My Five Favourite Photo Apps for the iPhone

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I’m a point and shoot kinda gal.  I admire people with fancy cameras– I look at them like they are carrying tardises (tardi?) around their necks.  Yeah, the idea sounds great but how would you make sense of all the buttons and dials and stuff? I’m no photographic Time Lord.

plasticbulletI was slow to come to smart phones (see previous Luddite posts) but once I did I realized the camera is intuitive and made for monkey photographers like myself.  The first photo editing app I loved was Plastic Bullet. It hasn’t been updated since 2011, and I kind of wish they would update it; even if more sophisticated tools are available now.  I loved the fruit machine/jackpot aspect– the results seemingly randomized.

Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess
Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess

I still take most of my product photography with a point and shoot camera, but increasingly I’ve started to use my iphone for certain images, to execute specific ideas or edit and post on the go.

A Beautiful Mess– A self-titled photo editing app by lifestyle bloggers, this is useful for cute overlays and suprisingly lovely filters.  It offers  a quick and dirty way to add text and visual interest for sale graphics, though to be honest I use it mostly for personal stuff, as I find scaling to change the size of the font very fiddly.   Still, I have used it on the fly satisfyingly.

Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram
Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram

Instagram, how I love thee. I almost forgive you for being owned by Facebook. Not only is it a wonderful source of community and daily inspiration for me, it’s a nifty photo editor.  Perhaps the filters a cliche but with the new, subtler ones, I still embrace them.

Afterlight is a filtering app with more subtle-to-dramatic variations available. It also has a useful framing feature with prints available that are all pretty adorable.

My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.
My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.

Snapseed– Google’s photo editing app has been updated but I am using the old version.  If you are using the new one, how is it? I have not heard good things and I love it so, I’m unwilling to update it to the latest version.  The grunge filter makes me nostalgic for Plastic Bullet, and has a bit of that random, luck-of-the-draw feeling. I love especially the Drama filter to set and instant mood, especially when I’m photographing landscapes, architecture or certain jewellery.  The HDR scape when used sparingly, can really bring out the colour and texture of not-so-great phone photos.  I’m sure if I actually invested in a DSLR and learned to use it I would be much better off but until then, Snapseed is a life saver.

Self portrait, edited with Mextures.
Self portrait, edited with Mextures.

Mextures is my all time favourite editing app. It’s fair to say I’m obsessed with it.  Though I don’t use it for product photography often, it trumps all when it comes to creating a photograph that communicates the feeling of the place or thing you are trying to capture.  It is quite a painterly app, where you layer filters and textures infinitely or minimally to create images that are either subtly enhanced or completely altered and abstracted.

What are your favourite photo editing apps? How do you use them?

Instagram Round Up. My Ten Most Popular Photos

Me modeling the Volva Rosary Necklace.
Me modeling the Volva Rosary Necklace.

Instagram has been my new social media hive. I know it’s not new, but it’s new to me.  I’m excited by the friendly community I have found there.  I have become an avid phone photographer, and the same attention to detail I use in photographing my jewellery I use in documenting my life.

In a future post I hope to do a round up of Instagrammers, but for today I thought I’d share with you my most popular images.  If you’d like to see more, my instagram feed is here.

The photo at the left is me modeling the volva necklace– a crystal ball rosary inspired by Norse seeresses.

Cherry on the wall of the back garden.
Cherry on the wall of the back garden.

Cherry, my cat,  helping with the photography. This is her favourite plant. She likes to pick off the empty, skull-shaped seed pods with her teeth.

Brass Aromatherapy Locket by Feral Strumpet.
Brass Aromatherapy Locket by Feral Strumpet.

These aromatherapy lockets are a popular long-standing design– I offer them in different shapes and metals with custom coloured crystals of your choice– great to combine colour therapy with aromatherapy, or if you have multiple lockets, the different colours can help you differentiate if you use scents for different purposes.

Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire.
Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Rievaulx Abbey is one of my favourite haunts. Here you see a heavily edited photo of the ruins taken on a grey day, which has been manipulated to look like night. I’ve become fascinated with a painterly approach to photo editing which is available through different editing apps on the iPhone.   I wanted it to feel like Ghormengast, or some other oppressive and fantastic place.  This particular rendering reminds me of the worlds I was transported to as a child reading fantasy literature.

Me modelling the Briar Rose necklace.
Me modelling the Briar Rose necklace.

I have begun to experiment with modelling my own designs as a last resort.  It is difficult to be the jack of all trades and this is perhaps the role I like least!  I’d much rather be behind the camera.  I’m modelling my Briar Rose necklace.

A collection of my Crystal Nimbus Earrings.
A collection of my Crystal Nimbus Earrings.

The Crystal Nimbus Earring Selection. These earrings have become a popular design in the shop– with sterling silver ear wires and rustic copper girdles, they are simple yet powerful and are an easy to wear luxury. They are quite photogenic as well!  Sometimes crystals, like people, can be very hard to capture truly on camera, but these seem to be friends with the lens.

My working altar, decked out for Yule
My working altar, decked out for Yule

One of my most popular Instagram photos is this one of my working altar. I had decorated it for Yule with branches scavenged from the ground of my local park– though the white roses were from the store.  Instagram has a lovely, supportive Pagan community sharing their altars, tools and visual ideas.  It is one of my favourite aspects of the medium.

The village of Haworth, Bronte country.
The village of Haworth, Bronte country.

My photos of Haworth are some of the most-loved on Instagram– I have chosen a couple as to post them all would take up too much space, but you are welcome to visit my feed to see more!  Haworth is a fascinating place, especially if you are a Bronte fan, like me.  It’s quite photogenic as well– with it’s hilly streets and the moody moors framing the horizon in all directions.

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And this last photo is my most visited– it is heavily edited, but I wanted to bring out the intensity of being there.  The moors can be a desolate place but also a place of bright freedom.  Every colour is represented in the tough ground and the big sky.

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Portrait of Maker with Sheep Skull

Portrait of me by Gordon Fraser, taken with an antique collodion camera using the wet plate process
Portrait of me by Gordon Fraser, taken with an antique collodion camera using the wet plate process

Last week I was staying with a group of writers in a rambling old house in the woods and photographer Gordon Fraser was there with this Katamari-looking portable darkroom and trays filled with mysterious fluids. Every day these glass plates would transform to little windows of shadow, revealing the woods around us.

I was so excited to sit for him– this involved a neck brace thingy, as one has to remain very still, and a camera that looked like a cross between a wonder cabinet and a concertina. Also there was a pink velvet cape involved. The less said about the sheep’s skull the better.

I asked Gordon about this magical process and this is what he had to say:

When did you first start taking photos with antique cameras? What prompted you to start working in this way?

Well, there is a long long story about how i came to end up taking photos, full stop. However, the vintage camera thing happened because i was specialising in making fine art photographs with my iPhone and one of the post processing styles i was interested in was a Man Ray style of solarisation, which i then started to tinker with and found “plate photography” overlays. I liked the vintage look and decided to find out more…and then I saw a video on youtube of a guy who did the actual Victorian process and I decided I’d have to have a go. It was around June 2012 I decided to try to get involved and it was Sept 2012 by time I got a camera and took a course. You need to take a course I think, there are serious health and safety issues involved here as some of the chemicals you need to mix up are very dangerous indeed.
Where did this particular camera come from and does it have a history?
The one I used for your image was a late 1800’s Tailboard Studio camera that shoots 10″x12″ plates…that’s what you call Ultra Large Format these days. I got it from India and it was in quite spectacularly good condition. My other camera is a smaller french one from Paris 1885 and it was a mess and needed a lot of work to get going. One of the more interesting aspects about your portrait was that I used a period accurate lens with a Petzval design. That is one of the reasons there is such a fall off in to out of focus and also why the out of focus areas look so beautiful. Those old lenses have a focal plane that is quite unlike any modern lens and it gives the picture a very specific look that I find quite beautiful.
I’ve noticed from viewing your other portraits that you seem to capture the essence of a person, and not just their image. Do you see a difference in collodion portraiture versus other cameras?
Yes indeed I do. The collodion process is slow and involved. The plates themselves have about 100th the light sensitivity of your digital camera. That means unless you are using very powerful studio strobe lights or are outside on a bright sunny day, you are looking at exposure times measured in seconds up to minutes. Outside in the shade in the summer your shot was, I think from memory, 15 seconds. That’s a long time for someone to put on a forced smile…there is nowhere to hide. This means that often a sort of tranquility or thoughtfulness appears in the sitters’ features. It’s  as if you are truly seeing in to someones soul. My portraits using my previous digital cameras were not the same.
The fragility and physicality of this process is fascinating– can you talk about your favourite part of this labor-intensive method?
 I think my favourite part is the bit at the very end. With the process you spend days preparing chemicals, cutting and polishing glass, making sure everything is clean and ready to go. Then there is the ritual, like a dance, for making the plate light sensitive, pouring on the collodion brew, dunking it in the silver bath and the short prayer to the collodion gods in the hope it will all work. Then the short 5 minute window of opportunity where you must compose and make that perfect image. Counting out in your head the seconds till you put the lens cap back on…then back in the dark room to develop, followed by the climax, my favourite bit, The Fix. The fix is the moment when your plate turns from one state in to another and you see the final image appear before your eyes. It’s amazing. I’ve done loads of plates now but every time I see that happen I smile.
Where can people see more of your work?
You can see a little of my wet plate work on inologist.com and i am working on bring a new business site online soon. Fraser and Brodie, Fine Art and Portraiture. Oh and then there is the ubiquitous flickr….http://www.flickr.com/photos/urhere/
If anyone would like their portrait taken using the wet plate process what is the best way to contact you?
For commissions for wet plate collodion images just fire me an email to gordon.photographer@gmail.com  i can come to you or you can come to me…