My home does not provide ideal lighting conditions for shooting self-portraits. This is only compounded by the fact that I am shooting at different times of day, whenever I have a free moment, usually in some state of rushed and unprepared. The resulting raw images are therefore, unsurprisingly, deeply in need of some sprucing up.
While I can stumble my way through some Photoshop, Instagram has spoiled me. I much prefer the ease and simplicity of Instagram’s Tools – with their cute little icons and their uncomplicated little sliders and their real-time preview. At last, Technology is making life easier and not an even more baffling ordeal!
Unfortunately, Instagram’s Tools are exclusive to their mobile app, and, for the purposes of my picture project, I need tools I can use on my computer. For the first few weeks, I did what I could with Photoshop. It wasn’t great and I wasn’t pleased. Then, after a spirited round of googling and downloading and googling some more, I discovered two little apps that were just what I needed: Focus 2 and FX Photo Studio.
Focus 2 covers the Instagram Tools I use most frequently: Adjust, Vignette, Tilt Shift, and Sharpen. FX Photo Studio offers a slew of filters (far more than those offered by Instagram), as well as the equivalent adjustments for Instagram’s Brightness, Contrast, Warmth, Saturation, Highlights, and Shadows Tools. Because both apps are developed by Macphun, working with images across the two is pretty much seamless. Another point for you, Technology!
Anywho, to illustrate just how easy this shit is and how much better my whole experience has been for it, I thought I’d do a little walkthrough/tutorial of my photo-editing process.
Step One: Open Your Photo in the Focus 2 App
Start by taking the image you want to edit (here I’m using an outtake that had already been cropped in iPhoto) and dragging it into Focus 2.
STEP TWO: Select a Focus Preset and Adjust
There are several presets to choose from, but since this image is a portrait, I’m using the PORTRAIT preset, which overlays two adjustable circles onto the image. The inner circle should encompass the area you’d like to keep in focus. The outer circle allows you to adjust the distance between in-focus and completely blurred. These constructs are more or less true for any of the presets offered. So, certainly, you should feel free to play around. In fact, you can even go CUSTOM and manually mask out an area of focus using a brush tool:
At any rate, once you’ve adjusted the areas of focus and blur to suit your image, fiddle a bit with the APERTURE and VIGNETTE sliders until you’ve got it to your liking.
PROTIP: You can toggle between your original and edited images at any time by pressing the spacebar.
STEP Three: TURn Auto Enhancement On (Optional)
This was a major discovery for me. The first few times I used these apps together, I saved all my color, contrast, etc., adjustments to do manually in FX Photo Studio, which honestly offers a great and user-friendly interface. However, one day, out of curiosity, I clicked the AUTO ENHANCEMENT button and… heyo!… it was pretty terrific! Admittedly, though, this is a matter of personal taste. Use it if you like. If not, I recommend skipping this step and moving on to the next.
STEP Four: Share to FX Photo Studio
Remember how I said these apps work really well together? In fact, you can share the image you’ve been working on in Focus 2 directly to FX Photo Studio without even saving. Just click the SHARE button in the bottom right-hand corner of the window and select the FX Photo Studio icon under the “Open In” section. It will do exactly that.
STEP Five: Make Additional Adjustments and/or Add a Filter or a Frame
Now we’re in FX Photo Studio! If you skipped the Auto Enhancement step, or just think the image could use some extra attention, click the ADJUST tab in the upper right-hand corner of the FX Photo Studio window and adjust those sliders to your heart’s content. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to click APPLY. Otherwise, all your changes will be lost!
I like to add a little frame to my images. To do this, start by clicking the FX EFFECTS tab at the top right. This will bring up one of those little tray thingies at the bottom of your window where you can select between EFFECTS, FRAMES, and PRESETS tabs.
EFFECTS are essentially the sorts of filters you’ve seen in Instagram and the like, but far more numerous and sometimes really trippy or oddly specific. I tend to skip these and go straight to FRAMES. Since I’ve used the app before, I already have a favorite frame under FRAMES > FAVORITES, but, just like with EFFECTS, there are many, many to chose from. Anywho, if frames are your thing, once you’ve selected one, you can adjust it manually with the little slider on the right.
STEP Six: Save or Share
This is usually where I tap out. I just click the SAVE button in the top, left-hand corner of the window and save my image as a Jpeg to do with as I will. However, you can also export your finished image directly to a number of social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) by clicking the SHARE button right next to SAVE.
STEP SEVEN: REVEL IN YOUR AWESOMENESS
The only thing left to do now is enjoy your awesomely enhanced new image and your awesome mastery of technology. Savor it!