I have never really been a fan of those one click wonder filters that have become so popular with the on-line photo services. You know the ones you load your photo (from your smartphone) and you see a number of thumbnails of various “looks” that can be crated from your image (sometimes it shows your images transformed other times it is a generic image). I have never seen them as a creative asset. The web is already crawling with “look and me”, “copy cat” and “wanna-bee celebrity” stuff that after the first wow interesting moments, they quickly becomes not another boring thing to scroll past, seen-it, seen-it…..
However three packages which offer such one-click filters, but with the ability to modify them and/or stack them, are changing my mind. Googles first version of snapseed, as implemented in Google+ photos let you select a filter and make standard changes but with the option that you arrive on a page with various sliders that created that look and then lets you refine the changes. In other words you select the basic look and then can tweak it (often just to bring it back a little). Unfortunately snap seed is no longer used for default edit in google photos on the web and has gone missing on the android phone app for google photos. However you can still download it as a standalone app on the android (albeit with less effects filters)
The second software, which surprised me, but had the biggest influence on my change of mind is OnOne 10. In their effect tools they has been working towards the analogy that the effect worked like adding a set of filters in from of your lens. However there was always the actual sliders, buttons and dials very prominently on the left hand side. This is where you did most of the adjustments. there where thumbnail of the main tools on the right hand side and you could get larger version showing the effect on your photo from there. The Version 10 interface has been reworked and it a lot cleaner however I think most of the tools remain. (Resizing images was one overlooked but has been added back now (version 10.1.0) There is now more emphasis on the tiles (they are bigger than thumbnails by default now) and it is easier to start on the right. Many tools have a few tiles with slightly different settings on the original sliders. I’m now becoming convinced it is easier and more natural to judge an effect visually than remember how far or my what setting to adjust a given slider. As before you can save the filters stacks as presets, making the system very powerful. You could previously add effects on top of each other but the analogy of stacking filters is really obvious and powerful. even when they are stacked you can still make refined adjustments individually over on the left, OnOne have done great things here, even though they are essentially cosmetic.
The third app is dreamscope, which is a total surprise to me, because it was the classic, up-load your photo and here are a number of alternative looks to select (end of options). Admittedly the effects were very interesting (and often could be creatively used). I have been using them off and one for a while mainly for icons or simple graphics to support my blog posts. They must have been listening closely to user feedback and have now added larger output, customizable filters and most recently the ability to stack filters. Their users have embraced these changes and their home photostream is looking a lot less like “more of the same” and more “wow that interesting”,
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.