Use summer to experiment with photo, video mobile apps

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This summer, consider time with friends and family as a great opportunity to experiment with new journalism tools.

Hone your mobile videography skills by filming the kids at Disney World, upgrade your knowledge of a social media platform or launch a new app on your phone that could have professional use once you get back to the office. It’s also a great time to test out hardware.

Here at Kiplinger headquarters, we’ve rounded up some previously dispensed advice, tossed in some new recommendations and hope to turn you loose for a summer of fun and professional development. Remember, family already has accepted you as a journalist, so there’s no turning back. They have to tolerate your summer experiments.

Funky photos 

Think of the possibilities. You’re playing miniature golf for the sixth time with your kids, and your daughter is about to ace the hole. Maybe you’ve scaled the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies or you want to see fireworks in a whole new way. Wouldn’t that moment resonate more if you could capture it in 3D or a 360 image?

Two-dimensional photos are great. But, what journalist hasn’t come across a scene that could be captured better in 3D or panorama? A number of apps allow you to capture surprisingly high-quality 3-D and panoramic images with simply a few taps on your smartphone.

Given these a try. They require some practice, but that’s why you’re experimenting with them on vacation. That way, when you have to cover that four-alarm house fire, you’re on top of your game.

Fyuse is free for Apple and Android devices. Not quite a video, but not a photo either. Fyuse bills its images as “interactive representations of the world” and “spatial photography.”

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With Fyuse, just point and slowly rotate camera. Image from https://fyu.se/

Whatever you choose to call them, Fyuse photos are cool. Viewers start with what looks to be a 2-D image, then tilt or swipe the screen to see the image shift to another angle. The effect feels almost holographic. For news purposes, these images work really well with a subject or specific object within an environment.

Bubbli is free for Apple devices and has been around since 2011. The instructions are simple but must be adhered to precisely in order to get the best seamless, spherical photo — or “bubble” — that goes a step beyond standard 360 apps in it incorporates zenith and nadir, ground and sky. Viewers see all sides of the image by swiping the image and panning their devices up, down and across.

Once you’ve taken the shot, it takes a few minutes longer than some apps to stitch the pieces together, but the end product is impressive. The bubble can be uploaded and viewed in Twitter and Facebook or downloaded to your phone’s camera roll. Or email it to yourself, open it on a computer, and retrieve the embed code to download onto a website.

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A screen capture of 360 Panorama’s Swiss Alps from http://api.occipital.com/

360 Panorama is for Apple ($1.99) or Android ($2.99) Reviewers agree that 360 Panorama is one of the better panoramic apps, yielding cleaner images with fewer mismatches in tone than other apps.

To use, simply tap the button and slowly pan, overlapping photo “tiles” until you go full-circle. Wait a few seconds while the program stitches and voila! Instant panorama. The embed code for 360 Panorama images can be retrieved by logging into Occipital’s website and tapping on the image.

If you’d rather not experiment with 3D or panorama, but are more interested in raising the personal bar for good mobile video and still photography, we highly recommend Filmic Pro for videos and Pro Cam 8 for photos.

Video upgrades

FiLMiC Pro is a small investment but worth the $10. If you need a single reason to have this on your phone, know this: FiLMiC is the choice among many videographers and documentary filmmakers. Entire indie films have been shot on mobile with it. It’s been rated the No. 1 video camera app for the past two years. It works on iOS and Android devices.

This is how it bills itself:”FiLMiC Pro variable speed zoom, audio gain control, variable frame rates up to 240fps on newest devices. With full manual control over focus, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, tint and color temperature, you may never need another video camera again. Additionally, FiLMiC Pro has a ton of professional tools such as audio meters, stereo microphone support, informative thirds guide and aspect ratio overlays.”

Montana’s blue skies and clear water captured using Pro Camera 8 by Kevin Z. Smith.

Pro Camera 8 is a smaller investment, $4, and could easily replace your mobile’s built-in camera, or at least serve as your default. With a slew of features like rapid fire, white balance, grids, timers, shake resistance, manual and auto shutters and exposure compensation, this ups your mobile game. If you don’t want to drop $10 for FiLMiC Pro, this app will allow you to shoot video, film in low lighting and use its built-in QR code reader.

The other nice aspect is that the photos go directly into your camera roll, so there’s no searching or moving image from this app to your phone’s storage. The only drawback is your iOS needs to be 8 or higher.

Enjoy your vacation and your experiments with some of these great mobile apps.

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