There’s something magical about black and white photographs. This is the scene from my bedroom window this morning, black and white and original image, courtesy of Vignette on my phone.
Black and white photos are somehow more atmospheric, more moody. The play of light and dark is both more obvious and more subtle at the same time.
And when you get to movies, some of the all-time greats are black and white films. Films that no-one has yet (nor should they ever, really) re-make.
- Kind Hearts and Coronets
- The Lost World (Yes, I know they’ve re-made this one, but the original is still better)
- Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
I’ve had an Android phone for just over a year now and the thing that amazes me most is the sheer range and diversity of the apps that are available. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding out that your phone can enhance your life in ways you’d never have thought possible.
For a long time I stuck to the free apps, for they are many, and I’ve got some really great tools. Tweetdeck to manage Twitter and Facebook, WordPress for my blog here, Google Sky Maps, Google Reader, Amazon’s Kindle app, Evernote. Loads of them. But the first app I bought was a camera app called Vignette and this remains my favourite app of them all.
Vignette is a camera app, taking your built-in Android phone camera and enhancing it with a wide variety of photographic effects and frames. The free version is good up to a certain image resolution, the paid-for version is good up to the full resolution of your camera. Trust me on this, you want the paid version.
When you fire up Vignette it gives you a slightly different view of your camera than the standard. Down the left (or at the top) you’ve the zoom control, at the right (or at the bottom) you’ve got the actual controls for shooting mode, hardware settings, resolution, and – this is my favourite bit – frames & effects.
Vignette operates by taking the photograph and then applying the chosen effects and frames to it. This can either be a destructive process (you don’t keep the original image) or a non-destructive process (where a copy of the original picture your camear captured is kept). Obviously, if you’ve got the space on the memory card, you want to keep the originals.
The shooting mode screen lets you pick the usual normal photos, fixed focus shots, self-timer, the slightly annoying “steady shot” mode that waits until your camera is rock-steady before taking the photo (trying to grab a shot of something whilst holding my 9-month old boy over the weekend, I had to switch this off!) and the far more interesting time lapse, strip, grid, double-exposure and blind shots. See? The potential for fun is there already. You can only pick one of these modes, so you can’t shoot blind double-exposures in time-lapse, but would you really want to?
Once you get to the Effect and frame menu you’re into really fun territory. I recommend trying completely random to start with – random effect, random frame. You cannot predict from one photograph to the next what you’re going to get. It’s great. The only problem with that is that every once in a while you will see an amazing photograph and wonder what effects were applied to make it that way – and there’s no way to work that out. Frames you can make a good guess at (that’s a panoramic shot, or that’s the 35mm film frame) but effects? If you can work those out then you’re better at this than me!
When you open up the effect menu the choices are overwhelming. There’s a full list of the effects on the developer’s website: http://neilandtheresa.co.uk/Android/Vignette/List%20of%20features/
Once you get a combination you like, you can save it to your favourites and even create a shortcut to launch Vignette with those settings pre-configured.
There’s an active group on flickr for sharing the photos you’ve taken – it’s here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/vignette/ – and there are some truly beautiful photos on there. Those in the know add the settings they’ve used on their app so you can have a reasonable chance of replicating the photographic style they’re using.
Vignette was the first app I bought, having played with the demo of the app for a day. Not once have I regretted it. When I’ve had questions about the app, the developers have been a joy to deal with. They take feedback very seriously, every email goes into a tracking system so that it is not forgotten and not ignored.
The photographs dotted about this post are ones I’ve taken using the random frame / random effect setting. I love not knowing how a picture is going to turn out, it adds a magic to the process that the move to digital cameras has lost.
One final trick that this app can do – it will apply effects to photographs you’ve already taken. If you copy pictures from your desktop across onto your phone’s memory card you can then play with them to your heart’s content!