Friday, April 6, 2012

What You Can Do With Two Cows

With all my "self-discovery" lately about Instagram, and Fake Lomo, etc., I thought it would be good to explore exactly how these kinds of things can be accomplished with a good ordinary Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. This opening statement alone should also show everyone that I am writing this Blog to help beginners with some tips about photography as I, also a beginner, discover them.

This will be a long one with lots of pictures (yay!) so let's begin. I used my Canon EOS 40D and Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.0 lens a few weeks ago to take this picture:

Until today, I had not done anything with this shot, so this is in it's virgin state of 10 Megapixel Jpeg - the best my camera will do. I say this to remind you, and myself, about the power of cropping an image, because it is important to realize that is a big part of what all this "Instagram and Fake Lomography" is all about. So let's begin with a square crop of 1200 X 1200 pixels - roughly less than a third of the original image, and so roughly making it into 3 MPix. (yes, it's that simple):

Wow! Not bad! Click on this picture to make it bigger on your screen and note how much detail was retained. This "cropping" is also known as "digital zooming", because I just zoomed in on the cows without actually zooming my camera lens - all I did was crop out everything but the two cows and the stuff closest to them. If you have a compact camera (not a DSLR) with "Digital Zoom" it is doing exactly the same thing to the picture using it's built in software instead of it's lens ("optical zooming"). Most compacts have both, and also allow you to combine digital and optical together, to greatly multiply the zoom capabilities of the camera. DSLR's do not have "digital zooming" built in - being more geared to experienced photographers who realize that it is nothing more than simple cropping of the picture anyway. It is also important to know that the "zoom" capability of camera phones is strictly digital cropping - that tiny phone lens does not have any optical zoom. And finally, remember that when you "digital zoom" a picture, you are also greatly reducing the MegaPixel count of the picture, regardless of whether you are doing it in-camera or with your computer (or phone!) application.

So, now we have a nice, square "Instagram -style" picture to work with that is also of typical Instagram size - 1200 X 1200, which is plenty for sharing, but not so good for enlarged prints. (It will still look great printed on 4" X 6" paper!)

The rest is real easy, and this is where the fun really starts. Lets start with the GIMP (free Photoshop style computer software for Windows and Linux), and use it's "Lomo" filter with the "Natural" colour setting, and every other setting at default (yes, it's very, very adjustable!) except with "Motion Blur" set to zero - I don't want any Motion Blur in any of this exercise:

This made a nice "plastic lens" effect, but little else. Let's try the same thing, but with colours set to "Vintage"

Ahh! Now that's nice - starting to look a little more Instagram-ish, isn't it?

Now try the "Autumn" colour scheme:

Quite red! Still though, this seems to be about the same kind of thing that Instagram does, from what I've seen so far. There are still 6 more colour settings in the GIMP Lomo filter that I haven't even tried, not to forget all the other adjustment sliders.

Let's look at two other completely different filters - first, the "Diana-Holga 2B", a well known, very cheap plastic camera very popular among Lomographers:

Radical!!! I use this one a lot. It also has many adjustment sliders. There's also one called "National Geographic" which states "meant to turn a low quality picture into a high quality":

You can see a great increase in sharpness here - I don't care for this a whole lot but occasionally have used it prior to doing a B&W conversion.

There's more - you can add borders, (including old fuzzy ones) make good looking sepia's with coffee stains - even two different kinds of Technicolor:

There's still a lot more, but hopefully you get the picture! Phone Cameras are great, but if you really don't want one, you can still do "Instagram" and a whole lot more.

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