I hate change. I recently moved my bed from one side of the room to the other and I was restless for days. Trimming a few inches off my hair makes me nervous, and the process of buying new eyeglasses has been a nightmare since I was a child. So in the middle of January when the new photo editing app A Color Story was released I tried my best to ignore it. When I met Emily last year I was (gradually) converted from using VSCO and Snapseed to PicTapGo exclusively. Now was just too soon to face further changes to my editing routine! But as we crept through the early weeks of 2016 I began seeing more and more dramatic photos coming out of A Color Story. One rainy February afternoon I downloaded the app and set myself the challenge of editing a few pictures in the new programme. It took several images until I could push past that initial squirmy resistance to something new, but A Color Story has quickly become my go-to app for editing all my Instagram pics. I’d love to pass on what I’ve learned about A Color Story and let you in on why I still sometimes sneak back over to PicTapGo.
If you’re already using the app A Beautiful Mess (it makes collages and allows you to add text over images) you may know the same talented sisters, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, created A Color Story. The emphasis this time is on brightening and enlivening your images: ‘We love fresh photos with bright white and colors that pop,’ the sisters explain on their website, and this is largely what you’ll get if you download the app. The app, by the way, is free but requires in-app purchases if you want to access all the filters.
When you open the app and select a photo to edit, you will see the categories Filters, Effects and Tools. The Tools section has all the usual Photoshop-like options to adjust qualities like contrast, brightness, clarity and several more – it’s so comprehensive there are probably more variables than any of us will ever actually use. Anyway let’s talk about the real stars of A Color Story: Filters and Effects!
Let’s look at the FILTERS first. If you wind up purchasing them all you will have a total of 11 filter families. They each have a name that hints at the flavour of the ten or more individual filters you will find within. (Yes, it’s a whole bunch of filters but don’t worry because with a bit of practice you will quickly figure out which ones work for you.) For example, ‘Essentials’ are the subtlest while still offering a considerable level of brightening, without becoming totally unnatural. Here are a few of my favourites which I also happen to think are quite in keeping with the spirit of Makelight:
POP, LITE BRIGHT, POP SONG, CHROMA, SPRING, PUNCHY, TULIP, HEART EYES, and BLUE SKIES
One caveat when it comes to revealing my favourites is that what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I’ve been trying to think of an accurate metaphor for editing photos: it’s like putting on your makeup. You can’t always share; it’s strictly a matter of taste; and there’s no exact formula except you look in the mirror and go with your gut. Which is exactly like editing – it’s a bit of this and a bit of that, bump up the brightness, add a touch of contrast … until some voice inside says to stop and hit the Share button.
The other category within A Color Story I want to discuss is EFFECTS, which includes Flare & Bokeh (one family), Light Leaks and Color Fog. I’ve experimented with this aspect of the app extensively, and I’m actually really excited that by manipulating both position and opacity you can make these effects more subtle (and therefore more usable) than you may at first imagine.
I thought you would like to see an example from each category so I’ve included these here. I definitely recommend trying these out, even if they don’t necessarily seem like your style. Not only is it fun, but also the results could surprise you!
1. FLARE & BOKEH: This picture of the pale blue houses uses Flare 7, which I mirrored and moved higher in the frame.
2. LIGHT LEAKS: I struggled with the light leaks the most, but this image of the harbor at St. Ives was my best attempt, and it’s Leak 7.
3. COLOR FOG: This picture of the two houses uses Color Fog in Peony at full opacity. I actually love how this one turned out!
I mentioned that despite my love for A Color Story, I still occasionally return to PicTapGo, and I want to talk about this a bit more. A Color Story is brilliant for brightening your images and creating unique and striking contrasts, but what took me several weeks to work out is that you need to enter the app with colourful pictures. I live in London and sometimes – even with the white balance ratcheted up on my Olympus Pen – the prettiest and most vibrant parts of this city still can’t POP in photos because we’re plagued by too many grey days that result in muddy images. Sweet Tooth (caution: use in moderation!) and Sugar Rush in PicTapGo will get you those really strong colours but I haven’t found an equivalent over on A Color Story. So if you become frustrated with the results from A Color Story, I recommend trying once more but with a colorful image – even if that means you use another app to pump up the colour before bringing the photo into A Color Story.
Here are the same three images in different stages of editing, which I hope illustrates the above point. The first image is my unedited photo straight off my Olympus Pen (how embarrassing – it’s pretty gross!). The second image has been edited using A Color Story exclusively (nice but not exactly what I’m after). With the third image I started in PicTapGo using a small amount of Sweet Tooth, saved it, and then applied the same set of edits from A Color Story as I did in the second photo (Fresh Air and Punch are the filters, if you’re wondering). The final result might seem too heavy-handed to you, but that’s how I like my photos – a tiny bit over-edited and a little too bright to be believed.
So my final thought is that I highly recommend you download A Color Story, ignore any resistance to change you may be experiencing and immediately give it a try. I think you’ll love it and if you’re not pleased with the results then intensify your colours and try again. We can’t wait to see what you create! xo