Photocalypse Re-cap

Ever had one of those weeks that seemed so inhumanly busy and emotionally draining that you simultaneously feel like only a day or two has passed AND feel like it’s been dragging on for years? Well that was the first week of October for me. I’m finally starting to catch up now, which brings me to the long-awaited Photocalypse Re-cap!

Every day in September (or approximately every day as the case may be) I followed the Instagram prompts posted by Princessdeia and took a picture to upload to Instagram. I also edited each of those photos on my computer to compare and contrast my Instagram style with my usual editing routine. The results were fascinating!

Locations and Lighting

During my month of photography I tried out 13 different locations, but I frequently stayed within my photography comfort zone – my bedroom, the living room, and the backyard. Even though these locations were already familiar to me I did learn a few new things about them. The lighting in my bedroom is best in the daytime near the window. Check out this awesome photo! I had no idea my bedroom could get such great natural lighting!

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

The other side of my room pretty much sucks for photography. The overhead light just makes everything look flat.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I used to think the living room was a terrible location for photography, but if I take a few seconds to open the curtains and remove some clumps of cat hair that red futon is a great background!

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Everywhere else in the living room is still a no-go though. I mean seriously, look at these.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Horrendous.

Outdoors is always a good choice for photography, but I learned to love the clouds and shadows. The best lighting was always through heavy cloud cover, of which there was plenty during this stormy month. Early in the morning there is some especially fantastic lighting.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

If it’s really bright out with hardly any clouds in sight, the shadows provided by a few small trees is great place to shoot.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

There were a couple of surprisingly good new locations I found through all of this experimentation. The side yard proved to be absolutely magical for yarn photography!

IMG_5075

If I need to photograph something at night when I don’t have access to natural lighting I should head to the bathroom.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

If I want a dark background with dim lighting I should go to my sister’s room.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Another spot with good natural light in the house is the small desk in my mother’s room. I just have to move all the cat bedding to get to it…

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

So those are all the locations and conditions I found that work well for photography! I also figured out what to avoid. The kitchen is definitely off-limits. It’s brightly lit, but the lighting seems to come from odd angles and the counter and backsplash are way too busy to serve as a decent background.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I can catch some more natural light in front of the back door, but to one side there’s a cat tower, a chronically fur-covered curtain, and a cluttered desk, and to the other side is an ugly fridge covered in coupons and reminders, so it’s pretty much impossible to get a shot without some distracting background elements.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

My bedroom has a similar problem with distracting backgrounds as I could see from my very first photo in the challenge.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

But if I turn off the overhead light and rely only on the natural lighting from the window and use my bedspread to cover up the bottom portion of my bed, then the distracting parts of the background are far enough away that they fall completely into shadow. I can’t really pull off that kind of trickery in the dining room.

IMG_5300

Photography Style

I also learned about my own personal photography style. I always try to photograph things from several different angles and distances so that I have lots of options to choose from when it comes time for editing. You may not realize this though, because I always seem to choose the same shots. I seem to overwhelmingly prefer the shots that were taken level with or just slightly above the subject with both the subject and the horizon line near the center of the shot. I call that angle “The Monolith.”

It makes even the smallest and dullest of subjects look interesting and important. I use it A LOT. It’s almost obnoxious.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I also seem to have a fetish for close-ups.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

IMG_5330

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I guess all of that just shows my disdain for staging decent-looking backgrounds. I’m a lazy photographer.

Instagram and editing preferences

One of the goals with this challenge was for me to get used to Instagram. I used 12 of the 19 filters available in Instagram during this challenge, and I did start to show some slight preferences. I used the Sierra filter the most often, closely followed by Mayfair and Hudson. Depending on the original lighting, one of those three filters was usually able to correct for color or provide the right amount of glow to the photos to make them more appealing than the original. Here’s an example of each:

Sierra –

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Mayfair –

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

Hudson –

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I really enjoyed the borders on all the photos. It very quickly got to the point where it is looked really weird to NOT have a border. Some of the Instagram filters have more creative borders than others, but my least favorite border is the one for the Nashville filter.

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What IS that? It’s a decent filter, but the border just kills it.

I also had lots of fun playing with the Lux and Tilt-Shift settings. I learned how to control the size and location of the blurred sections with tilt-shift which helped refine my photos even more. While I LOVE both functions, they were not universally appropriate. I used each function on only about half of the photos, and for a third of the photos I didn’t use either.

I’m not sure exactly what Lux does to the photos, but it was something that I couldn’t replicate with iPhoto. In the Coke photo the Lux function was the only thing that made the badger show up on the glass. Here’s the iPhoto version:

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

See how the badger is nearly invisible? In the Instagram photo the Lux function made it visible.

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I quickly became OBSESSED with the tilt-shift function. It didn’t work for every photo, but when it did work it made the photos SO MUCH BETTER.

Take the $5 photo for example. Here is the computer version with no blurring:

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

It’s a perfectly fine photo. If you turn on the tilt-shift function in Instagram though, it makes Lincoln look 3D!

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

It really worked well with my “Monolith” angle to add even more depth to the photos. Even without my usual photography conventions it helps add depth to the photographs.

Observe, the computer version:

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

And the far superior tilt-shifty Instagram version:

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I could simulate the tilt-shift effect by photographing with a huge depth of field and making sure the camera focuses on the middle of the frame. That’s what I did with the street photo. There is no tilt-shift effect used here:

Instagrammed

Instagrammed

I did a few photos in grayscale. The grayscale filters in Instagram – Willow and Inkwell – produced more interesting photographs, but if the grayscale was used for instructional purposes, like distinguishing color values for Fair Isle, then iPhoto’s “black & white” function showed the biggest range in values.

For each set of photos I decided on a “winner” and for about two-thirds of them the Instagram was the better photo, however it did seem to depend on the subject. As I discussed several times throughout the series, because my knitting and yarn photos are used for purposes other than the love of photography I tend to have very strong feelings about how they should be edited. For 8 of the challenges I chose knitting or yarn as a subject and for all but one of those photos I had a very strong preference for the computer edited version of the photo because I was able to control the editing more precisely in iPhoto and produce photos that accurately portrayed the color and texture of the subject. Color and texture are VERY IMPORTANT with knitting photography and those are not Instagram’s strengths. Instagram is really great at creating certain moods with the various filters though, so when photographing things just for the sake of photography it can turn some mundane photos into fabulous shots with the right filter. It was really difficult for me to recreate those effects on the computer. When the subjects weren’t setting off my rabid need for editing control I preferred the Instagram version almost every time.

I also learned a bit more about the limitations of iPhoto. In some of my attempts to mimic tilt-shift on the computer I learned that the “edge blur” function in iPhoto is completely useless. It only blurs in a circular shape and it accomplishes the “blurring” by making the edges look more pixellated. The “definition” slider was something I rarely used in most pf my photography, but during my experimentation I learned why – when the subject is something soft or fuzzy like knitting (my usual subjects) it makes the image look grainy, but when the subject already had hard lines in it (like coins) increasing the definition makes the picture look more crisp and realistic.

Conclusions

This Instagram challenge was lots of fun! I got pretty comfortable with using Instagram and even started taking some photographs spontaneously and immediately uploading them to Instagram. I still don’t know what’s up with those hashtags, but eventually I’ll learn what people tend to use for their hashtags and start using them. It was so fun that I’ve started following along with the October prompts as well!

Instagram will not be replacing my regular photo editing on the computer, but if I’m not taking pictures of a project I’m more likely to just use Instagram for it and not worry about editing it later. It’s a bit of a time-saver in that way!

I also learned that I may want to look for another photo editing program for the computer so I can se some of my favorite features from Instagram in all of my photo editing. I REALLY need to find a program with a tilt-shift function! It would also be nice if I could add a border to my photos on the computer. A few filter options similar to the ones in Instagram would be nice too. The latest iPhone update included some built-in camera filters, so I might try playing around with those, but I would really prefer to be able to add filters to existing photos than to have the original photo taken with a filter. I’m a control-freak.

Top 10 Instagrams

I went through all of my Instagram photos (not just from the challenge) and picked out my 10 favorite photos.

Through all of this I have made an attempt to analyze my photography aesthetic, but I really haven’t been trained to look for that sort of stuff. One thing I know all of these have in common is that they were all sort of spontaneous. A couple of them were for the photo challenges, so I did have some idea of what I was going to photograph, but I didn’t set out with a specific shot in mind. I didn’t see the “street” prompt and think “I’m going to go find some artfully arranged leaves on the pavement and photograph them at ground level.” I just found a street, looked down and saw some nice leaves and them pointed my camera at them. Same goes for the rest of the top 10. I didn’t plan the framing of them or look for something specific to photograph, I just wandered about until I found something nice-looking and pointed my camera in that general direction.

Other than that I don’t know what this collection of photos says about my aesthetic. If anyone with more photography or art training than me has some insights I would love to hear them!

 

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Last Days of the Photocalypse

I’ve got five days of photos to catch up on!

1 – Coins

Staging and lighting: I set out some of my sister’s foreign currency (no idea where she got any of it) on the windowsill in my room. I turned off all the lights so the only light came from the window. It was early afternoon and very cloudy.

IMG_5282 IMG_5283

Instagram edits: Lo-Fi filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased definition to the maximum, increased exposure

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

This is another photo that sort of had a faux tilt-shift effect because of the angle of photography. I usually don’t mess with the definition so much because my subjects usually have soft edges (yarn, knitted things) and it just makes the edges look grainy and weird, but with hard-edged things like coins it works great! It makes it look like I could pluck those coins right off the computer screen! Both photos are great, but I think I prefer the crisp realism of the computer edited version.

2 – Stripes

Staging and lighting: I took these right after the coin photos, so the lighting is the same. I learned from the last time I took photos in my room and paid a bit more attention to the background this time. I moved my comforter down so it hung almost to the floor to cover up my bed. I moved the rolling cart completely out of the way and the cat scratching slope off to the side.

IMG_5337

Instagram edits: Sierra filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased blue

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Since this is a PROJECT! photo I donned my “serious business” hat while editing. The computer version is better, hands down. It shows the true colors of the yarn and the texture of the stitches. The Instagram version was as good as I could find, but it doesn’t compare to the full control I get when editing on the computer. I was really surprised at how good the lighting was considering it was dark and dreary out and further limited by the thick trees and tiny window! Having only a single light source had another benefit that I had not considered – the far background is completely in shadow, so I only had to worry about making the near background nice and neat (you can see how that worked out in the photos below).

Once again, I could not help myself and edited all of the photos from that session and picked out a few more cool shots. For the curious, the pattern is Color Affection.

IMG_5300 IMG_5326 IMG_5321 IMG_5330 IMG_5335

3 – Needles

Staging and lighting: Since my focus this past week has been on the yarnbomb it was only fitting that I should use it for one of my photos. For the knitted portions I’ve mostly been using my short Addi Turbo circular needles, so I draped the yarnbomb over the back of my computer chair, stuck the needles in it and shoved the chair up against the back window. Once again it was stormy and gray outside and the photos were taken in the late afternoon.

IMG_5404 IMG_5407

Instagram edits: tilt shift horizontally, Mayfair filter and border

Computer edits: cropped and enhanced

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I like the softness of the Instagram photo a bit better than the computer version. The tilt-shift also helps draw my eye towards the needles and not stay stuck on the busy yarnbomb at the bottom of the photo.

4 – Relax

The obvious choice for this photo prompt would have been to photograph knitting in progress. When I really thought about it though, I realized knitting isn’t actually that relaxing for me, it’s too exciting! When I really need to wind down and stop thinking for a while I go to bed and read a book. I just finished A Game of Thrones last night, so tonight I will start on A Clash of Kings!

Staging and lighting: I put the book on my pillow and pulled up the covers. I used my bedtime lighting for this one, which is the reading lamp attachment on the standing lamp next to my bed.

IMG_5415

Instagram edits: tilt shift horizontally, lux, Sierra filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased blue, decreased exposure, decreased saturation, decreased contrast, and increased red

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Looking at both of these photos side-by-side, the Instagram version looks more relaxing. I think it’s the combination of the tilt-shift blurring out parts of the photo and the soft glow added by the Sierra filter.

5 – Leaves

Staging and lighting: It’s been storming like crazy this week and it was cloudy out (though thankfully not raining) when I took these photos in the late afternoon.

IMG_5386

Instagram edits: Lux, Inkwell filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, black and white effect, increased exposure, increased highlights to the max

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

The leaves on the trees in my backyard haven’t changed color yet, so I focused more on the shape of the leaves than the color when taking the photographs. Then when I went to do the editing they looked almost black and white anyway, so I decided to go all the way with it and use one of the black and white filters in Instagram. I like the way the Instagram turned out better than the computer edited photo. The differences are subtle, but the Instagram looks like it has more of a glow to it while the other one looks more flat. I may be crazy, but it looks like the Instagram version is a photograph and the computer version is a still from a movie. Not sure why.

I’ll do a full analysis on my month of Instagramming after I’ve had a chance to look over the data and sleep on it!

 

Photocalypse: Too Much Light

Normally when I’m photographing things I want ALL THE LIGHT. When I’m using the light box I have 6 different lamps surrounding the box from all angles. I LOVE light. Until I have to photograph something white. If I have to capture something white then it seems like I have to do it in the dark in order to get any depth in the photo AT ALL. I thought today would be dim enough to do some white photography, but it was still a pain. Today’s prompt was “buttons” so I finally picked out some buttons for my Tilting TARDIS Cowl.

Staging and lighting: I put the cowl and the buttons on a table in my mother’s room in front of a window. It’s a window facing the neighbor’s house, so there isn’t much room for the light to sneak in. It was really cloudy today too. I even turned off the overhead light so there was only light source in this photo.

IMG_5225 IMG_5226

 

Instagram edits: Rise filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, decreased exposure, increased saturation, increased definition a lot, increased highlights to the max

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

There were only a few filters in Instagram that didn’t completely obscure the contours of the buttons and Rise seemed to be the best option. When I was editing the photo on the computer I concentrated on just the first button and pretty much ignored the rest of the photo. I really wanted to show the angles on that button! This was the best I could do. It doesn’t really show the cool pattern that made me pick these buttons over all the rest. It looks very TARDIS-y, trust me. I’m not sure how much darker it needs to be in order to get a decent photo of white things…

 

 

Photocalypse: Hall of Mirrors

When I saw a bunch of mirror selfies coming across my Instagram feed I knew today must be “mirror” day for the photo challenge. I’ll be damned if I’m going to shower just for an Instagram pic though, so I had to come up with a way to take a picture of a mirror without my reflection in it.

Staging and lighting: I went back into the bathroom for this one. First I cleaned the mirrors (you’re welcome, mom), then I cleared off the ledge in front of the center mirror. I left the magnifying mirror up though. With both cupboards open as far as they could go I was able to create a sort of “hall of mirrors” effect. I stuck my hand in there and blindly took photos until I found an angle that worked.

IMG_5222

 

Instagram edits: Rise filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, returned saturation to normal (“enhance” jacked it up way too much), increased exposure, decreased contrast

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Once again, the Instagram filter just makes this photo look more “put together” to me. I’m getting more and more irritated at my inability to recreate some of these effects with iPhoto.

 

Photocalypse: In My Project Bag

Today’s prompt for the Instagram challenge was “in my project bag.” I’ve been hauling around this project bag full of yarn scraps for over a week now, so it’s time you get a peek inside! This is mainly what I’ve been using to make my freeform fragments for the yarnbombing project.

Staging and lighting: This time I went to what could possibly be the best-lit room in the house – my bedroom. I have the same dim overhead light as the other bedrooms, but it’s bolstered by a standing lamp with a reading light attachment next to my bed. I emptied the contents of the bag onto my bed and pointed the reading lamp at the pile of scraps.

IMG_5051 IMG_5052 IMG_5054

Instagram edits: cropped, lux, Sierra filter with border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased blue, increased sharpness

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I really like what the lux function did with the Instagram photo, so that one is the clear winner in this pairing. Everything came out so much more defined and the darker areas were lightened without washing out the whole photo.

 

Photocalypse: I Want a Pony

Today’s theme is “want” and I’m currently DYING to get my hands on a certain pony-themed self-striping yarn from a dyer-who-shall-not-be-named-who-may-or-may-not-be-going-out-of-business. I’m even selling some of my stash so I can have some cash in hand in case someone loses their mind and decides to let go of their skein of this glorious yarn. I never sell my stash. Never.

Staging and lighting: Today I went back into my sister’s lair to photograph her shelf full of ponies. Same lighting – just a dim overhead light – but on the other side of the room on the top shelf of a bookshelf, so there are more shadows involved. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that shelf is almost entirely filled with pony figurines. I pulled Rainbow Dash and the other mane six (well, five – Fluttershy is missing) to the front of the shelf to catch the most light.

IMG_5027 IMG_5026

Instagram edits: tilt-shift circular, lux, Hudson with border

Computer Edits: cropped, enhanced, increased exposure, increased blue, decreased shadows to minimum, increased saturation

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Hudson proved to be the best filter to get the bright colors of the ponies to come through and correct for the yellowing from the terrible lighting. iPhoto was able to correct for the color much better though. If I could combine the colors of the iPhoto and the tilt-shift and border of the Instagram this would be a perfect shot.

Photocalypse: All About the Lincolns, Baby

Today’s prompt was “need” and lately I’ve been seeing lots of great de-stashes on Ravelry and have been in need of funds to buy them!

Staging and lighting: This one was taken in my mother’s bedroom which only has an overhead light, like my sister’s. Her walls are painted a much lighter color though. I lightly taped a $5 bill to the red cityscape painting.

IMG_5003

Instagram edits: cropped, tilt-shift circular, lux, Hudson filter and border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, increased contrast, increased definition

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

For once I found a use for the circular version of tilt-shift – in this case it highlights Lincoln’s face and combined with the lux function, the angle of photography, and the right filter it makes his face look like it’s popping out of the bill! There were a couple of filters that seemed to produce this effect, but Hudson seemed the most pronounced to me. I tried using the edge blur in iPhoto to create the same effect, but it just looks like crap. The edge blur effect is pretty much useless. I demand a tilt-shift button!

 

Photocalypse: Friday the 13th

Today’s photo prompt was “number,” and being Friday the 13th I knew exactly which number to use!

Staging and lighting: I went in my sister’s cave for this one. The only lighting in there is the dim overhead and the walls are super dark. I put a row counter on her shelf (it’s empty because it’s only used as a cat highway). It’s so dark in there that when I took the first shot the flash came on! I had to turn off the auto-flash to get the photos.

IMG_4990

here's what the photo looks like with the flash

here’s what the photo looks like with the flash

Instagram edits: tilt-shift horizontally, lux, Sutro filter, border

Computer edits: cropped, enhanced, edge blur x7, increased blue, decreased saturation, decreased exposure a lot, decreased shadows to the minimum, increased definition to maximum, increased contrast

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I tried to edit the photos to look somewhat ominous. The filters in Instagram were actually able to do some really cool stuff with this picture and it was hard to choose just one! Some of them made the colors look really bright and happy, the black and white filters made it look pretty neat, and the Toaster filter looked awesome! I picked Sutro because it made it look dark and moody without obscuring too much detail. I did my best to duplicate that feel in iPhoto and had to go through A LOT of edits to even get close. I really wish there was a tilt-shift function in iPhoto. There’s a “blur edge” effect, but it’s circular instead of horizontal bands and it looks pixelated and weird. I like the Instagram better.

Edit: Apparently this is my 113th post too! PERFECT!

WIP-Cracking Wednesday AND Photocalypse!

First the WIP-Cracking

My week was mostly spent working on the yarnbombing. There was some family health drama and I was in need of portable crafting, so no needle felting progress this time.

I’m running with the Welcome to Night Vale theme and have been working in as many references as possible. So far I’ve made the Eye, red dots, a tentacle, a bunch of amorphous shapes and I’ve started sewing suckers onto the tentacle. I made a glow cloud at some point, but then I decided it was neither glowy nor cloudy enough and ripped it out. I may make another attempt at it. We’ll see.

IMG_4964

 

Photocalypse

Today’s prompt was “shoes” and seeing as I don’t really own any super-cute shoes like everyone else seems to be Instagramming I decided to go a more realistic route. I didn’t want to photograph boring empty shoes though, and it’s kind of hard to take pictures of your own feet so I asked my sister to be my stand-in. She pretty much only wears sandals though, which is fine since I have a very similar pair, but having bare feet in the photo just seemed…boring? odd? I dunno, so I told her to put on some socks. I’m a knitter though, so of course they had to be hand-knit socks. So basically I threw “realism” out the window during the course of staging this photograph because these are not my shoes, or my feet, and I don’t actually wear socks with sandals despite my geographical affiliation. I’m a bad North-westerner I guess.

Staging and lighting: There were two main light sources for this one – the dining room lights to the right and the standing lamp to the left and in front. I had my sister stand on a chair both to bring her closer to the light sources and to avoid doing detailed photography of the cat hair carpet.

light source on the right

light source on the right

light source on the left

light source on the left

location of lamp in relation to chair

location of lamp in relation to chair

For the Instagram I cropped the photo and used the Hudson filter with a border. The unedited photo was very yellow and the Hudson filter added the most blue to counteract that.

On the computer I cropped the image, enhanced it, and increased the blue.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

It’s still nowhere near true-to-color. Conclusion: the living room lights are way too yellow to be a useful light source. If I want to do living room photography without the benefit of natural light I’ll have to switch out all the bulbs.

 

Photocalypse: Puff o’clock

Sometimes a project can fit into very neat intervals of time. A row that takes exactly 10 minutes to knit, a pattern repeat that takes 5 minutes to get through, a stripe of color that lasts for 30 minutes. Today’s photo prompt was “time,” so these are the things that came to mind. Hexipuffs represent an especially tidy amount of time – 45 minutes. In other words, for every single episode of most shows I watch on Netflix I can complete one hexipuff.

Staging: same as the “on the table” shot of my disassembled yarn bomb, except I held up the hexipuff under the lights instead of laying it on the table (which is still covered in yarn).

For the Instagram shot I zoomed in a tad so the puff filled the frame more, used the vertical tilt-shift function (the water droplet thing) and adjusted the blurred sections so they weren’t covering the puff (turns out you CAN move them around!), used the Lux setting, the Mayfair filter, and the border.

For the computer edit I cropped it, enhanced it, and increased the blue until the wall was no longer gray-brown and looked more like it does in real life.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

This was hard to pick a filter for in Instagram. None of them looked quite right. I just went with whatever showed the most range of color and conveyed some of the brightness of the yarn. The computer edited photo is much better.