It was an informative club evening tonight with two topics being covered for the benefit of all members old and new.

Philip opened the proceeding with a live demonstration and walk-through SNAPSEED. This is the free – and powerful – digital editing tool from Google. To help with our evening, Google thoughtfully released an updated version just prior to Philip’s talk and from what this observer saw, it looks very much like Google has chosen to build in many of the now defunct Nik software with the new Snapseed release.

The first thing to point out is that Snapseed is only available as an app for smartphone or tablet – iOs and Android – and there do not appear to be any plans to release a desktop version for PC or Mac ( a quick search does reveal a rather complicated work around using emulators, etc. – far too complicated for me to explain here)

So the main use of Snapseed is for editing those images you have taken with your phone or tablet or alternatively, adding other photos to your phone or tablet for editing.

Philip told us that the new version now has many more options and is a more powerful editing tool. The layout has changed when compared to past versions and there is a greater choice available for more specific edits within an image. 

One of the most striking tools is the new “Expand” tool. This allows you to effectively add more to the image, i.e. make it bigger or fill in the gaps after a change of perspective.

I see that selecting part of a photo for editing is now possible and Philip provided excellent “Before” and “After” images plus a walkthrough to show us how it’s done.

There are now far more presets available as filters plus a complete set of build in tutorials.

The list of Snapseed’s features will be a long one but from my point of view, there are some real stand-out features:

  1. The editing is non destructive. So you have the chance to play with as much editing on an image as you like and then decide it’s not right – you simply undo your actions or revert back to the original.
  2. It is possible to “stack” different edits of the image together and then flatten these, i.e. in the same style as Photoshop.
  3. The edited image can be save as a new or copy file and there is an option to save a version with the edits still “live”. That allows you to go back to each individual edit in the future and change
  4. The most extraordinary new feature is what Snapseed calls “Head” mode. Philip showed us how this works and in particular its potential on portrait shots. The software can identify the head, isolate it and you are then able to move the face to look in a different direction. I am struggling to explain with words so please play with this as it can be quite dramatic.
  5. The “healing” and “mono” tool are also greatly enhanced.
  6. “Double Exposure” is another addition

The loud and clear message is that Snapseed is very easy to use and all of us are encouraged to try it and have a play. Files can be up to 20Mb and it works on raw files as well.

It is clear that Google have put a lot of effort into this update and are strengthening Snapseed’s capabilities. Are they out to challenge Adobe? Knowing Google, that has to be a possibility!

Philip has kindly provided the following link to a dropbox file where he has collated all the available information so I would encourage all to take a look and enjoy.

After tea break, Mark gave us all some pointers and advice on the subject of close-up and macro photography. This is ahead of our own evening on the subject, coming up on 11th October.

Whilst Macro lenses are the most obvious choice, Mark made us all aware of extension tubes. These are simply rings that you add between the camera body and lens that allow you to move the front of the lens further away from the sensor in the camera. That, in turn, leads to greater magnification.

A range or extension tubes made by Kenko are Mark’s choice – a set of three for under £100 – but we heard that there are cheaper ones available out there. Just make sure that whatever amount you may choose to spend, you get the right ones for your camera/lens system. Please note that we reached a consensus on the night that extension tubes do not work on telephoto/zoom lenses so keep that in mind if you think you may be interested.

Main topics covered included:

  1. Depth of field – the closer your lens is to the subject, the shallower it gets
  2. Orientation is important. The sharpest part of the subject is the part that is in focus and parallel to the lens. You can experiment for effect with this and it is good to move around when the object is too big to get into one shot.
  3. Keep in mind your camera settings will play a big part in getting the most pleasing outcome. Reducing the lens aperture will result in a larger depth of field and the reverse is true as well. So if you are having problems in focusing on what you want, try changing the aperture.
  4. As you make the aperture smaller, your exposure time will lengthen to ensure the shutter speed is correctly set. Make sure your camera is stable throughout.

Focus stacking is another option if you are looking to make the whole close-up image look sharp. He has kindly provided a link to a YouTube instructional video here:

Mark provided an excellent insight into the ways and methods to get close up plus a look at why it can go wrong and how to improve your chances of getting it right. He ended the evening with some demonstrations via linking his camera to an iPad and showed us the impact of getting close with a 5p piece. It was a very informative talk and Mark has made his presentation available to all on our club website.

Perhaps the main message to take away is that it will take many attempts to get the shot you want so be prepared to experiment, be patient and have fun!

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