Getting started in Camera Plus - my favorite editing app!

I get asked all the time what my favorite photo editing app is and the answer is: Camera+.

Of course, there are hundreds if not thousands of apps out there, many of them great, so if you have one that you like that works for you, there isn't necessarily any reason to switch.

What I like about Camera+ is that it's easy to get started with if you have never edited photos before, but it also have some robust features available to you when you're ready so it's also an app you can grow into.

A quick reminder

Before we get started, I want to give you a quick reminder, because while it may seem that editing is all about how a photo looks, you sould still keep your focus on how it feels, not how it looks.

Think about what edits best strengthen the story of the moment.

And more than that, use editing as a means of luxuriating in your photos - use editing as part of the process of reflection and gratitude.

When you use editing to go deep into the moment of the photo, you will sear the moment into your memory.

Editing is also a way of focusing on and celebrating what is good in your life - and therefore not only noticing it as it happens but actually creating more of it in your life.

Why edit?

Editing is an incredibly powerful way to improve and in fact transform your photos. While you may hear photographers talk about trying to get spectacular photos “straight out of camera,” the truth is that photographers have been editing their photos after the fact in the darkroom since the birth of photography. There is no shame at all in doing some after-the-fact editing in your “digital darkroom.” 

In fact, professional photographers edit practically every photo that they ever share, if not every photo - it is all part of the process and art of photography.

Editing does not have to be complicated, highly technical or time consuming.

When you know a few simple ways to quickly edit your images, you can transform photos from “blah” to “wow” and  make your good photos even better - thereby totally expanding your ability to capture the moment.

Without editing, this photo is rather flat - the colors are dull and washed out. While it was a bit of an overcast day, this photo does not reflect how I experienced and remember the moment.

Without editing, this photo is rather flat - the colors are dull and washed out. While it was a bit of an overcast day, this photo does not reflect how I experienced and remember the moment.

Through some simple edits, I was able to lovingly transform this photo so it more accurately reflected how this moment felt to me at the time - now shared with friends and family and seared in my memory.

Through some simple edits, I was able to lovingly transform this photo so it more accurately reflected how this moment felt to me at the time - now shared with friends and family and seared in my memory.

Editing for quality of color, light, clarity and overall feel. 

One of my favorite things about Camera+ is that you can control the intensity of pretty much every setting and filter that is offered. This gives you a high degree of control over the edits on your photo without requiring you to have a lot of technical knowledge.

It also means that you don't have to be held hostage to some of the more stylized filters that many apps offer. Retro filters are very popular these days, and I think that many of them look great, but at the same time, those filters are going to look dated in years to come, and they also tend to give those photos a less natural feel.

I do edit my iPhone photos a little differently from my DSLR photos - a little more saturated and stylized - but I still keep it pretty "clean." I encourage you to use editing to more closely match your photos to the feelings of the moment rather than trying to give the moment a different feel.

Think of your photos as your interpretation of the moment, an opportunity to share your perspective and voice.

Clarity:

  • This is the one setting that can really transform your smartphone photos. In Camera+ it is available as a scene, but to control its intensity, go to "The Lab" and use the Clarity setting from there. 
     
  • You may find that this setting at 100% makes your photos a little too stylized and almost like an illustration. Depending on the photo, something in the 40-70% range may work better.
Without editing

Without editing

Clarity at 50% - it's a subtle difference but look at how much more detail you can see in the sand.

Clarity at 50% - it's a subtle difference but look at how much more detail you can see in the sand.

Brightness and contrast:

In Camera+ you can adjust Brightness and Contrast in "The Lab". Most filters essentially add Brightness and Contrast as well as adjusting colors slightly. Adjusting Brightness and Contrast yourself gives you more control and is particularly helpful when you have a dark photo (for example from lesson 15) and want to increase brightness more than a filter will, without a radical change in colors.

Increasing contrast prevents your photo from washing out too much but I generally don't find I need to use it too much.

Clarity at 50% and Brightness at +44. Because of the light and shadow in this photo, increasing Brightness has the biggest impact of all - you don't even really need a filter after doing that.

Clarity at 50% and Brightness at +44. Because of the light and shadow in this photo, increasing Brightness has the biggest impact of all - you don't even really need a filter after doing that.

Clarity at 50%, Brightness at +44 and Chrome at 50% (see section below on filters)

Clarity at 50%, Brightness at +44 and Chrome at 50% (see section below on filters)

Filters:

Selecting a filter:

  • Camera+ offers 6 sets of 9 filters - a total of 54! That is an overwhelming number to pick from.
     
  • I would certainly play around with them, but aim to come up with 2-3 favorites rather than choosing from all 54 filters each time. Not only does this make it simpler and quicker, but it also gives your photos a consistent look, which you will really appreciate when you come to put your photos together in a wall gallery or album.
     
  • For example, my go-to filter is Chrome (under the Standard set). It’s clean and adds a little brightness without going too yellow (which is a pet peeve of mine - I tend to edit my photos more on the “cool” (blue) side rather than the “warm” (yellow) side). 
     
  • For black and white, I like Noir (Standard), or sometimes Ansel (Retro) or Silver Gelatin (Analog).
     
  • And I have a few others I sometimes play with if I’m looking for something a little different for a particular photo - for example Madison Ave (Analog), Contessa (Analog), or Overlay (Special).
     

Setting filter intensity:

Chrome at 50%, Tailfins at 46%

Chrome at 50%, Tailfins at 46%

  • As I mentioned, this is one of my favorite features of Camera+. Once you’ve selected your filter, you can click on “Advanced” and dial the intensity of the filter up or down. Again, depending on the photo, I usually take it down to 40-70%. 

Layering filters:

Yes that’s right, you can also layer filters onto each other, which adds a whole new world of options! Again, don’t get too distracted by all the possibilities. I actually rarely layer filters, but there are two situations where it can be particularly helpful:

  • When you want to add a little bit of a lighting effect such as from Expired (Analog), Diana (Analog), Tailfins (Retro) or Toy Camera (Retro). You can layer in a little bit of a flare without going nuts.
     
  • When you want to add a bit of brightness to a black and white photo. Typically you are not going to want to take a black and white filter down below 100% because then it won’t be fully black and white anymore. But layering, say, Chrome (Standard) on top of Gotham (Hollywood) will add a little brightness while still keeping it pretty moody.
Gotham at 100%, Chrome at 50% - a little too dark

Gotham at 100%, Chrome at 50% - a little too dark

Gotham at 100%, Chrome at 130% increases the brightness (you could also do this via Brightness and Contrast but it is convenient to be able to play with the two sliders in the same screen instead of switching back and forth)

Gotham at 100%, Chrome at 130% increases the brightness (you could also do this via Brightness and Contrast but it is convenient to be able to play with the two sliders in the same screen instead of switching back and forth)

Put this into action now:

  • Decide on the editing app that you are going to use - I recommend Camera+
  • Choose a photo and import it into your editing app - crop as needed
  • Try applying the clarity setting
  • Edit it using brightness and contrast.
  • Try different filters and choose no more than three as your favorites
  • Try dialing the intensity of the filter up and down
  • If you are ready, play around with layering filters
  • Edit and save your photo three different ways, then decide which one you like best

Note: when I am done editing a photo in Camera+, I “Save and Remove” the photo so I have the finished version in my camera roll. If you want to try different versions of the photo, you can instead “Save and Keep” and then continue to edit, or you can import another version of the photo to start over from scratch.

Here are some more before/after iPhone images to give you some ideas: