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Photography Made Simple

Published on June 21, 2012 by in Columns

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how modern technology is making it easier for people like you and me to express ourselves through video.  With relative ease—at almost no expense—you can make a short film or music video for your favorite song, using little more than your cell phone or digital camera, and the video-editing software that came with your computer.

By the same token, photography has become more accessible to laypersons with advances in digital photography.  Really sophisticated digital cameras are becoming more affordable by the day, and smart phones are boasting higher-resolution cameras with each new model.  In fact, Nokia announced this week that their new 808 PureView phone is about to hit the U.S.; it comes equipped with an outlandish 41-megapixel camera.

Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia just announced their incredible 808 PureView, a phone boasting a 41-megapixel camera.

If you’re wielding a smart phone, you’ve got an entire galaxy of photo-editing apps at your disposal.  The most popular, hands down, is Instagram.  Even if you aren’t using the photo-sharing social network, you’ve probably seen your friends’ eccentric, square photos showing up in your News Feed.  The popular mobile app, though limited in its capabilities, has become the latest sensation among wannabe photographers, and with good reason.  It’s incredibly simple to use, makes ordinary photos look great, and integrates seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter.

While some Instagram users truly enjoy the app’s social-networking component, I use it more for its photo-filtering capability.  And to be perfectly honest, there are several apps that offer more in that regard.  My favorite is Pixlr-O-Matic.  With dozens of filters, effects and borders to choose from, it outshines Instagram on virtually every level.  It doesn’t force you to crop your masterpiece into Instagram’s forced square, and you can easily share your picture with your favorite social network.

Instagram Cactus

Instagram is a great phone app, enjoying tremendous popularity. But it’s not without its shortcomings.

Aviary is another photo-editing app.  The free version (for Android) includes a decent variety of filters and effects for your photos, and allows for easy sharing.  It’s not necessarily better than Instagram, in my opinion, but provides a few unique options.  For a small fee, you can add additional effects packages.

If Instagram has a direct competitor, it’s Streamzoo.  Equipped with a social-networking feature, Streamzoo is a strange amalgam of Twitter, Klout, and Instagram.  You can follow other users and share their photos.  You earn badges based on how many people like your photos, and photo streams are sorted by hashtags—like #Sunset, #Flower and #Summer.  Like Instagram, I don’t participate much in the social-networking aspect of Streamzoo, but the photo-editing features are pretty remarkable.  With Streamzoo, you can edit your photos and share them to Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, and the app even allows you to manually adjust the hue, saturation, brightness and contrast—to get the exact look you’re going for.

One of the shortfalls of digital photography is that so often we don’t take the time to print our photos.  I have so many pictures that only exist on hard drives, or Facebook; and they’re photos I cherish.  While the very real possibility of losing them one day lingers in the back of my mind, I still haven’t spent the time or effort to have them printed.

Me And Pitbull

This is me. With Pitbull. This is one of scores of pictures that I have never printed. I should. I know.

I have almost no printed photographs of the dozens of celebrities I’ve met through my radio career.  If, one day, my hard drive crashes, I’ll have no one to blame for that irreplaceable loss but myself.

This weekend, if you’re looking for something to do, spend a couple hours teaching yourself the basics of photo composition—like the Rule of Thirds, composition balance, and leading lines.  You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in two hours.  Then head out on the town and capture your masterpiece!


Originally printed in “Pulse,” 06/21/2012.
© Damien Willis, 2012.  All rights reserved.

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