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Big Lens – Tutorial – Using Blur To Improve Your Mobile Images

A few days ago I was having a lovely conversation with my very good IG friend Ian Garrington (@iangarrington on Instagram), about the various blurring apps that one can find around. At one point he said something that made me come up with an idea, one of those moments when a light-bulb lights up over your head…

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So here it is, the first of three tutorials of my very favourite blurring apps, in this instance BigLens £0.69 or $0.99. For this tutorial I will use one portrait photo of a friend of mine, which I took sometime ago in Italy while he was concentrating on his gelato, I quite liked his expression of satisfaction, however I am not to keen on the background and these apps come perfectly handy for my purpose!


Step 1



As you can see, the background has nothing too special about it and I just want to concentrate on the main subject. I have already played around with this photo using Camera+; you can find a tutorial about this app here.

Step 2

Big Lens


When you first open BigLens, and if you had been working on a photo, it will ask you if you want to restore your last session, just say no and then click onto Load Photo and choose advanced.


Step 3


You have four different tools: the Brush, the Erase, the Lasso, the Auto and the Clear button. You can adjust the size of your brush and eraser via the bar above the buttons.

Step 4


I always start with a larger size brush and quite carelessly outline my subject. As you can see it is spilling all over the place, but I have my secret weapon: the Auto button! So once you have masked what you want to mask then just press the Auto tool.

Step 5



The Auto tool doesn’t do miracles, but it can really save a lot of time by automatically understanding what you want to mask. There are, however, unmasked areas and spill overs, so it’s time to roll our sleeves and use the Brush tool and the Erase tool to polish it up… Resize your brush or eraser, I usually go with the smallest size and start with the finishing touches…


Step 6


4 minutes and 37 seconds later I am all done. The portrait is nicely masked and ready to be worked with the other options. Just press the Arrow on the top right corner to go to the next level.

Step 7


By default, BigLens, opens up with an aperture of f2.8 and with the focus/blur bar almost towards the left, what this means is that the outline of your subject is slightly focused, I always pull the bar completely to the left, so that the edge isn’t focused, but nicely taken care off.


Step 8


You will notice a nice even blur with no spill over around the edge of the image. The following four images will show the different aperture’s intensity level available. This one is at f2.8

Step 9


Aperture f3.5 is almost focused and the blur is very light. This is great if you want to show your background while focusing on your subject.

Step 10


f3.2 stronger blur, however you can still see the background.

Step 11


F2.0, you can start noticing that the background is disappearing and I am quite happy with this.


Step 12


And finally, f1.8 the background is completely blurred and I will stick with this one for this particular photograph. Now we will play a little bit with the Lens option.


Step 13


The Lens section allows you to choose a set of effects that will further alter your background, providing you a Bokeh feel. Bokeh is often most visible around small background highlights, such as specular reflections and light sources, which is why it is often associated with such areas. However, bokeh is not limited to highlights; blur occurs in all out-of-focus regions of the image. In here you can choose from different bokeh effects, such as stars, cross, hearts, triangles and many more.


Step 14


As you may notice, I have chosen the pentagon and if you look the lights in the background these have changed, but you will notice it even more with the next few images.

Step 15



The cross effect is quite visible and strong.

Step 16



Hearts? Maybe not…


Step 17


I’ll stop with the squares, which will do me good! But go and try the rest, BigLens, no doubt, has the best bokeh around.

Step 18


In BigLens there are many different Colour Filters, I have gone for the B&W. The great thing in BigLens is that it allows you to choose the strength of your colour, so when you first choose your filter you can decide if you want it fully B&W or faded colours and so on, just move left or right the colour bar to add or remove the effect.


Step 19


The B&W in BigLens is not bad at all, although I don’t usually go for this and use apps such as Noir or VSCO Cam, this will do me fine for now, however.


Step 20


HDR gives more light to the image, the focus/blur tools allows you to tweak your image while you are still in this section, without the need to go back to the previous screen and finally the Compare tool allows you to see how it looked like originally.


Step 21


So all in all BigLens it’s a very quick and powerful tool that one can use to blur one’s images. My favourite actually, it’s simple, fast and reliable, it does the job without no huss no fuss. You have, by far, the best bokeh effects and the colour filters are very good too. It really is not hard to work with and the Auto tool makes this app the fastest among the three.

However, if you are trying to blur two or more subjects, not always it is that precise, sometime, unfortunately it ends up blurring more than what you had asked and it is a bit fiddly to sort the focus and blurring. Moreover, it has only one type of blur effect, and that is the classic Gaussian Blur, not much choice there, which is a bit of a shame. This leads us nicely to After Focus.

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Dilshad Corleone aka italianbrother on Instagram, albeit in love with the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his 35mm format, considers himself to be a true iphoneographer. His street photography has been exhibited at the Vyner Studio in London for the Photomonth East London (October 2012), at KCC Chelsea in London A collective Iphoneography Exhibition (November 2012), at the Truman Brewery in London for the Iconic London Exhibition (December 2012), at the Unit24 Gallery in London MobilePixation Mobile Arts Exhibition (December 2012), At the Laboratorio de Artes Variedades, Guadalajara, Mexico for the Dreams Without Borders Exhibition (December 2012 – January 2013), at the Garden Gate Creativity Centre in Berkeley, California and at the Galerie OutOfMyMind in Bremen, Germany as part of the Third Wave Iphoneography Exhibition (January 2013), at MacWorld International Conference in Los Angeles as part of the Mobilmasters Exhibition (Januarry/February 2013), Soho Gallery For Digital Arts in New York as part of the Mobile Photo Award Exhibition (February 2013). Dilshad’s work is gracing the wall of private owners in London, Italy, France, Spain and the USA, and he is a columnist for Dilshad has travelled widely all over the world, especially in East Asia, Africa and recently in Iraq where he worked in an orphanage as a volunteer. His Iphoneography have a strong feel of the old 1920’s 1930’s photography and he loves the grunge, the dirt, and the grit. Dilshad is also fond to portray the unspoken London, the untold London, with heavily blurred background, men with big, long beards, hats and characteristic and peculiar faces. Iphoneography and Street-photography has given him the power to tell his stories, what he sees and what touches him.