I thought, since I’ve used it pretty much every single day since I got it, and since I would count it one of the absolutely indispensable apps on my iPad, that I should probably write a “sort of review” of Filterstorm (I now have the Pro version, but most of what I’ll be saying applies equally to Filterstorm 3). I say “sort of review” because I expected (correctly, it has turned out) that I would simply blither on about my experience of Filterstorm.
As you might have noticed, I post a daily photo on Blipfoto, and have done so for well over a year – and for two months before that I was posting a daily photo to Flickr (I’m setting about adding those two months’ photos to my archive on Blipfoto, but 60 photos, uploaded individually, will take me a few hours ).
Anyway, for the first wee while I was stuck with mostly my iPhone, and that led me to exploring the various camera apps and filter-based editors. I mostly used Camera+ both to take and to edit photos. I dabbled in the adjustments offered by iPhoto with some of the photos I took with my wife’s FinePix compact, but that was basically it – even after I got my Lumix G10.
Then, earlier this year, I got my iPad2.
I then set about looking at the photography applications available for the iPad. Photoshop Express, despite the association by name, was disappointing, though it remains on my iPad for those occasions when all I want to do is crop a screenshot.
I used Camerabag a lot. This is filter/preset-based, like the apps I had been using on my iPhone. There are some very cool filters, but it’s quite limited – and I’m not sure if it handles high-resolution images, or image metadata.
Photogene was one I had used on my iPhone, and I found that the new iPad version was great. It has some great presets, but also allows some excellent manual adjustments. In fact it led me into the world of curves adjustments – at first by simple blind experimentation, en by reading about curves and trying to apply what I had read.
Then … Dun dun duunnnnnnnnn… I found Filterstorm. I forget how, actually, but I’m really extremely glad I did. I now have the Pro version (for two reasons: it has its own in-app photo library; and more importantly for me, you can use iTunes file sharing to import full-resolution photos from your computer to edit in Filterstorm), but the editing side of things is identical (except batch editing in Filterstorm Pro only), and that’s what I’ll focus on.
At first I found myself a little intimidated or perplexed by Filterstorm, and kept going back to Photogene. If memory serves, FS3 improved that substantially over FS2. Unfortunately, memory does not serve adequately to describe what I found perplexing – though as I think about it now, and open Photogene for a look, the sheer wealth of options and adjustments in Filterstorm might have had something to do with it. So, not really a bad thing.
Again at first, I had trouble getting as good results with Filterstorm’s curves as with Photogene’s (just what I was used to, I guess), but after more practice – and more reading – it started to fall into place. One of the first Filterstorm-edited images I posted was this evening shot, where I used its masking ability (though I didn’t know that’s what it was) to selectively colour the mirrored windows (and shopping bags):
This next photo marks when, for me, Filterstorm really came into its own, as this was the point I discovered its masking abilities:
Instead of just cropping, sharpening, and adjusting contrast and/or curves, I found I could sharpen just the lorikeet, and I could apply one curves adjustment to the lorikeet and another, completely different one (even adjusting the RGB curve of one and luminance of another, for example) to the background. From that point I was utterly hooked. To slightly darken the background without darkening a person in the foreground, or to make everything more contrasty but keep a face looking soft, was just fabulous. To darken a sky in an evening scene in order to bring out its drama, while keeping the darker foreground objects visible instead of silhouetted …
… made me extremely happy.
Since then, I’d say the majority of my posted photos, and many that I haven’t posted, have gone through Filterstorm. Mostly I’ve made pretty subtle adjustments, but sometimes something more obvious like selective colouring.
For the most part, I’ve painted on the masks with my finger, or more recently a stylus. There are other masking options though, and the colour match one was absolutely brilliant in this pic of the Moon, where I was completely unable, despite a lot of trying and experimenting, to modify the luminance curve on the Moon without giving it a horrible false edge with the sky, leaving it looking superimposed. Eventually I tried the colour match tool, and instantly I got this:
Black & White
The latest thing that’s grabbing my attention is black and white conversions. Surely one just reduces the saturation, right? Ohhhhhh no. That often gives a greyish photo rather lacking in drama. Filterstorm’s B&W conversion confused me for ages, because it has sliders for red, green, and blue. That seemed to me contradictory – it being a B&W conversion we were doing. Once again, reading saved the day. I found that what it was doing was akin to a B&W photographer using a coloured filter on their lens. Photos accompanying the explanations I found, made it quite clear the different looks that could result from changing those colours (and of course digitally one is not limited to just one filter, but can mix and match different amounts of them).
Most recently, I got Snapseed on my iPad. Because it was free at the time. After I found out that it was by Nik Software (the company that does Silver Efex), I decided to have a closer look … well, any look, to be honest … at it. While it is more preset-based than I’ve got used to, it does some lovely B&W conversions. One in particular really grabbed me, and when applied to some pics of my children gave a result very like the look I have admired in some B&W portraits.
I didn’t like to abandon Filterstorm and more to the point, found that Snapseed halves my file resolution and strips out the exif data – so its not the most useful editor in the world for me. However, what was useful, was trying to duplicate in Filterstorm the results of that Snapseed preset I liked so much. I thought, after a lot of tweaking of the RGB filters, and some contrast, that I had it. However, after applying those adjustments (that I saved as an automation in Filterstorm) to another photo and comparing the result (middle image in the triptych below) with that from Snapseed, I did not. Cue further tweaking, resulting in the right hand image in the triptych, as well as much happiness, as I now think that I’ve cracked it.
So although I’m not big on preset-based apps … I’ve just gone and created a preset (automation, in Filterstorm). In Filterstorm you can do that by a long press on an image you’ve adjusted to your liking. This brings up the option to save everything you did to that photo as an automation – so you can then apply it to other photos.
Anyway, the main point is that Filterstorm, for a few dollars, can
do be used to do absolutely amazing things to photographs. While nothing is going to make a terrible photo into a great one, there’s a lot that can be done to enhance a photo, to make it more like what one saw either in reality, or with the mind’s eye. So far I’ve not run into anything much that I’ve wanted to do, but been unable to do in Filterstorm (except for rescuing totally bollixed photos).
The other thing to say is that the developer is responsive and quick. When iOS 5 came out, Filterstorm could no longer see the exif data in my photos, and there was no exif in the photos I saved from Filterstorm. I sent the developer one tweet. He replied, and within a few days there was an update in the App Store that fixed the issue.
Oh, and it seems layers are a planned inclusion for the next version (due soonish, apparently), so I’ll have more to learn again.