Recently we talked about the “impossible dream” of zero processing – making photographs almost entirely in camera without then spending as much time (or more) on post processing the images to get the look we want.
I have a fairly minimal and effective workflow using LightRoom, but still don’t particularly enjoy it.
So I’ve started exploring other (close to zero) processing options.
Eighteen months ago, I got the Hipstamatic app for my iPhone, which offers a simple way of applying a combination of “lens”, “film” and “flash” presets to create different looks.
You get a selection of these three lens, film, and flash variables with the app, then can buy further ones, and use them any in combination.
I had fun using a few combos (you can save them as favourites) with my iPhone and it reminded me of the more experimental end of film I began with over five years ago, shooting with a Holga 120N, and 35mm Lomo cameras like the Smena 8M and Vivitar/Superheadz Ultra Wide and Slim.
Recently I bought an iPad, to begin to explore how much it can replace a full laptop, as my MacBook is past its best and expensive to replace.
The iPad, at about a quarter of the price and something I’ve been thinking about for some time anyway, seemed a good interim solution.
Hipstmatic is much the same on the iPad, but of course everything is much bigger and easier to view compared with my iPhone.
Delving further into the app, as well as the lens/film/flash options, there are a whole set of other adjustments, such as vignette, texture & grain, depth of field, temperature & tint, tone curves, exposure and so on.
So I wondered if/how I could use Hipstamatic on the iPad to process photographs I’ve made with my Ricoh compacts.
And how this would compare with LightRoom in cost, ease, enjoyment and of course the final images.
The camera I’m trying this with initially is my Ricoh GX100.
I’m using Fine resolution JPEGs (9MP 3:2), with a custom colour setting of +1 contrast, 0 sharpness), -1 colour depth.
Here’s how the workflow breaks down.
First, on MacBook –
1. Download JPEGs to new folder on MacBook from camera. I just plug in the camera using the USB lead then copy and paste the images. I use the following file hierarchy on my hard drive – Pictures > Digital Photographs > Ricoh GX100 > 2017_12_30.
2. Open all photos in Preview, delete those that don’t make the grade, because they’re out of focus, near duplicates, or just not that great. There’s no point spending time prettifying an image that fundamentally doesn’t work. This often takes two or three sweeps through, and I’m left with between 10 and 30% of the original amount.
3. Use the Photo Transfer App to move all remaining photos to iPad.
On iPad –
5. Open Hipstamatic, and show all photos, including those just moved from MacBook.
6. Choose first photo, tap the edit/favourites icon. I have a colour favourite (ie combination of lens, film, flash and other minor tweaks) saved and set as the default for processing. Tick to save photo with favourite settings applied.
7. Repeat step 6 for each of the latest batch of photos.
8. Use Photo Transfer App to move processed photos back to same folder on MacBook (which I make a regular external HD back up of). The PT App makes a folder for all the photos it’s moving called “Selected images”. I can then delete all the images (original and processed) from my iPad to keep it clean and lean.
Back on MacBook –
9. Upload required photos to Flickr from “Selected images” folder.
What I like about this workflow –
Hipstamatic is really visual and fun to use. Editing images virtually full screen size on the iPad feels much more immersive and tactile than the smaller images on my MacBook using LightRoom – even with many of the surrounding tools etc minimised in LightRoom.
All the Hipstamatic controls are chunky simple sliders which add to the overall minimal, visually optimised and user friendly feel.
The saved favourites each show a little thumbnail preview of the current image with those settings applied. So much easier than in LightRoom where I find you have to apply the preset to see how it actually looks.
I’ve also saved a favourite called “neutrality” which has all settings switched off or at zero. This way I can adjust just one aspect, like contrast for example, without adding the multiple combined effects you get using a lens, film and flash combined.
Having the images ready to process on a different device does make it feel like a different part of the overall process, and something I can do at a different time. Which makes it seem less pressured.
It fits the simpler and less serious approach to photography I’ve found in the past year or so, and especially in recent months with the Ricoh digital compacts.
Plus even before I get to the above processing steps, I’m just shooting colour JPEGs in camera with very minor adjustment and sidestepping the whole RAW vs JPEG debate. This also makes the cameras quicker in saving the images, and the file sizes much smaller (less storage), meaning quicker handling times throughout the whole workflow.
And I’m keeping the 100% size images right the way through the process, rather than with LightRoom in the past keeping an original 100% version, then making a 50% version for Flickr. Much simpler to have just the original version plus the processed version of each photo, both 100%.
In short, it’s faster, simpler and more fun than using LightRoom on my MacBook for processing.
Oh and then there’s the cost.
When I first tried LightRoom, I didn’t want to spend £100+ to buy it outright as I didn’t know how much I’d use it and for how long. So I went with the monthly subscription option. Now, this seems to be the only option, and it’s £10.10 a month.
If I used it extensively, and the other Adobe apps you get in the subscription, this might seem a reasonable deal. But I probably use 5% of the features at most. Or about 50 pence worth each month.
Adding up that £10 a month up over the maybe four years I’ve been using it, £500 suddenly seems incredibly expensive.
I could have got an iPad plus a very capable used camera or two for that!
Plus I really don’t like the fact that Adobe give you only this subscription option and lock you in. It feels very controlling, an abuse of power almost. Especially when there is so much open source software and apps available these days, do we need to use an app that makes us feel enslaved?
Hipstamatic has an initial purchase fee of about £3.
Additional lens/film/flash presets are typically 99p each set.
The Photo Transfer App has a free version but limits things like the number of files you can transfer at once. So I paid the very reasonable £6.99 for the pro version.
In other words, Hipstamatic plus Photo Transfer has cost me less than one month’s LightRoom subscription.
What could be improved –
Initially I’m applying the favourite settings image by image. I expect there must be a way to apply the same favourite across multiple images which would save even more time, even if I then swiped through them after and made any specific further tweaks. But this is being picky, I rarely have more than maybe a dozen images from a photowalk to process, sometimes just two or three.
Using two devices and three apps isn’t super minimal, or zero processing.
Currently I haven’t explored a way to import photos directly from a camera or SD card to my iPad, if there even is one.
Plus at this point, whilst I use Flickr as an archive for my best photographs (50% versions of, up to now), I also rely on my MacBook and an external back up HD for the full size images.
I could, with the above workflow, go with using full size (ie 100%) images all the way through, then delete the images from my MacBook and not back up, relying purely on Flickr. But this seems a bit risky.
I do think for the JPEG images from my two Ricoh cameras, they are small enough to just stick with 100%.
I can skip the 50% option I have traditionally used and which began with my Sony NEX which created much larger (RAW) files due to its 16MP sensor.
Looking at the images from this initial experiment (those shared in this post) I can’t see that shooting RAW and having further versions of the same file would give me any worthwhile benefits.
What I could also do – and no doubt will do at some point – is explore cloud storage instead of a physical back up HD.
I know that Apple, Google and Amazon (to name three) all offer this, which would provide a good back up to my Flickr archive. Plus these can be very automated, and can in theory replace the Photo Transfer App I use for the above workflow, so with both iPad and MacBook I can work with files in the cloud.
I could also skip step 8 and upload the processed photos from my iPad straight to Flickr.
But aside from then not having a copy on my MacBook, it is more fiddly adding description, tags etc in the Flickr app than the desktop site, so it doesn’t actually speed up or simplify the process.
If/when I make the move the cloud storage, it might be in tandem with letting go more of the need to organise and label my photos as precisely as I do now.
Instead of “here’s a photo I made with a Pentax K10D with a Super Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens and processed in LightRoom”, I might just be saying “here’s a photograph I made”. Liberating indeed!
I’ve been really impressed overall with this new approach – especially as I’ve struggled in the past to find a colour look I like.
I plan to continue with it, seeing if/how I can streamline it further.
Have you tries Hipstamatic for editing photos, especially ones not originally made with an iPhone/iPad?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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