“World traveler with a Digital SLR and a smart phone” reads my profile text on what may be one of the most famous photo editing/sharing applications, Instagram where the term iPhoneography (pictures shot and processed using iPhone and its apps only) was born.
I have long abandoned point-and-shoot-cameras and upgraded myself to a more challenging Digital SLR camera. As much as I love playing with my lenses to take quality photography, I also enjoy not having to carry my big-mama camera and its various lens sometimes. Thanks to the technology nowadays, I can snap pictures through my iPhone which I carry everywhere and through the use of various photo editing applications (apps in short); I can make my images more interesting and better in quality. During my recent trip in Paris, I have taken a few snapshots with my iPhone 4 and edited using some of my favorite photo apps.
The Eiffel tower is arguably the most photographed monument in Paris and probably in the world too. There has been countless number of images of this tower taken from every possible angle. My goal here is to present it in a slightly unusual manner, if possible. I start out by stripping off all the colors using ColorBlast lite, leaving the image in black and white. Then I give the secondary subject, the sky, more power by bringing back its original color blue. This way, the iconic tower is still taking the centre stage but it is the striking blue sky that is stealing the show here or at least holding its own against the biggest star, Madame Eiffel.
Is your phone taking unflattering photos? Don’t worry! We can make them interesting by turning them retro. Many photo editing apps feature B&W or Sepia effects. Here, I am in the gardens of Versailles. It looks like the rain is just about to heavily pour down and the ambience, cold and gloomy. No clear blue sky and the bright green color of trees and plants won’t not show either. I might as well go with the flow and give this image a somber nostalgic mood, fittingly with the atmosphere. Snapseed, one of my favorite apps, has a tool called ‘Drama’ which highlights the little details (the windows and doors of the palace) while giving the image a dramatic flair. Combined with its Black & White and Framing tools afterwards, this underexposed image is transformed into a somewhat decent B&W shot within a few seconds.
Emperor Napoleon commissioned “Arc de Triomphe” (Triumphal Arch in English) in 1806 to honor those who fought and died in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Here I am the second time around in the city admiring an incredible panoramic view of Paris from this elegant neoclassical arch on the Champs-Elysees avenue, reminiscing the very first time I visited France, the first country I got to experience outside of Asia and thus it holds a special spot in my heart. For this image, I not only use Snapseed’s Drama tool but also collaborate with Pixlomatic’s sepia filter called “Anne” which makes it even more romantic and chic.
I am intrigued by carefully composed images. Clean lines, geometrical shapes and forms inspire me. This picture of the Eiffel tower captured from Arc de triomphe is my kind of photography. I use the iron bars from the building to create strong lines contrasting with one another and finally exposing the tower which stands parallel with them at the right end. Pop!Cam tool from PhotoForge2 is perfect for cooperating textures and different hues into images. The app is easy to use and has every possible tool you need for photo editing such as cropping, rotating, straightening, resizing and many more.
Back in the day, the café like Les Deux Magots in Paris was the rendezvous of the writers, intellectuals and artists such as Heminway, Sartre and Picasso. Nowadays, cafés like this are perfect for those of us tourists who would like to take a break and simply soak in the incredible Parisian café culture. Besides, it is an experience itself to watch stylishly dressed Parisians going about their business while enjoying a nice cup of coffee or two. For this picture, as I would like the shelter of the café to be as red as possible, I use Dynamic Light which powerfully enhances the colors, then ColorBlast lite to only highlight the scarlet red while turning the rest B&W. Simple café shop photo now becomes very much alive.
Who says you need big expensive lens to try out macro photography which is somehow a standard technique when photographing cuisines. Here, using Instagram, I present you the most celebrated French dish, the duck confit. I choose my favorite Lo-fi filter of Instagram to give my confit appetizing yet dramatic appeal. Then by adding the centre focus tool which provides the image with a blurred background effect to make as if it has come out of a recipe book. Duck confit is my personal favorite French dish of all time. Crispy and golden on the outside but moist, tender and juicy inside, my dream is to be able to cook it the way they do it in France which is not an easy feat; preparation alone takes at least 36 hours. (The leg of duck is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing and poached in its own fat until meltingly tender for at least four to ten hours) Paired with either scrumptious sautéed pomme de terre (potatoes) or French fries and green salad, this is my kind of heaven. C'est très délicieux!
Don’t we all love to have our pictures taken in front of famous monuments? We try our best to freeze up our special moments (aka photo proof!) by either striking the classic hands-in-the-pockets pose or the famed Japanese Kawai pose with two pointing fingers demanding world peace. We need a little more originality? Sure! Here, I am standing at the top of Napolean’s Arc de triomphe with the backdrop of the darling tower. Here's a thing! I take lovely pictures of others but when others take my pictures, I always get disappointed with results. Maybe I am quite fussy and demanding but some people just don’t know how to take pictures. Period! Luckily, iPhone camera has a self-portrait option. (How narcissist-friendly!) As I’m striving to achieve “Orginality’, I try not to look straight into the camera. Purposely, of course! I even position myself in the corner not “the usual centre” leaving out more space for the magnificent backdrop. Once again, using my favorite, Pop!Cam from PhotoForge2, I play with the image supplying paintbrush-like texture, cool purple hues and a neat black frame. Viola! Très sympa, oui?
Coming up with a compilation of your travel adventures or simply telling a story by stitching images in sequence, an app called Diptic makes it possible. Here, the highlights of Paris I have visited such as the Eiffel, Arc de triomphe du Carrousel (the smaller version of Triumphal arch), Basilica Sacré-Cœur in promenade-friendly Montmartre and the pyramid in front of the Louvre museum, home of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, are collaged together to commemorate my petites adventures in Paris.
On this one, I gather three pictures that best describe Paris and have one thing in common, the color gold. First, the renowned French luxury brand, Louis Vuitton. Their big outlet on Champs-Elysees avenue has become a landmark itself, popular with tourists, fashion lovers and obviously those who can afford it. Next, one of the gold-leafed sculptures on the Alexander III Bridge near Les Invalides, the building where Napoleon Bonaparte was buried. These gorgeous sculptures are one good memory that forever sticks in my mind for whatever reason since my first visit. (Maybe I like the way they glow against the grey cloudy sky. Or maybe I get easily distracted by shiny objects. I don’t know) And last but not least, the gold statue of this famous French man, Gustave Eiffel, under the legendary tower that he built. Apart from the striking gold from these three photos, I want to go a little beyond reality and perhaps fiddle with some colors this time. It is Paris after all, no holding back, let’s go a little wild with my imaginations. (Apps used: Snapseed, PhotoForge 2, Diptic for both pictures)
To be honest, I am amazed how technology today spreads me out to endless creative opportunities and possibilities. "So you photoshoped these pictures?" A disapproving friend argues as if I have committed a crime. “These are not natural, I prefer real photos” she continues. What’s so exciting about reality? I question silently. Especially when reality is captured by a 5 megapixel camera from a telephone. And who says art is to suggest reality anyway? Imaginations are free. These aforementioned apps come in handy and aid our creative process. They not only help better the condition of images but also in some cases, live out our fantasies. If we can lean on for a little extra technology help, I’d say why not?
At the end of the day, creativity comes from within. It starts with our eyes and it is about being able to see and appreciate the beauty around us. Also, it is important to keep the balance between enhancing and going overboard. For the price of a packet of chips we pay or many of them, at free of charge, these photo apps can be downloaded from the app store.
Snap, snap, snap away!