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Posts tagged with "photos"

Pixelmator for macOS Updated with HEIF and Apple Photos Support

Pixelmator, which announced Pixelmator Pro is coming later this year, has released an interim update to the current version of its image editor that adds full compatibility with macOS High Sierra.

In addition to bug fixes, Pixelmator 3.7 supports importing HEIF image files. Pixelmator can be opened directly from Apple Photos now too. The feature, which was added to Apple Photos as part of High Sierra, allows users to choose an image in Apple Photos, but edit it in Pixelmator. All edits made in Pixelmator will be saved back to the original file in Apple Photos. Pixelmator posted a video that explains how the feature works:

Pixelmator is available on the Mac App Store.


Slør Enhances the iPhone’s Portrait Mode with Depth Adjustment Tools

Apple introduced depth photography to iOS last year with the iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode. This new camera feature brought professional-like photography to the masses, and spawned several memorable ads that demonstrated just how far smartphone cameras have come.

In iOS 11, Apple upgraded Portrait Mode with several enhancements, such as much-improved low light performance and optical image stabilization. But one of the more exciting updates is that developers can now tinker with Portrait Mode photos via the new Depth API. Thanks to that new API, Slør was born.

Slør contains a very simple, one-screen interface that lets you get straight to work editing your Portrait Mode photos. There are three adjustment tools at your disposal for modifying an existing depth effect: Aperture, Radial, and Tilt. These allow you to adjust how much out-of-focus blur is present, select the image’s focus point, adjust the focal plane, and more. You can also preview depth information by using 3D Touch on an image at any time. All of these tools can even be used from Photos without opening the full app, thanks to Slør’s photo editing extension.

When you’re done editing, you can hit the Save button to save changes to the original image in your library, or hit the share icon to save a copy or select from any other share option.

Slør’s simplicity makes it an intuitive, accessible way for casual photographers to play around and tweak Portrait photos to make them look best. I must warn you though: if you have an iPhone 7 or newer, then like me you may get distracted by the pleasant haptic feedback Slør invokes when adjusting sliders. It’s a delightful touch that I’ve spent way too much time testing.

Slør is available for iPhone on the App Store.


Metapho 3.0 Adds Video Support and More

Metapho is a powerful utility for accessing, editing, and removing metadata from photos and videos. When I reviewed Metapho 2.0, I was impressed with how easy it was to access and edit image metadata. With version 3, Metapho has been extended into new areas without sacrificing the ease of use of prior versions.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Metapho now supports video. Earlier versions of the app could only handle still photos, so it’s nice to see video added to the mix. The process works the same way as with photos. Access a video using Metapho’s action extension from the Photos app or from within the Metapho app itself. Metapho displays the video’s metadata, which can be edited or stripped.

One of Metapho’s strengths is its design. Whether you start in the app itself or its extension Metapho displays the metadata for images in a clear and concise manner. Today’s update changes the layout by adding cropped versions of the photos or videos you are working on at the top of the page, so you know which image you are working on without it taking up an unnecessary amount of vertical space on your iPhone.

Metapho’s extension also got a refresh with version 3. For the first time, you can select multiple photos to edit. It’s a small change, but one that should speed up the editing process for anyone working with several images or videos.

Metapho is not a utility that I use often, but I keep it tucked away in a folder because when I need it, there’s no better way to edit photo and video metadata. It’s a great example of a thoughtfully designed app, so I'm glad to see its functionality expanded without compromising its utility.

Metapho is available on the App Store.


Google Photos Launches Advanced Sharing Features

First announced last month at Google I/O, Google Photos for iOS has now been updated to include several new sharing features, including suggested sharing and shared libraries.

The suggested sharing feature brings with it a new dedicated navigation tab labeled ‘Sharing.’ Here you’ll find a listing of all prior sharing activity, as well as suggestions of photos you haven’t shared yet but may want to. These suggestions are made for one of two reasons: either the photos in question appear similar to images you’ve shared in the past with certain people, so Google thinks you may want to share them, or the photos contain people that Google knows are in your contacts, and thus you may want to share them.

If a Google Photos user shares images with another Google Photos user, and the sharing recipient appears to have photos from the same time and place, Google will suggest adding those images to the shared album. This can be used most effectively when sharing photos around a certain event, like a wedding or vacation. One person may initiate the sharing, but Google Photos makes it easy for the other people who attended the event to improve the shared album by seamlessly adding their own captured memories to it.

The new library sharing features are accessed from the sidebar menu’s ‘Share your library’ option, not the ‘Sharing’ tab. After you’ve selected one or more people to share with, there are a couple settings you can adjust. You can choose to share your entire library, or only photos of specific people. You can also set a time period from which the library sharing should begin – for example, you can set sharing to only happen with all photos from this day on, or from six months ago on, etc.

Google Photos was already an excellent service, but today’s updates make it even better. The automatic library sharing in particular has been on my wish list for Apple Photos for a long time. At the time these features were announced, details about iOS 11 were still unknown, but now that the WWDC unveiling has come and gone without any announced improvements to sharing in Apple Photos, Google Photos is more tempting than ever.


Apple Posts Two Videos Highlighting Photos Memories

Apple posted two videos highlighting the Memories feature of its iOS Photos app. One, called ‘The Archives,’ is part of Apple’s ‘practically magic’ series of videos and features an elderly man creating a film called ‘Together.’ When the man pulls a photograph out of a cabinet with dozens of drawers, it comes alive with a short snippet of video like a Live Photo.

After gathering a cart-load of photos and film, the man begins the laborious process of splicing them together into a film. The heartwarming spot captures the time, care, and attention needed to painstakingly create a movie from analog photos and videos, making the unstated point of how easy it is to do the same thing in Photos.

The second spot is in stark contrast to the first. It demonstrates the three steps to using Photos’ Memories feature:

  1. Open the Photos app
  2. Go to the Memories Tab
  3. Choose a Memory

The two spots, which both feature Memories called 'Together,' are a clever one-two punch intended to convey how simple Photos has made it to create photo and video montages that once would have taken hours of work.


The JPEG Format’s Days May Be Numbered

Kelly Thompson writes for 500px about Apple's upcoming transition from JPEG to the HEVC-based HEIF for photos across all its platforms:

JPEG is 25 years old and showing its age. Compression has become a big deal as we’ve moved to 4K and HDR video, and HEVC was developed to compress those huge video streams. Luckily HEVC also has a still image profile. The format doesn’t just beat JPEG, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP—it handily crushes them. It claims a 2 to 1 increase in compression over JPEG at similar quality levels. In our tests, we’ve seen even better levels, depending on the subject of the image.

By using it internally on the camera, it means storing twice as many images in the same space. People with full iPhones are weeping with joy.

Think about it for a second—if we could reduce every picture delivered on the web by two times and have it look the same (or better)… game changer.

A move away from JPEG is significant, but Apple clearly has good reason for making the transition now. The recent massive increases of photos taken by the average user have led to persistently-scarce storage space. Apple has responded in the past year by increasing the base storage of new iPhones and iPads, but storage bumps are only a bandaid fix – adopting HEIF should make a long-term difference.

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Live Photos Can Now Be Embedded on the Web

Apple's developer site details a new API that makes it possible to embed Live Photos on the web:

This new JavaScript-based API makes it easy to embed Live Photos on your websites. In addition to enabling Live Photos on iOS and macOS, you can now let users display their Live Photos on the web.

Live Photos were first introduced in September 2015 alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Since then, their adoption across major social media platforms and other parts of the web has been slow.

Today's news is welcome, as it will hopefully help expand the reach of Live Photos beyond the sandbox of photo apps on iOS.

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Prisma Launches Store for User-Created Filters

Prisma, the popular photo editing and sharing app, launched a filter store today with its latest update. The store allows filters created through a new desktop tool to be shared with others publicly. At this time, only the most active Prisma users can access the desktop tool and share their filters in the store, but according to The Next Web, the app's developers hope to expand the option to more users in the future.

The filter store can be accessed whenever you're taking a photo by tapping the orange icon in the center of the screen. The store's main page presents a number of filters, currently categorized as 'New Releases,' 'Popular in Your Country,' and 'All the Old Styles.' There isn't a particularly large selection of filters currently available, but that should change with time.

My favorite part about the store is that when you tap an available filter to view it, you'll also see a feed of images that have used that filter. I find this helpful for evaluating whether a particular filter might work well with the type of photo I'm editing.

One other thing worth mentioning about the store is that on its main page there's a bookmark icon in the top-right corner. Tapping this will present a list of all the filters you currently have installed. This is a nice way to gain a quick overview of all your current filters and remove any you may not want. You can also view filters you've removed in the past from this screen.


Prisma is a free download on the App Store.


Google Introduces PhotoScan and Updates Google Photos

Earlier today, Google announced a new app called PhotoScan and updates to Google Photos. PhotoScan is a simple scanner app for capturing prints. On launch it opens to a camera view with the instruction to frame your photo within the rectangle on the screen. When you tap the shutter, instead of taking a picture of your print, PhotoScan displays a circle in the middle of the view finder with four other circles near the corners of your print. There is a little arrow that prompts you to move your phone to line up the middle circle with each of the four other circles one at a time. When you’re finished, PhotoScan processes the data it’s collected and presents you with your scanned print, which can be further adjusted in-app.

PhotoScan, which is a free download on the App Store, doesn’t require you to sign into a Google account, unless you want to save your scans to Google Photos. If you prefer, you can save your scans to Apple’s Photos.

Google made a video demoing how PhotoScan works:

I tried PhotoScan on a handful of family photos to see how it would fare. In my tests, I found that there are a couple of simple things you can do to greatly improve your scans. First, find a spot where the lighting is good, but indirect which will help avoid glare on glossy photos. Second, don’t use the flash. Here’s an example of a scan with and without the flash that I took in the same spot, from the same distance, and with the same lighting:

The scan with flash turned on (left) has a nasty white glare spot in the middle of the photo and did a poor job cropping the image.

The scan with flash turned on (left) has a nasty white glare spot in the middle of the photo and did a poor job cropping the image.

Not every photo taken with the flash on had this much glare, but most had a bright white spot in the middle of the photos. Here are three scans that came out much better that were taken under normal lighting conditions in my kitchen with the flash turned off:

Each of these photos was scanned with the flash turned off  and turned out reasonably well.

Each of these photos was scanned with the flash turned off and turned out reasonably well.

PhotoScan does have some bugs. It crashed a couple times while I was using it. The second crash happened after I scanned fourteen photos. I went to the preview page to save them and when I tapped ‘Save All,’ PhotoScan crashed. When I reopened the app, all of my scans were gone. I thought I had lost data, but it turns out they were saved to Photos before the app crashed, so what could have been a scary moment if I had scanned dozens of photos turned out fine.

Overall, PhotoScan did a good job detecting the corners of prints and properly cropping most of them. PhotoScan also did a good job capturing the colors and detail of each shot as long as the flash was disabled. None of the snapshots I scanned were in perfect focus, but the scans of each were noticeably fuzzier and the colors off a little in some. Despite the bugs and limitations though, PhotoScan is an app I’ll keep close by when I visit relatives over the holidays for when they pull out family albums of photos because it’s so convenient and easy to use.

Google also added three new features to Google Photos today. The first is an improved auto-enhance tool. Second, Google added twelve new filters, which it calls ‘Looks.’ The feature first edits the photo to enhance it and then applies a filter that complements your photo. How does Google Photos know how to adjust its filters complement your photos? Machine learning of course. The third feature is fine-grained light and color editing tools. The Verge reports that Google is also introducing three new automatically created videos to Google Photos, for newborns, formal occasions like weddings, and a ‘through the years’ a slideshow for annual events like holiday gatherings.