pun?)

__________________________________________________________

8. Usually, framing is done best with a wide(r) angle lens – but not always. These two images demonstrate perspective, an important element of composition which we’ll address in detail later. For now, look at the two images closely.  The top image was made with a wide-angle (16mm) and the bottom with a telephoto (135mm). The line of sight was identical for each, I just moved farther from the gazebo for the bottom image (about twice the distance as compared to the upper image).  In this case the cherry tree framing is probably more effective with the telephoto – but it’s a function of the framing (a less than stellar choice which was made to illustrate this point). Notice how the telephoto compresses distances from front to rear –  with the telephoto the foreground trees appear to be almost in line with one another. It also reduces the angle of view side to side – note that the pond and the red trees beyond the pond in the wide-angle image are completely off the left side of the frame in the telephoto. This is one effect of zooming with a lens as opposed to zooming with your feet. Try this yourself!

__________________________________________________________

9. The compositional framing device, unlike traditional picture mats & frames, does not have to completely surround the scene/subject. Any single side/top/bottom or combination can be used effectively. Look through all of the previous images for examples of just about every combination.

_______________________________________________________________

Assignment – Try to make images that demonstrate each of the above points. This will require a dozen or more separate images and probably more than a single outing. When you’re done put them in a personal portfolio of images that demonstrate framing.

[When originally posted, this blog was part of a course I did for a local club – thus the assignment. Ed]

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Another option – Click on the “Follow” button at the bottom right of the screen.

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Snapseed for iPad – A Review & Wish List

Edited in Snapseed

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The image straight from the camera – ZERO! post-processing

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For my regular readers, this post is more like a letter to Santa Nik. If you’re interested in Snapseed, there are a few nuggets in here for you, too – maybe.

My 2nd post today – taking tomorrow off.

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If you arrived late, here are the previous posts in this series.

  1. 6/9/11 – Initial Image Examples
  2. 6/10/11 – Overview
  3. 6/11/11 – Interface Usage
  4. 6/12/11 – Before/After Example
  5. 6/13/11 – Basic Editing Features
  6. 6/14/11 – “Fun” Enhancement Features
  7. 7/3/11 – Version 1.1 release update

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Overall, I’m impressed and pleased with Snapseed based on my primary expectations for image editing software which are basic editing functions used to produce a realistic straight photograph. The fun things in the form of image alteration via filters like Snapseed’s Grunge are fine – but a program fails in my view, regardless of the “fun” part, if it can’t do the basics. Snapseed does the basics and, for the most part, does them well.

If your expectations are different from mine, your assessment may differ. That’s why I’ve stated my basis for the comments that follow.

I recommend Snapseed highly – and it will only get better in the future. All for the price of a cup of fancy coffee. (Full disclosure – I’m a Nik beta tester, but not for Snapseed.)

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Wish #1 – File Management

Let’s get a BIG wish out of the way first. It’s really an iPad problem that bites apps, like Snapseed, in the butt. I wish there was some decent File Management capability (folder creation, file naming, etc.). Having to do this (unsatisfactorily) via iTunes syncing sucks!

I now own three apps – Photo Transfer, GoodReader & DropBox – as workarounds, but still have to live with Snapseed placing all of its saved images in iPad’s Camera Roll album – and with meaningless file names to boot. When I was doing this blog series it wasn’t unusual to create 100 screen captures – totally without meaningful names and all dumped into a big unorganized mess with every other photo I’d ever saved. Bizarre – but I’m an iPad newbie (had it 1 week) and a PC user so maybe I just don’t dig Apple yet. By the way – Photo Transfer is highly recommended for IPad <> computer transfer of your images.

Since there are apps out there attempting to deal with this problem, maybe Nik can reinvent this functionality in a future release and save us. I don’t (or is that iDon’t in Apple-speak) think the entire answer is out there in the iCloud. Is it, Steve? 😉

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For the next set of wish list items, first let me describe how I edit an image. First of all, I try to get things perfect in the camera (including cropping). “Fix it in Photoshop” is not in my vocabulary. I’ve included the top two images to illustrate “my way”. I could live with the in-camera version.

Having said that, my needs are simple. Here they are in basically the order I perform them. More details follow.

1 – Highlight/Shadow recovery

2 – Make neutral colors neutral

3 – Color & Tonal contrast adjustments

4 – Fine Tuning (often none).

As for other digital photography workflow items such as DAM and printing, I’m a “best of breed” type

(although I wondered about that approach after all of the Lightroom buzz, and so recently fell for a $99 Adobe LR3 upgrade for PSE. What a bust. But that’s just me because I’m spoiled by programs such as DownLoaderPro for ingestion, IMatch for DAM needs and QImage for printing.)

My “best-of-breed” point is that image post-processing is a distinct workflow step. Image editing software should get that right first before worrying about the other steps. That’s the “Nik way” as I see it and I like their way fine. I use all Nik, all of the way – NX2 with the Color Efex Pro plug-in for NX2 and the entire Nik plug-in suite with Photoshop Elements as a host. Over 90% of my Nik plug-in usage is Silver Efex Pro 2. NX2+CEP does nearly 100% of everything else.

That said, my wishes are focused on basic image editing. Save adding more filters and the like until this part is near-perfect (which it almost is).

So – here’s my wish list. If the Nik genie follows standard Genie Protocol (grants three wishes), make mine 1-3 above. 😉

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Highlight/Shadow recovery. In existing Nik software terms (counting NX2 as Nik ;-)) what I’d like is the functionality of –

  1. D-Lighting (NX2) and/or
  2. Tonal Contrast (CEP3)
  3. If I can have only one then Tonal Contrast as it’s more flexible IMO (can also be used for sharpening-like and structure-like effects among other things)

Currently, Snapseed can’t do this well (Brightness, Contrast & Ambiance don’t get it done)

For anyone asking for HDR – read Thom Hogan’s recent piece on his website about exposing an outdoor image properly (get it perfect as you can in camera, remember) and then using Tonal Contrast- instead of risking an unrealistic HDR-look. There’s another vote/reason for Tonal Contrast in Snapseed.

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Make neutral colors neutral. The WB option in Image Tune performs a Cool/Warm function. It does nothing to correct color casts. In Nik software terms, how about (priority order) –

  1. White Balance (CEP3) and/or
  2. Remove Color Cast (CEP3)

Currently Snapseed can’t do this at all.

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Color & Tonal contrast adjustments. In Nik CEP3 terms (priority order) –

  1. Tonal Contrast
  2. Contrast Color Range
  3. Pro Contrast

Here’s Tonal Contrast for the 3rd time (including “don’t need no stinkin’ HDR” ;-)). I think that including it would satisfy many wishes including the one expressed often by others during beta for “Structure” – maybe not perfectly but it allows many things to be done. If I had only a single wish – at this point – it would be to add a Tonal Contrast capability to Snapseed.

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Fine Tuning. What follows are features that I could usually do without, but…

But along comes the occasional image with washed out sky, blown out sky, spots, etc. needing  things like –

Histogram and Curves/Levels

Grad ND filter

Polarizer

Spot removal ability like NX2’s Retouch Brush or PS’s Healing Brush

Noise reduction (I almost never use this as I shoot with a tripod at ISO 200 99% of the time). Included for the other types of shooters.

Sharpening – Another vote for Tonal Contrast, the 4th if you’re counting, although I do use High Pass Sharpening on occasion. (I depend on QImage to do my pre-print sharpening and normally don’t worry  much about sharpening in normal post-processing as that’s an output unique issue.)

As more come to mind I’ll update the list.

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If I were Nik, faced with this wish list, even if the implementation & addition of a requested feature was “easy” there’s obviously a “packaging” question. If, for example, Nik were to add Neutral Colors, Tonal Contrast, and a Grad ND filter – where would you put them? A sixth item in the current 5 basic item section called “Ed’s Wish List”? I don’t think so. But Nik is who they are and where they are (Best of 2011!) because they’re great at what they do. They’ll figure it out.

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And to finish up – here are a few suggestions (complaints?) for making the Snapseed experience even better than what it is.

My #1 peeve – The Revert and Compare button locations make it too easy to hit Revert when trying to Compare. When this happens you’ve canceled all of your work for the current function with no means to recover except to start that “reverted function” all over again. Please either ask for a “CONFIRM” on the revert or move the buttons – or both. [6/15 update – Add the Apply button to this; it needs a confirm as well.]

When using the enhance functions that have style options – B&W for example – the pop up style box covers too much of the image. There may be image aspect ratios where some overlap is unavoidable – but this can be done better. For example, I’m looking at a 3:2 vertical image, the iPad is in landscape orientation, Snapseed centers the image on the screen (lots of space to either side), AND the style box is smack on top of the image. Please change this.

Positioning Select Adjust control points can be a problem even with that nice magnifying glass touch. The CP’s are very sensitive to color/tone/etc of the spot where they’re placed – as they should be. Here’s the problem – if you’re trying to place a CP on a very small spot it’s difficult (at least for me) to leave it on that spot after you raise your finger (for a really small spot it may take me 5 tries – and you never know if you got it right until you make adjustments for that CP and see that they’re affecting the wrong things). Much easier on a PC with a mouse in “real” Nik programs. Is there someway to do a “Nudge” once the CP is in the right general area without the “shaky finger” screwing things up? Much appreciated if you can do this.

File output – I realize some of these may be an iPad issue, but still.

EXIF is gone

File sizes are occasionally altered (Photo Transfer mitigates this problem)

Only JPEG on output

Select Adjust limit of 8 control points (I can workaround by saving and doing another SA with 8 new points)

The way that the center point is implemented between Grunge and Center Focus isn’t consistent. Not a real problem but a source of confusion for a newbie. I’m guessing that the center point goes unmentioned  in Grunge (until you stumble upon it by tapping the image) because the Nik UI expert says to keep the vertical swipe adjustment step menu to 5 items or less. 😉

Zoom & 1:1

Side by side and split previews (and a loupe?) would be cool additions to “Compare”

Several background options like black, white & gray

User saved presets – WOW! – but these always fall a bit short if control points are involved (that’s a fix/change needed across the entire Nik family; I’m sure it’s not simple with way too much info to be saved that varies from image to image – and there, I’ve talked myself out of  the saved CP part 😉 but still would like the saved preset like in SEP2)

That’s about it for now. I’ll update as new thoughts come along. It should keep you busy until tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing all of these, and more, in the next upgrade, Josh. 😉

________________________________________________________

  1. 6/9/11 – Initial Image Examples
  2. 6/10/11 – Overview
  3. 6/11/11 – Interface Usage
  4. 6/12/11 – Before/After Example
  5. 6/13/11 – Basic Editing Features (illustrated)
  6. 6/14/11 – “Fun” Enhancement Features
  7. 6/14/11 – Review (& a Wish List)

Snapseed for iPad – Image Enhancement Functions

A Grunge Floral Arrangement – Snapseed for iPad


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The image capture in the camera

Snapseed’s Enhancement function, notably Grunge, took us from this in camera capture to the final version

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The previous post covered Basic Editing in Snapseed. This post will look at Snapseed’s six image enhancement functions. They can be used for fun-stuff  like the feature image at the top of the post or for images like on the right below.

Please take the super saturated colors shown above with a grain of salt. The program used for screen capture on my PC does a poor job with colors.

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Image Enhancement with Snapseed –

Snapseed’s six enhancement functions are not “straight image” editing tools. With the exception of the B&W tool, they’re mostly used for “fun” image alterations – and not something that could be entered in a competition for “straight photographs”. Not passing judgment, just sayin’.

The Center Focus function does accomplish a function that I like in my “straight” images. Used carefully, it can provide a subtle darkening of the frame edges – to further emphasize the subject and to help keep the viewers eyes from straying out of the frame.

I’ll go through all six in the order they appear in Snapseed. For each, I’ll show a typical sample result – but realize that it’s one example out of 1,000’s of possibilities. The one shown for each function is what I’d call the “default” – it’s Snapseed’s starting version from which you can do a gazillion permutations.

When a function has unique features/options, I’ll illustrate them with screen captures.

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Here is the start (left) and end of the basic editing covered in the previous post. The end  (right) image will be today’s starting point.

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Black & White

Available Adjustments – Brightness, Contrast & Grain

A Style button at the bottom allows selection among six B&W styles. If you’re familiar with Silver Efex Pro, think “presets”.

This image uses Style 1 with default adjustment settings. This is where you’d start with a B&W conversion.

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Vintage

Available Adjustments – Brightness, Saturation, Texture Strength, Center Size

A Style button at the bottom allows selection among nine different vintage styles

A texture button allows you to switch among different textures that overlay the image. The grunge sample image (shown later) clearly shows an example of texture.

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Drama

Available Adjustments – Saturation, Filter Strength

A Style button at the bottom allows selection among six different Drama styles

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Grunge

Available Adjustments – Style, Brightness, Contrast, Texture Strength, Saturation

A texture button allow you to switch among different textures that overlay the image

A Shuffle button switches randomly among the nearly 100 available styles. You’ll note that Styles is also one of the “horizontal swipe” adjustments listed above. I found that choosing the swipe version and then moving my finger left and right over the enter range while watching the image was an effective way to determine what style(s) worked best for a particular image.

Tapping on the image will bring up a blue control point that determines the center of the grunge effect. It can be dragged over the image and can be sized by pinching. You probably want some correlation between the effect’s center and your image’s center of interest.  The center point is illustrated in the next function, Center Focus.

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Center Focus

Available Adjustments – Center Size, Filter Strength

A Style button at the bottom allows selection among six different styles

Although the center point in this function and in Grunge earlier serve the same purpose, you’ll note that their implementation is different. In Grunge, if you didn’t know to tap and set it you’d have no idea it was available. Further, it’s size is done solely by the pinch method, whereas the point here in Center Focus can be sized by  “pinching” and/or via the horizontal swipe adjustment menu. A potential source of confusion.

As I noted at the start, this function can be used to positive effect even in “straight” photography to “burn” in (darken) near the frame.

1 of 3 – Center point at its starting default position at the center of the frame

2 of 3 – Dragged to the center of interest and sized

3 of 3 – Filter strength at maximum value. The style selected is the “most subtle” of the six available, Lens Blur which is the default.

If you’re familiar with Nik’s Color Efex Pro, what was done here is similar to the combination of CEP’s Vignette Blur filter coupled with CEP’s Darken/Lighten Center filter.

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Frames

Available Adjustments – Frame width, Frame offset

A Frames button at the bottom switches randomly among frame choices

A frame consists of a white border with a black area between the white portion and the rest of the image.

The frame overlaps the image as opposed to extending the canvas and making the overall work larger. If you have important image elements near the edge of  the frame they’ll be effected (covered). Compare this image with one above and notice that the left edge of the main flower’s cone – which had separation from the edge of the image as captured – is now almost touching the Snapseed frame

There are two adjustments that apply to all frames –

Width – the size of the black area

Offset – the size of the overall frame (black + white)

Experiment for lots of different looks

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Of course, you can cycle back and forth through Snapseed functions to create a myriad of “hybrids”. For example, you could do Grunge followed by B&W for, what else, a Grungy B&W. 😉

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Last Snapseed post tomorrow – a summary. Until then…..

________________________________________________________

  1. 6/9/11 – Initial Image Examples
  2. 6/10/11 – Overview
  3. 6/11/11 – Interface Usage
  4. 6/12/11 – Before/After Example
  5. 6/13/11 – Basic Editing Features (illustrated)
  6. 6/14/11 – “Fun” Enhancement Features
  7. 6/14/11 – Review (& a Wish List)

Snapseed for iPad – Basic Editing Features

Yet Another Floral Arrangement – Snapseed for iPad


—————————————-

The image straight from the camera – ZERO! post-processing

I’ll bet you thought most of the ethereal misty soft effect in the feature image came from post process. You’re wrong 😉

If you like this arty style of image with a clear subject and a soft out of focus complementary background – get familiar with selective focus.

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In the previous Snapseed post, a Before/After Example, I promised a a blow-by-blow illustrated description of getting from the starting image (below, left) to a basic post-editing version (center). Well, here it is.

Please take the super saturated colors shown above with a grain of salt. The program used for screen capture on my PC does a poor job with colors.

________________________________________________________

Basic image editing with Snapseed –

Getting from the left to the center image involved using two of Snapseed’s five Basic Edit functions —

1st – Tune Image

2nd – Selective Adjust

The details follow >>>

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Tune Image – This should be the starting point for every serious image edit (of a well crafted in camera starting point) in Snapseed. Selective Adjust should be used next. Use Crop, Straighten, & Auto Correct only when things didn’t turn out as they should have in the camera. As for Snapseed’s six enhancement functions – they’re for having fun. 😉

Here are the two end points of the Image Tune journey (start is at the right). These two screen shots were made from Snapseed’s main page after Image Tune was completed. You’ll note that the right (original) image capture has a white halo around the button that reads “Compare”. “Compare” appears on literally every screen you see in Snapseed and allows you to review what you’ve done. (Again, try to ignore the garish saturation.)

To go from start to finish in Image Tune here are examples of what you’d do & see.

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#1 – Image Tune adjustment options –

By using the vertical swipe technique to select adjustments within a function we see that Tune Image (the function) offers five adjustments. Specific adjustments vary among the 11 Snapseed edit functions but how you view & select them is the same (and how you “adjust the adjustments”, as well).

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After selecting an adjustment, use the horizontal swipe to change the adjustment settings.———————————-

Continue to move among the adjustment types and making the desired changes. In the image below we’ve moved from Ambiance to White Balance. You can use the –

  1. Undo button to undo your last change
  2. Compare button to see how you current image compares to your start
  3. Back button to “undo” everything in the current step and return to main page with the image as it was before starting this step
  4. Apply to apply your adjustments and return to the main page

Be careful moving your hand around near the screen bottom. I find that it’s too easy to touch the Back button when I wanted to Compare, as an example, which puts me back at the main page with my work lost; the same with Undo & Apply although these are less of a problem when it happens (this needs changed).

Assuming that you’ve completed Image Tune to your satisfaction and hit Apply to save your work in this step, you’re ready to move on to the Selective Adjust (fine tuning) step.

If you are not familiar with Nik’s U-Point selective control technology, please read U-Point and my Silver Efex Pro 2 post on selective adjustments. If you can’t be bothered, you may be wasting your time past this point! Caveat emptor.

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Selective Adjust – This is where you fine tune images before “going final”. Fine tuning will take us from the Image Tune version (left below) to our final. The changes aren’t drastic. My goal was to make the main coneflower stand out more. I did this by –

  1. Increasing its brightness & contrast (look especially at the cone – click to enlarge)
  2. Darkening the green background, and
  3. Reducing the brightness & contrast of the two “echo” flowers (the exact opposite of what I did with the subject in #1)

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After choosing Select Adjust for the next editing option, using the result of Image Tune as the starting point, we do a vertical swipe to see & choose among the Select Adjust adjustment steps. In contrast to Image Tune, which had 5 choices, Select Adjust has just three – Brightness, Contrast & Saturation – shown below.

You’ll notice two buttons, unique to Select Adjust, at the bottom – Add and Hide. Tap Add and then tap in the image when/where ever you want to add a control point. All of the added control points will be displayed until you leave this step – use Hide when you want to see your image without the control points.

Also, the current active CP is shown in color. The others are gray.

Each control point is labeled with a B, C or S – for the type of current adjustment chosen for that point.

Any point can be made active by tapping it – and its current adjust type changed via a vertical swipe.

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You usually add new points via the add button. However, if you tap an existing point 5 choices appear as shown below allowing you add a new point that has the current point’s settings by tapping on “Copy”. Next tap where ever you want the new point to appear and voila – it’s done.

The 2nd & 3rd images below show the copy/paste routine. I did this to copy the same adjustment made to the 1st “echo” to the 2nd which saves works when you want two locations to have the same adjustments.

Besides Copy & Paste there are three other options (whose purposes are obvious so I won’t bore you further).

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In the next image there are several points to be made (no pun intended).

Three control points are shown (active is blue); this is where you might use Hide if you wanted to view the image without them

I am moving the active CP. This is done by dragging it with your finger. Notice that a magnifying glass appears, while dragging, to help you place the CP precisely – I was aiming for one of the orange pieces in the cone.

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After dragging the CP to where I wanted it –

Vertical swipe to change from brightness to contrast adjust type (note – as compared to the above image the B has become a C)

Horizontal swipe to the right to increase the orange “thingies” contrast

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This next capture shows a way cool Select Adjust CP feature. For this illustration, I’ve started a new Select Adjust window (saved the last one where I just worked on the three flowers and returned here to darken the green background).

A new CP was created and placed on the green background.

You can adjust the effective radius of a CP by placing your thumb & forefinger on two opposing sides of it and pinching in or out. You can see the circle’s edge (blue line).

The “cool” part is that the area of the image affected (selected) by that control point is shown in red. Note that the coneflowers are not “selected” – kinda’ why it’s called a selective control point, don’t ya’ think. NOTE – what’s selected, or not, & why is all divulged in the two earlier links that I suggested you read.

Note that the selection (red area) doesn’t stop cold at the blue line representing the CP’s effective radius (it’s feathered to provide a smooth transition so look at the red and allow for that when you place & size the CP).

Like everything else in Snapseed nothing is over until it’s applied/saved so you can adjust, readjust, & readjust some more if your control point’s effect isn’t what you wanted – move/resize/readjust until it’s right.

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Rather than tackle the entire background with a single CP, as shown above, I reduced the size of the 1st one and added several more as shown here. I did this for better control of the effect in different areas. All were used to reduce B, C & S as my goal at this point was to subdue the background.

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Before hitting Apply, a quick Hide & Compare to see what’s what.

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That covers the basics of basic editing in Snapseed. There are no other swipe, tap, drag, pinch moves in the Snapseed bag of tricks. Work on a few images yourself using Image Tune & Select Adjust and you’ll be a pro in no time – much less than it takes to read about it.

Here’s where we started and finished –

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I’ve observed some things in Snapseed’s Selective Adjust control point implementation that differ from every other Nik product (all of which use this technology).

  • This first is serious IMO & I assume it’s an error – I’ll check with Nik. When a CP is placed and its effect spills into undesired places (normal), the solution is to add a new CP placed where the spill occurs. This new point (sans adjustments when freshly added) neutralizes the spill effect of the previous point. This is how CP’s are supposed to work – but the “neutralizing” CP in Snapseed has zero effect.
  • The 2nd can be worked around. I discovered this next “different behavior” when adjusting the flowers and background as shown above. There appears to be a limit (maximum) of no more than 8 control points. This is not the case in other Nik products. The work around is simple. Save your work (Apply) when you’re at the limit and then do another Select Adjust to pick up where you left off with a new set of eight (as I did in the above example).

I’ve got a long shopping list of questions & suggestions for Nik – including things like the side-by-side placement of Revert & Compare mentioned earlier. All will be well eventually, I’m sure – this is version 0 of Nik’s first app.

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Tomorrow’s post will look at sample image results from each of Snapseed’s six enhancement adjustment options (available now) and will use screen captures to illustrate a few interface tricks unique to some of these six functions. Stay tuned.

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  1. 6/9/11 – Initial Image Examples
  2. 6/10/11 – Overview
  3. 6/11/11 – Interface Usage
  4. 6/12/11 – Before/After Example
  5. 6/13/11 – Basic Editing Features (illustrated)
  6. 6/14/11 – “Fun” Enhancement Features
  7. 6/14/11 – Review (& a Wish List)

Snapseed for iPad – Before/After Example

A Floral Arrangement

Done in Snapseed for iPad – see tomorrow’s post for details


Two recent posts apply to this image –

  1. The Hunt for the Perfect Composition
  2. Compose for the Background

Floral arrangements (compositions) like this don’t happen with a walk-by shooting where you just snap away. That’s why there are two expressions for what people do while photographing –

  1. Making an image” vs.
  2. Taking a snapshot
  3. A good composition has to be made (after it is first seen).

These coneflowers are just coming into bloom in my garden. I spent an hour on my hands & knee(pad)s hunting for the perfect composition and composing for the background. Did about a dozen different compositions and settled on this one. Decided after all of that to finish the photo-day by seeing what Snapseed for iPad could make of it. From kneepad to iPad? 😉  —  that’s terrible.

Now that my Sunday sermon is over, on to Snapseed….

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The composition, uncropped, is exactly what came from the camera (left). What Snapseed did was –

  1. Add some snap (pun intended) to the colors & contrast (center) and
  2. Some flair and drama (right)

If you strive to get everything as right as possible in the camera, as I did here, then post-processing is just adding a touch of icing to the cake – not starting with cake mix and a cold oven and discovering you need to borrow an egg, to boot.

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Here is the progression from the in-camera capture on the left –

To the center via basic color & contrast adjustments using –

1st – Snapseed’s Tune Image function from the group of five Basic editing functions

2nd – Selective Adjust from the same basic set of 5

If you do your job properly in the camera, Tune Image & Selective Adjust should be the only Snapseed (or any other edit program) basic functions that you need. Think about it. The other three of five are to fix problems – Crop, Straighten, and Auto Correct. As for the six enhanced functions, they’re not needed except to have fun with your images. Message to serious photographers – concentrate on the two important functions BEFORE moving on to the other nine. Enhancing a poor photo doesn’t make it a good photo – it’s still poor, just a different poor. 😉

The flair and drama was added, with the center image as the starting point, by using –

1st – The Center Focus function from Snapseed’s six Enhancement editing functions

2nd – The Frames function, also from enhancement functions

That’s it. If I weren’t doing all kinds of extra stuff, like taking screen captures, this image would have taken under 5 minutes.

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Sorry for the “preachy” nature of this post (but it is Sunday). I get frustrated that many photographers think that making a good image is easy – even a caveman can do it as the Geico ads say. In fact, many have no reason to think otherwise :  it’s just a damn camera, point it & shoot – what else is there to it? The preaching is in the hope that occasionally one of these lost souls will get the word when they read the writings of this curmudgeonly preacher.

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Tomorrow’s post (now available) will explore what was done in the “basic edit steps” (going from the left to center images) in detail with a dozen screen shots to illustrate the process.

The following day’s post will look at sample image results from each of the six enhancement adjustment options and will use screen captures to illustrate a few interface tricks unique to some of these six functions. Stay tuned.

Now – back to Angry Birds….  😉

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  1. 6/9/11 – Initial Image Examples
  2. 6/10/11 – Overview
  3. 6/11/11 – Interface Usage
  4. 6/12/11 – Before/After Example
  5. 6/13/11 – Basic Editing Features (illustrated)
  6. 6/14/11 – “Fun” Enhancement Features
  7. 6/14/11 – Review (& a Wish List)

How did you make that image? #26

Click any image to enlarge it


Orchid Dreamscape

Nikon D300, Nikon 105mm 1:1 macro, 1.3 sec, f/11, ISO 200, EV-1/3, Aperture Priority, Spot meter (on center of bottom blossom), natural light, cloudy WB, circular polarizer, tripod, remote cable release, Live View, RAW

Post-process –

  1. RAW to JPEG conversion in Capture NX2 (with Color Efex Pro 3 plug-in) including color & tonal contrast adjustments (and a very slight crop, <10%, from the sides)
  2. Make a copy and flip the copy horizontally
  3. Place the two images in separate Photoshop layers and blend them to create a composite (see below for illustration of this step)
  4. Total processing time – about 3 minutes

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Here is a screen shot of step #3; click to enlarge for details –

An image can be flipped/rotated in four different orientations. Try them all. Also, you don’t have to combine only two – try combining all four orientations at one time. Also, try different blending modes.

Here is the starting image as made in-camera –

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This is what we get using the arty orchid from yesterday’s post

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To read more about Dreamscapes (a named coined by Canadian photographer, André Gallant) take a look at this book.

Let your imagination be your guide ;-).

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Here’s a slide show full of dreamscapes. Made at the lone workshop I’ve ever attended – given by Freeman Patterson & André Gallant. It is the result of my assigned project – make images of a canoe that are unrecognizable as a canoe AND – no macro images allowed.

If you’d like to see this in full screen, click on the slide show to open a new window. At this new window click on the Full Screen option. Enjoy.