Big Lens: Put Your Photos in Perspective

Is iPhoneography real photography? There are quite a few discussions concerning this subject and I myself am noticing the changes in my own life when it comes to capturing those special moments. While I used to lug my 20-pound camera equipement everywhere with me, nowadays I find myself relying on my iPhone more often.

I do miss some things, of course. Among them is the ability to use bokeh as an element of composition and make an object stand out from a blurry background. The iPhone lens can’t deliver results like that, but with Big Lens I can achieve results that look almost like the real deal. Read along to learn more about this app.

So, what’s the point?

What I’m trying to achieve with Big Lens is what I’d usually need a professional camera and a good lens for. I want to make something — a person or an object — stand out sharply against a blurry background. Why? Because it makes a photo look interesting and directs your attention to what’s really important.

With Big Lens, you can achieve effects that look surprisingly close to what a DSLR could do, but of course you can also take it even further and create otherworldy photos. Let’s take a closer look at all the options at hand.

Putting Things Into Perspective

There are two ways to reach your goal, and we’ll take a look at the more difficult route first — but it will yield amazing results, so bear with me and don’t skip ahead.

In order to achieve a good effect, you need a photo where you can pinpoint some object that needs to stand out against the background. That can be a person among a crowd, a tree against a forest or, as in our example, me against the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

While this image isn’t too bad already, I’d like to blur the background more and apply some of the filters that come with Big Lens. First, I need to tell Big Lens where to work it’s magic. You can either use the lasso tool or the brush tool.

For this image, the lasso tool will work great because there’s a clear distinction between me and the background.

Use the Lasso tool to quickly define an area to remain "in focus"

Use the Lasso tool to quickly define an area to remain "in focus"

With the lasso tool, just draw around the area that you want to remain focused. The entire encircled area will automatically be covered with red color. As you can see, there’s quite a bit of background covered as well and I don’t want that to remain sharp — it will ruin the effect I’m trying to achieve. I’ll just hit the “Auto” button at the bottom and Big Lens will, by itself, figure out which parts of the selected area to keep and which to throw out.

Everything within the marked area will be overlaid with red

Everything within the marked area will be overlaid with red

As you can see, the result is pretty good, but there are still some areas covered that I don’t need. With the familiar zoom gesture, I can focus on those areas and with the eraser take away all of the red highlighting. If you take away too much, you can always undo or use the brush to re-select areas.

Speaking of the brush, you can always highlight an area manually with the brush and apply the auto filter afterwards as well. Sometimes the lasso tool isn’t the best way to go, so you’ll have an alternative if it fails.

Narrow the selection with the Auto tool, then refine with the eraser

Narrow the selection with the Auto tool, then refine with the eraser

Anyway, once you’re done specifying the area to be blurred/to be left alone, you can hit the proceed arrow on the upper right and Big Lens will work it’s magic. And with the right image, the results are really nice. As you can see with my shot, the standard settings have blurred the Colosseum nicely while leaving me in focus. It gives the entire image more depth and draws your eyes to me (I always wanted to say that).

The result after about 2 minutes work with the standard settings in Big Lens

The result after about 2 minutes work with the standard settings in Big Lens

I think it’s obvious now why your selection in the previous step should be as precise as possible. If you leave to much in the area to remain sharp, the effect will look fake and poorly done. It will pay off to spend some moments to create a really good selection. But even if your initial work wasn’t perfect, you can always remedy that: with the focus or blur brush, any area can be adjusted easily.

Go Crazy With Effects

But that’s just the beginning, there’s so much more that Big Lens can do for you. Let’s start with the aperture settings and pro photography 101. The wider open a lens is, the smaller it’s aperture number and the “blurrier” the background will be. Big Lens offers you five settings, with apertures ranging from f3.5 to f1.8, the latter which you’ll only find in better lenses for DSLRs.

Change the aperture to strengthen or weaken the effect

Change the aperture to strengthen or weaken the effect

Tip: To see just how much the aperture or an effect changes your original photo, tap the “Compare” button on the lower right of the screen.

Asides from it’s main function — changing the aperture — Big Lens also ships with 23 really nice filters. They are either applied to the entire image, the part remaining in focus or the blurred background. Through a slider, you can adjust the strength of the filter.

Work some magic with the many filters

Work some magic with the many filters

Tip: For even stronger — and sometimes stranger — effects, turn on the HDR option on the top of the screen.

If you happened to take a photo that has some interesting light sources (for example, car headlights in night shots) you can turn those light sources into several shapes: stars of all kinds, hears or simple circles.

Once you’re done, save your new photo to the Camera Roll, send it via email, or share it to Facebook, Picasa or Dropbox.

For Those Tilt-Shift Fans Out There …

Wait, I’m not done yet! Like I said in the beginning of this review, you have two ways of applying blur to your images. We just covered the more complicated way with a lasso or the brush, making sure we had exactly the details we wanted selected.

Now, what if you want a quick and dirty solution or better: what if you want to fake the popular tilt-shift effect most of you will know from apps like Instagram?

Easy! After you’ve loaded your image into Big Lens or took a new one, don’t go for the advanced tab, but select the basic mode. Here you can apply a circle or rectangle. Everything those shapes cover will remain in focus. With the pinch and zoom gestures you can adjust the width/diameter and you can also rotate the rectangle.

Create tilt-shift images quickly

Create tilt-shift images quickly

Verdict

When I first purchased Big Lens I didn’t expect too much. After all, there are ton of apps which claim that they can perform miracles on your photos, but as you and I know, a lot fall short.

To my great surprise, Big Lens delivered again and again. The lasso and auto tools combined are very good in recognizing separate image parts and the detailed work with the eraser or brush has been minimal for me. Add to that the many filters that transform the photo into something new entirely and Big Lens is quite an impressive image manipulation app which runs on both your iPhone and iPad.

What’s your take on that kind of image enhancement? Do you spent time manipulating your images on the iPhone or do you share them as you shot them? Let us know in the comments!


Summary

Big Lens produces outstanding lens blur on your images and lets you apply a wide range of filters to create a magical photo for you.

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