Category Archives: Must Have App

There are some apps that should be on your iPhone or iPad.

SKRWT: A Necessary Tool

It took awhile before the first few perspective correction apps were released for iOS, but last year SKRWT was released. It’s one of those apps that as soon as you use it you’ll know you can’t live without it. The description starts out as:

No more crooked lines! This keystone and lens-correction tool turns your phone into a view camera. All hail symmetry.

CORRECT LENS DISTORTION
Converging lines have always been a given in iPhoneography due to the fixed focal length of today’s mobile phones – but not anymore. You can now correct horizontal and vertical perspective distortion with just one swipe. It’s really that simple!

ALL-PURPOSE LENS CORRECTION
If you have been using any adapters for your mobile phone – from wide-angle to tele-zoom or external cameras with wifi-connection – you now have your all-inclusive distortion-correction with you at all times.

Let’s just say I could live with just those features, but the list is far more extensive. If you want to know how important lens distortion can be, and what this app can do for you, spend a few minutes watching this video.

I always have a tough time remembering the name of this app, but based on the spelling I mentally use ‘screw it’ as the name when I use spotlight to find the app. I figure I need to twist (screw) the image to correct it. A screw is also a simple machine on wikipedia, and this app certainly makes it a simple process to correct image distortions.

The SKRWT app is currently $1.99 on iTunes. You can find out a lot more about the app on the SKRWT site. It is designed for the iPhone, but runs with no problem on the iPad.

This is one of those apps you absolutely need on your iPhone. Worth every penny.

Toolbox Needs a Watercolor Artist

In my toolbox I’ve now included a nice free editor, and a very useful blending tool. Today I’ll throw in a watercolor artist. If you also want to carry one around with you, get Waterlogue. I know a number of painters who have seen what you can create with this app and they are really impressed (although they wonder if their days are numbered).

Waterlogue logo

Waterlogue is currently $2.99, but I consider that nothing when I look at the hundreds of images I’ve created with it. I like them all and would say I have a dozen that I truly love.

Painters may be worried about the gorgeous output, but if I could paint – I would paint. No matter what I make digitally I’m still jealous of those that can make it by hand. 🙂

The praise for the app sums it up.

• “…with Waterlogue, it’s clear that there’s a very thoughtful human touch behind the app’s painterly algorithms.” —WIRED, Mar., 2014
• “…Waterlogue is going to utterly amaze you, as it’s the first app I’ve seen that gives results that really look like a watercolor painting.” —Cult of Mac, Dec., 2013
• “Watercolor apps may not be a new idea, but Waterlogue does it in a gorgeous, intuitive way, and it’s quite a pleasure to use.” —AppAdvice.com, Dec., 2013
• “Waterlogue App (from Tinrocket) looks awesome!” —Jack Hollingsworth, Photographer, via Twitter @photojack, Dec. 12, 2013
• “It goes beyond typical Photoshop watercolor filters because it has more visual intelligence, and more of the feel of the real paint.” —James Gurney, Artist and Author of Dinotopia, gurneyjourney.blogspot.com, Dec., 2013
• “Ever since digital imagery came into its own over 20 years ago, there have been attempts to mimic traditional media. Where others have failed, Waterlogue nails it.” —PatrickSaunders.com, Dec., 2013

To learn more about the app you can visit the Waterlogue App Homepage. You can see some of the gorgeous images others are creating on the Waterlogue Flickr Group.

Download link: Waterlogue

Deteriorating dreams
Deteriorating dreams, by R. Pfaff. Created with Waterlogue.

One Way Sunflowers

One Way Sunflowers, by R. Pfaff. Created with Waterlogue.

Image Blender: Great App for the Toolbox

imageblender logoI’ve mentioned Image Blender a few times over the past few years and whenever I need to blend some images it is always the app I pull out from my toolbox. It’s simple enough and the name says it all – it blends images. From the description:

A simplistic and creative app for combining images with masks and different blend modes on your iPhone and iPad.

While the use and basic idea is very simple, there’s almost an endless list of things you can do with it. Some things worth highlighting are:
– Multi Exposure
– Choosing where and how much to apply of filter from other apps.
– Adding or replacing objects.
– Adding textures.
– Creating your own personalised filters with overlays

Image Blender outputs the full resolution without any limits to the size of your source image.

I often use Image Blender when creating ‘artistic’ images, but mine are nothing compared to some of the ones in the Image Blender Flickr Group. I found a nice tutorial on how to use the app, so you can see the capabilities of the app.

Image Blender is currently $2.99 on iTunes.


4/365 Afternoon Transit
Afternoon Transit, 2013. Image Blender was used.


Tin Man's Desire
Tin Man’s Desire, 2011. Image Blender was used.

My Photo Toolbox Is Born, Snapseed Is First

I’ve wanted to do this for awhile and on a nice cool summer morning I’ve finally gotten around to it. I added a new page on the site called ‘My Toolbox‘ that will list all the apps that I can’t live without on my iPhone (or other iOS device). This list will start out exceptionally small since I’m going to try to do a short post about each app as I add it. If you ever miss a post, you can always find a link to my toolbox at the top of the page.

I decided to start out with Snapseed.

Snapseed is a free Universal app that has been around for several years. It was originally created by Nik Software and was for sale for $5. Google then bought the software company (along with the app) and made it free (always a great price).

Snapseed

There are many highlights. From the iTunes description:

‘…hands down the best photo app for the iPad to date.’ ~~ Scott Kelby, President, National Assoc. of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP).

BENEFITS:
• Easily adjust your photos with a single tap using Auto Correct
• Tweak your photo to perfection with Tune Image
• Use Selective Adjust to enhance specific objects or areas in your photos
• Experiment with fun & innovative filters like Retrolux, Drama, Vintage, Grunge, and Tilt-Shift
• Add one of the many high quality frames for a finishing touch
• Share your creations via email, Google+, and other built-in sharing methods

I use the app daily to tweak photos. The Tune Image portion is great. The HDR Scape is also a fun one for those that enjoy adding a bit of HDR to their image.

There are a ton of positives, but a few negatives as well. It is a destructive editor. After you apply a change in one of the sections (such as Tune Image, Grunge, etc.) you can’t go back and undo that change in any way. Also, you can’t zoom in on the image (except in the Details section) so you can’t easily tell how much noise you are adding when doing various edits. My one fear is that Google may decide to abandon the app one day. I certainly hope they don’t.

So if you don’t already have this one on your iPhone, grab it right away. It belongs in your toolbox. 🙂

Snapseed [download]


It took me about 20 seconds to convert a really bad/boring image to a prettier version of the same shot (taken as I sit here typing this blog post). Although both are pretty bad! Below those is an image of a railroad crossing that made heavy use of Snapseed.

Before Using Snapseed

Before Using Snapseed

After Using Snapseed

After Using Snapseed


38/365, Two Tracks
Two Tracks by R. Pfaff, 2013. I used Snapseed and PhotoToaster.

Big Lens Continues To Improve

I briefly mentioned this Universal app a few months ago, but wanted to mention it again as it continues to improve (and was updated for the iPhone 5 last month). The basic summary of this one is that you get to blur regions of your photo to simulate a big wide aperture of a DSLR.

Big Lens gives you the ultimate in focus and filter tools for your iPhone. Simply focus where you want, with Reallusion’s Big Lens which turns everyone’s iPhone into a professional SLR camera. Snap a picture and then edit it like magic by setting the aperture, changing periphery blur levels, and adjusting background light to create a Bokeh effect with just a few gestures.

Here is a really quick example of what I did for a photo. I first used TouchRetouch (that link is iPhone, also free and iPad versions) to get rid of the extra table on the right side of the photo.

Original Shot Table removed from shot

When I took the original photo I’d focused on the coffee cup by tapping my finger on the screen of my iPhone where I saw the cup (this tries to focus and expose for where you tapped). That partially gave me the effect I was looking for, but I wanted a bit more blur in the background, and a ‘coffee house’ look. I opened Big Lens, imported the photo, and selected the advanced mode.

I drew a very rough outline around the coffee cup with the brush and then chose the ‘auto’ option. It did a really nice job. I moved to the next step by clicking the right arrow on the upper right of the screen. I then chose a wide aperture (to increase the blur) and chose the Sepia BG (BG = background) option. I chose the ‘heart’ lens to make the shot happier. 🙂 To really see this lens effect take a nighttime shot with street lights in it.

At this time it was really close to being finished. I used the Focus and Blur brush to tweak a bit around the cup. I also selected the HDR option at the top to brighten up the background.

Final image that used Big Lens

Final image that used Big Lens.

It’s not a brilliant artistic image, but it gives a good example of what you can do with Big Lens. Currently this Universal app is just $1 over on the iTunes App Store. Easily worth it. Some of the lens effects are really nice. I’m hoping in the future that we get an option to adjust the light source location for the filters that have light effects.

The app also has a few quirks. It is tough to really get a smooth edge around objects such as the coffee cup in this shot (more noticeable in full size image). And every now and then if I blur or focus a region I’ll end up with larger ‘blocks’ of a focus/blur region. Hopefully a smoothing feature for the edge regions gets introduced at some point. The ability to selectively blur portions of the image still make this app one of those that is nice to have in your iOS tool belt.

There is a nice demo video on YouTube. And here is another image in which I made use of Big Lens with one of the ‘Light effects.”

43/365, Sunny Horse