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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cell Phone Camera 'Hacks': Out of Focus

I've been participating in a weekly photo challenge this year on a Meetup Arts New Mexico Group where the 'host' will post the theme each week and one has to take their image during that week and post it. It's good to do challenges like this no matter how advanced you are. Why? For one, the synergy that occurs spurs your creativity in directions you would not ordinarily think of (hopefully). Second, the challenge itself has the same effect-it's like getting a double boost on your creativity.

This week's theme was, 'out of focus'. For this 52 week meme, I added an extra challenge for myself to do all, if not most, of these challenges on my cell phone. Why? Because it gets me to explore the potential and think outside the box. The 'out of focus' theme gave me a bigger challenge as this is something I would be tempted to reach for my DSLR Nikon D7000 to execute the challenge.

Lots of ways to achieve 'out of focus' with a DSLR-set it on manual focus and throw it out of focus, use a shallow depth of field (particularly effective in a macro shot), use a slower shutter speed and zoom your lens in and out really fast while the shutter is open, or, if you're lucky enough to own a Lens Baby Tilt Shift, you can use that.

So, this got me to thinking how I could achieve this effect in my cell phone camera (I own a Samsung Galaxy 5). I have Snapseed photo editing ap in my cell phone that can do a lot of things-and a couple of the filters are a 'tilt shift' and a 'select focus'. In the first shot that you see, I took the photo in focus, uploaded it to Snapseed, used the 'tilt shift' filter first and then the 'select focus' filter to get this effect. I did do a final crop (small one) in Photoshop on my desktop because it has a perspective crop that my cell phone aps don't have-they only offer aspect ratio crops-none that 'correct' the perspective.

You'll like how I did the second image which is the one that I prefer. You can call it a, 'hack' or 'old school'. I took a small clear plastic plate (that I retrieved from the trash at my friend's party to use in my studio as a paint palette), rubbed a tiny bit of petroleum jelly-it doesn't take much-and held that flat up against the camera lens to take my shot. I also used the timer feature in the cell phone camera so that I would have a chance to move the plate around to see where in the smear I wanted my image to be. This is an old school trick for SLR users to soften the effect of an image-they would smear petroleum jelly on a clear filter. Since I didn't want to smear that on my camera lens, the clear plastic plate worked just fine. A small piece of glass would work too. 

If anything, I hope this would encourage you to go explore and play with your cell phone camera-they really are mighty little things with lots of potential.

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