Posts Tagged ‘nine’

Nine straight-forward tips from an award-winning travel photographer

13 Jan

Travel photographer Bob Holmes recently put together this quick-tips video for Advancing Your Photography in which he shares nine useful photography tips; or, as Holmes puts it in the video, nine ‘crutches’ for when you feel like the muse has deserted you.

They’re basic tips, but this is what Holmes looks for when he goes out to shoot—lines, punctuation, and energy—and they’re the reason he has managed to continue producing award-winning work year after year after year.

For those of you who prefer reading to watching, here’s a quick summary of all nine tips:

  1. Look for leading lines – they can lead your viewer through the composition
  2. Look for diagonals – they give a dynamic feel to your photos
  3. Look for horizontal lines – they will give a calm feel to your photos
  4. Capture gestures – they can really help your photo pop
  5. Try to find ‘punctuation’ – like a splash of color or a solitary person in a larger landscape
  6. Put energy into your photos – you can do this by capturing movement in the frame
  7. Be receptive – let the picture ‘impress itself’ upon you
  8. Look at art for inspiration – famous paintings are often examples of fantastic composition and great lighting at work.
  9. Look at photography books for inspiration – there’s a reason the Irving Penn’s and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s of the world are still remembered today.

The tips might seem overly simplistic, but simple isn’t always a bad thing when you’re trying to get out of a rut. And it’s not like Bob Holmes doesn’t know what he’s talking about: he’s the only photographer to ever win the Travel Photographer of the Year Award 5 times, most recently in 2017.

Check out the video above for photo to go with each of the tips, and then let us know if you have your own “get out of a rut” routine in the comments.

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Nine things you should know about the Google Pixel 2

07 Oct

Nine things you should know about the Google Pixel 2

With all the hype surrounding the release of the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL and their “world’s highest rated smartphone camera,” it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. What’s important about this new phone? Where did Google leave us wanting more? How is this phone’s camera better than its predecessor? And why should photographers care about the technology baked into Google’s new flagship?

After covering the launch in detail and spending some time with the Pixel 2 in San Francisco, we’re setting out to answer those questions (and a few others) for you.

Dual Pixel AF

The new Pixel phones sport a very clever feature found on higher-end Canon cameras: split left- and right-looking pixels behind each microlens on the camera sensor. This allows the camera to sample left and right perspectives behind the lens, which can then be used to focus the camera faster on the subject (it’s essentially a form of phase-detect AF).

It’s officially called dual pixel autofocus, and it has the potential to offer a number of advantages over the ‘focus pixels’ Apple phones use: every pixel can be dedicated to focus without any impact to image quality (see this illustration). We’ve been impressed with its implementation on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and on Canon cameras. So we’re expecting fast autofocus for stills, even in low light, as well as very smooth autofocus in video with little to no hunting. Given how good the Pixel 2’s stabilized 4K video is, you might even make some professional-looking clips from these new phones.

Dual pixel + machine learning driven portraits

The split pixels have another function: the left-looking and right-looking pixels underneath each microlens essentially sample two different perspectives that are slightly shifted from one another. Google then build a rudimentary depth map using this set of separated images and some help from its machine learning algorithms.

Clever. However, the stereo disparity between the two images are likely to be very small compared to a dual camera setup, which is likely to make it difficult for the Pixel 2 cameras to distinguish background from subject for more distant subjects. This might explain the poor results in DXO’s comparison, but better results in the image above where Allison is much closer to the camera.

On the plus side, Portrait mode now renders full resolution 12MP files (you only got 5MP files on the original Pixels), and the ‘lens blur’ Google uses is generally more pleasing than Apple’s more Gaussian blur. Out of focus highlights are rendered as more defined circles compared to Apple’s results. This comes at a cost though: the blurring algorithm is computationally intensive so you’ll generally wait a few seconds before seeing the result (and you can’t see it in real time as you can with Apple).

Hardier hardware

Unsurprisingly if you’ve been following the rumor mill, the hardware specs on the new Pixel 2 phones didn’t particularly impress any more than what we’ve seen from other phones. They’re nice devices, and both are far more durable with IP67 ratings (a huge step up from the poor IP53 ratings of the previous Pixel phones, which were prone to quick wear and tear), but hardware-wise there’s not too much to be excited about.

We’ve lost the headphone jack but gained stereo speakers in the front. The XL has less of a bezel, but it’s still not as bezel-less as Samsung phones. No dual-cameras. RAM and processor are what you get in other Android phones. You can invoke the Assistant with a squeeze, but… well…

Nothing really stands out. But wait, there’s more to the story.

AI First

If there’s one point Google CEO Sundar Pichai continuously makes in his presentations, it’s that we’re moving from a ‘Mobile First’ to an ‘AI First’ world. He’s referring to the move away from thinking of mobile devices simply as pocketable computation devices but, instead, intelligent devices that can adapt to our needs and make our lives easier. And Google is a leader here, thanks to the intelligence it acquires from its search services and apps like Maps and Photos.

AI is increasingly being used in many services to make them better, but often transparently. CEO Pichai recently cited an example of the Fitness app: every time he opens it he navigates to a different page. But rather than have the app team change the default page, or add an option to, he figures AI should just learn your preference transparently.

What’s that mean for photography and videography? We’re purely speculating here, but, imagine a camera learning your taste in photography by the way you edit photos. Or the photos you take. Or the filters you apply. Or the photos you ‘like’. How about learning your taste in music so when Google Assistant auto-builds videos from your library of photos and videos, they’re cut to music you like?

The possibilities are endless, and we’re likely to see lots of cool things make their way into the new Pixel phones, like…

Google Lens

Sundar Pichai first talked about Google Lens at the I/O Developer Conference earlier this year. It marries machine vision and AI, and is now available for the first time in the Photos app and within Google Assistant on the new Pixel phones. Google’s machine vision algorithms can analyze what the camera sees, and use AI to do cool things like identify what type of flower you’re pointing your camera at.

This sort of intelligence is applicable to photography as well: Pichai talked about how AutoML has improved Google’s ability to automatically identify objects in a scene. Anything from a fence to a motorbike to types of food to your face: Google is getting increasingly better at identifying these objects and understanding what they are – automatically using reinforcement learning.

And once you understand what an object is, you can do all sorts of cool things. Remove it. Re-light it. Identify it so you can easily search for it without every keywording your photos. The Photos app can already pull up pictures of planes, birthdays, food, wine, you name it. We look forward to seeing how the inclusion of Google Lens in the new phones makes Photos and Assistant better.

Maybe intelligent object recognition could even fix flare issues by understand what flare is… though this may not be necessary for the new phone…

Goodbye ugly lens flare

Thankfully, the nasty flare issues that plagued the first-gen Pixel phones appear to be remedied by lifting the camera module above the glass backing, which has also been reduced and streamlined to fit flush with the rest of the phone.

The camera unit is raised from the back ever-so-slightly though, but that’s a compromise we’re willing to accept if it means the camera isn’t behind a piece of uncoated glass – a recipe for flare disaster. The only flare we’ve seen so far with our limited hands-on time is what DXO witnessed in their report: the lens element reflections in corners you sometimes see even in professional lenses. That’s something we’ll gladly put up with (and that some of us even like).

If flare bugged you on the previous Pixel phones (it certainly bugged me), consider it a non-issue on the new phones.

Incredibly smooth video

When the original Pixel launched, Google claimed its camera beat other cameras with optical image stabilization (OIS) despite lacking OIS. It claimed its software-based stabilization approach allowed it to get better with time as algorithms got better. Omitting OIS was also crucial to keeping the camera small such that it fit within the slim body.

Google is singing a different tune this year, including both OIS and electronic image stabilization (EIS) in its larger camera unit that extends ever-so-slightly above the back glass. And the results appear to be quite impressive. The original Pixels already had very good stabilization in video (even 4K), but combining OIS + EIS appears to have made the video results even smoother. Check out the video from Google above.

For low light photography, OIS should help steady the camera for longer shutter speeds. You should also get better macro results and better document scanning. Hey, that’s worth something.

Equally as important as what the new phones offer is what the new phones don’t offer…

Color management? HEIF?

Notably absent was any talk about proper color management on the new phones. The previous Pixels had beautiful OLED displays, but colors were wildly inaccurate and often too saturated due to lack of any color management or proper calibrated display modes.

iPhones have some of the most color accurate screens out there. Their wide gamut screens now cover most of DCI-P3 but, more importantly, iOS can automatically switch the screen’s gamut between properly calibrated DCI-P3 and standard gamut (sRGB) modes on-the-fly based on content.

This means you view photos and movies as they were intended. It also means when you send an image from your iPhone to be printed (using a service that at least understands color management, like Apple’s print services), the print comes back looking similar, though perhaps a bit dimmer.*

The Samsung Galaxy S8 also has calibrated DCI-P3 and sRGB modes, though you have to manually switch between them. The new Pixel phones made no mention of calibrated display modes or proper color management, though Android Oreo does at least support color management (though, like Windows, leaves it up to apps). But without a proper display profile, we’re not sure how one will get accurate colors on the Pixel 2 phones.

*That’s only because prints aren’t generally illuminated as much as bright backlit LCDs that these days reach anywhere from 6 to 10 times the brightness prints are generally viewed at.

HDR display?

Sadly there was no mention of 10-bit images or HDR display of photos or videos (using the HDR10 or Dolby Vision standards) at Google’s press event. This leaves much to be desired.

The iPhone X will play back HDR video content using multiple streaming services, but more importantly for photographers it will display photos in HDR mode as well. Remember, this has little to do with HDR capture but, instead, the proper display of photos on displays—like OLED—that can reproduce a wider range of tones.

To put it bluntly: photos taken on an iPhone X and viewed on an iPhone X will look more brilliant and have more pop than anything else you’re likely to have seen before thanks to the support for HDR display and accurate color. It’s a big deal, and Google seems to have missed the boat entirely here.

HDR displays require less of the tonemapping traditional HDR capture algorithms employ (though HDR capture is still usually beneficial, since it preserves highlights and decreases noise in shadows). Instead of brightening shadows and darkening bright skies after capture, as HDR algorithms like the Pixel 2’s are known to do post-capture (above, left), leaving many of these tones alone is the way to go with high dynamic range displays like OLED.

In other words, the image above and to the right, with its brighter highlights and darker shadows, may in fact be better suited for HDR displays like that of the Pixel 2, as long as there’s still color information present in the shadows and highlights of the (ideally 10-bit) image. Unfortunately, Google made no mention of a proper camera-to-display workflow for HDR capture and display.

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Nine new lens adapters announced for the Fujifilm GFX

04 Aug

A host of new adapters have just been launched that allow owners of the Fujifilm GFX 50S to attach new and historic lenses from other brands to their mirrorless medium format camera.

K&F Concept has introduced eight of the adapters, and is offering completely manual mounts for some surprising brands, including Olympus OM. The K&F adapters are brass on both sides and have matte black interiors to prevent flare.

K&F Concept adapters:

  • KF-EFG: Canon EF – Fujifilm G
  • KF-CYG: Yashica/Contax – – Fujifilm G
  • KF-LRG: Leica R – Fujifilm G
  • KF-OMG: Olympus OM – Fujifilm G
  • KF-NFG: Nikon F – Fujifilm G
  • KF-SRG: Minolta MD-MC/SR – Fujifilm G
  • KF-PKG: Pentax K – Fujifilm G
  • KF-42G: M42 – Fujifilm G

None of the K&F Concept adapters have any electronic communication with the body, and all cost around ¥10,000 (approx. $ 90)

Contax 645 users will be more interested in this adapter from Fringer, which allows full electronic contact between the Fujifilm GFX and Contax 645 lenses.

The extent of the communications provides autofocusing for 35mm f/3.5, 45mm f/2.8, 80mm f/2 and 140mm f/2.8 lenses, aperture control on all lenses through the camera body, and full EXIF information in the image file. Fringer admits ‘AF performance is not as good as native GF lenses!’ but some AF is usually better than no AF. The Fringer Contax 645 – GFX smart adapter costs $ 750.

For more information see the K&F Concepts website (where there is no mention of the adapters) or the Shoten Kobo website (where there is).

More information on the Fringer adapter can be found on the Fringer website.

Sample shot taken with the Fringer adapter that allows AF with Contax 645 lenses on the Fujifilm GFX body

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Fotodiox Pro FACTOR Series announced with nine high-output LED lights

04 Apr

Fotodiox Pro has launched its new FACTOR Series, a lineup of nine bi-color and high-output LED light panels for various photographic needs. The series contains three circular lights and five square/rectangular lights with removable barn doors. According to Fotodiox, these nine lights are designed to provide area lighting and spot illumination, and to facilitate ‘studio-style shoots.’ 

The FACTOR LED lights have adjustable color temperatures that range from 5600 Daylight to 3200 Tungsten, according to Fotodiox marketing director Bohus Blahut. The series utilizes Fotodiox’s Factorsoft, a technology that sets LED chips deep within the lights for ‘a soft, beautiful beam with no hot spots and a single, clean shadow,’ says Blahut. This is complemented by a svelte 1.5in / 3.8cm profile and all-metal construction.

This light series is also suitable for use during slow-motion video recording, as they will not produce flickering in high frame rate scenarios. As well, the lights can be powered from an ordinary AC wall adapter or V-lock batteries. The following models are available now through the company’s website:

  • FACTOR 1×1 – Comes with removable barn doors ($ 899.95 USD)
  • FACTOR 1×2 100 (100 watt draw) – Comes with removable barn doors ($ 749.95 USD)
  • FACTOR 1×2 200 (200 watt draw) – Comes with removable barn doors $ (1,249.95 USD)
  • FACTOR 1.5×1.5 – Comes with removable barn doors ($ 1,299.95 USD)
  • FACTOR 2×2 – Comes with removable barn doors ($ 2,199.95 USD)
  • FACTOR 1×4 – Comes with removable barn doors ($ 2,299.95 USD)
  • FACTOR Jupiter 12 (circular) ($ 659.95 USD)
  • FACTOR Jupiter 18 (circular) ($ 1,099.95 USD)
  • FACTOR Jupiter 24 (circular) ($ 1,999.95 USD)

Press release

Fotodiox Pro Announces FACTOR Series of Bi-Color LED Lighting

Featuring Factorsoft™ technology, the FACTOR series is the next step in the evolution of LED light panels


Fotodiox Pro, creator and distributor of several lines of specialty solutions for videography, cinematography and photography, has announced the FACTOR series of high-output, bi-color LED light panels. Designed for spot illumination, studio-style shoots and area lighting, the series contains nine models in various sizes and shapes that are built to use an assortment of creative, series-specific modifiers for shaping and directing the FACTOR lights’ soft beams. They are all available for purchase on

“At the core of the new FACTOR series is our Factorsoft™ technology,” says Bohus Blahut, marketing director for Fotodiox Pro. “Factorsoft™ refers to our unique use of LED chips, which are set deep in the body of each FACTOR light and produce a soft, beautiful beam with no hot spots and a single, clean shadow. We’ve also built the lights to have fully adjustable color temperature – anywhere from 5600 Daylight to 3200 Tungsten – without sacrificing their fantastic output.”

The FACTOR series features a sturdy, all-metal build and a convenient 1.5 inch profile that makes it simple to position the lights virtually anywhere on set. They run off included AC adapters or V-lock batteries, and produce no flickering at high frame rates – perfect for slow motion video.

  • FACTOR Models 
  • FACTOR 1×1 – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR 1×2 100 (100 watt draw) – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR 1×2 200 (200 watt draw) – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR 1.5×1.5 – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR 2×2 – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR 1×4 – Comes with removable barn doors
  • FACTOR Jupiter 12 (circular)
  • FACTOR Jupiter 18 (circular)
  • FACTOR Jupiter 24 (circular)

Accessory options for the series include model-specific honeycomb grids and creative masks for the FACTOR Jupiter models. To learn more about the FACTOR series and other photography and videography accessories from Fotodiox Pro, please visit

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Nine tips to help you win at photography competitions

05 Mar

How to win at photography competitions

Having served as a judge on panels for quite a few of them, Senior DPReview contributor Damien Demolder knows a thing or two about photography competitions. Here he shares a few things to consider when entering a photo competition, and some tips for standing out from the crowd.

1. Read the brief and stick to it

It might sound obvious but reading the brief and understanding the theme is a part of the process of entering a competition that many photographers neglect – or simply don’t do. If you don’t take the time to appreciate what the organisers want, you reduce your chances of providing it. A skim-read of the brief might tell you that it’s a landscape competition, while a more careful study might reveal that seascapes and panoramics are excluded, or that judges will be looking for images showing the effects of agriculture in the countryside.

If the rules say ‘no logos or watermarks’ don’t add a logo or a watermark. No matter how good it is, the picture it will be rejected. You also need to be conscious of how much manipulation is permitted and the categories that allow or forbid it. These are simple things that can easily disqualify you right from the start.

2. When briefs are specific shoot specifically for them

Some competitions maintain a wide-open brief that encourages more people to enter, while others have a very narrow brief that demands your images show something specific or that they are shot in a particular way. The narrower the brief the greater the likelihood that you will need to shoot something especially for the competition rather than pulling an existing image from your archive. When you create new work for a very narrow brief the judges will note the efforts you have made to produce the images they have asked for.

3. Understand the copyright terms

If you decide you want to enter a competition and that you can meet the brief take a few more minutes to understand what the organiser wants to do with your pictures. Most will require permission so they can use winning images to promote the competition when the winners are announced and to publicise next year’s competition too. Others will want to make an exhibition or a book and will obviously want to use winner and runner-up pictures for that. Most photographers will be happy to accept those terms.

Some organisers though want more, such as usage rights for a much longer period, rights for usage not connected with the competition, commercial reproduction rights and rights to pass on images on to third parties.

Remember, there are no competitions you have to enter, so if you don’t like the terms and conditions don’t send your pictures. If the terms seem a bit harsh it is sometimes worth contacting the organiser as, believe it or not, some are not fully aware of what those terms demand. When made aware some will change them.

4. Act in time

If the deadline for entering is Wednesday 11pm most photographers will wait until Wednesday evening to submit their work. If it is a well-publicised contest is likely that from 7pm on Tuesday the competition server will be busy and will be slower to respond than usual. From Wednesday lunchtime it will be very busy and it will take you three times as long to get your entries submitted as it should, but by Wednesday evening you might find the server has crashed and you miss the deadline. Submit your pictures in plenty of time to avoid headaches and missed deadlines. Okay, so an under-powered server is their fault, but it will be you that misses out.

5. If you can enter five images do so

Some competitions allow photographers to enter multiple images, so take advantage of that. If you can enter five pictures do so – in theory it will increase your chances of getting somewhere, though not necessarily by five times. If you are shooting specifically for the brief it might drive your imagination to produce more and more interesting work, and if you are pulling from existing images it will give you the chance to submit something a bit left-of-centre.

6. Try something different

Take a few moments to spare a thought for the poor judges. They will be looking at piles of pictures that look the same taken by people who have opted for the obvious interpretation of the themes. That’s pretty boring, so brighten their day by showing them something new, refreshing and exciting. It is worth mulling over what you think most other entrants will submit so that you can avoid the standard responses and concentrate of producing something original. Original stands out and you will be rewarded with more attention than others who don’t make that sort of effort.

7. Be visually stimulating

Finding the right subject matter is only half the battle when meeting the theme of a photography contest. Remember, it is a contest about photography, so use and show your skills. Think about what you want to say with your pictures and the techniques and settings you will need to use to get your message across. It isn’t just what winners photograph that makes them winners, but how they photograph what they photograph. Use your skills to add something to the subject.

8. Don’t let photography get in the way

It is great to employ magical photographic techniques to achieve something special, or to make your pictures stand out from the crowd, but be careful to find a balance between the technique and the message. We’ve all seen HDR images, for example, where the visual impact of the technique completely over-powers the subject matter to the extent that the technique becomes the subject. The same can happen with coloration, extreme shallow depth of field and exposure, among others.

9. Be human

The best pictures are those that make a connection with the viewer. They share an experience that we can relate to, whether that’s wonder, sadness, joy, fear or surprise. To share such experiences we need to have them in the first place, so practice being connected to the world and being conscious of how you and others feel. But that doesn’t mean you have to take yourself too seriously – humour is also a fabulous way of getting the judges on your side.

All photos by Damien Demolder

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The whole nine yards: Canon 35mm F1.4L II USM review

01 Dec

Canon is on a roll with its updated Mark II lenses and scoring bullseyes with pretty much every shot. New versions of key focal lengths are being rolled out across the range, with fully revised optics and mechanical construction. Most are class leading, often setting new standards in one area or another, and the Canon EF 35mm F1.4L USM MkII is no exception – it is sharp, very, very sharp!

The MkII model launched last year replaces the elderly MkI of 1998. That lens was originally designed for film SLRs, but it won many digital hearts, including some on the DPReview team and several articles have already been published, looking back at the old lens and forward to the MkII with sample galleries, user reports and comparisons.

One thing missing from those articles though, is the close scrutiny of DxO Mark’s lab tests, with full analysis of MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) sharpness performance, and other important aspects of image quality that can only be properly assessed under controlled conditions. So now we’re putting that right, and the resolution of this lens on a 51 megapixel Canon 5DS R is something to behold. The new Canon 35mm F1.4 MkII shares headline specifications with the MkI, and most key features are the same or similar. It’s all-change under the skin though, with more of everything in the quest for quality, including a significant increase in size, weight and cost.

Key specifications

  • New optical design with 14 elements in 11 groups (MkI version has 11 in 9)
  • One UD glass element added, and two aspherical surfaces (MkI has one aspherical)
  • New BR Optics layer reduces CA
  • Nine rounded aperture blades (MkI has eight)
  • Weight goes up 31% and length 23% (compared to MkI)
  • Military-grade weather resistant build (MkI is not weather resistant)
  • Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price $ 1799USD (MkI $ 1479)

Canon has paid close attention to the optical redesign and the mechanical construction, and both raise the bar. No stone has been left unturned, and just about the only thing that stays the same as the MkI is the 72mm filter size, and the minimum focusing distance is also very similar at 28cm (11in).

There is no image stabilization, with that option already very effectively covered by the Canon 35mm F2 IS USM. Purists will welcome the decision to concentrate on sheer optical quality, and it helps to keep complexity and the burgeoning weight in check.

Angle of view

35mm focal length delivers a 63° field of view on full frame cameras, measured conventionally across the diagonal, from corner to corner. Image corrected for lateral CA, distortion and vignetting in Lightroom, at default sharpening. Canon 5DS R (51mp), 1/2500 sec, F4, ISO 100, mirror lock-up.
On APS-C format, the 35mm focal length’s field of view is narrowed to 42° (56mm equivalent). This is a digital simulation, cropped 1.6x (20mp) from the full frame image above. Shire Hall, Cambridge, UK.

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Nine black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

05 Jun

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

Not so long ago, novice photographers began learning their craft with black and white film. While many eventually mixed color into their portfolios, others eschewed hues entirely, opting for the smoothness of subtle monochrome tones.

Then came the digital revolution where all native output was in color by default, and anyone who pined for black-and-white had to figure out how to make it look real. Today, a multitude of black and white shooting, editing and conversion apps offer iOS and Android shooters many monochrome styles — from specific film analogs and grains to authentic borders, tints and vignettes, most with the ability to export and share via social media.

While any stock camera app will happily shoot monochrome images, these apps go further with filter options and interfaces tailored to black-and-white shooting. We ransacked the pile to uncover nine worth downloading.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

Dramatic Black & White
$ 1.99 | iOS | Android

JixiPix wasn’t kidding when it made ‘drama’ the central focus of its app and even its name. Whether you shoot with Dramatic Black and White’s built-in camera or pull a color image from your Camera Roll, the app’s highly configurable interface, flexible presets and editing tools set it apart.

Images open in black and white with an adjustable ellipse spotlight that lets you zero in on the subject. From there, you can crop (rectangle or square) or adjust tone, sharpness, brightness or contrast. Individual red, green, and blue filters give images definition, while at the same time you can mix in grain or apply a color tint. Multiple levels of tweaking are possible but it’s also possible to use the app’s extensive one-click presets (Black & White, Dramatic B&W and Infrared) for a hands-off approach.

In addition to its infinite choices, the app’s performance is outstanding — there’s no waiting for a preview to render as as you experiment with different settings.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game


Free | iOS | Android 

Introduced two years ago, Lenka, designed by photographer Kevin Abosch, sparked renewed interest in the mobile genre. Because it’s exclusively a image capture app, you can’t dig up an older photo from your Camera Roll and apply the Lenka treatment; the app forces you to concentrate on tone and contrast from the outset.

Lenka is minimalist and designed to be smart: It operates in full auto exposure mode, but if you want more control, you can tap the subject onscreen or the MF (manual focus) button on the control panel. Its four slider-based buttons for exposure, contrast, tint and focus toggle on and off. You can also summon extra illumination for fill lighting or extreme low light by tapping the light bulb icon for a continuous flood of light. There’s no front facing camera either, so no selfies.

Lenka is fast, easy and fun to use, and its auto setting works well enough to give you some great shots without much effort. 

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

$ 1.99 | iOS | Android

BlackCam, XnView’s capture and editing app, offers more than two dozen adjustable presets to impart a wide assortment of monochrome looks to your existing pictures – or you can shoot using live preview. Despite the number of adjustments available: Classic, Vintage, Light, Shadow, Dark, High Contrast and more, the app is easy to use. Classic editing tools let you adjust brightness, contrast, exposure, vignette and simulated film grain. Colored lens and professional conversion filters show up on screen. You can easily get by with the free version, which includes a large assortment of filters, but to get rid of distracting ads and unlock additional presets like Hard boiled, Vintage Deep and Platinum, you’ll have to upgrade.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

Photolab Black
Free | Android 

Photolab Black, an Android-only photo capture and editor from Sand 5 Apps mixes retro-style black and white analog photo and Polaroid film effects with monochromatic file emulation filters to give new photos an old-time look. If you’re in the mood for grain, vintage, grunge and textures, feel free to go crazy with stylized filters like Ilford, Lomography, Pan F, Provia 100F and more. The app also provides a full set of classic editing tools like color balance, crop, rotate, and straighten or the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, color temperature, saturation, exposure, vignette, sharpen and blur with a swipe. The app is free, but to unlock certain modules like frames, you have to invite a friend on Google Plus or Facebook.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

$ 1.99 | iOS

Hueless, a popular black and white photo app for iOS, is another capture-only (not editing) app from Curious Satellite. Think of Hueless as a film camera with black-and-white stock and use it when you want to avoid post processing. The main (H) icon lets you choose TIFF or JPEG format and can hide the menu to maximize your concentration on composition: A simple screen tap records the image. If you want to shoot fast without setup, the app lets you record up to four presets. Advanced touches include a live exposure compensation slider, live contrast adjustment slider and adjustable photo filters in blue, green, yellow, orange and red, which give definition to grayscale images. The app’s interface feels natural, though if you commit to using all controls in the moment, it may seem overwhelming. Hueless can save your photos to the Camera Roll or a special Hueless album. 

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

$ 0.99 | iOS 

BLACK puts the focus on retro film emulations. Ten distinctive film looks let you preview via swipe: Experiment with stocks like Tura P400, Paterson Acupan 800, Fujifilm FP-3000B and others. Just browse through each filter to find the one that best suits your image. Familiar tools like Curves, Fade and Vignette are also available. Curves puts tone and contrast at your disposal with a dynamic preview and histogram. Vignette’s slider adjustments let you play with contrast and shadow around the subject. Fade’s filmic effect adjusts for shadows. A full preview is available in Collection mode, as you tilt your iPhone 90 degrees. BLACK is a stylish and elegant monochrome rendition that offers some unique throwback effects. 

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

Simply B&W
Free | iOS 

Fotosyn’s Simply B&W offers a variety of choices for both shooting and editing. Select from an assortment of familiar films such as T-Max, HP5, Tri-X, XP2, Delta, SFX-IR and Vintage, and you can leave it at that. If you’re into more tweaking, sliders let you control brightness, contrast and grain, while vignettes and frames add a finishing touch. The real treat with this app lies in its selection of filters (Red, Green, Polarizer, IR Filter) that emulate analog filters for black and white photography. A unique pro feature is the app’s integration with Adobe Creative Cloud, which lets you access your account directly from the app and work on your image on your phone.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

$ 0.99 | iOS 

Not a single photographer – pro or amateur – doesn’t know the name Ansel, practically synonymous with monochrome shooting today. When launched, Ansel even reads the Camera Roll in black and white, where you can immediately preview the conversion of any of your color images. Once a photo is opened in Ansel, the app provides more than a dozen controls to aid in the transition. A minimal number of presets offer a starting point, but it’s just as easy to dive right into the sliders to alter tone, contrast, exposure, shadows and highlights. Add a gradient or vignette while using the Mix filter and choose any color at all as a filter. If you’re unhappy with the result, you can either reset changes or revert to the original photo. While you can use the app in landscape mode, the icons don’t flip to accommodate the new position, but they’re big enough to easily read.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

Argentum Camera
Free | iOS

A newcomer to the scene, Argentum Camera has an unusual take on black and white photography. The filters in Argentum Camera for iPhone are not names for films, but rather iconic photographers. Specifically, this app lets you shoot in styles inspired by Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Garry Winogrand, Yousuf Karsh and Dorothea Lange, which you view on screen while you focus and compose your shot.

The camera interface was built for larger iPhones. Additional options include a speed shooting mode for one-tap shots and Double Exposure to superimpose two images in a single photo. The app does not support the front facing camera – so no selfies. As you store your original unprocessed photos in your Camera Roll, a narrow line in the bottom indicates how much free space you have left. You can even take shots remotely via Apple Watch. The app is free with the Ansel Adams filter and a $ 2.99 in-app purchase buys you all five additional filters.

Black-and-white photo apps to elevate your monochrome game

While all nine of our picks offer polished results and an original approach, there are a couple of standouts.

Best free option

For the easiest shooting experience and the most enticing results, Lenka is our overall favorite among the free apps. There’s practically no setup, but rather a simple point and shoot interface that provides just enough control to get great results.

Best paid option

On the paid side, Dramatic Black and White simply hits it out of the ballpark with its flexible, easy-to-use shooting and editing controls, sizable number of presets and outstanding performance.

The apps above are just a small sample of the mobile black and white apps out there. Do you have a favorite that was not mentioned? Please share it in the comments.

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Scratched: Nine Nifty Closed & Abandoned Nail Salons

09 Feb

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

abandoned nail salon Upscale Nails 1
Once painted, polished and popular, these closed and abandoned nail salons won’t be doing any more filing unless it’s in bankruptcy court.

abandoned nail salon Upscale Nails 1a

abandoned nail salon Upscale Nails 1b

For a short time after its gala 1976 opening, the Randall Park Mall in Cuyahoga County, Ohio was hailed as the “world’s largest shopping center” boasting 2,000,000 square feet of retail space. Obviously it was all downhill from there. Competition, crime and changing lifestyles doomed the Randall Park Mall, which by April of 2009 was down to a mere two open stores – one of which was Upscale Nails. One might say they were hanging on by their fingernails. Kudos to Flickr user railynnelson for capturing the mall in its dying days, though it was destined to decay in abandoned silence for five more years before demolition put it out of its misery.

Best Nail Salon Bar None!

abandoned hair & nails

Flickr user m. (mirnanda) was out enjoying a June day in San Francisco’s Chinatown when what should appear but the world’s most passive/aggressive nail salon! “Hair & Nails” would appear to be on the menu yet the promise of personal cuticle care is cruelly dashed by a forbidding screen of rusty iron bars.

KP & Paste

closed KP Nails 1

closed KP Nails 1b

closed KP Nails 1a

reopened KP Nails 1c

Flickr user and retail store documentarian extraordinaire Ryan (RetailByRyan95) might have had some inside info on KP Nails’ closure and re-opening at another strip mall in Grafton, VA. In the images above we see the store open and functioning on April 10th of 2008, followed by its abandoned status on March 16th of 2009, and lastly its rebirth at a new location. Just like cockroaches, you can’t keep a good nail salon down – they’re the Whack-a-Mole of the retail trade.

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Is It Safe? Nine Creepy Abandoned Dentist Offices

15 Sep

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

abandoned dentist offices
These nine creepy abandoned dentist offices feature chairs even a weary marathon man wouldn’t sit on. Listen to your inner drill sergeant, this will hurt a bit!

Adel Reformatory, England

Adel Reformatory abandoned dentist chair(image via: Mexico75)

The Adel Reformatory in Leeds, England opened in 1857 and parts of the complex were still being used until 2004. One hopes the drab, dreary and debris-cluttered dentist office above was abandoned as early as possible. Kids, stay in school… but not a reform school, and especially not if you have a toothache.

Adel Reformatory Leeds abandoned dentist office(images via: Mexico75)

Kudos and congrats to Flickr user Mexico75 for not only capturing the decrepit Adel Reformatory dentist office but for lighting it in such a way that promises unimaginable doom to anyone brave (or foolish) enough to sit in that chair.

Le Palace d’Anfa Hotel, Morocco

Le Palace d'Anfa Morocco abandoned dentist office chair(image via:

There’s nothing worse than having a dental emergency while traveling in a strange foreign land, amiright? There are degrees of “worse”, however, and the de facto dental office just next to the gym at the Le Palace d’Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco takes that degree right off the dial. As for the Le Palace d’Anfa Hotel itself, TripAdvisor recommends tourists “avoid this hotel” regardless of the status of their teeth.

Maison De Cerf, Belgium

dentist Maison de Cerf Belgium abandoned(images via: Day Of The Dead)

This abandoned dentist’s house in Belgium doesn’t look too bad, though one can be certain it’s never going to look any better than this. Located in the home’s working basement, the office appears to have been left suddenly and in great haste by the owner, who never bothered to return for his equipment or teeth molds.

dentist Maison de Cerf abandoned Belgium(image via: Day Of The Dead)

The reclining dentist’s chair was obviously designed for comfort and support but as we all can attest, true relaxation in this situation requires plenty of novocaine and nitrous oxide. One thing’s for certain, a trip to this or any dentist is never “boring”… unless you’ve got a cavity that needs attention, that is.

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Apple Raw Compatibility Update v4.04 adds nine more cameras

08 Feb


Apple has added Raw support to its OS-X operating system for nine additional cameras, including Nikon’s D5200, Pentax K-5 II/IIs and Sony’s DSC-RX1. Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update v4.04 also brings Leica X2, D-Lux 6 and V-Lux 4 support to Aperture and iPhoto. The update requires Aperture v3.4 or later and iPhoto version 9.4 or later. Click through for the complete list of cameras and download link.

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