Recently, the PRO Members were challenged to shoot a photograph that would illustrate John 12:44-46:
Jesus cried and said, “He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
But why was this particular shot chosen? Of the 7 different photos that were submitted, what was it that drew Ben to choose this picture? What can we learn from Ben’s thoughts below, beyond how he creatively edited the photo, to about how we can train our minds to see things from a “clients” perspective so we can be shooting for them? As photographers, we’re not in the job of taking pictures . . . we’re in the job of combining our artistic talent with the desires of the client to carry out our assignments for others with excellence and effectiveness.
To start off the explanation of this week’s VersePic, I’d like to thank both PRO Member @Abbysherlock for letting me use her submission of a sunburst, and the many others who submitted photos for the Shoot to Serve opportunity, “The Light of the World”. You’re helping make this special memorization/meditation ministry possible!
@Abbysherlock’s original photo
What made me choose this photograph was the very special lens glare and light streak around the sunburst. For me, this verse is all about light, and I wanted the focus to be on light rather than on a dramatic landscape or horizon. To really quickly explain why I decided not to choose some of the other photos, I wanted the sunburst to be front and center, not off in a corner. That may work for a regular photo, but most people when using a VersePic on their mobile device, whether that be their phone or tablet, only see a small portion of the center of the VP, or a tall rectangle around the text. That means the light had to look good in the center, or as I used it, just offset the center. I’d like to try and be more active in explaining what I need specifically from any photos for the VPs, but that’ll have to wait for now until something very specific happens in the near future…
Now, there were some problems here that had to be dealt with. First off, I think this picture might have been taken through a window, as there are noticeable horizontal lines all through the image, along with some color distortion that I’ve seen before with a camera shooting through glass. Since the lines were everywhere, versus on just one part of the image, that meant in order to use this photo I had to do something that would remove this distortion. My normal go to technique would be to blur the image, as there’s just not that many options available when a distortion is so uniformly everywhere. Unfortunately, blurring the photo looked just bleah with a verse in front of it! (Which just goes to show you, blurring isn’t a cure-all.) Luckily however, I had something else up my sleeve…
The finished photo straight out of Pixelmator! I added an Arcturus light leak to the image to produce a new light beam out of the sun.
Now once again, I wanted some very specific focus here on light for this VP, and in combination with a large building on the left of the image distracting from the light, I decided to do a drastic crop to just the sunburst on the horizon. In most apps, cropping essentially is just another term for digital zoom, where you cut off pixels to get to the zoom or the crop you want, but that isn’t what I did here. Using Pixelmator, my very capable version of Photoshop, I set the project to the size of 4000px by 3000px (a good simple ratio when my projects are 4×3!), and expanded the image, vs cropping, to the “zoom” I desired. I did a fun experiment using pixel matching where I discovered that with a normal “digital” crop, I would have ended up with a photo measuring only 1825px by 1368px, and that would be completely unacceptable for our 2K VersePics! … But wait… you expanded the image. That means that you’ve only got 1825px by 1368px in a 4000px by 3000px image! That’ll look terrible!!! Yep! It totally would, that is, if I was going to leave it that way.
The problem is at the moment, I’m just adding new pixels to the image without adding any new information, or to put it another way, putting the photo under a magnifying glass. If I want to actually make this photo 4000px by 3000px, I need to add some new data to the picture, rather than just add pixels. Thankfully, there are many different ways you can do this, and as I’ve mentioned before, in my role as VersePics Director for Sharpening Character, I tend to need to use these techniques frequently… In most cases, I start with a picture that has a low resolution, but in this case, I actually started with a photo that was larger than 4000px by 3000px, and caused the problem myself. In any case, there was a problem here that needed to be dealt with, regardless the source. Under normal circumstances, I would have just dealt with the original high res photo, but I’d been experimenting with some new apps, and I felt like it was high time I used one of them.
Editing the background in Brushstroke. Menus from left to right: Painting Style, Palette, Canvas, Settings, and Signature. This screenshot is made up of several screenshots each focused on different menus.
Meet Brushstroke. Brushstroke is an app that takes your photos and turns them into paintings, but that isn’t the real reason that it has become a permanent addition to my powerful graphic design toolkit! There are plenty of apps out there that do the exact same thing. The real reason is settings, settings, settings, and, you guessed it, settings! With 100 different painting styles, 75 different palettes or color filters plus an unique palette for each of the painting styles (so you know, you’ve actually got 175 of those…), and then 32 canvasses (what the photo is being painted on: like stucco, stone, cold-press paper, ect.…), and then a full selection of 12 color and photo editing tools, with every style, palette, canvas, and adjustment tool having 100 setting levels, all for just $4… Wow. In my opinion, Brushstroke is the best photo-art app available. (I did try some other similarly priced apps that offered similar functions, such as Waterlogue and Enlight, but none offered the value of Brushstoke, with most developers just focused on offering some largely non-adjustable filters that just don’t measure up to Brushstroke’s quality.)
To get a little bit back on track, I show in the screenshot above some of the settings I used on this photo. I loved how the combination of varying values of the Natural 1 Style, Amber Palette, Creased Paper, and a few of the Adjustment settings gave me a course feel with soft, not overly saturated colors focused on the beautiful amber colors of a sunset. I also just love how that tree on the right rendered through the painting process!
The share menu in Brushstroke
With all that finished, it’s time to save my painting! One quirk of Brushstroke that I actually really like is that the exported photo is the exact resolution of the imported photo. Since the app uses a data creation technique, I was able to import my high res, but low data photo, and export a high res, high data painting. This was exactly why I expanded the photo rather than using a digital crop! (One interesting thing that happened to me was that one time, the app exported a large resolution photo in TIFF, and when I later tried to share the image, I discovered it was over 30 MB in size! I hastily corrected that through Pixelmator, but that was kind of a shock!)
Now with all of my praise and excitement over this new and fairly awesome process for developing VersePics, I want to stop and tell you of a danger in this tech that will likely keep me from using it very often. I was talking to a friend about how great this all was, and he brought up this subject himself, so I want to throughly go through this. The trouble is that I do not want to ask someone for a photo, and then in a way, either not use it, or use it in such a way as to make them offended, for instance by so dramatically and fundamentally altering the image in the editing process that they can’t even recognize their photo. This is why in our VersePic Opportunity Requests I’ve specifically made sure to put this disclaimer in: “You … grant us the ability to fully edit and Photoshop your photos.” I couldn’t think of a better way to describe what I was thinking at the time, but if there is one, here it is: “You grant us the ability to edit, photoshop, or in any way alter your photograph.” Now, am I likely to frequently alter any photo that much? Normally, no, but it does happen every once in a while, and I don’t want anyone to be at all offended by how I use a photo of theirs. The concern of my friend was that this technique might do exactly that.
You see, a painting can, in a way at least, distort the original image, to what the painter’s vision is versus how the original designer, architect, or photographer’s intended vision for that image originally was. An example of this thought is VanGogh’s Starry Night. It may be beautiful and I certainly wouldn’t mind if it hung in my room, but in a way, it is a distortion of the real starry night. VanGogh’s vision was different from what the actual night looked liked, and in the same way that the original designer of the stars could be offended by VanGogh’s vision of his creation (this illustration can only go so far, so you’ve been warned!!!), the worry is that a photographer may be offended by my vision of their image that I’ve now distorted by so changing it via this painting process, that it looks nothing like their original vision! Phew! That was a mouthful! In any case, I in no way want to hurt anyone’s feelings by distorting their vision, which is why this technique, although awesome in many ways, won’t be use too frequently here for the VP’s unless it will either accurately represent the original image, know that the photographer will definitely not mind, or be needed in special cases such as this one, where I might need to do something out of the ordinary. To sum that all up, no, I won’t be using this tech every week, nor will I be using it every other week. Unless of course it just looks too awesome!!!
That was probably a bit of a rabbit trail there, but one I felt I needed to delve into to answer some questions and concerns that submitters might have. To get back to talking about the tech at work here though, I do want to quickly say that this is not a magic cure-all solution. Many, and I’m quite sure most photos will look their best as just that, photos, but there are a few use cases where the tech just shines, and can make breathtaking paintings. One use case that I’ve been having a lot of fun with is flowers. Wow!!! They look amazing in painting form, and that’s when I’m just snapping some shots with my iPad’s (admittedly not fantastic) camera. Not only does it eliminate any and all noise from the photo, it just makes everything look amazing. Another benefit of course is that I can drastically increase the pixel count of the original image, and Brushstroke gives me as much control over the colors of the petals as you’ll likely ever have in any other mobile app, if not more. Seriously, I am amazed at the control over color I have in this app, and I’ve never felt the need to pop a painting into Pixelmator for any color adjustments. I show some examples of photos that I was having fun with in Brushstroke below.
The photo was slightly photoshopped to get rid of distracting elements. I got rid of the floor, extended the side table to give an interesting effect, and got rid of a window frame as well as a black pipe that belongs to our pellet stove… You can probably see its shadow on the right, though I kind of like the effect!
All of these pictures were taken from my iPad’s standard camera of some of my brother’s flower arrangements. All of the color adjustments were done in Brushstoke, and if I ever ran into something that I wanted to do with colors but couldn’t, which is unlikely, I could always pop the finished painting into Pixelmator. Some other use cases where I expect the tech to do well with from some separate experiments are photos dealing with light, still landscapes, and deep contrasts.
One more rather interesting feature of Brushstroke is that the developers teamed up with a printing service, so that you can frame and print your painting straight from the app. Probably not a feature I’m likely to use often, but I mean, how cool is that! With that, it’s on to Over to put in the verses!
Editing drop-shadows in Over
One benefit of using a painting process on the background here is that you often end up with a finished product with a lot of texture to it. This creates a great contrast to the “flat” or textureless text, making the text pop really well against the background, which is always a desirable thing in graphic design! I was able to use practically no shadowing in the VP, and the little I did use really wasn’t needed, an almost unheard of event over here! I’ve also really wanted to use this style of a reference between two lines breaking up the verse ever since I saw it used in a church bulletin, and since I was using the font Reswysokr, which is a tall slim font, it was the perfect opportunity to try this out! To match the look and feel of both the font and the background, I used the lines, as well as the line-thingy next to “Jesus cried and said”, from Over’s “Hollyhock” artwork collection, which just turned out beautifully!
The completed, widescreen edition of this week’s VersePic!
Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m really glad I put in that extra light beam using Pixelmator’s Arcturus Light Leak. It really helps give that little extra “something” in the finished VP. Unlike some other apps’ light leaks, Pixelmator’s leaks and bokeh effects are fully adjustable, meaning you can put them anywhere at any rotation, at any size (For instance, that same Arcturus leak could be used to cover the entire photo), which makes Pixelmator’s tools just that much more powerful when trying to get just the right effect, and you can adjust both the strength (opacity, really) of the effect and the hue. (For instance, I could just as easily have a purple or blue leak on some Christmas lights!)
In any case, I hope you like this week’s VersePic as much as I enjoyed making it, and that this week’s explanation was at least somewhat interesting to you! Remember, our goal here at Sharpening Character isn’t just to turn out nice looking wallpapers, but through this ministry, and through the podcast, to encourage you to make the decision to take God’s Word seriously. Taking time to focus on memorizing and ponder upon the Bible’s spiritual truths is a huge part of taking God’s word seriously. If all we’ve done here is create a great looking wallpaper for you, we’ve honestly failed in our mission. Take God at His Word, and take time to listen to God from His Word.
–Ben, VersePic Director for Sharpening Character http://www.sharpeningcharacter.com