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FilterStorm Review

Discussion in 'App Reviews' started by Mar, 31 May 2012.

  1. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    One of the best pure-blooded photo editors on iOS, FilterStorm has all the settings needed to correct pictures and make them pop. The combination of -very successful- basic editing tools with powerful layers, blending modes, brushes and gradients means that this is an editor’s heaven, and users can go as simple or complicated as they wish with editing. Add to that the ability to insert a second photo and blend it with the first photo, and there is (almost) no limit to what FilterStorm can do. For those who want to keep it short and sweet, scroll down to the summary because what follows is a thorough review of this fantastic app, henceforth called FS for short.

    Upon opening the app there are eight icons, corresponding to the eight sections of the app.
    FS screens.jpg

    THE STARTING SCREEN (picture 1):
    • Camera icon: Open/Paste/Close image. Upon opening our image from our gallery or copying it from our clipboard, we can double tap to zoom in, but all subsequent double taps result in centering the image. In order to zoom further, we need to use pinch to zoom.
    • Crop icon: Here we can crop, align, scale, rotate and add borders with custom color and drop shadow. Scale to Fit lets us alter the dimensions of the image. Canvas Size is for letterboxing while keeping the image’s size the same.
    • Light icon: All the yummy editing options (FS calls them filters) reside in this section, and there is a switch at the bottom to flip the controls to the right. All vertical sliders in the subsequent screens can be manipulated by sliding along the control line; there is no need to touch the control point directly. The filters themselves will be detailed down below. Bear in mind that all edits are destructive, which simply means that we can use the same effect again and again (effectively stacking them).
    • Stack of layers icon (picture 4): Layers can be turned on or off from here. They can be used to stack filter edits on top of each other using blending modes and opacity sliders. Their advantage is that we can revisit them later and change them to our hearts content, say if we decide that a screen mode works better than a lighten mode. Scrolling through them is tricky, and usually results in changing their order. I found that I need to press on the bottom center of a layer in order to successfully scroll up and down. The plus button creates a new layer of our image. (There is no way to create a new empty layer.) Tapping on the equalizer button on the left lets us duplicate that layer, merge it down to the previous layer, or delete it. There is an opacity slider to control the visibility of the adjustments, and a list of all the known blending modes. A tap on the thumbnail of our image will open the filters screen, were we can choose our adjustments. Tapping on the Edit Mask black thumbnail opens our familiar brushes screen, so that we can paint our adjustments where we want. Hint: those new to layers can start experimenting with Multiply, Overlay and Screen modes. Also, it is best to turn layers on only if we mean to use them; otherwise they will put unnecessary strain on our device.
    • Gear icon: Automations, commonly called presets. If you like what you did on a picture, you can save all the edits to apply them to other pictures at the press of a button, and upload them for others to use. Some presets already come preloaded in the app. You can create/apply a transparent logo to be used as a watermark on your pictures. Remark: Presets are shown with their saved title, there isn’t unfortunately a thumbnail that would show how the photo will look like. A detailed video on creating a logo watermark can be found on the developer’s website.
    • Information icon: Here we can manipulate the Metadata (star ratings, IPTC for FTP server upload, EXIF data). We can also find the About page with tutorials, contact information, the app version, and automations (presets) created by other users which we can download. There is no location map view as found in other photo editing applications.
    • Clock icon: History since opening an image. It’s the only way to go back or forward in FS, since there are no back/forward buttons. All our edits are listed here, even the ones we cancelled out of. Strangely enough, saving an image clears its history.
    • Arrow icon: This is for saving to the camera roll and exporting to email, FTP/SFTP server, Flickr, DropBox, Twitter and Facebook. On the developer's website there is a video on how to set those up.
    FILTERS SCREEN (picture 2):

    • Auto-correction will do its best to correct the exposure of our photo. Success varies! In contrast to the rest of the interface, there are no sliders to manipulate here. If we don’t like what the software has done, we can go one step back in history and that’s it.
    • Brightness/Contrast: Brightness in FS is more of a gamma (midtone) correction, as it respects our highlights and shadows, and will never over-brighten or over-darken our photo. This is one of the best ways to fix an over- or under-exposed photo quickly.
    To the right of this and the rest of the filters screens, we can see a line with four icons (picture 5). The first will toggle the position of the preview window (left/right/full screen). The second allows us to select a blending mode to the adjustment we have just made. The third icon is a brush; once we are happy with the adjustment we just made, we can brush it only to specific parts of our photo and in a variety of ways. This is where the fun begins, and the plethora of brushing tools makes FS unique in the photo editing world (alas there is no magic wand as in PhotoWizard, which would make our lives easier).​

    BRUSHES SCREEN (picture 3):
    We can brush the adjustment only on the part of the photo we want, and using the eraser we can erase any mistakes we’ve done. When tapping the brush and the eraser, there are options on the bottom of the screen for their diameter, softness and visibility. Unfortunately there is serious lag on the brush tool. Another option is to use straight or circular gradients, and manipulate their position by sliding and rotating their two control points on the screen. The blue color shows where, and how heavily, our adjustment will be applied. With the color picker we can for example apply our adjustment only to the color green in our photo. A slider allows us to control how many colors (along with green as per our example) will be affected by our adjustment. The opacity slider allows us to quickly apply the effect from 0% to 100% strength to the entire photo. The vignette tool applies the adjustment only to outer parts of our photo, either in a circular or oval way. The last icon is the inverse option, to flip the edited and unedited portions of the image.
    On the bottom we have the option to show the edited parts in red color, so that we can see if we brushed into areas we didn’t mean to.
    • Curves: Here we can intricately adjust the brightness and contrast of the image by adding control points on our shadows (lower left), midtones (middle), and highlights (upper right). We can choose either Luminance (which may strip saturation), or RGB channel. By pulling our control points downwards we darken the photo, and by pulling them upwards we lighten it. We can also choose one of the colors (blue, yellow, green etc), to manipulate the intensity of the color independently. In order to remove a control point, we drag it upwards off the screen. Hint: In curves we can give our image a retro effect, for example by increasing red in the shadows, and decreasing red (effectively adding cyan, as they are opposite in the color wheel) in the highlights.
    • Levels: Levels is a simpler brightness adjustment than curves. We can darken our shadows by moving the left control point. Lighten or darken our midtones with the middle control point. And brighten our highlights with the right control point. As in Curves, we can add control points, and choose our colors independently.
    • Shadows and Highlights: Here we can lighten our shadows and darken our highlights (which is the opposite of what Levels does). It is especially useful in photos with a lot of contrast, like pictures that include the sky.
    • Hue/Saturation: We can increase or decrease overall saturation, or the saturation of the individual RGB colors (red, green, blue).
    • White Balance: Depending on the lighting conditions, photos can have a bit of an unnatural hue. Usually if they were shot outdoors they may look bluish, or if they were shot indoors they may look orange or green. Positioning the magnifying glass over a part of our image that we know was originally pure white or pure black or medium grey, will reset all the colors back to their true hues. We can also use the sliders to give the image a warm or cool hue.
    • Sharpening: A little sharpening is a great way to finish off the editing process, as it brings attention to the details of the image. There is only one slider to manipulate here. Sharpening always slows the software down, so it will take a few seconds before we see the results.
    • Blur: Again, one slider manipulates the blur amount. With the use of the brush or the round and straight gradients, one could soften skin texture or introduce depth of field.
    • Black and white: This converts the image automatically into black and white, and offers the use of three filters: blue, green, and red. We can lighten the corresponding colors in order to make them more visible, or darken them to make them recede or appear more dramatic. Hint: Red is sometimes used for portraits as it lightens skin tones (which are red), blue is used to lighten the sky, and green to emphasize texture. It is of note that we are not restricted to using one filter; we can create our own by mixing the three colors. Hitting “Apply B&W and paint color” lets us reveal the original picture colors to create a color splash effect.
    • Clone: Cloning removes unwanted objects, or facial imperfections (if zoomed in very closely). The magnifying glass must be placed over the “good” object that we want to copy somewhere else, and is our source point. With the brush selected, we touch our finger on the “unsightly” object we want to erase, and drag until the object has disappeared. The source point will move relative to the movement of our finger, but the magnifying glass itself will remain stationary. If we release our finger, the source point will be reset to where the magnifying glass is positioned. We can move the magnifying glass around to remove more unwanted objects from our photo.
    • Tone mapping: Tone mapping increases contrast at the points where color change occurs, and gives our images a bit of oomph. It is part of HDR (high dynamic range) processing, and in FS is controlled by two sliders, one for strength and one for radius.
    • Text: We can insert a watermark or any text of our liking by using the controls to set the color, size, font, and alignment etc. We can also use pinch to zoom for text size, move to place the text, and rotate the text using two fingers.
    • Noise Reduction: Noise reduction is a great way to start off the editing process, as it removes imperfections (black grainy dots) found in the dark areas of an image which was taken in low light, or when a picture was captured using zoom. It is controlled by two sliders, one for strength and one for threshold. Excessive use results in “waxy” or “plasticy” looking images.
    • Noise: Introducing noise to an image is an artistic decision used mostly to replicate film grain, or instead of sharpening. There is one slider to control the amount of black and white noise, and another to control colored noise. Without getting too technical, the Relative button indicates a smoother setting compared to the Absolute button, and is indicative of the signal to noise ratio calculation.
    • Redeye brush: To reduce the red eyes common in flash photography, the red is in effect desaturated with the use of the brush.
    • Color: Here we can pick a color by dragging the magnifying glass on our photo. If we tap on the color box at the bottom, we can slide around to choose the desired color, or type the red/green/blue values directly in the RGB panel. As always, we can brush the color where we want it, using the many painting modes FS offers. Unfortunately if we change our minds and want a subtle variation of our chosen color, we have to cancel out and start over. This is the one time where the UI may fail to be user friendly.
    • Vignette: a black vignette can be applied here, and the sliders control the radius, falloff and brightness. Hint: this filter seems to be too strong, and more appropriate for creating a pinhole effect. A radius of around 67% and falloff of 80% seems to produce more subtle results.
    • Posterize: with posterization we can create a poster effect, with much of the color tones stripped out. The strength goes from 2 (extreme comics effect) to 25 (very subtle).
    • Add Exposure: We can add a second photo, which will be placed on top of our original. We can rotate the second photo by tapping the controls, and we move the original photo by sliding. Taping "Fit to Image" will stretch the second photo to fit the original, and will take us directly to the brushes screen where we can manipulate it even further.
    SUMMARY:
    Perfect for correcting and enhancing all photos. In FilterStorm all edits have to be done manually; it is not a one trick pony, although most photos will benefit from the Enhance preset that comes preloaded, and some photos will benefit from the Auto Correction filter.

    Pros: Brightness and saturation filters are gentle and don't destroy the picture even on their highest setting. Recovery of shadows and highlights is an invaluable option, found only in a handful of apps.


    Cons: Presets don’t show a thumbnail, so over time they may become confusing. History is cleared after saving. There is a serious lag on the brush tool. The color filter may present problems if we change our mind as to the color we want to paint with. Last few updates have made the application somewhat crash prone. A new version is in the works which will hopefully address it. A sneak peak of the new UI can be found here: http://twitpic.com/9kaucw

    Developer’s website with videos: http://filterstorm.com/
    Youtubechannel http://www.youtube.com/user/filterstorm/videos

    A quick edit, to show a few of FS's capabilities:
    (Screenshots were created in StripDesigner)
    1) An underexposed indoor photo, with little contrast.
    2) After applying brightness, saturation and darkening shadows in Levels, the picture pops a little more.
    3) The middle part of the photo was too magenta, so in Saturation I desaturated magenta and red, and saturated the blues a bit. Afterthought: I should have applied this edit only to the middle part of the photo, where the magenta hue was prominent, using the horizontal gradient.
    4) I realized that the whole image was too loud and was fighting for attention. First I applied noise reduction, which I forgot to do when first editing the photo. Then I darkened Curves in RGB, went into brushes and applied the dark to the bottom half of the photo using the horizontal gradient.
    FS myEdit.jpg
    ValeriGail, elle, Carol and 8 others like this.
  2. lisamjw

    lisamjw Pretty & Sneaky... Site Staff

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    Excellent review of FS!!!

    Sent from my iPhone using MobiTog
  3. Veevs

    Veevs Addicted

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    Awesome and excellent review Mar, thank you!
  4. Dannywu

    Dannywu Addicted

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    This is one of the most detailed reviews I have seen on FS. Great job...

    I'm waiting to buy this app...hopefully next version is more stable.
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  5. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    Thank you guys. Any mistake/omission you see in the review, please post.
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  6. RoseCat

    RoseCat Cat'sClockedIt... Site Staff

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    What an amazingly detailed and thorough review Mar!! Fabulous!! :D

    Sent from my iPhone using MobiTog
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  7. Steve

    Steve Addicted

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    Great post. I love filterstorm and use it all the time, but didn't really understand exactly what the levels did until now. Thanks!
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  8. notafinga

    notafinga Addicted

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    Thanks Mar, you clarified many things for me. A couple questions: what does threshold do on the filter sliders ? The other is regarding layers which still eludes me. If you have time and inclination a blow by blow sequence would be very helpful. I have tried to follow the "official" tutorial but he goes through it at light speed. In any case thank you for the info you have provided;)
  9. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    Happy to have helped shed some light. I had the app for months and avoided it because it had so many options. After forcing myself to use it exclusively for a week, it became the app I will naturally turn to for all editing purposes (which is not good, because I now have 17 new apps that I don't feel like exploring).

    In Noise Reduction, the Strength is the overall amount, but the Threshold is the width of the "bad" noisy pixel that you want removed. To remove only big noisy pixels, set the Threshold to a low value. A higher Threshold results in soft (maybe blurry) images. (FS here seems to operate opposite to Photoshop, at least what I gather from their online help as I don't have their software. Can anyone clarify this?).

    Layers: if you are asking about the theory of blending modes, they should have a section on their own, that's how complicated they are. A good tutorial that finally made sense to me is here: http://appotography.com/2011/11/03/iphone-ipad-layer-blending-modes-explained/

    If you are asking how FS is handling layers, the blow by blow :) is: tap on the layers icon. Turn the slider to ON. Tap on the plus icon. Your new layer is at the top. Tap on the picture thumbnail "Edit image" on your new layer to open all the filters, and proceed with the adjustment(s) you want. If you want the adjustment(s) only on specific parts of the picture, tap the black thumbnail "Edit mask" on your new layer, and use the brushes. If you want to use blending modes, tap on the equalizer-like settings buttons on the upper left of your new layer. There you can also "merge down", which means flatten your new layer with the one below it, so that you can continue adding layers. I think FS can handle 5 layers before it becomes unstable.
    The benefit of layers here is that you can revisit them on a later date to change all their aspects to your heart's content, without having to undo anything. I find them useful in adding a second exposure so that I can change the blending mode and opacity until I am happy, and in adding a color to the whole photo and with blending modes change the way it affects the picture.

    If you are asking about something different, please clarify. I am here for any clarifications or tips you might want.
  10. notafinga

    notafinga Addicted

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    Mar thank you for your detailed response! I will open it on my phone and follow the instructions on the iPad. I have been masking and blending with photoforge and can use that pretty well, the tutorial videos on "beginners lens" are very clear, but I really like the FS interface and want to be able to stay within the app as much as I can. Thanks again!
  11. notafinga

    notafinga Addicted

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    first attempt at FS layers, here is a before and after trying to tone down contrast in the background. I followed Mar's instructions to the letter and it worked. This turned out ok but I didn't spend much time fine tuning, just want to learn the steps and will go on from here. One of my favorite quotes comes from an old repair manual I used to have for working on my '62 VW bug. The very first bull out of the chute is "Don't think, just do what I say." This advice has served me well over the years when faced with expert instruction in dealing with, what is to me, an unknown process. However I have to say the light finally went on regarding what happens during masking and specifically how to use the masking/layering in FS. So Mar I again thank you for your expertise AND ability to simplify the process so that I can understand it. Kudos all around, if you are ever in Redding, California, give me a call, drinks on the house;)

    image-3282709076.jpg image-2900430506.jpg
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  12. RoseCat

    RoseCat Cat'sClockedIt... Site Staff

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    Great job Don! Yes, I've had a few lights go off in my head too now... nice when it all "clicks". :thumbs:
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  13. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    Welcome! Notafinga thanks for the offer, it may be a while before I revisit California. I travelled the west coast 3 years ago, so in the mean time have your favorite drink on me instead (I will be paying for it through telepathy).
  14. AlyZen Moonshadow

    AlyZen Moonshadow Addicted Mobi Veteran

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    Great review, Mar, most excellent! :thumbs: I used Filterstorm when it first came out, when Iris kept crashing on me. Personally, I prefer Iris and I still use it as my finishing-off App. Filterstorm would have been my second choice, mainly because of its resizing facility. The user interface is clean but rather clinical, which may work for some people, but I do rather like my Apps rough and ready :p!

    The original Filterstorm had a function for Blending two or more different images, that worked differently from Iris or other blending apps. It was more like TouchUp or PaintFX. I was just getting excited about it and had only processed about 4 or 5 images with that Blend mode, when Filterstorm updated, and the Blend mode vanished??! :-( Or so I thought...but actually it's under the Brightness folder, listed as "add exposure", which 1) isn't the most obvious place to store a Blend mode, and 2) isn't the best description for Joe Bloggs to understand that "exposure" here means a separate image and Not brightness exposure?! It would have been more logical to shelve it under Layers?

    For me personally, Filterstorm is an alternative App I might go to now and then, but I found the learning curve too steep and time-confusing, and now there are other Apps available that do the same things, and some do them better.
  15. lamkentucky

    lamkentucky A Little Sparkler... Site Staff

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    Many thanks, Mar, for the very helpful review!
  16. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    You're welcome, my pleasure.

    Aly, I too think FilterStorm is too technical and not organic like SnapSeed, PhotoForge2. I am interested on your favorite apps to use instead.

    Inserting a second photo is available in the Filters category in "add a second exposure" as you said, AND in the Layers category. After creating a new layer (which duplicates the original photo) you can tap on the Settings icon on the upper left of the original photo, and all the filters open up including "add a second exposure".
  17. AlyZen Moonshadow

    AlyZen Moonshadow Addicted Mobi Veteran

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    Mar, my go-to photo editor Apps are Iris, Snapseed and PhotoToaster. I also use Photoforge 2, predominantly for its "dreamy" filter and "Pop! Cam". Photoforge 2 also has a Layers function for blending, but I haven't figured that out either :p, PhotoStudio has an interesting Blend facility that is very different from the usual suspects - it's hard to explain, you'll just have to experiment with it yourself to see what I mean ;).
  18. solaris9000

    solaris9000 Addicted

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    Great review, thanks for posting :)
  19. ValeriGail

    ValeriGail Addicted

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    Wow Awesome Review!!! I will be honest and say that filterstorm confuses me, but this has convinced me to give it another go. Thanks!
  20. mahoganyturtle

    mahoganyturtle MobiTog iOTY 2012 Mobi Veteran

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    I am still confused :s not your fault Mar...this stuff just does not click well with me...unfortunately :(
  21. Carol

    Carol Addicted

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    Great tut.....look's like I've got some learning to do. :p
  22. pametz

    pametz Addicted

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    Nice review. I love me some Filterstorm. It is always the first step in any edit. I clean things up, crop, straighten, make any tonal or contrast adjustments, whatever. Then run it through whatever other apps I choose to get to where I want to end up. It's a powerful app and I am still discovering new things.
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  23. ValeriGail

    ValeriGail Addicted

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    It is my son's editor of choice. he's always trying to show me how it works, but its like showing me a brick wall and telling me its a sunset. I'm going to have to take some time to really focus on the app to figure it out. I'm not sure what the block is for me.
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  24. Mar

    Mar Addicted

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    :( If you want to give it a try, say what confuses you and your MobiPeeps guide you through the app :)
    I think that it's a great app for applying all our edits with various gradients, which guarantees a natural look to our finished photo. Only PhotoWizard does this that I know of. Other than that, other apps are more intuitive.
  25. mahoganyturtle

    mahoganyturtle MobiTog iOTY 2012 Mobi Veteran

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    Thanks I deleted it a while back but if I ever get brave I will download it again :D

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