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Explore the unknown

Even in your own hometown, it’s exciting to explore areas that you don’t often frequent. It gives you an excuse to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and maybe get in some much needed exercise for the day.

Explore the unkown. iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Snapseed and VSCOCam.

Explore the unknown. iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Snapseed and VSCOCam.

I’ve taken many walks and runs along the lakeshore lately but what makes these trips more exciting is venturing off to places I normally wouldn’t go to. I often find myself taking turns to unexpected areas and sometimes even losing my bearings. No worries there, as I’ll always have my google maps with me!

You never know when you’ll find that perfect location for your next shoot so don’t be afraid to explore the unknown and find new places around your city.

Do you have favourite places in your city that you like to go to? Share them with me in the comments below.

Take a break and enjoy the scenery once in a while

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

When you’re out and about shooting all the time, it’s important to be able to pull yourself out of the business of it all and actually enjoy what you have in front of you. Not only does this refresh your mind, but it allows you to soak in the environment you’re in, perhaps giving you more of an appreciation for the spectacular view you’re always too busy to see.

While on my walks along the lakeshore, I intentionally left my dSLR camera behind, so that I wouldn’t be so inclined to taking photos every second. Of course, I couldn’t leave my iPhone behind, so I still took a picture with it. But taking photos with my iPhone is a much quicker process than taking a photo with my dSLR, where I have to find the right settings, compose, focus, and shoot. An iPhone really makes that much of a difference. And I’m thankful for that!

A little bit of post-processing was done here to accentuate the sunset colours, and lighten the boats in the middle. All of this was done within Snapseed, where I used the Brush tool to selectively lighten areas within my image. My final edit was done within VSCOcam where I added a filter to balance the overall image.

iPhoneography: How I Edited Toronto the Beautiful

Today’s photo editing process comes from a photo that I took during one of my sunrise shoots. It was an absolutely beautiful morning with just the right amount of clouds and light reflection to give off a spectacular image. Or was it?

Here’s the original image that was taken with my iPhone 6 Plus. It was an 8 sec. long exposure using the Slow Shutter Cam app.

Original image (scaled down in Photoshop). 8 second long exposure using Slow Shutter Cam App

Original image (scaled down in Photoshop). 8 second long exposure using Slow Shutter Cam App.

You can see that all the ingredients of a great looking photo are here, but just isn’t punctuated enough: the orange glow near the horizon, the ominous clouds rolling out, the long exposure water, and the rocks seen beneath the water. I wanted to show all of these great features in my final edit.

To do this, I used the Filterstorm Neue app, which I had, but hadn’t used in a long time. It has great editing features like curves and masking, and those are what I used for this photo.

The first thing I did here was accentuate the orange and blue glow of the sky. I did this through a number of procedures like saturation, colour temperature, and tone, all within the Filterstorm Neue app.

I then used the curves tool to give it more contrast, which heightened the colours a little and accentuated the rocks in the foreground from the snow. It looks a lot better now than the original photo, don’t you think?

"S" curve in Filterstorm Neue to increase contrast

“S” curve in Filterstorm Neue to increase contrast

With all this editing done on the overall image, the snow had also turned a blue hue, which we all know is not the norm. I wanted to keep the snow white to make things look more natural. Using the same app, I applied another curves adjustment. This time, I selected the blue channel and reduced the brightness of it by pulling the curve down in the highlight areas (the snow). Since I didn’t want this adjustment to affect the overall image, I used the mask tool to select only the snow in the image.

Lowered the blue and increased brightness only in the snow, using a masked curve tool in Filterstorm Neue.

Lowered the blue and increased brightness only in the snow, using a masked curve tool in Filterstorm Neue.

This made the overall photo more natural looking, which was my goal. I was happy with this image, but wanted just a little more pop in colour.

I therefore brought it into VSCOcam where 99 percent of my photos undergo a finishing touch. In this case, I applied the KK2 filter (+12) which boosted the colours overall-in particular the right side of the water-making it a standout image, and one of my favourite iPhone sunrise images this season.

Final image after applying KK2 filter in VSCOcam.

Final image after applying KK2 filter in VSCOcam.

That’s it! That’s all there is to this iPhoneography editing.

Have you ever used Filterstorm Neue before? Let me know how you use the app if you do. Would you like me to do a Filterstorm Neue app review? Let me know below as well!


Apps Used:

Filterstorm Neue

Filterstorm Neue

VSCOcam

VSCOcam


 

How I Edited Benched Sunrise

Today’s iPhone Post-Processing technique comes from a sunrise that I took one cool morning. This was taken on my way back to my car. I look backed as I was walking and noticed this great view, so I took a quick snap at it, with all the elements I wanted within the frame: the CN Tower, bench, foreground snow, and sunrise.

The original image as taken from my iPhone 6 Plus (resized in Photoshop) is below.

The original photo as taken from my iPhone 6 Plus (resized in Photoshop).

The original photo as taken from my iPhone 6 Plus (resized in Photoshop).

You can see how everywhere but around the sun area is quite dark. Further, the snow is a nasty blue colour, which we all know shouldn’t be that colour. I shot this with my iPhone in an app that had no white balance presets, so I wasn’t able to change it to shade, where it may have eased the blue cast in the snow a little bit. The colours near the horizon are also very muddy and not punchy at all, which makes for an even duller image. This was in need of a two-step editing process!

The photo is edited in Instaflash Pro for the top half of the photo only.

The photo is edited in Instaflash Pro for the top half of the photo only.

I had no choice but to edit this in post, with some of my go-to apps for editing. I brought this photo into Instaflash Pro (seen above) where I first edited the photo to edit the sky and clouds to my preference. The colours were fantastic that morning so I didn’t want to dull the blue, orange, and yellow hues, but at the same time, there’s not a whole lot I could do with the large cloud in the middle of the picture, that adds a lot of grey area. To lessen this grey dominance of the clouds a little, I changed the white balance to add more warmth; this added a little more yellow to the grey clouds, lessening its menacing look. Once I was happy with the results, I saved this image back to my Camera Roll.

After the top half of the image has been edited.

Step 1: After the top half of the image has been edited to my liking.

I then went back to Instaflash Pro where I re-edited this same image so that the snow in the foreground was more to my liking.

The photo is edited for the bottom half of the photo only.

Step 2: The photo is edited for the bottom half only.

To eliminate the blue cast, there’s really only one thing I could do without going too overboard with my editing. I desaturated the overall image so that the blue turned to white, which is what we all know snow should be. You can see how the sky in this photo has also lost much of its brilliance. I saved this version back to the Camera Roll as well.

Benched Sunrise

The resulting photo after removing the blue cast in the snow.

 

I then combined these last two images using Image Blender. I used the top portion of the first image, and combined it with the bottom portion of the second image to make the image much more to my liking.

The top part of the photo is masked out so only the bottom is used in the final photo.

The top part of the photo is masked out so only the bottom is used in the final photo.

And finally, the combined image using the best parts of each image.

The combined image looks much better now.

The combined image looks much better now.

I fixed the perspective so the CN Tower is no longer leaning toward the centre, using Perspective Correct. However, I still found some areas to be a little flat, in particular near the horizon, so I brought the combined image into VSCOcam, where I applied the KK2 filter (+12), which enhanced the overall colours more to my liking. This gave it an overall warmer feel to the image, in addition to slightly punching the colours up near the horizon.

The final image after perspective correction, and edited in VSCOcam with the KK2 preset.

The final image after perspective correction, and edited in VSCOcam with the KK2 preset.

I really didn’t want to crop this into a square because I felt the full width needed to be present to really get the feel for the shot. And force squaring the image (with white bars on the top and bottom) also didn’t really appeal to me either. But nonetheless, I cropped it right to the edges so the CN Tower and the bench were both still fully visible, which is just ok in my books. I’ll post this full image somewhere else eventually.

The Review

Check out the first image on this post, and compare it with the final image right above. there’s a drastic improvement and I’m much happier with the end result. But all this editing does wreak havoc on the image quality. You can tell that the image has gotten noticeably grainy in many places—look at the clouds, blue sky in the top left, and shadow areas of the buildings in the skyline.

If you’re reading this post on a regular computer monitor, these will be much more pronounced than if you were reading this on a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad. Suffice it to say that, the more you edit, the more you degrade the quality of your image. That’s why it’s so important to start off with a good quality image. Don’t try and rely on post-processing for everything that you want in your image.

But honestly, if you’re just going to Instagram it, then all this image degradation may not really make a difference after all.


Apps Used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Image Blender

Image Blender

Perspective Correct

Perspective Correct


 

 

How I edited Purple Beach on my iPhone

Today’s iPhone Post-Processing technique comes from the photo that I took off the shores of Hamilton, Ontario. It was a freezing cold day, and I almost never took this shot, had it not been for me looking back returning to my car.

This is a simple edit but one that makes a big transformation thanks to some of the great apps available on the iPhone.

The photo taken from my iPhone 6 Plus using the VSCOcam app is seen below (scaled down with 65% quality on Photoshop). As soon as I saw this scene, I knew it had some potential to be something great. The wooden logs leading to the ice, with the slight yellow/orange from the morning sunrise, and the mixture of sand and snow in the foreground all made it for an interesting composition.

Purple Beach

Image as taken from my iPhone 6 Plus

In reality, there was more colour to the clouds, especially near the horizon, where the sun was rising. Given the amount of clouds here, it made for a rather bleak photo overall. I wanted to punch up the photo by adding a little bit more colour to it, so I went to Mextures, which does a great job at this.

To give some much needed colour to the clouds, I added the Lily and Eventide filters. These gave the scene the overall pink and purple hue to it that I instantly loved. Next, I added Winter Dusk to give some depth throughout the image so that the edit doesn’t look so flat. Finally, I added the Neutral Density filter to darken the clouds a little more, adding some much needed shadows within the clouds.

For those of you who have Mextures, my formula is: TSCYGFR

After some slight adjustments in temperature, tint, saturation, sharpening, and shadows, the image now looks like this.

After a simple edit in Mextures, the scene is completely transformed.

After a simple edit in Mextures, the scene is completely transformed.

You can see that while the edit has drastically transformed the original image, it looks a little flat. To remedy this, I brought this into Instaflash Pro where I edited the brightness, sharpness, contrast, and added a little bit of vignetting. The final image, seen below, is how I envisioned this photo to be. A little crop applied for Instagram, and there you have it.

A finishing touch in VSCOcam creates my final image.

A finishing touch in VSCOcam creates my final image.

Apps Used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

Mextures

Mextures


 

How I edited Ikebukuro Sunset on my iPhone

It was by chance that I experienced this magical location. I was shopping in Ikebukuro one evening when I came out from a store just as the sun was shining through this narrow walkway. I noticed that magical evening light and started taking pictures. It was overcast that day so the sun kept hiding behind clouds. As it peaked out from the clouds a number of times before it dipped below the horizon.

The picture below is what I captured with the native camera app of my iPhone 6 Plus. The area around the sun is fairly bright while the bottom half of this photo is somewhat dark. This was intentional as I wanted to get the details of the clouds in the highlights. I exposed for the highlights, making the rest of the image slightly darker. However I knew this wasn’t an issue as I could easily bring up the details in the shadow areas with a few clicks of an app.

IMG_7579

Original Ikebukuro Sunset image from my iPhone 6 Plus.

The first step in making this image was to create balance throughout the entire image. This entailed opening up the shadow areas and fine-tuning the colours. I did this with Instaflash Pro, which I like because it allows for individual colour enhancements. After some sharpening and selective colour boosts, the image below is what I came out with.

First edit with Instaflash Pro brings out shadow areas and enhances select colours.

First edit with Instaflash Pro brings out shadow areas and enhances select colours.

The next step, I dealt with the blown out highlight area on the left, where the sun was shining brightly. It was bringing too much attention to itself with the high contrast against the buildings. I added a warm glow surrounding that area to soften the harsh edges using my go-to app for just this situation: The Light Camera from Stuck in Customs. The only option I use in this app is the A Surprise Hug light effect—you can see its effect in the image below.

IMG_7583

Adding a warm glow to the sunset area to enhance the highlights.

This image may look pretty decent the way it looks now, but it could use a little more work. The white balance seems to be a little too cold to my liking, so I warmed the entire image. This final step could really be done in any app that supports white balance or temperature change, but my preference has always been to edit in VSCOcam. You can use any one of its filters to change the overall balance of the image, in addition to using the actual Temperature option.

Warming the overall image in VSCOcam.

Warming the overall image in VSCOcam, and applying a slight vignette.

Now, the picture looks much better than how it started. However, some may say that the colours look a little too over saturated. It could be the case, since adding filters to an image can saturate existing colours. If you feel this to be the case, use a different filter or desaturate the colour to your liking. I also cropped the image to a square format for Instagram, deleting parts of the image that does not enhance the overall look at all.

Changed filter to G1 in VSCOcam to reduce saturation of colours.

Changed filter to G1 in VSCOcam to reduce saturation of colours.

For me, I love the sun shining brightly and the crisp detail in the foreground. So my final preference was the B5 filter in VSCOcam to change the image to black and white. This kept the foreground details and sun glow that I like, in addition to bringing more focus to the shadows of the passerbys.

Changing the image to black and white with the B5 filter in VSCOcam.

Changed the image to black and white with the B5 filter in VSCOcam.

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

The Light Camera

The Light Camera

VSCOcam

VSCOcam


 

How I edited Omotesando Sunset on my iPhone

Here’s a great example of a sunset that has been “placed” into my photo to spice up an area where it would otherwise be blown out highlights. To add even more spice to the image, I decided to make a long exposure picture to show the movement of the cars down below. I did this with my go-to app for long exposures, Slow Shutter Cam. Click here for tips on how to take long exposure shots with your iPhone.

The original image as taken from the Slow Shutter Cam app is below. I took this off of a bridge crossing Omotesando Street, looking down the beautiful tree-lined road. It was overcast that day so the camera didn’t pick up any detail in the centre of the image where the clouds were. I took this mid-afternoon so the overall white balance had more of a bluish tone to it.

Looking down Omotesando Street on an overcast afternoon.

Looking down Omotesando Street on an overcast afternoon.

You can see above how dull and flat this picture looks. To add a little more dimension and detail to the image, I imported it in Instaflash Pro, which does a great job in pulling out details from shadow areas and giving a flat image some depth. I increased the tonal values of select colours (green, yellow, orange), sharpened the overall image, and also added some clarity to it to add a little more dimension to the details. The image below looks much better now with more contrast and a kick in colour.

Imported image into Instaflash Pro to add some contrast, clarity, and saturation to select colours.

Imported image into Instaflash Pro to add some contrast, clarity, and saturation to select colours.

The next step is where I completely changed the feel of the image by giving it warmth. I use Mextures to add colour changes and subtle colour enhancements to an image. In this case, I used the Flare texture in the Radiance section to add some yellow and orange to the image. After changing the temperature to add even more warmth, I exported it out to my camera roll for the next step.

IMG_7163

Used Mextures to change the colour temperature of the image and add warmth with the Flare texture.

The next step complements the colour temperature change by adding a slight orange halo to the centre of the image where the clouds are shown. This boring white space does little to the image so I wanted to make this not stand out as much as it does. To do this, I an app called The Light Camera by the fine folks at Stuck in Customs.

Trey Ratcliff is a great guy who travels the world taking beautiful photos. Check his site out if you haven’t already done so!

The funny thing about The Light Camera app is, I really only use it for one thing. The A Surprise Hug light option gives the best warmth to an image than any other app that I’ve tested so far. So, this app is my go-to app for adding a touch of warmth to a localized area.

Added the Warm Hug light option with the Light Camera app.

Added the Surprise Hug light option with the Light Camera app.

After this app, I use VSCOcam where I apply any finishing touches to the image. In this case, I applied the K2 filter at a very weak strength so as not to over-saturate the entire image. I sharpened a touch, and cropped it to a square format for Instagram.

Cropped the image after applying my finishing touches to it in VSCOcam.

Cropped the image after applying my finishing touches to it in VSCOcam.

I find this final image to be a big improvement over the dull and boring one that I started off with. So why, you may ask, did I even take this picture to begin with? I took it knowing that I would edit it in some way where I could bring out the best parts of this photo. A little thinking ahead of time does your photo a lot of good!

Apps Used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

Slow Shutter Cam

Slow Shutter Cam

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Mextures

Mextures

The Light Camera

The Light Camera


 

How I Edited White Nature on my iPhone 6 Plus

Today’s iPhone Post Processing technique is of the high-key image that I took one cold and windy day at Colonel Sam Smith Park in the west end of Toronto. I wanted to capture the winter scene along with the colours of the sunset, so I took to the park to see what I could find.

The photo below is what I captured from the native camera of my iPhone 6 Plus. You can see how the plant in the foreground is quite dark, but I still managed to get the subtle pink and blue of the sky in the backdrop. The overall photo is underexposed on purpose so that I can simply brighten the areas to my liking.

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

My first step was to open up the shadow areas in Instaflash Pro. I wanted to get some colour in the plant so using that app, I was able to significantly open up the shadows without adding too much grain or degradation in image quality. I also sharpened the image a bit, added a little bit of glow to it using the Orton filter, and increased the saturation slightly to bring in that colour of the plant.

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

The image was brightly lit now, but I wasn’t happy with the colours within it, so I brought it into Snapseed where I’m able to selectively edit areas of an image using their Selective Adjust tool. That tool is a pretty powerful one as it lets you adjust the contrast, saturation and brightness of certain areas of your image. The photo below shows you how many points I’ve edited for this photo. My goal here was to make the snow more white, since it had quite a blue cast to it from all the editing I’ve been doing. For each point you see, I’ve adjusted its saturation and brightness.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

The resulting photo was ok, but was still looking a little too dark for my liking. So, also within Snapseed, I used the Drama filter to brighten up the entire image. I used Bright 1 with a strength of 66, and boosted the saturation to really bring out the colours, as seen below.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image and boost saturation.

The image was now more to what I wanted it to look like. My last step these days has always been to bring it into VSCOcam, where I adjust anything I want for the final look. For this particular image, I was more or less pleased with how it looked, so I didn’t add any filters to it. Instead, I increased the saturation (+1), warmed the temperature by +2, and cropped it for Instagram. The final image, uncorked is below.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.


 

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Snapseed

Snapseed

How I edited the Sunset Path on my iPhone

Today’s iPhone Post-Processing comes all the way from the west end at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke. In fact, this is one of my favourite places in the west end to shoot since there’s a variety of compositions. It’s right by Humber College and, there’s even a skating rink to boot if you ever get bored of shooting landscapes—who would get bored of that?!

You’ll see below the original shot taken with the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a little on the dark side, but that’s done on purpose so that I could get more detail in the blown out area on the top right (where the sun was setting). I still blew out the area on purpose since getting even more detail there meant darkening up the shadow areas even more. Any darker in the shadow areas and I would have some obvious noise issues there, so I tried to find a happy medium, if you will.

Original file from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus.

Original file from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus.

The first thing I did was to bring back the sun in the top right corner. When taking this shot, I knew I could bring back the sun again in post, so I intentionally let it blow out a little. I brought it back in one of my favourite sun-creating apps, The Light Camera by stuckincustoms.com.

Bringing back a little bit of the orange from the sun again, using the Light Camera app.

Bringing back a little bit of the orange from the sun again, using the Light Camera app.

The top right was still a little blown out so I gave the white areas some colour, using VSCOcam. This app does a great job of tinting the highlight (and shadow) areas with selective colours, so I gave the highlights a little bit of yellow to match the sunshine.

Tinting the highlight areas with a yellow tint in VSCOcam.

Tinting the highlight areas with a yellow tint in VSCOcam.

That tinting was a good start to adding orange to the highlights, but I wanted to bring in even more warmth to the image, so I brought this into Mextures. I’m starting to use Mextures a lot more now since I love its ability to give subtle colour and texture enhancements to the overall image.

My formula for the below is MNZNMSD in case you wanted to use it yourself.

Giving the entire image a little bit of warmth using Mextures.

Giving the entire image a little bit of warmth using Mextures.

When I tinted the highlights and warmed the image, I not only tinted the top blown out areas, but I also tinted and warmed the highlight areas in the rest of my photo. You can see that some of the brown shrub areas on either side of the path is punched up a little in yellow/orange. I also managed to muddy-up the snow colour a little, which I did not like. Snow is supposed to be white, so that’s the way I wanted to keep it.

I had to bring back the white somehow, so I took the image I had right after adding the sun (second photo above) and I brightened the mid-tones and highlight areas in Instaflash Pro. For this image, I made sure that I was pleased with how the bottom half of the photo looked, knowing well that I would not use the top half of the photo.

Whitened the snow using Instaflash Pro.

Whitened the snow using Instaflash Pro.

After I was happy with how the bottom half of the image looked, I took this photo and basically combined the bottom half with the top half of the image prior to this one. I did this using Image Blender, which makes tasks likes this super easy.

Using Image Blender to blend in the top half of one photo with the bottom half of another.

Using Image Blender to blend in the top half of one photo with the bottom half of another.

The image below is what I ended up with after blending the two together. You can see that the top half still maintains a warm feel to it while the snow is now whiter and the foreground shadow areas are less muddier.

The blended image now has whiter snow and cleaner shadow areas while still maintaining a warmth to the top half.

The blended image now has whiter snow and cleaner shadow areas while still maintaining a warmth to the top half.

I always like to give my images a finishing touch in VSCOcam, where I may do anything from tweaking the colour, fade an image even more, or maybe not even do anything at all. This time, I  added the F2 Mellow filter to it as it gave it a subtle fade to the shadows, giving it a subtle moody feel to it. I cropped it for Instagram and there you have it!

The final image after giving it an f2 Mellow (+12) filter in VSCOcam

The final image after giving it an f2 Mellow (+12) filter in VSCOcam


Apps Used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Mextures

Mextures

The Light Camera

The Light Camera