Captured on an iPhone 4 using ClassicPAN; post processed with Painteresque, Blender, Iris on an iPad 2.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to blend two "blah" images into something nicer...

trueHDR image 1trueHDR image 2
While stopping by a friend's garden, I noticed these Red Hot Poker flowers and decided to see what I could do with creating an image using them. Notice that the left image (referred to as Image 1) has nothing interesting on the far right and that the right image (Image 2) has a very boring background. However, I could visualize possibilities for a very nice image by combining elements of the two images into a single image. This tutorial will explain the process that I used to reach the following two possible end results. (As always, experienced iPhone photographers will probably find the detailed steps tedious but those of you new to iPhone photography and post processing might just learn a thing or two. At least that is what I hope!) Linking to Weekly Top Shots.

Steps in brief for the experts among you...
  1. Images 1 and 2 were obtained by merging two images (shot with iPhone 4 native camera in HDR mode) in TrueHDR.
  2. PerfectPhoto was used on Image 1 to Sharpen, Denoise and save the image.
  3. PhotoForge was used to crop Image 2 and slightly rotate it so flower stems aligned with those in Image 1.
  4. BlurFX was used to slightly blur Image 2 since it will be in the background in the final images.
  5. Blender was used with masking and arranging to position Image 2 behind Image 1 and paint away the right side Image 1 to reveal parts of Image 2 that I wanted in the final blended image; blend at 100% to completely hide Image 1.
  6. Retouch was used to remove parts of the image I found distracting.
  7. Three painting apps were used on the blended image to achieve 3 different looks for further blending.
    • Moku Hanga (later referred to as Moku image)
    • Painteresque (later referred to as Painteresque image)
    • AutoPainter Benson (later referred to as AutoPainter image)
  8. The Painteresque image was blended at 20% Multiply (screen shot) with the Moku image.
  9. The Painteresque image was also blended at 50% Normal with the AutoPainter image
  10. Both end result images were signed with A+ Signature.

Moku Hanga blend with painteresque
painteresque autopainter benson blend
The top image is one option for final processing; the bottom image is a second (and preferred by me) option for the final image. Both processing paths will be explained in the following steps.

sharpen and denoise image 1 in PerfectPhoto
crop and slight rotation of image 2 in PhotoForge
Image 2 has the Red Hot Poker flowers growing upright whereas Image 1 (shown as the first image above after the Sharpen and Denoise steps in PerfectPhoto had been performed) has them tilted (that's how they were growing in the garden). Because I wanted to use image 2 in the background of image 1 when I blended the images, I used the PhotoForge (not PhotoForge2) Crop Tool to crop and slightly rotate Image 2 using the 1° incremental arrows until the flower stems were angled similarly to those in Image 1 as shown in the PhotoForge screen shot above.

cropped, rotated image 2blurred image 2
The cropped and rotated Image 2 (left image) was loaded into BlurFX and a slight bit of Gaussian Blur was applied to achieve the desired degree of 'out of focus' look for blending with Image 1. Hint about using BlurFX: Use the New button to load in an image; then select (if it isn't already selected) the Gaussian Blur effect and use the Threshold slider to tone down the blurriness (right image) until you are happy with the result.

final blended image
final blended image after retouch

Complete instructions for using Blender to blend and mask these two images to get the top image as the final result are on a separate page in the interest of keeping these instructions somewhat brief! The bottom image is after retouching (Retouch app) out some elements of the blended image that I found distracting.

Now for the fun part. Shown below are the results of using three different painting apps to achieve artistic effects that will be combined (again using Blender) to achieve two different looks for the blended image.
moku hanga treatment
The image above shows a Moku HD (Moku Hanga on the iPad) painting effect applied to the blended image. This app seems to randomize the Style that is applied when you load an image into it. If you find a look you like by experimenting with the Styles and controls, you can save it as a Preset using the Share button and it will show up in Styles the next time you open Moku HD. It is possible to tune each Style by using the Adjust (to adjust brush effects), Paper and Border settings on the Style. I've found I like the Landscape Style with the border removed for MOST of the images I process (including this one) and have saved that as a preset.
painteresque treatment
The image above shows Painteresque processing of the blended image. Painteresque is very simple. There are no options for changing the effect on your image and no settings options. You either like what it does or you don't. I find it very interesting but somewhat overdone so almost always blend a Painteresque version of an image with another version of the same image to tone it down.
autopainter benson treatment
The image above shows application of the AutoPainter Benson effect to the blended image. I have the original AutoPainter app which has four effects. I've experimented A LOT with it and almost always come back to the Benson effect and apply that to my images before blending with another version of the same image.

screen shot of Blender processimage result of blend
On the left is a screen shot of Blender showing conditions of blending Painteresque image (loaded on the left in Blender) with the Moku HD image (loaded on the right in Blender); on the right is the saved output from this blend which was signed in A+ Signature to yield the result shown in the top one of the two images shown elsewhere.

screen shot of autopainter benson blend with painteresqueimage result of blend
On the left is a screen shot of Blender showing conditions of blending the Painteresque image (loaded on the left in Blender) with the AutoPainter Benson image (loaded on the right in Blender); on the right is the saved output from this blend which was signed in A+ Signature to yield the result shown in the bottom one of the two images shown elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blue-eyed Grass, Olloclip Macro and post-processing fun

This blog is an ongoing effort in sharing some of what I've learned on my own and some of what I've learned through studying with Teri Lou Dantzler and Harry Sandler as well as following photographers too numerous to mention and studying their images and process.

Experienced iPhone photographers may find the detail unnecessary. Those new to iPhone photography should find these "lessons" helpful. I'm trying to post at least once a week except when traveling and doubt I'll ever post more often than once a week unless I become a more efficient at writing posts!

Today's lesson is an exercise in going from one image to the finished product shown below. Apps used include Bad Camera, Pic Grunger, A+ Signature and any app of your choice (I cannot recall which one I used) to crop a native iPhone camera image into a square format image. I do almost all my editing on an iPad 2 with occasional editing on my iPhone 4. Almost all iPhone apps may be used on the iPad as well by simply clicking 2x in the lower right when the app opens.

blue-eyed grass macro

Summary of steps for those who know the apps mentioned. Images to illustrate most of the steps will be included below the summary.

  1. Take a picture (Blue-eyed Grass flower is about 9-10 mm in diameter) of an item of your choice with the camera of your choice. I used the native iPhone 4 camera, an Olloclip macro lens and a tripod since it's impossible to hold the phone still while taking an image while focusing ~15mm away from the subject.
  2. Crop to square format if desired or use as is.
  3. Open image in Bad Camera, apply effect 18 and save the image.
  4. Now open the image from the above step in Bad Camera and apply the blue "Color" filter and save the image
  5. Open the saved image from step 4 in A+ Signature, sign and save.
  6. Open the saved image in Pic Grunger and select (from the Effects menu) the Cracked effect.
  7. Still in Pic Grunger, use the Strength option to move the slider to approximately 25% and save the image.
The starting point for creation of this image was the same as the image shown below minus the signature (uploaded a signed copy by mistake).

blue-eyed grass macro

Using Bad Camera to apply effects (steps 3 and 4)...

Bad Camera splash screenimage opened in Bad Camera
The Bad Camera app is an iPhone app; the first time you open it on an iPad, it will be 1x size; click the 2x in the lower right corner to have the app fill the screen on your iPad. To open an image, click the camera icon in the lower left of the splash screen (left image above) and select Open from Camera Roll. Note also that square format images will appear "squished" when brought into Bad Camera as seen on the right. This is nothing to worry about as you will see after applying an effect and saving the image.

Effects screen for Bad Cameraimage shown in bad camera with effect
Click the √234 square icon to bring up the Effects screen shown here and scroll down to select Effect 18 for the image; the Effect will be shown at which point, click the envelope icon and select save to camera roll to get the image shown below.

Effect 18 Bad Camera image
This image will be loaded back into Bad Camera to apply the next effect.

blue color effect appliedsaved image with blue color effect
After loading the previously saved image with Effect 18 applied into Bad Camera, click the slider icon (three straight lines on the main screen for Bad Camera) to get to the next screen where you may choose additional treatments; click Color, choose blue as the filter and save the image (result shown on the right).

Using A+ Signature to sign (step 5)...

The left image shows the screen after bringing an image into A+ Signature; use the gear (next to Help on the lower left) to get to the Preferences screen. The first time you use A+ Signature, the default settings for Preferences have a GIANT SIGNATURE that is white text with a shadow in a text I personally would never use. If you set things up for your signature in a font, style, and color that you like, then you will have that setup as your starting point for all future signatures. I had already set a signature in gray with Zapfino text and no shadow.

click select text to allow delete/rotate
The text is difficult to see in the center of the image on the left. (when you click "Text" in the red bar below the image, the default signature text gets added in the middle of the image) Select this text to reveal an "X" in the upper left corner of the text bounding box and a tiny circle symbol surrounded by three directional arrows in the right, middle of the bounding box. The X allows one to delete text boxes entirely; grabbing on the circle surrounded by three arrows and dragging in a direction (up or down) will rotate the text.

change text color to whiteposition and size signature
Double-click the text box to allow editing; change the text color to white as shown in the color Attributes page and in the image on the right; right image shows text location and size after using two fingers to shrink or expand text size as required.

flower image signed
Image signed in A+ Signature BEFORE applying grunge effect so that all the text (both signature and that from Bad Camera effect) is affected the same by grunge effect.

Using Pic Grunger to apply effects (steps 6 and 7)...

Pic Grunger cracked effectreducing strength of grunge effect
The left image shows application of the Cracked effect in Pic Grunger; the right image shows reduction of the effect strength to about 25%. Documenting the editing that resulted in the finished product took FAR longer than it did to produce the final image.