Saturday, 24 April 2021

A return to filters

While everyone else has been learning to speak Esperanto and discover their inner sourdough, I've been working on my photography. I have been taking #nofilter pics for a long time, focusing on the details of composition and playing with light however I've been looking at at the pictures taken by a friend of mine and she uses a lot of editing and filters to make colours pop in a way that has left me somewhat envious. She was kind enough to give me a tutorial in her techniques and, while I certainly haven't mastered them, I have had a go and managed to create some interesting effects.

I've created a few images and here is a gallery of the before / after shorts. They are arranged newest to oldest and I think even over these nine images there is a notable improvement. As I uploaded them to Flickr, I tried to explain why I added the filters to each picture and the most important improvement is with the intent behind the edits. Earlier on (the later pics in the gallery), the picture have been edited because I was just pushing buttons to get the technique in my head. Later on (the first three pics in particular), the filters were applied with a specific intent for the end results and I think the results are a big step forward.

I think my favourite is the sunset - it is certainly the best example of why I wanted to learn how to do this. Behold:

Filter comparisons

Now, for some technical talk. I take the majority of my photographs on my phone (a Huawei P10 plus) and all the editing here was done on the phone using the (free) Snapseed application. To get these effects, there are a few base steps (and again - credit to my friend for this!). 

  1. Apply the Accenture style to make the colours richer.
  2. Switch to the Tools tab and in the Details tool pull the Structure up to nearly max. This highlights the details by enriching the colours saturation and darkening the edges (apologies to anyone who knows their stuff - I'm sure I'm mangling the terminology). 
  3. Then in the "Tune image" tool, pull the Ambiance up to about 60% to bring the lighter shades back in. 
  4. At this point go to HDR-scape and apply whichever filter looks best. 
  5. Finally go back to "Tune image" and play with the Warmth, warm or cool depending on the effect you want.

I find these steps give a good base - creating a rich, slightly unreal image with lots of potential for further tweaks to create the specific effect you want. The thing to watch through these steps is the imaging graining. These steps seem to work best highlighting texture, and on big blocks of colour (eg a cloudless sky) they can add their own, breaking down the imagine.

Moving forward, I play with other options in the Tools menu. Drama creates some interesting effects but mostly I stick with the other options on the top row (Tune, Details, Curves, White balance). I can't say I understand them well enough to know what I'm doing yet - at this stage I fiddle and hope!

To finish, a Vignette can bring focus to a particular part of the image and smooth over some graining around the edges.

I really like this technique. It's a relatively simple way to create very different looking pictures. While I will be primarily sticking to my own style, it has been fun challenging myself to create something different from my usual output and I'm very pleased with the results. I will keep playing with it, because she gets some amazing colours out of her work!

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