Encountering someone who doesn’t have a smartphone is like seeing hyenas lounging with antelope–shocking and disconcerting. My dad, who is in his 70s, has an iPhone AND an Instagram account. He’s not alone. In 2014, it is projected that there will be 1.75 billion smartphone users, which surely will raise the Instagram account tally, currently totaling 150 million users. Face it. It’s a smartphone users’ world and everyone else is just living in it.
The world is snapping photos more than ever thanks to the high-quality images produced by smartphone cameras. And with the popularity of social media, we are sharing those photos. However, there’s no reason why they have to be ordinary. With mobile apps, we can take a photo from ho-hum to wowzer with a few adjustments.
To demonstrate my point, I asked five travel writers/bloggers who do an exceptional job with mobile photography to edit the photo below.
The guidelines I gave everyone were simple: Do whatever you want to the unedited photo, but it must be done using the apps on your smartphone. And these are the results…
Name: Liz Carlson
Website: Young Adventuress
About Liz: I got my first taste for traveling and Spain when I was 16 years old. On my own, 9 years and 30 something countries later, my wanderlust has only grown and the list of countries I want to visit longer. I’ve been living in Spain for the past few years but now I am about to embark on a new journey across the globe. Follow my adventures as I wander, eat, and photograph my way around the world.
Phone Preference: iPhone 5
Favorite Apps: Snapseed, ProHDR, Picfx, and ABM
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: My best advice is play with it until you are happy and do your best before sharing it. People love to look at great photos and the more work you put in it, the better the response. I also try to be creative, come up with unique ways to show my feelings through the picture. The great thing about mobile photography is that you can share something so fast and have an immediate reply. Take advantage and use it as a chance to share something beautiful that might inspire someone else.
Editing Recipe: I edited this just in Snapseed, my favorite app. First I straightened it just a little bit and cropped it so that the horizon is in the top third of the photo exactly and the winding road below is in the bottom right third – one great trick for photography is rule of thirds. Then I used the nature HDR filter and softened it, brightened it, and saturated it a little bit. Then I used the selective adjust icon to make the clouds less blue. Under tune image I increased the warmth a little and boosted the ambiance before sharpening in the image and then choosing the vignette center focus option to focus on the road, that’s where I wanted your eye to go in this photo, blurred and darkened the edges and brightened it just over the road. It sounds like a lot but once you get familiar with the app, then it takes about a minute to edit it.
Aviators and a Camera
Name: Kirsten Alana
Website: Aviators and a Camera
About Kirsten: Hi, I’m Kirsten, a photographer, travel writer, consultant and on-camera host who believes, as they say in Italy: “la vita è bella”.
Phone Preference: iPhone for the apps. Nokia Lumia series for the camera.
Favorite Apps: VSCOcam, Faded, PicFX, Snapseed, Instagram (for sharing, not for the filters)
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: Don’t over-edit! Using filters to give your photographs a unifying “look” is one thing but the application of a filter onto a bad photo will not make it a good one. Ever.
Editing Recipe: I brought the image into VSCOcam where I applied B6 because I decided with a landscape like this I wanted to pay homage to the great landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, but since that filter isn’t perfect on its own I then brightened the shadows by 2 notches and played with the contrast a few degrees until I got a look I liked. After that, I applied very subtle straightening to make sure the horizon line wasn’t at all crooked.
Name: Seattle Dredge
Website: Seattle’s Travels
About Seattle: Seattle Dredge is a 26 year old travel blogger, currently living in Toronto, Canada. Seattle often travels solo, in search of adventure and the perfect photo opportunity. This blog is a place to share those adventures and inspire others to do the same. And yes, her real name is Seattle.
Phone Preference: iPhone 5s
Favorite Apps: PicTapGo
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: Don’t go overboard with HDR or rely on Instagram filters
Editing Recipe: I rarely use Snapseed on my own photos, but I felt that the original photo’s landscape was somewhat monotone and needed some contrast. So, I applied Snapseed’s drama effect, straightened the horizon line and square cropped it before saving. I opened the saved photo on PicTapGo and applied about 25% auto colour, about 50% vanilla kiss and about 25% skinny jeans to finish it off. Voila. On a typical photo, I usually apply only skinny jeans and none of the rest.
Name: Christine Amorose
Website: C’est Christine
About Christine: I believe in daring to live the life you dream of living. Since quitting my job in high-tech PR in Silicon Valley, I’ve bartended on the beaches of the French Riviera, become a coffee snob in Melbourne, backpacked through Southeast Asia and roadtripped across the USA. Now I live, work and play in New York City.
Phone Preference: I have an iPhone 4S, but I’m (impatiently) waiting for the next iPhone update to upgrade.
Favorite Apps: I edit pretty much exclusively in VSCOCam.
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: Be consistent. With a few exceptions, all of my photos are edited using the C1 preset in VSCOCam.
Editing Recipe: I uploaded the photo into VSCOCam. I applied the C1 preset, slightly decreased the exposure and slightly increased the contrast.
Go, See, Write
Name: Michael Hodson
Website: Go, See, Write
About Michael: I took off in December of 2008 to circle the planet with no reservations and without leaving the ground. Sixteen months later, I succeeded. My permanent travels have just continued from there.
Phone Preference: Samsung SIII
Favorite Apps: Camera FV-5, Pro HDR Camera, Snapseed, PicsPlay Pro, and Awesome Miniature
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: First of all, shoot on your camera with the biggest size file you possibly can. It gives you the most ability to produce a quality photo. Then as to my other suggestions, I focus mainly on Instagram for my mobile shooting (though I do use shots on my website shot from my phone also). In that vein, Instagram loves dramatic photos. Over saturated, more HDR effect and so on. If you are shooting for that platform, keep that in mind. The other general app editing general tip I’d give is to focus on just 2-3 editing tools to start with, and learn all the options available under those apps. A few hours of testing out features on existing photos, and then looking at the results on a big screen and not your phone, will go a long way to getting you on the right path.
Editing Recipe: Like I said, I tend to focus on Instagram photos these days, so I edited and cropped this specifically for that platform. I have also been doing about 95% black and white on Instagram, so I took this photo in that direction with just a few simple edits using Snapseed.
Tune image: Ambiance +30; Contrast +10; Shadows +25; Warmth +40
Black and white: No adjustments
Crop to square
Vintage: Style 3
Center size: +40
Last but not least, here’s my version of the photo after editing it with mobile apps.
Phone Preference: iPhone 5
Favorite Apps: Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and Picfx,.
Best editing advice for using mobile apps: Play with the apps until you get comfortable with their capabilities. It’s really amazing what can be done to photos on a smartphone. I generally make my photos dramatic, but sometimes a simple adjustment is the best. Make sure not to over-saturate your photos, lest they wind up looking like a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I never use Instagram’s filters since I like to distinguish my photos from those of other users.
Editing Recipe: The day I took this photo it was cold and windy in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. This part of Texas is incredibly rugged and sparsely populated. With the exception of the highway snaking through the mountains, this photo looks like it could have been taken 100 years ago. Thus when editing, I wanted to convey an old West feel. After a few adjustments with the color using Snapseed, I then played with the film and sepia filters in Picfx.
Tune Image: Brightness+10; Ambiance +50; Contrast +15; Saturation +20; Warmth +20
PFX Film Set: PFX 5
Classics: Sepia Spot and then reduced the effect by 50%–I wanted to keep a little blue in the clouds.
Now, who’s photo is your favorite?
Please leave your answer in the comment section. Also, feel free to mention your Instagram handle, too.
Thanks to Liz, Christine, Michael, Seattle, and Kirsten for sharing their knowledge and talents. Please give them a follow on all the pertinent social media channels and check out their sites for captivating content and enviable travels.