Sending greetings is a tradition that I will never miss… even if I am often late on this one! But I might as well combine the useful with the pleasant: I’m taking this opportunity to launch a new series of articles: the workshops.
Don’t worry, the other series have not been abandoned.
Indeed, in the color education series, some other co-authors promised their contributions. On my end, I plan to transcribe some interviews for the color teachers who preferred this format.
And more color challenges are on the agenda. The next one: “Warm and cool colors”. This will anger some and delight others! The first will say: “Why not sweet and salty colors while we’re at it”? Beyond vocabulary conventions, this warm/cool distinction is interesting… to be discovered soon!
But in the meantime, here is the first in the series of workshops: greeting cards made with the Snapseed application. You’ll discover how this tool allows you to reinterpret your photos in a few clicks and give them a personal style, and even inspire your own graphic creations.
Finally, in exchange for a comment, receive the pdf file of your favorite card to print at home!
If you have an Android phone, download Snapseed from google play. It is free to use. Iphone or ipad users will do it from the App store. I use the latter version.
Rather than taking an inventory of the app’s capabilities, let’s look at the ones I used to generate my greeting cards.
Snapseed is a bit slow to open, so you can save time by duplicating the photo you want to work on from your photo library (i.e., for the iPhone, in the “Photo” application). Indeed, as soon as you open Snapseed, the bottom button allows you to access directly to the last photo (Snapseed > open > open latest image).
Alternatively, you can put all the photos you want to work on in an album, and access them via the Album tab (open > open from device > Albums); you can then browse your albums and select the one you want.
Finally, still in the opening tab from the device, a search 🔍 on places, subjects, people, etc., (open > open from device> Photos then 🔍 ) or a simple scroll gives access to the desired image without having to resort to either the copy or the albums.
Snapseed interface at opening. On the left: the last button “open latest image” gives direct access to the last shot saved in the photo library; the first button let you open the device, thus showing the interface on the right, It allows, by scrolling, to choose from the image library. Alternatively, via the “Albums” tab on the top right, one can access the photos organized in albums (V. Lacroix CC-BY-SA).
After processing, if you want to work on another image, click again on open (top left); in addition to the three options mentioned above, a banner shows all the images taken before and after the image you have just modified. In short, the starting point for your next processing will be the last processed image.
Just a frame
Often, a simple frame magnifies the photo. Snapseed offers a number of them via its “frames” tool. You can work with the image in vertical or horizontal mode, the interface will automatically adapt. As soon as the selected photo is on the screen, the panel on the right (in horizontal mode) or bottom (in vertical mode) gives access to the tools (pencil icon). The last of this series (Frames), adds a frame to the selected photo.
Note that the frame is placed on the photo, and therefore reduces the field a little. To avoid this problem, I sometimes use the “Enlarge” tool. The “white” option of this tool adds white pixels around the photo, which can be a simple frame in itself. There is also a “black” option. But the “smart” option is the most interesting. It adds colored pixels to the edges of the image, based on the pixels close to it. The frame will be superimposed on these pixels without eating the peripheral elements of the photo.
The only thing left to do is to export the result (click under the tools button) by creating a copy in order to keep the original photo intact.
Below is the first greeting card made in this way.
Getting closer to the subject or zooming in?
It’s not always possible to get very close to the subject, especially if it’s water! For a few years now, three lenses have been available on smartphones. They are accessible via the zoom button respectively: 0.5, 1x, 2x. However, even this small tele (i.e. 2x) often remains insufficient to capture details.
Digital zoom then offers a solution, but you will lose resolution: the number of pixels will be reduced. Nevertheless, if your prints remain of reasonable size, you can use it moderately. Personally, I prefer to postpone this task: I will crop precisely according to the elements I want to remove or emphasize. Still, the resolution of the image will be affected, as with the digital zoom
The smartphone’s native photo editing tool also allows cropping, but I prefer to keep the original photo intact and create copies via Snapseed.
Crop and Frame
In the Snapseed interface in horizontal mode, the cropping tool is one of the first in the series. We click on the tool icon (the little pencil in blue below) and we find “Crop” on the second row.
For this photo, I wanted to remove some distracting elements in the foreground and keep some of the upper branches. Most of the time, I crop with “free format”. I use the thirds grid overlaid on the image to place the important elements of the image.
Some people hate “free format” and swear by “standard format” only. For these purists, frame loosely first, then choose the ratio that most closely matches that frame.
Here, I tried different aspect ratios before settling on 7/5 (the initial ratio is 4/3). This is an excellent exercise to explore different compositions. Photos can be transformed by this simple manipulation.
One more frame and here is the second greeting card.
Simulate a depth of field
What I miss most on the smartphone is the blur produced by a shallow depth of field.
Now, since the existence of three lenses on smartphones, the comparison of images taken from three different points of view allows to estimate the distance of the subject. In portrait mode, this information is calculated and stored. Then, when you edit the photo with the native application, by adjusting the focal length, you can artificially change the depth of field, and make the background more or less blurred. The result is not always convincing though.
Digital processing is therefore welcome and a de-focusing filter does the trick. On Snapseed, it is called “Lens Blur”; this is how I made this third greeting card.
In fact, the intervention on the above photo is not limited to the “Lens Blur”. If we open this photo as exported by Snapseed, we discover the passage through three tools: Vintage, Lens Blur and Frames (click on the “View edits” button). You can then consult the original image, modify the different steps and introduce new ones.
By clicking on the button corresponding to the following treatment (Lens Blur), the user is presented with three possibilities. The rightest one let you modify the parameters involved in the processing. You can control the intensity of the blur, the position of the focus point, the distortion in the vicinity, the type of blur, etc.
More sophisticated processing
The greeting card proposed in the introduction is the result of effects produced by six tools: Black and White, Portrait, Curves, Vintage, Text, Frame and White Balance. I’ll let you discover and experiment with them by changing the styles and settings.
I like the clean Japanese look of this reinterpreted photo; it inspired this charcoal that gives another dimension to the initial image.
Prepare for printing
Sending your photos to an online printing service or to a photographer is the easiest way to get a professional result. Faster and less expensive is printing at home or at the nearest copy store. You will need a pdf file.
For Mac users, the “Preview” application that opens automatically when you view photos allows you to do this. Here are the steps to follow to make two identical cards on an A4.
- Open the image to be printed in “Preview”. Note the size of the image to be printed. To find out, in the top bar, in ” Tools “, click on ” Adjust size ” (Preview > Tools > Adjust size) then cancel.
- Create a copy of the file to keep the original intact. (Preview > File > Duplicate)
- Select the entire image (Preview > Edit > Select All).
- Cut (Preview > Edit > Cut). The software asks to convert the image to png format. Accept by clicking on “convert”.
- If your images already have a frame, in “Adjust size”, enter twice the size of the pixels of the initial image in the height and width. Otherwise, provide additional pixels to separate the images. In this case, deactivate the lock and enter the dimensions that take into account the space between the photos to be able to cut them easily. You may need to zoom out to get a full view of the sheet to print.
- Paste (Preview > Edit > Paste) and move the photo to the top right edge of the sheet.
- Paste (Preview > Edit > Paste) again and place the second photo, adjusting it to the bottom right corner.
- Even if you do not have a printer, click on “Print” (Preview > File > Print). Check that the orientation corresponds to your photos.
- Save the file by clicking on the “pdf” button at the bottom left (Preview > File > Print > pdf > Save as pdf).
That’s it! This technique is perfect for making any illustration, like the ones presented in this article. Indeed, you can also add text, geometrical shapes, etc.
I love Snapseed. It’s true that for almost a year now the application often gets stuck. That the start screen takes a long time to appear. That sometimes the camera is activated when you want to access the photos. Therefore, be sure to wait long enough before choosing between:” Open from device”, ” Camera”, and “Open latest image “.
Despite these little disappointments,I use it extensively. I especially appreciate the fact that I understand the manipulations I make.
On Instagram there are many images manipulated via Hipstamatic. The “packaging” of this application is very attractive, but you don’t know what you’re doing: developers have designed a treatment, given it a nice name and boxed it in a beautiful layout. We just want to buy it and enjoy it like a candy. We have the illusion of playing with lenses, films, flashes, but in reality, we have very little control over what we do. With Snapseed, you learn very quickly the effect of tools, styles and settings.
I do have a few other photo editing apps on my smartphone: VSCO, Lightroom, Hipstamatic, etc. But to tell the truth, I hardly ever use them.
Sometimes, for more precise processing, I use Photoshop, or Lightroom, but then on the computer. However, you should know that Snapseed also allows local processing. But a finger on the phone is still pretty imprecise, even when using the zoom.
Give it a try!
I hope this first “workshop article” has inspired you to edit your smartphone photographs to give them a more personal style, or even to create your own greeting cards. Start with simple tools like frames and cropping, then discover the others by observing their effects on your images.
You will also discover all the possibilities of color processing. I might introduce you to this aspect in another workshop article.
But in the meantime, write me in comment if you want to have the pdf format to print the japanese card, the water lilies, the clouds reflection or the fish.
Tell me again what your favorite editing tools are, and if you liked this article, its format. Maybe a video would be better?
And by the way, happy new year!