Mextures, Snapseed and Pixelmator

EF2B0C6B-85C2-470E-9113-E8E33EE83575
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

I’ve already reviewed a few of my favorite mobile photo editing apps, here, here, here, and here, and now I’m going to share some additional apps that I’ve been using with more and more frequency. VSCO still has my heart, but it doesn’t do everything. (I edit all of my photos on my phone, even those I take with another camera.)

46608800-1D0D-42F4-ADC2-2D4148863540
iPhone6 shot, edited with Mextures

First, is Mextures, which is $1.99 in the app store. Initially I was a little turned-off by the app. I’m not sure why, but it seems I balk at every new photo-editing app at first (except for BLACK app which I loved immediately). Mextures can give a VERY processed look, and usually I’m not a fan of that, however, the cool thing about the app is you can adjust it thousands of ways. There are preset filters (light leaks, textures, adjustments) you can layer and adjust, and create your own formula. There are also preset formulas made up of multiple layers, that you can adjust and customize in myriad ways. Once you’ve created your own formula, or adjusted an existing one and made it your own, you can save them in the app and use them again. Many Mextures users also love to share formulas with each other.

Processed with VSCOcam with q2 preset
Shot with iPhone6, edited with Mextures and VSCO Cam

I’ve had to change my thinking a little bit. I think what I dislike is a poor-quality photo, adjusted to the max, but I hadn’t realized how many truly beautiful pieces of art can be created, even if it’s obvious the photo has been adjusted. Take these two images below, that almost look like paintings once I applied the Mextures formulas I used. It’s obvious they’ve been processed, but I still love them. My intention was to turn them into Degas-inspired pieces.

IMG_3711
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures
IMG_4002
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

I’m also obsessed with taking photos of the sky, and Mextures formulas do some AMAZING things to skies.

IMG_1842
iPhone6 shot, edited with Mextures

The X-Film formulas, and the Atmospheric formulas, as far as the pre-set ones go, are my favorites, because most of them have a lighter touch. With all of Mextures’ filters, you can adjust the intensity up or down, so it’s easy to fine-tune a shot without making it look over-processed.

IMG_2800
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures
IMG_2748
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

Basically, I use Mextures when I want a bolder, more colorful look, or if I want my photo to have some texture.

357BA594-F9EB-41C2-A23C-166D9D8D04C0
iPhone6 shot, edited with Mextures

Next, is Snapseed, which is free in the app store. This app does a few things, and has some filters, but I prefer VSCO Cam and Litely’s filters. What I LOVE about the app is the Brush. With the Brush feature, you can dodge and burn in parts of your image, or paint different areas with different adjustments for exposure, saturation, or temperature. It’s incredible! I love taking photos of the sky, and I often use the burn tool to burn my cloudy skies in. I haven’t played as much with the other brush effects, but the dodging and burning tool alone is worth it to have.

Raw iPhone6 Image:

window1

After burning the mountains in with Snapseed:

window2

Then Filtered with VSCO Cam:

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

I also think the transform feature on Snapseed is pretty cool: it allows you to adjust the angle of your photo by either tilting it on a horizontal or vertical axis, or by rotating it. It also fills in the sides when it rotates, usually decently accurately. The Selective feature in Snapseed is one that I haven’t used much yet, but it’s also really cool: it allows you to adjust sections you tap, in your photo, and bring the contrast, saturation, or brightness up or down, in just the specified area, leaving the rest of the photo alone. I don’t know if any other apps let you do this, so it’s definitely a feature worth noting.

Untitled
iPhone6 shot, edited with Mextures, then tilted on a vertical axis, backward, using Snapseed’s Transform feature.

One thing I don’t like, is I’ve noticed once I use Snapseed, my entire photo, not just the adjusted parts, is more line-y…which isn’t a word, but it appears slightly more pixelated or something, to me, which can be pretty noticeable depending on the image and how much adjusting I’ve done. That has led me to use it less-often, because I don’t love it when my images look overly-grainy or processed (unless that’s the particular look I’m going for as in my Mextures Degas-inspired pieces).

IMG_5274
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

Snapseed offers a healing feature, but in my opinion, there’s a better app for that.

Enter Pixelmator, at $4.99 in the app store. More pricey than the others, but worth the cost for all of its features. Before finding this app, I used Touch Retouch for removing unwanted flecks, spots, power lines, etc, from my photos, but Pixelmator does it so much better. It guesses what the space should look like without the item you’re removing, and it usually gets it right, or close. If it doesn’t, it’s quick and easy to tap undo, and try again.

Before– Distracting background buildings and the bottom of a cup in the top left of the frame:

2B141B2F-7C91-499C-953F-CB0A62BC795E
Image straight out of the camera, Fujifilm X100T

After:

6D586E21-A3E2-4A75-90EE-333066691981 2
Used Snapseed Repair tool to remove cup at the top left of the frame, and the buildings in the background. Then filtered with Litely.

I really have only used Pixelmator for that feature, which is a shame, because it’s packed with some powerful editing tools, but they’re more for advanced editors. You can use layers, distort images with things like warps, twirls, and bumps, it offers a nice vignette tool, and color adjustments, on a sliding scale so it’s easy to adjust it exactly perfectly (versus the tick scale on VSCO that doesn’t offer any in-between stops for its adjustments), and tons of brushes and erasers, available in lots of options and adjustable sizes and opacities, to fine-tune. It also offers some filters, but I prefer VSCO, Litely and Mextures for filters.

D2794427-BDAB-456B-AB20-D8746A60033B
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures
FullSizeRender 8
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

I tend to be a person who wants my editing to be simple, and fairly quick, especially for an image taken on my phone. So Pixelmator’s more in-depth, advanced features, just go unused by me. The app is worth the Repair tool alone, though.

32398ED8-311B-46D0-A996-0644F5CEFF30
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

Overall, these are 3 apps worth having and playing around with. I find myself learning from them, simply by shooting things just for the purpose of trying out new features and capabilities.

64DBA4FA-4260-4F6A-922E-DABD49225CB1
Fujifilm X100T shot, edited with Mextures

iPhone 6s Plus

Processed with VSCOcam with 3 preset

I got the new iPhone! And I even went for the Plus! I went bigger solely to have the best iPhone camera possible. I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said in tons of reviews written by more techy people, but I will say that I love the camera, and the video is CRAZY smooth. I absolutely notice a difference in photo quality between my iPhone 6, and my iPhone 6s Plus. The images I get are cleaner and richer, just more beautiful.

sleeping sloane

Processed with VSCOcam with c6 preset

I thought the large size of the phone would bug me: be too big for my back pocket, my little wristlet purse, and my hand, but I’ve found that it fits in all 3 just fine. I love how much larger the screen is because I do so much reading and photo editing on the device. I might just be a permanent Plus convert.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Somewhat recently, I had been wooed by the FujiFilm X100T, and strayed from taking all my photos with my iPhone, but the new phone has me using it at least 50% of the time I take photos, if not more.

front porch copy

I also wirelessly transmit all of my Fujifilm photos to my 6s+, and edit them entirely on, and with my phone apps.

Aidy and her besties copy

seattle center copy

I have a longer post for tomorrow on some new (to me) iPhone editing apps I love, so for now, I’ll let my photos taken and edited with the iPhone 6s Plus do the talking.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with b4 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with b4 preset

The BEST Chocolate Cake EVER

I don’t get to bake as often as I like, but when I do, I typically go all out. Yesterday, my oldest daughter Sloane really wanted to help me bake something, and I had just the thing. I have a go-to recipe for chocolate cake, and a go-to for frosting, but this time, I wanted to do something extra-special. I had come across this recipe for a Ding-Dong cake, and couldn’t resist the idea of making one myself.

ganache 2

I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe linked above, instead of the one the Ding-Dong recipe calls for. I just can’t not use it: I’ve tried so many, and this one just has the best, richest flavor, comes out delicious every time, and somehow retains moisture, and even gets a little BETTER for about 5-6 days! I vary it just ever so slightly, so I’ll put my version below:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of a shot of espresso and hot water/ strong hot coffee

cream filling 1

Instructions

1.Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.

2.Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.

3.Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add the hot coffee to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter. (Full disclosure, I dump everything in a bowl except for the coffee, mix it, add the coffee, and beat for 1 minute. It works great and uses fewer bowls.)

4.Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

5.Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

finished 1

I noticed the Ding-Dong cake recipe actually called for my favorite frosting as the filling, so you can follow either recipe I linked above. You’ll want to start the first part of the frosting recipe while the cake is cooling, because it also has to cool for a while before continuing. Here is the frosting recipe:

Ingredients

  • 5 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)

IMG_2697

Instructions

1.In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk first, and then heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very very thick, like brownie batter.

2.Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. It MUST be completely cooled before it’s mixed with the other part of the frosting.

3.Stir in the vanilla to the flour and milk mixture, once it’s cooled.

4.Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left, so beat it for quite a while, until it’s smooth.

5.Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat it into oblivion. Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

I layered that amazing frosting goodness in between the cake layers, in a super-thick layer. Make completely sure the cake is totally cooled, or this frosting melts and won’t be pretty.

ganache 1

And then, lastly, I used the Ding-Dong recipe’s ganache, and it was SO easy, and so beautiful. It also tastes great. Here is the ganache recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Instructions

1.Place chocolate chips in a large measuring cup.

2.Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s boiling, being careful not to scorch it.

3.Add the hot cream and butter mix to the chocolate chips by pouring it into the mixing cup.

4.Wait for 5 minutes, and then stir the mixture until it’s completely mixed, and creamy.

Pour the ganache over the cake right away, very slowly, and then chill the cake for 4 hours before serving.

1

My little helpers agree it’s the best cake I’ve made so far.

IMG_2652
(I took all of the photos in this post with a Fujifilm X100T camera.)