Adventures In Zero Processing – Hipstamatic + iPad

Recently we talked about the “impossible dream” of zero processing – making photographs almost entirely in camera without then spending as much time (or more) on post processing the images to get the look we want.

I have a fairly minimal and effective workflow using LightRoom, but still don’t particularly enjoy it.

So I’ve started exploring other (close to zero) processing options.

Eighteen months ago, I got the Hipstamatic app for my iPhone, which offers a simple way of applying a combination of “lens”, “film” and “flash” presets to create different looks.

You get a selection of these three lens, film, and flash variables with the app, then can buy further ones, and use them any in combination.

I had fun using a few combos (you can save them as favourites) with my iPhone and it reminded me of the more experimental end of film I began with over five years ago, shooting with a Holga 120N, and 35mm Lomo cameras like the Smena 8M and Vivitar/Superheadz Ultra Wide and Slim.

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Recently I bought an iPad, to begin to explore how much it can replace a full laptop, as my MacBook is past its best and expensive to replace.

The iPad, at about a quarter of the price and something I’ve been thinking about for some time anyway, seemed a good interim solution.

Hipstmatic is much the same on the iPad, but of course everything is much bigger and easier to view compared with my iPhone. 

Delving further into the app, as well as the lens/film/flash options, there are a whole set of other adjustments, such as vignette, texture & grain, depth of field, temperature & tint, tone curves, exposure and so on.

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Further adjustments screen in Hipstamatic

So I wondered if/how I could use Hipstamatic on the iPad to process photographs I’ve made with my Ricoh compacts.

And how this would compare with LightRoom in cost, ease, enjoyment and of course the final images.

The camera I’m trying this with initially is my Ricoh GX100.

I’m using Fine resolution JPEGs (9MP 3:2), with a custom colour setting of +1 contrast, 0 sharpness), -1 colour depth.

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Here’s how the workflow breaks down.

First, on MacBook –

1. Download JPEGs to new folder on MacBook from camera. I just plug in the camera using the USB lead then copy and paste the images. I use the following file hierarchy on my hard drive – Pictures > Digital Photographs > Ricoh GX100 > 2017_12_30.

2. Open all photos in Preview, delete those that don’t make the grade, because they’re out of focus, near duplicates, or just not that great. There’s no point spending time prettifying an image that fundamentally doesn’t work. This often takes two or three sweeps through, and I’m left with between 10 and 30% of the original amount.

3. Use the Photo Transfer App to move all remaining photos to iPad.

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On iPad –

5. Open Hipstamatic, and show all photos, including those just moved from MacBook.

6. Choose first photo, tap the edit/favourites icon. I have a colour favourite (ie combination of lens, film, flash and other minor tweaks) saved and set as the default for processing. Tick to save photo with favourite settings applied.

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Saved “Favourites” in Hipstamatic

7. Repeat step 6 for each of the latest batch of photos.

8. Use Photo Transfer App to move processed photos back to same folder on MacBook (which I make a regular external HD back up of). The PT App makes a folder for all the photos it’s moving called “Selected images”. I can then delete all the images (original and processed) from my iPad to keep it clean and lean.

Back on MacBook –

9. Upload required photos to Flickr from “Selected images” folder.

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What I like about this workflow – 

Hipstamatic is really visual and fun to use. Editing images virtually full screen size on the iPad feels much more immersive and tactile than the smaller images on my MacBook using LightRoom – even with many of the surrounding tools etc minimised in LightRoom.

All the Hipstamatic controls are chunky simple sliders which add to the overall minimal, visually optimised and user friendly feel.

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Tweaking exposure in Hipstamatic

The saved favourites each show a little thumbnail preview of the current image with those settings applied. So much easier than in LightRoom where I find you have to apply the preset to see how it actually looks.

I’ve also saved a favourite called “neutrality” which has all settings switched off or at zero. This way I can adjust just one aspect, like contrast for example, without adding the multiple combined effects you get using a lens, film and flash combined.

Having the images ready to process on a different device does make it feel like a different part of the overall process, and something I can do at a different time. Which makes it seem less pressured.

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It fits the simpler and less serious approach to photography I’ve found in the past year or so, and especially in recent months with the Ricoh digital compacts.

Plus even before I get to the above processing steps, I’m just shooting colour JPEGs in camera with very minor adjustment and sidestepping the whole RAW vs JPEG debate. This also makes the cameras quicker in saving the images, and the file sizes much smaller (less storage), meaning quicker handling times throughout the whole workflow.

And I’m keeping the 100% size images right the way through the process, rather than with LightRoom in the past keeping an original 100% version, then making a 50% version for Flickr. Much simpler to have just the original version plus the processed version of each photo, both 100%.

In short, it’s faster, simpler and more fun than using LightRoom on my MacBook for processing.

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Oh and then there’s the cost.

When I first tried LightRoom, I didn’t want to spend £100+ to buy it outright as I didn’t know how much I’d use it and for how long. So I went with the monthly subscription option. Now, this seems to be the only option, and it’s £10.10 a month.

If I used it extensively, and the other Adobe apps you get in the subscription, this might seem a reasonable deal. But I probably use 5% of the features at most. Or about 50 pence worth each month.

Adding up that £10 a month up over the maybe four years I’ve been using it, £500 suddenly seems incredibly expensive.

I could have got an iPad plus a very capable used camera or two for that!

Plus I really don’t like the fact that Adobe give you only this subscription option and lock you in. It feels very controlling, an abuse of power almost. Especially when there is so much open source software and apps available these days, do we need to use an app that makes us feel enslaved?

Hipstamatic has an initial purchase fee of about £3.

Additional lens/film/flash presets are typically 99p each set.

The Photo Transfer App has a free version but limits things like the number of files you can transfer at once. So I paid the very reasonable £6.99 for the pro version.

In other words, Hipstamatic plus Photo Transfer has cost me less than one month’s LightRoom subscription.

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What could be improved –

Initially I’m applying the favourite settings image by image. I expect there must be a way to apply the same favourite across multiple images which would save even more time, even if I then swiped through them after and made any specific further tweaks. But this is being picky, I rarely have more than maybe a dozen images from a photowalk to process, sometimes just two or three.

Using two devices and three apps isn’t super minimal, or zero processing.

Currently I haven’t explored a way to import photos directly from a camera or SD card to my iPad, if there even is one.

Plus at this point, whilst I use Flickr as an archive for my best photographs (50% versions of, up to now), I also rely on my MacBook and an external back up HD for the full size images.

I could, with the above workflow, go with using full size (ie 100%) images all the way through, then delete the images from my MacBook and not back up, relying purely on Flickr. But this seems a bit risky.

I do think for the JPEG images from my two Ricoh cameras, they are small enough to just stick with 100%.

I can skip the 50% option I have traditionally used and which began with my Sony NEX which created much larger (RAW) files due to its 16MP sensor.

Looking at the images from this initial experiment (those shared in this post) I can’t see that shooting RAW and having further versions of the same file would give me any worthwhile benefits.

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What I could also do – and no doubt will do at some point – is explore cloud storage instead of a physical back up HD.

I know that Apple, Google and Amazon (to name three) all offer this, which would provide a good back up to my Flickr archive. Plus these can be very automated, and can in theory replace the Photo Transfer App I use for the above workflow, so with both iPad and MacBook I can work with files in the cloud.

I could also skip step 8 and upload the processed photos from my iPad straight to Flickr.

But aside from then not having a copy on my MacBook, it is more fiddly adding description, tags etc in the Flickr app than the desktop site, so it doesn’t actually speed up or simplify the process.

If/when I make the move the cloud storage, it might be in tandem with letting go more of the need to organise and label my photos as precisely as I do now.

Instead of “here’s a photo I made with a Pentax K10D with a Super Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens and processed in LightRoom”, I might just be saying “here’s a photograph I made”. Liberating indeed!

I’ve been really impressed overall with this new approach – especially as I’ve struggled in the past to find a colour look I like.

I plan to continue with it, seeing if/how I can streamline it further.

Have you tries Hipstamatic for editing photos, especially ones not originally made with an iPhone/iPad?

Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

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25 thoughts on “Adventures In Zero Processing – Hipstamatic + iPad”

  1. I loved hipstamatic when it came out. I bought loads of packs. I never thought to do this though. Maybe this is a new project for me. I will read it again and think about it. I tend not to process film photos, but maybe I just will 🙂

    1. So what did you use Hipstamatic for when you first got it, just for shooting photos with an iPhone? It is great for that, but using it on an iPad for photos taken with other cameras offers a whole other world of potential.

      I don’t process film photos either, but with digital the images are digital right from the outset so I see them as fair game for a further bit of digital tweaking. And Hipstamatic makes it fun to do!

      1. Yeah, just for iPhone photos. Now I am android for phone and iPad for fun 🙂 I did reinstall it and my packs were all in the iTunes Store. Score. Plus the new interface is much better. I played with a couple of photos and put them on Instagram.

  2. I don’t believe any light processing app offers a few of the key things I use in PS on my photos, so I stick with PS. But believe me, I’d love to get out from under that $10 monthly charge.

    1. Jim, what are the key features you use/need?

      I tried to get out of my subscription yesterday, lets say it wasn’t as I expected. But I’m saving that for a future post!

  3. Dan, nice post…. do you know of any apps that go well with an Android machine…like you I use a tablet…but it’s Android driven… not apple driven… any links would be appreciated…

    BR Lynd

    1. Thanks Lynd, well yes I think Hipstamatic is iOS only, not on Android. I haven’t used it myself but I’ve heard good things about SnapSeed. I believe it was developed by Nik Software who also created Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro, which are also well regarded. Nik is now owned by Google, so I can’t imagine any of the software is anything less than very good and very well tested. It’s free so well worth downloading and playing with for a month or two to see how you get on? Let me know!

      You can see the Nik collection here – https://www.google.com/nikcollection/
      For Snapseed just search for on the Google Play store from within your Android device(s).

      1. Oh, I don’t know. I’m just going by the Google page with the URL https://www.google.com/nikcollection/ – I assumed this meant Google owned the collection?

        Lynd was asking about Android options as Hipstmatic isn’t available on Android, and the one I’ve heard most about was Snapseed. Yes I know it’s also on iOS.

  4. It’s an interresting approach you go and I fully see your intention.

    I myself try to avoid involving another device and using my 27″ monitor can hardly be beaten by my iPad.
    As I do not upload files instantly, this mobile approcach does not matter for me. If really necessary, I can use my smartphone taking a picture and uploading directly to a platform.

    Shuffling around files is no difference – either on iPad or Desktop/Notebook. They need to be stored at least somewhere, including multiple (and automated local) backups. I do not really trust cloud services – they are so … cloudy/nebulous … and change their T&C from time to time.

    When avoiding RAW, I use the NikCollection for easy one-click JPG adjustments.
    Using RAW, I try to make use of one-click basic presets in Aftershot before exporting them as JPG and optimizing them with Nik.

    Keeping all images in DigiKam allows an easy upload feature to a whole range of platforms – from which I mainly use only one.

    So yes, as written initially, I see your point 😉

    1. Hi Reinhold, good to have you input.

      I know some of my processes when written out in full would sound long winded and awkward to others who weren’t familiar with any of the software etc. So whilst your approach does sound a bit involved, I’m sure for you it’s far more straightforward and instinctive.

      I’ve read of others who do the first stage of processing in one app, then import into a different app to do the next part, and so on. But I just like a simple approach in one app, that gives me results I like. Currently Hipstamatic does that.

      The most important thing is finding what works for each of us, and keeps photography enjoyable!

  5. I’ve tried the Perfectly Clear app with good results. Easy to edit photos, and save presets. I’ve just started using Snapseed, but haven’t figured out how to save a preset. I like the idea of getting out from under the monthly charge for LR as well. Maybe worth a try to pick one of these apps you have talked about, and trying it for a month with no Lightroom use and then assessing the results. I’ll let you know! January a good time to try this – “resolutions” and all…

    1. Hi Martin, yes this is in fact exactly what I’m doing with Hipstamatic! I’ve removed LightRoom from my dock so I don’t even see it now. I can’t see me rushing back any time soon…

  6. I used Hipstamatic a year or two back. After reading this post I installed it once more but have yet to use it. It made some very fine photos in it’s day, but one thing that bothers me with it are the multiple combinations of ‘film’, lens and flash. That just smells too much like paralysis of choice to me. Like having 20 cameras and 50 lenses….

    Of course I could limit myself… but I know me. Just can’t if I have the choices.

    And yes there are card readers for the iPad, you can import jpegs from the SD cards. And I use iCloud and Photos to sync my photos on my computer and iPhone. Works like a charm.

    I did not know that Hipstamatic can be used to tweak photos not taken with the app so I’ll give it a try.

    How do you use the Hipstamatic camera…. in the classic ‘small viewfinder’ view or the ‘full screen’ view?

    1. Well Frank, interesting you mention the choices within Hipstamatic. On my iPhone I had all the default “favourites” on show, and a couple I’d compiled myself. On the iPad though, once I’d figured out a basic b/w, muted colour and warm colour preset (as well as one called “neutrality” with no film, lens or flash selected, so I have an easy option when I just want to add a touch more contrast or tweak the exposure, without adding the more “processed” effects), I deleted nearly all of the others.

      I still have I think 17 lenses (including “no lens”), 15 films (including “no film”) and four flashes (including “no flash”) on the iPad. Which gives 1020 different combos. But in reality, you get to know two or three of each that work best, and beyond that it’s just minor tweaking of exposure and contrast.

      You could argue that with any processing software there are infinite editing options anyway. eg LightRoom has say, exposure adjustment from -100 to 100, and contrast from -100 to +100. Which gives 40000 different outcomes (200 x 200). You just have to experiment initially, find what you like then as I said just make minor adjustments of the fundamentals as/when required.

      Despite the 1020 combos I just mentioned in Hipstamatic, I do see it as a very simple and friendly interface. In fact, very similar to the interface of the Ricoh digital compacts – they have a huge range of features, but once set up, you need to adjust very little and when you do it’s very easy to see and know how to. After that they become very straightforward and intuitive – both Hipstamatic and the Ricohs.

      Thanks re the SD card readers, I just had a look. Do you have the official Apple one? Still not sure how I get beyond having a MacBook to back up the photos, but I guess I could also link my iPad to a back up hard drive, as well as cloud storage. I think when I go into the cloud, it will be with iCloud, as the free storage I use now all seems to sync well, and the fees seem very reasonable for more storage. Much less than the LightRoom sub!

      I don’t really use Hipstamatic on the iPhone now. Just today I was out for a walk with the family in the woods, and there were a few photo opportunities. So I just shot using the standard iPhone camera, knowing I would tweak it in Hipstamatic on the iPad later. Which I did!

      But when I did use it more I always used the standard full screen mode. The other mode with the fake camera surround just cramped the view too much. You know how I like dislike pokey viewfinders!

      1. I have all my photos in Apple’s Photos on my Mac Mini, they sync in full resolution to iCloud and Photos on the iPhone. No hassle! I don’t have an iPad! And no SD card reader for it…

        Honestly, if there was a means to address my negative scanner from an iPad I wouldn’t have a desktop computer any more!

        Only tablet that can do it would be a Microsoft Surface running regular Windows…

      2. You lost me at “Microsoft” on that last paragraph, I didn’t bother reading further. : )

        I started to look into this, and my MacBook (2008 model) doesn’t have Photos (it has the old iPhoto app, which I never use), and I’m not sure it supports it, even if I updated the latest OS.

        The iPad and iPhone all sync well with iCloud.

        What about writing blog posts? I find that the writing itself on an iPad is surprisingly easier than I expected, though I do prefer a proper keyboard. The part I find a bit fiddly on an iPad is doing links, inserting photos etc. Much easier on MacBook.

      3. Do you use the WordPress app for iPad or just the web page. The app might be better for editing.

        I used a y Logitech keyboard attaching to the iPad and it was very good! Though not really cheap…

      4. I have the app, but haven’t really explored it yet so just do it on the site in Safari. I’ll experiment with the app, it’s bound to be more optimised for the iPad. Thanks for the reminder!

        I’ve looked at keyboards but the only ones I’ve seen so far have been part of a case. I don’t want the keyboard permanently attached, as mostly I use the iPad for reading, and I already have a slimline case.

        But I think there are others that you mount the iPad in just when you want to use it, or even standalone ones that don’t need to be connected by wire at all.

      5. The Logitech attach magnetically and protect the screen when folded close. They have a built in adjustable slot for the iPad when you type.

        You can easily detach them, just tug them off and the magnets let go

      6. Definitely worth looking into. I’ve just finished a draft post on the iPad with the WP app and it’s quite straightforward. For the pictures I just copied the URL from my Flickr (again the iPad app) and pasted into the WP app and they deem to have shown up fine. Much quicker than the method I use with my MacBook. Just want to see how they look when published as it doesn’t tell you what size they are, what the alignment is, whether they’re linked to anything etc…

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