Snapseed GUI

Back in September the Snapseed app (owned by Google) was updated with a new GUI (read more here). When I first started using it I wasn’t a fan. And to this day it still bothers me. It is “cleaner” than it used to be, but I think the white background is what really bothers me the most. I wish they’d give an option to let you flip to a “dark mode.”

Despite my complaints, Snapseed is still my default editor for quick changes.

Snapseed: old look

Snapseed: new look

Fun with Portrait Mode

I bought an iPhone X the other day, and am having a lot of fun with portrait mode. I think this works on iPhone 7 Plus and above (I had a 6s until last month). Without a doubt, I’m having the most fun creating black and white images with the Stage Light Mono portrait option. This photo was taken at a local eatery.

A great smile. Taken with Stage Light Mono Portrait Mode on iPhone X.

Taking shots of things other than people can also lead to nice photos. This was a photo of a tea drip at a local coffee shop. Portrait mode will blur things behind the front item in the photo, so the drip further back was nicely blurred. Back in the day, you could get this effect when using a lens with a large f-stop.

Image a tea drip using Stage Light Mono Portrait Mode on iPhone X.

Apple says that the Portrait Mode is still in beta. I would agree. One common problem is that the camera doesn’t recognize the entire face (or object), and blurs regions that shouldn’t be blurry (or blacked out). It can also drop things around the edge of a face, such as hair on a person, or the handle on a cup. You may get a message above the circular focus region that says, “move farther away,” or “place subject within stage light.” On occasion I just can’t get the camera (software) to lock in on what I want it to. Waiting to get the ‘yellow ring’ to lock in around the portrait area can become a bit frustrating – since sometimes it looks like it should be able to figure it out.

The variety of portrait modes are interesting. I’ll keep playing with them just for a little bit of fun. Always nice to experiment with new things.

PS. Happy holidays!

Using Live Photos

I’ll be honest, I never really thought much about live photos, but I ran across a post that mentioned the long exposure feature. This is really useful for a number of things such as waterfalls, rivers, fountains, moving lights, and just making nifty special effects.

Here is a simple explanation of how to use it on your iPhone, and here are some nice tips/tricks.

Waiting for my iPhone X

I couldn’t wake up at 3AM EST to order the new iPhone X, so I’m going to have to be patient for another 3-4 weeks. The new camera looks amazing from the specs, and there are numerous sites that have been posting photos from the new camera, but here are a few great posts.

Austin Mann took the iPhone X to Guatemala and did a full review of the iPhone. Let’s just say some of the photos (and the video of the volcano) are rather amazing.

Photo by Austin Mann
Photo by Austin Mann

Austin also did a full review of the iPhone 8 Plus when it first came out, so if you don’t want to jump to the X, be sure to check out that review.

Om Malik took his iPhone 8 Plus to Tuscany, Italy last month and took some amazing photos.

Photo by Om Malik
Photo by Om Malik

So what have I been up to? Definitely not much blogging. I’ve been so busy in the past few years, and blogging often feels like homework. No one wants to do homework! This past summer I took a pretty long vacation and spent all of June and July hiking around Mont Blanc, and then doing some hikes in Norway. It was a great experience. If you ever want a good introduction to Norway you could do a trip with Hvitserk. I’ve now done three trips with them in the past two years. They were all great. They did a blog post featuring my story the other day. Fun!

I’m hoping to go back to Europe again next year. And I’ll try to start blogging once again. I think I’m finally missing it. When my iPhone X arrives, I’ll be sure to talk about it!

Photo by Raman Pfaff. Mountain behind clouds.
Photo by Raman Pfaff. Mountain hiding behind clouds.

Photo by Raman Pfaff. Sunset in Reine, Norway.
Photo by Raman Pfaff. Sunset in Reine, Norway.

Top iPhone App of 2016 is Prisma

At the end of the year almost every publication names their top apps of the year. Apple chose Prisma as the top iPhone app for 2016. I believe this was the first time a photo-related app was selected. Prisma is an app that will convert your photo to a ‘work of art’ in a variety of styles by famous artists.

Local eatery shortly after sunset. Used Prisma to create the artwork.

When it was first released it would upload all the photos to their servers to process the images using sophisticated algorithms (computer code). Some were concerned about privacy issues. Since that time the app runs locally on your iPhone (at least for most of the styles – I’m not sure if there are any that still get uploaded to their servers). The app continues to improve in stability, and can even do video in a recent update!

It’s a free app, so you should download this one. I really enjoy using it. You’ll quickly learn which styles are your favorites, and new styles are often being added.

When using it there are a few things you can do. If you drag your finger left/right on the image you can apply the percentage of artwork over your image so your photo can be blended with the artwork. If you swipe your finger downward on the image it will add a ‘split line’ down the image, so artwork only covers half the image. If you swipe your finger down a few more times it will change the direction of the slice. After several swipes the line will go away again (you can also swipe upwards to reverse the process).

Currently the app seems to have a maximum size of 2 million pixels in dimensions for the image, so it does not save full resolution images. An image on my iPhone 6s will be 1608×1224 pixels. This has increased since the app was first released, so maybe that will continue to increase with future updates. I haven’t played very much with the video and am not sure what the output resolution is.

Below are a few of my images. You can find far more on their Instagram page. You can download from their home page at

Now…why haven’t I been doing more posts? Work continues to drag me down. I’m on a multi-year software project that is consuming all my time. Unfortunately, it is running rather significantly behind. There isn’t really a project manager on this one (even worse, there are a number of people that partially do the job), and it is rather disorganized as far as timelines go. Typical frustrations of work. Hopefully I get to retire some day and I’ll have far more free time. I can dream. 🙂