Flare 1.5

In a nutshell, version 1.5 brings a lot of new and exciting stuff to Flare: New presets, new borders, new and updated filters, Facebook sharing, and a bunch of smaller improvements and bug fixes.

Let’s start with the ‘Tin Type’ preset: ‘Just like ‘Daguerreotype’ before, this preset goes back into the history of photography, trying to emulate the collodion wet plate process introduced in 1850, that used wet collodion on tin sheets. Additionally exposures needed to be developed in under 15 minutes. This was a real mess! Unlike the original, our new default preset is just a click away. Here is what it looks like:


The Tin Type preset

'Instamatic' on the other hand goes back only a few decades, emulating another cheap plastic camera. Not necessarily that camera, the name actually came from combining Instagram with Hipstamatic, but voilá, we get the name of a classic Kodak camera. What a coincidence. ;-) Here is what it looks like:


The Instamatic preset

Beside these two new default presets there is a new effect called ‘Profile Presets’. You’ll find it in the Color Effects on the Edit tab. This effect will apply predefined color corrections to the image, and we start with three distinct presets. Here is what they look like:


Selective Warmness


Feelin’ the Blues


Hipsteresque

Another addition is that the Rotation effect has an option that scales the image to fill the frame automatically. Before this you had to also add a Scaling effect to get to the same result, so this new option makes certain things one step easier.

And if you liked the Shuffle feature we introduced in version 1.3, we have added an option for if you want to add more punch: Just hold down the option key while clicking the shuffle icon in the presets tab, and you get a more intense effect.

Finally, with Mountain Lion 10.8.2, we support sharing your final image on facebook.

Plus, as usual, a few bugs fixed. Find the details in the version history.

Wolfgang Ante

Flare 1.3

After a long wait, Flare 1.3 is finally here. Here is a short overview of what’s new:

The most visible new feature is Shuffle: This allows easily applyable variation on your presets. In the presets tab, select a preset, then click on the Shuffle icon:

This will change the settings of the effects that make up the preset just a little bit, creating a slightly different look. Continuously clicking the Shuffle button will bring the settings ever farther away from original. Great for experimenting without even going into the Edit tab! If things went into the wrong direction, just hit the Reset button.

Under the hood there is an even bigger change than Shuffle: Flare has a completely new final rendering engine. In a nutshell this means Flare is much more stable now. No huge image or overly complex preset should cause Flare to crash anymore.

The second under-the-hood change is the adoption of application sandboxing. This new technology in OS X Lion limits access of apps to some of your computer’s resources. In the end, this will make security attacks more difficult, and therefore increase the trust you have in your computer.

Unfortunately, application sandboxing was still a moving target when I started working on it, and the first implementation from Apple meant Flare would lose a feature, and that would be syncing presets via Dropbox. A lot of effort went into new code to make the transition for people using the syncing feature as smooth as possible. Just when this version was ready, changes to application sandboxing made it possible to keep Dropbox syncing. So all of the migration code had to go again, and the code base needed to adopt the new API.

Making Flare a sandboxed application has taken a lot of time and this is the main reason for the delay in updates. The good news here is that now this is done, updates to Flare should come again more regularly.

Additionally there have been some important bug fixes and other improvements, of course. Please see the version history for a complete list of changes.

Last but not least, the presets download page has been updated with some new presets and clicking on the thumbnail will show a bigger preview now.

Wolfgang Ante

External Editor and new Presets

Version 1.2 that has recently been released added the ability to define Flare as External Editor for Aperture, iPhoto, and Lightroom. (instructions how to set this up are found here)

A few reviews on the Mac App Store said that users of Aperture or Lightroom do not need Flare. So why did we add this feature?

The reason is, while Aperture and Lightroom can do a lot of what Flare does, they do not offer borders, frames, lightleaks, textures, and blurs. Plus some color processing effects are easier to use in Flare, too. On the other hand Aperture and Lightroom manage your photo library, something Flare doesn’t do at all.

We never saw Aperture or Lightroom as competition to Flare, and with version 1.2 we brought Flare as External Editor right into the RAW workflow of the big apps.

Today we released seventeen new presets created by users of Flare (click here to download), so let me take this opportunity to show you some of the new presets as an example of what Flare can do, that will add to the features of Aperture or Lightroom:

Apart from these very strong presets, I also like subtle presets that only change the colors and mood of a photo. Here are a few more examples from today’s new presets:

Wolfgang Ante

Version 1.1

Flare 1.1 is out, and this time it adds some nice new default presets and textures. While the last two updates put the emphasis on feature improvements, like exporting to iPhoto and the ability to sync your presets via Dropbox, this release is all about adding new content to make your processed photos look even better. In the following I want to showcase some of the new possibilities.

Lets start with the new default presets. There are six new presets that will be added to your presets automatically. I want to highlight one preset here, and that is the Daguerreotype. This was the first commercially successful photographic process, the starting point of photography. David Lanham has created a complex preset to mimic the look of Daguerreotype photos, and the result is a showcase of what Flare can do.

Here is an example:

Flare is very flexible and powerful if you go into detail. It is great for one-click image enhancement, but you should try to create your own presets, too. The possibilities are endless.

Next are sixteen new borders and frames. A picture is worth a thousand words, but let me highlight the medium-format-photography frames, that have been added on request from users. Crop your photo to square format to make them look realistic.

Here are a few border examples:

One comment on frames though: Be sure to try the “Invert Frame” checkbox to switch between black and white background.

Finally, we have ten new lightleak textures. Our lightleaks have been praised for their realism and the new version adds even more realistic leaks as well as more adventurous ones.

Again, best to see an example:

With version 1.1 the possiblilities to process your photos got even richer. Please remember that there are more presets to download here: http://flareapp.com/presets

Hope you enjoy version 1.1!

Wolfgang Ante

SIMULATING THE HOLGA 120 TOY CAMERA

One of the big differences of Flare to simple effect apps is that you can edit the presets, and even build your own. Building your own presets needs a bit of practice though, so in this post I will explain step-by-step how to create a preset that mimics the look of photos shot with the Holga 120 toy camera.

Let me start by saying that the Holga does its thing with how the plastic lens breaks up the light, and then how chemicals on the film react to the exposure. Flare on the other hand manipulates pixels through spatial and color adjustments, that simulate the effects, but not the cause. Therefore, it can never be 100% perfect. Having said that, let’s open up Flare and try to create the best possible Flare Holga simulation.

First we need to examine what the typical characteristics of a Holga shot are. Through looking at lots and lots of Holga photos I came up with the following:

1) Vignetting, the strong dark corners, as seen here.

Vignetting is easy to add: Just select it from the Lens effects. Initially the Blending mode is set to Multiply, this will simply darken the corners. This is usually fine, but if you do have strong light sources in the corners of your photo these will be darkened, too, which will look wrong. In this case use Overlay blending. As a result of Overlay blending the center will lighten up, so use the Exposure effect to decrease the exposure and compensate for this effect. Also, set the roundness slider to the right, which will result in a completely circular vignette. Since lenses are perfectly round, this is the vignetting they create.

2) Pincushion distortion, a geometrical distotion, as seen here.

To simulate Pincushion distortion you need to combine two effects: First add Barrel Distortion from the Special effects and move the Intensity to the left. Also, to make the effect more dramatic, as with the Holga it definitely is, move the Radius slider completely to the right. The created distortion is fine, but as a side effect you have a pillow-shaped border around your photo now. To get rid of this use the Scaling effect from the Special effects. Scale the image up until all of the border is gone. Note that its better to have a bit more Scaling than neccessary, because if you want to save this as a Preset it should work on wider aspect ratios, too. The wider the photo, the more scaling you will need.

3) Edge blur, caused by distortion and plastic lens, as seen here.

If you applied the Pincussion distortion and scale, you will see blur in the edges already. The plastic lens of the Holga is really bad though, so in this case we need to add additional blur. Add Gaussian Blur from the Lens effects and set the Blending Mask to either Vignette or Strong Vignette, depending on how strong you want the effect. Use the Radius slider to adjust the blur.

4) Ghosting, and a slight glow, as seen here.

The ghosting and the glow are very subtle effects of the Holga caused by the cheap plastic lens. Start by adding the Glow effect from the Lens effects, and adjust Radius, Intensity, but also the Opacity to blend the original and the glow to create an ethereal look.

Next thing is Ghosting: This means there is the same image just a slightly bit bigger overlayed over the original. This happens by how the plastic lens breaks the different wavelength of light, and is called chromatic aberration. We can simultate that by adding a Scaling effect from the Special effects, and setting the Opacity to 50%, which will show both images in the same amount. Move the Scaling slider to change the offset. To make this look original, the scaling should be very small. 

Since this applies the scale to the complete light spectrum, it looks more original when the photo is converted to black & white. Interestingly, that is also why real Holga shots usually look better in black & white: The chromatic abberation of the Holga is really very strong. To convert to grayscale add the Black & White effect from the Color effects.

Finally this could be finished with a Zoom Blur from the Lens effects. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is too much. Since Flare allows us to go in and change parameters easily, this can be decided depending on the photo.

5) Finishing touches: Lightleaks, grain, square crop, emulsion layers, etc.

Holgas are sometimes not completely sealed, creating spots and streaks from light coming in from the case. Add the Lightleak effect from the Special effects and select a lightleak you like. If you converted to Black & White, move the Lightleak behind the Black & White effect, since a color lightleak on a black & white film is physically impossible. Every effect has a handle (the three horizontal lines on top of the effect view), use it to move the effect up or down.

To simulate the properties of film further, you could add the Grain effect from the Special effects. Another touch would be to add emulsion streaks. These could be the result of shooting expired film in your Holga. Add the Texture effect from the Special effects, choose one of the Emulsion Layer textures, and reduce the Opacity to a minimum. This should be barely visible.

Oh, and don’t forget to crop your image to Square, since this is the format the Holga shoots. Some people modify their Holgas to take 35mm film, in this case crop to 2:3 and add the Film Strip Negative texture. Since the 35mm film strip is too narrow for the Holga, it will be exposed up to the corners, and this is exactly what this texture will show.

So, how does it look like? Here is a photograph of the Reichstag (the german parliament) I took on Saturday. This shot has been taken millions of times already, so pepping it up with a little bit of a Holga look helps, I hope. :-)

BTW. You can find these steps completely ready and fine-tuned in the default preset called “Molga”. Feel free to see this as a starting point, and edit away: This is what Flare was designed for. Start with a preset and then adjust to make it perfectly fit your photo.

Wolfgang Ante

A Better Effects App

After more than a year in the making Flare is finally available in the Mac App Store. This post explains why Flare was first created and the idea that spawned it.

I was always fascinated by the possibilities of post-processing. The ability to embellish your photo after it has been shot is something great: It’s another creative process after the initial creative process of framing and composing your shot. Post-processing can make your photos stand out and can also be great fun.

Or rather, it should be. Until now the tools available have been either very complicated, like full-fledged image editors that overwhelm users with complex functionality, or very simple with all-or-nothing effects that don’t allow much creativity. As a photographer, I was personally very frustrated with post-processing. On sites like flickr I found lots of people like me that care deeply about their photography but have abandoned post-processing completely because it is simply not as much fun as shooting.

When you are a photo enthusiast it’s all about the fun you have, but when post-processing is either too complex or too limited then people tend to skip it all together.

This insight led to the initial design of Flare. The concept was to create a simple piece of software that still allows users to go in and edit quickly and easily. Ready-made effects (in Flare they are called Presets) are a great start. Throw in a photo and choose the one effect that fits the photo best. Unfortunately, this is where simple effect apps have traditionally stopped. But in Flare’s case this is just the beginning: Clicking on the edit tab, users are able to see (and edit!) the magic — the building blocks that make up all the various effects. This is where creativity starts. In the beginning users will just adjust settings to learn what does what. This is intuitive and already fun, because every change is reflected in real-time on the photo. But soon they’ll start to re-arrange and add new simple blocks, creating all-new presets. At this point, post-processing has become a creative process, just like shooting. And just as much fun.

This is what Flare is all about. If you love photography, but are frustrated with post-processing, download Flare now and give it another try.

Wolfgang Ante