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5 high-end special effects to spruce up your iPhone shots

Dave Johnson | Aug. 20, 2013
How to achieve eye-popping special effects on your camera phone, from tilt shift to color splash.

You can now reproduce this crazy effect on your iPhone. Take TiltShift, for example: This $2 app lets you take a photo—or open one from your camera roll—and fiddle with its depth of field by positioning bands of blur and sharpness. That might sound confusing, but it's quite simple to do, and the app comes with a slew of excellent demo photos to help you master the technique for turning any scene into a faux miniature.

High Dynamic Range
HDR photos have become trendy in the last few years. It all started when photo enthusiasts realized they could take multiple photos of the same scene, each one with a different exposure, and combine them in a photo-editing program to yield an eye-popping shot packed with color that would otherwise impossible to achieve with either film or digital cameras. Then advanced digital cameras started offering built-in HDR modes. And now, even the iPhone has an HDR mode baked in: Just tap Options in the Camera app and turn on HDR to try it for yourself.

The iPhone's HDR mode isn't great, though; it doesn't take a series of distinct images in the traditional way, so its results tend to be mediocre. For truly impressive HDR shots, try an app like the $2 Pro HDR. This excellent app takes two photos—one overexposed, one underexposed—and combines them into an image rich in color and detail. The whole process takes nearly 30 seconds from the moment you tap the screen to start the exposure, but the results are worth it.

Levitating subjects
Some special effects are somewhat...specialized. Consider levitation, for example: If you want to take a photo of a person floating in the air, there's no app for that, right? You have to take a photo and painstakingly tweak it in Photoshop until it looks magical. Except that there actually is an app for that.

Levitagram is a $2 app that makes levitating anyone or anything a snap. Use the app to take two photos of the same scene—one with the "floating" subject propped in the air and another with the subject removed. To make yourself float, for example, you could sit on a box and then use the app to erase the box with a few finger swipes. There you'll have it—a seamless levitation photo.


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