Wedding Portraiture Tips

Wedding portraiture begins as early as when the bride and groom are just getting dressed up. It is ideal to take the series of portrait shots at the beginning of the wedding before the ceremony begins so everything from the make-up, hair, clothing and emotions are all fresh. This will also prevent any delays in the ceremony and it’s easier to round up members of the family for family portraits.

Orchestrating the perfect wedding portraits entail dealing with a client base that comes in all shapes and sizes. This also goes for the venue and the weather. It would take a lot of lighting skills and different poses to achieve fantastic shots. Make sure you’re familiar with the types of lighting you can use in different types of weather and a variety of traditional and not so traditional poses for your subjects in any given situation.

Although candid shots can make the poses appear natural and sweet, it would be important that you include static and formal shots such as the bride and groom looking straight at the camera. These are the more typical shots families would like to have. One such pose is the classic portrait of the bride and groom in solo shots, as well as shots where they are together. Typical sizes included in this type of portrait shots are full length, 3/4 and close-up forms of all the portrait shots.

Once the traditional yet important portraiture portion is completed, the fun part of showing your creative side now comes into play. Start by taking a succession of informal and relaxed portraits of the bride and groom. Try to make it fun for the couple and treat the next sessions as part of their own collection of their memories.

When doing group portraits, include the families of both the bride and groom as well as the wedding entourage. Make sure that you are familiar with the guests and the important members of the family as well as friends that the couple would like to include in the group portraits. It would be handy to have a list of names and their relationship to the bride and groom to keep you up to date on such a busy day.

Pay particular attention to being equal in terms of covering both sides of the couple’s family. Make sure that whatever portrait shots the bride has from her side of the family, the groom also has on his side.

Most times, individual shots of key figures are also essential. Don’t miss out on having enough portraits with parents, grandparents, siblings, and key members of the wedding such as the best man and bridesmaid.

The venue plays a major role in a wedding shoot. It’s important that the full glory of the place is captured in the photographs. Place emphasis on the beautiful areas in the location so you can position the bride and groom here for a few poses.

Wedding portraits are mementos that the bride and groom and family members will display and share with everyone else. This would be the time when your shots have to shine since your clients depend on you to record their most special day. You can let the photographs speak for themselves and satisfied customers will want to refer you to others. 

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How to Use the Tilt Shift Technique

Tilting the lens is a technique that is not widely used but can certainly improve your shots and could be the answer to some focusing issues. 

Tilting – this can create soft focus and can also bring more of the subject into focus without sacrificing the aperture size.  This effect is called the Scheimpflug Rule, the camera lens is tilted along its axis and facing the subject plane.

The standard prime or zoom lens have glass parts which stay parallel to each other, with the distance between them increasing or decreasing in order to focus the image in the sensor. The lens always stays parallel with the image plane and sensor to keep the image sharpness even and consistent.

If you tilt the lens at another angle to the sensor plane, you can create interesting visual results.  One of these is selective focus, which is allowing only an area in the image to be sharp and then captured by the sensor. This area in focus is positioned within the focal plane by changing the focal length.

Selective focus can be used to emphasize certain details and disregard others, which can be used to guide the viewer to a certain emotional response. If you tilt the image away from the subject plane, the upper and lower areas of the image become selectively unfocused regardless of where the lens is facing. The effect becomes more obvious with the more tilt you give the lens.

When set to infinity, this tilting technique can make an image appear as if the scene is in miniature, especially with those showing top view or from afar. With this effect, the image projects the illusion of being in macro. People appear tiny, buildings look like models and cars and trains look like toys.

Another effect resulting from tilting is that it allows a wider focused area without adjusting the aperture. When the lens is tilted toward a slanting subject, the subject can appear to be entirely in focus. By using an aperture such as f/4, you can push the depth of field further with the tilting technique while allowing for a faster shutter speed. The added advantage to this is you have the option to handhold the camera instead of relying on a tripod.

The tilt shift technique is beneficial in close-up photography, such as when photographing small items such as jewelry. The sharp area can be strategically placed exactly where you want the viewer to look, and if the images are for commercial purposes, this can be a great asset. This is also useful in landscape photography where one can increase the depth of field without decreasing aperture stop.  A scenario would be a low-light situation where overall image sharpness is needed. Using the tilt shift approach, one can use an aperture of f/8 to cover a wide focused area as one would with an f/16, with the advantage of letting more light into the sensor.  These varied options for depth of field and shutter speeds make the tilt lens popular among landscape photographers.


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The Usefulness of DIY Reflectors

One tool photographers can use to great effect is a reflector. Not only does it serve to help illuminate dark areas, but you can also make some with items that you already have at home.

If you have only one light source, reflectors can provide fill light by bouncing off the light to the darker portions of the subject or the scene. Reflectors are also used as a solution to the not so pleasing effect of flash directly hitting the subject, causing too much brightness on the façade and hard shadows in the background. The flash can be bounced off at the reflector instead and the light is reflected at the subject in a more diffused way.

Reflectors are usually made up of big flat sheets that are colored white, gold or silver. These ‘sheets’ can be bed sheets, table cloths, illustration boards, plywood covered in aluminum foil, foam boards, pillow cases, and the like. If your subject is small, then a white sheet of paper or even tissue will do. Bear in mind that some of these sheets, such as the ones made of cloth, will have the tendency to crease or move with the wind. You can make them sturdier and more stretched out by framing them or you can get someone to assist you in holding the edges during the shoot. Aside from being accessible, reflectors are portable and they use up no power at all. They offer additional illumination by reflecting the light from your light source.

As mentioned earlier, reflectors are often colored white, silver or gold. Each color has a corresponding effect. White is neutral because it just reflects without making any changes. Silver provides cool tones while gold reflects warm tones. The colors also impact the hardness or softness of the reflected light. Again, white does not affect the light intensity, it just bounces whatever is reflected off it.  However, silver and gold reflectors give off harder light.

Aside from color, the size and shape of reflectors also influence how the extra light falls on the composition. Large reflectors give off softer and more diffused light while small reflectors provide more focused and harder light. Some reflectors like thin opaque plastic are flexible and can be bent to diffuse or to focus the bounced off light.

You can use these reflectors in your studio or on location. Next time you take pictures of people outdoors, try using a reflector to bounce the sunlight to light up the dimmer areas. For example, if the sun is behind your subject, a reflector can be used to light up the subject’s face which would otherwise be shadowed. They would also be ideal with still life shots. A white piece of cardboard can light up the shadowy areas of objects without you having to look for an additional light source.

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How to Do a Quality Check of Your Stock Photos

There are 3 basic questions you have to ask yourself when judging your own work:

Is my image technically sound?

As a photographer, it can be easy to feel subjective towards your images since you know how much effort it took you to get the shot. However, if you are into the stock photography business and will be using these images for stock, you will have to look at your creations with an honest and critical eye. These images will not just be for your viewing pleasure but will be used as a product that can garner cash. Buyers will be going over your images with the intent of buying rights to use them for whatever they need. They want it to be technically perfect, from the lighting to the composition. Images with obvious scratches or dust, over or underexposed areas, poor cropping or oversharpening, can quickly be passed on as buyers look for better quality images. In fact, most stock photo agencies have quality requirements that need to be passed for an image to be approved and uploaded in their site. These in-house reviewers will be quick to notice photographic weaknesses and can immediately reject your image before the buyer even has the chance to look at it. Be your own worst critic and upload only your best images. You might have some that can be redeemed with minor post processing, which is perfectly fine as long as the editing is flawless.

Does my photograph help promote or sell a product, concept or idea?

Aside from technical expertise, you must also show artistic expression. An image of a briefcase can be the most boring object but it can also be very appealing when creatively composed. Images that have substance, those that convey a strong message or idea, will have great chances of being used. Abstract ideas such as love, fun or stress can be presented visually in a photograph through the use of symbolism or perhaps by how the subject is composed. For instance, two people hugging can convey the emotion of love or intimacy (don’t forget to include keywords!). Backgrounds, props and secondary subjects can provide context and subtext which you can use to their full advantage.

Are there a lot or only a few images available in the stock photography site?

The market of stock photography is often oversaturated with certain themes. For example, there are millions of images of flowers and pets, to the point that some stock photo agencies hint that members should refrain from uploading them. Check out the most popular photos in the stock site and find out what makes them so special. Is it spectacular lighting or composition or an old cliché concept that has been made fresh? Stock sites usually have forums where they sometimes update members on what images buyers are currently searching for. Also, do some keyword searching and see if they pull up a lot or only a handful of relevant images. Another thing to consider is to have a specialty, a theme or technique that you can excel in so you can make a name for yourself in that particular niche. Even if there are hundreds or thousands of images with the same theme as yours, if you have a good reputation of providing excellent images, you will be one of the first that buyers will go and maybe even patronize in the future. 


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The Advantages of Watermarking Your Photos

If you post your photos in the internet or email them to others, these images are at the risk of being copied without your permission. One deterrent to scare people away from stealing your shots is to place a watermark on your image. It can also provide information that would benefit the people you want to share your image with.

A watermark is an obvious text or logo that has been superimposed on an image. There are many types of watermarks and here are a few:

Generic text – this kind of watermark does not give any detailed information about you. For example, it can simply say ‘Do not copy’ or ‘Sample’.

Specific text – your watermark can also be used to identify you or the photograph in some way, such as your name or your website name.

Image – instead of text, an icon or logo may be used as a watermark for your image. This looks a bit more complex than a simple text but you just need to make the image watermark once and then apply it to all your photos. It is a great watermark if you have a business logo.

Copyright © – this is very often used because it tells everyone that you have placed copyright protection over the image. Although some will try to get a way around it by cropping out the watermark, or by removing it with a photo editing program, it does raise a red flag that you’re on the lookout to make sure your images are not stolen.

Embedded – this type of watermark is found in the image file data, rather than being displayed on the image itself. The advantage of this is that there is no visible watermark that may detract the viewer from fully appreciating the shot. However, embedded watermarking is not free and you would need to purchase a software or program if you prefer to use that method.

Many photographers do not like to add a visible watermark to their image because it covers a portion of the shot, even if it is transparent, and it can disrupt the concentration of the viewer. However, having a watermark is good practice especially if you are into online commercial photography. If you would notice, all photo stock sites have their or the photographer’s watermark shown very obviously and covering most of the frame in the images that have been uploaded to the site. These images are often in full resolution and what the customer would get once the watermark is removed. By stamping the image with a huge and blatant watermark, it will be difficult for an online thief to get rid off it.

If you simply want to share your photos online without the intent to sell them, you can upload a low resolution copy with a watermark at the bottom corner. Low res images can still look great online but will be small in size if they were printed. Also, it will be harder for an online thief to just crop out the watermark at the edge of the shot because they might also crop out an important element in the image.

Watermarking an image is a matter of personal preference and is not a fool-proof method to protect your images but it will certainly make others think twice before attempting to download and use your image without your consent.

There are many ways to add a watermark, from adding it through photo editing, to purchasing watermarking software that can watermark batches of photos all at once. In this article, we will be using Adobe Photoshop CS2 to add a text watermark to an image.

There are a few important things to remember before placing a watermark:

Keep the original images. Store them in a secure folder so there is no chance they will accidentally be saved over once your start photo editing.

Make copies for watermarking. Save them in a separate folder so they will be easy to find and access.

Decide whether you want to watermark your images as a batch or one at a time. If you have loads of photos, it would be more convenient to batch watermark them. However, you will not have complete control over the watermark’s exact placement compared to if you were doing them individually.

Decide on what your watermark will look like. Experiment with its size, opacity, and its location in the image. The more obvious and bigger the watermark, the better it is for security reasons. But the downside is it could cover much of the shot and also spoil the impact of the image.  Try to find a balance by making the watermark visible but not intrusive.

Adding a watermark in Photoshop is quick and easy and it won’t take up much of your time at all.

Here are the basic steps:

1. Open your image, make a copy layer and then click on the Type tool. Type in your copyright symbol © (keyboard shortcut is Alt + 0169 if you’re using Windows and Option-G if you’re using Mac) and your desired text.

 2. While still using the Type tool, you can highlight the entire text and choose the desired color, font and size.

 3.  The text will appear as a solid color so if you want to make it blend more with the image, it has to look less opaque. Click on Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options and drag the slider of the opacity bar to make the text more transparent (see screenshot).

 4. Once you’re satisfied with its opacity, click on the Move tool and drag the watermark to the desired spot in your image.

 5. Save the watermarked copy image.


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Selling Landscape Photos as Stock Images
A lot of times many stock photographers have to think of ideas that would make a great shot. It’s not a secret that almost all aspiring and well seasoned photographers have a whole folder of landscape or nature images hoping to find some use for them later on. With stock sites being swamped with landscape images, you might assume it is difficult to gain a foothold in this genre. In fact, there is always a need for beautiful sunsets, mountains, woods and beach settings. With a few helpful tips, you can turn your landscape shots into money makers:
See through a buyer’s eyes – catching the buyer’s attention should be of utmost importance to the stock photo seller. Look at your landscape photos with objectivity and see how they would appear if you were the buyer. Are they useful as a background image for a magazine or as a photo example for a brochure? Can you imagine seeing them in print advertisements or as desktop wallpapers? Buyers have various reasons for acquiring an image and yours should have some selling value that hooks the clients’ interest. 
Use your landscape as the background – landscape images often become cliché and generic since most sunset and mountain images look alike. One effective way to make a landscape shot more unique is the addition of a foreground subject. Instead of just a plain beach in sunset scene, why not include a person or an object in the foreground. This gives the viewers something to focus on while also appreciating the beautiful landscape background. 
Always tag your images – the chances of your photograph being viewed by the public are greater if you tag your images appropriately. For example, a sunset doesn’t always have to be just a ‘sunset’. You can also tag it under ‘sun’, ‘dusk’, ‘twilight’, plus additional tags for elements that can be found in the image such as secondary subjects or the location of the scene. The more tags to describe your images, the more views you can have. Most buyers are usually very specific when searching for an image, and they may have the tendency to only use one word to search for a specific image. If you don’t use that word, you lose your chance of selling that image. 
Show people in your landscape shots – people images sell like hotcakes in stock sites. By including people in your scene, you immediately increase the chances of getting a sale. Your landscape may be stunning with perfect composition and lighting, but it can garner more interest with the addition of a person, even if it is just a small silhouette. If you want to play it safe, have a shot that is just purely landscape and another that has a person or some people in it. 
Landscape photography can be one of the most competitive niches to penetrate and be known for, but the demand for it is always high. There is never a lack for the need for landscape images. Just always make sure that in a market saturated by the same type of scenes, your images have better quality, your composition is immaculate and that the image has depth. These are what will make your work stand out, these are what will always sell.

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4 New Features!

Talk about an update! Our tech team has been burning the midnight oil to kick off this year right with the addition of 4 new features extending flexibility, control and functionality through your Photostockplus account!

2 for 1

You will now have the ability to set up to 3 products with a 2 for 1 discount! Once set, using eye catching font and text, these products will automatically be advertised to your clients as they browse your galleries, making them aware of your current promotions and encouraging larger orders!

Setting up a 2 for 1 product can be done on the pricing page while editing a pricing group:

For complete details on how to set these new discounts, visit our new 2 for 1 tutorial page.
Multi Image Self Fulfill Products – Improved Client Experience

For those of you providing your clients with Multi Image Self Fulfillment products, we have made some major improvements geared towards providing a smoother client experience.

Features have been modified and added at the image selection portion of the customization including:

  • New ‘All’ button to quickly select an entire album and images shown on a page.
  • New ‘None’ button to quickly remove all selections.
  • New Image Indicator to show your client which images have already been added to the product in order to avoid duplicates.

Photo Selector – Before

Photo Selector – After

Other modifications have been made on the product customization page itself with the following additions:

  • New ‘Remove All Photos’ button to quickly remove all current photos
  • New ‘Remove Selected Photos’ allowing users to scan through images, tick unwanted selections and remove them all with one simply click.
  • Modified image order functionality allowing users to select an image and place it before or after any image quickly.

Image Downloads within a Package!

As you have requested, the Image Download product is now available for you to add to your custom discount packages!

Pricing Page – Reverse Calculator

Another requested feature by you, the user. You can now simply put in the final cost you wish your products to be set at and let the reverse calculator deal with the proper mark-up!

A strong start to the year doesn’t mean that we’re slowing down though … It’s quite the opposite actually. We have many improvements in the works so stay tuned for more updates coming your way soon.

As always, the best way to stay up to date on service improvements, updates and other goodies is by following us through Twitter, Facebook or subscribing to our RSS feed .

Photostockplus Dev Team

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5 Fantastic and Free iPhone Photo Apps

There are hundreds of photo apps in the App Store and sometimes, it can be quite an effort to sift through them all to get the ones you think will be most useful. I wrote previously about five fantastic paid iPhone photo apps and it’s about time I mentioned some free photo apps with rather impressive features.

Impression – this app adds a watermark to your image which can have several uses. iPhone photos may be easily copied without your consent once you upload them in the internet. A watermark acts as a deterrent and makes people think twice before grabbing the photo. The watermark of this app can also be anything, from your name, to a short phrase, to a photo title, as long as it is no more than 60 characters. You also have the option to add the copyright symbol or not. The text size can be adjusted by pinching or stretching the text and you may also adjust its opacity and placement in the image. Just be aware that it will save to the original shot so use a copy image if you want the original to be left untouched.

PS Mobile – if you want an efficient and user friendly photo editing app, then this app from the makers of Adobe Photoshop could be what you’re looking for. It doesn’t have that many features but then it’s free so I can’t complain at all. Most of the tools are basic for quick editing such as crop, rotate, flip, and exposure, saturation and tint adjustment settings. It also has several filters and effects such as Vibrant and Soft Black and White. Once you’re done editing, you may upload it to, its website where you can set up an account and get a free 2 GB worth of photo storage. This app is so easy to understand that even if you have never used it or Photoshop before, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

iRetouch Lite – this is one photo editing app that’s quite a powerhouse even though it is free. It has several editing tools such as smudge and clone stamp, and you can adjust the image brightness, color and hue, among many things. From selective desaturation to blemish removal, this app is great for spot editing. The buttons do need some getting used to and your hand needs to be steady since the slightest flick of your finger while editing can affect the image.

Polarize – if you miss the days of the Polaroid camera, you can download the Polarize app and create images that look as if you were using the real deal. This app takes the image in a square format and adds a border where you can write a tag or caption (14 characters max) below the image. Most of the images from this app end up with a soft blue green color cast just like how images from Polaroids would look. The effect can appear vintage and make one become quite nostalgic.

GorillaCam – from Joby, the creators of the Gorillapod, that flexible tripod, comes an app packed with features that can seldom be found in other photo apps. Among its many features is a self-timer, a time-lapse function, a ‘press anywhere’ capability which means your whole screen becomes one giant shutter release button, and an unlimited rapid-fire so you can now take pictures at high speed just by keeping the shutter button pressed. If your iPhone is 3G or 3GS, you will find the separate accessory, Gorillamobile, handy as it is a flexible tripod specifically designed for the iPhone.




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How to Make Money with Valentine Images

The month of February is just around the corner and it is a time when love and romance are prominently celebrated with Valentine’s Day. There is a sudden influx of flowers, chocolates, heart balloons and dinner reservations, as well as opportunities to make use of images that evoke the spirit of the occasion.  If you want to make use of this special time to sell your images, here are some great tips you can use:

1. Get hired to shoot Valentine’s Day events – a lot of events abound during this special occasion, whether these are intimate dinners, family gatherings or large shows or concerts. Find out what the action is in your area, preferably weeks in advance, so you can prepare and collaborate with the event organizer. For family members and friends, offer your professional services as well since they are also potential customers. They can even refer you to others who might also need a photographer to record the event.

2. Sell Valentine’s day photo cards – just like Christmas and Halloween, Valentine’s Day is when a myriad of merchandise is sold just for the occasion. Why not make Valentine cards and give them your creative touch by using your photos as the cover art. You can sell these locally or online. Tap the power of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise and market your photo cards. 

3. Sell stock images – one of the most popular ways for people to acquire images for the business needs is through the use of stock agencies. For microstock, images are usually earned in cents. However, over time, your valentine shots can earn you in dollars in passive income. Pay attention when keywording your images since these are what is used by prospective customers when searching for the shots they need. For example, a photo of a couple holding hands may have common keywords such as ‘love’, ‘romance’, and ‘valentine’ may be too general and vague although they are appropriate. Try to add more specific words and key phrases such as ‘holding hands’ and ‘teen couple’. Image description is also important. Keep it short and to the point. Another thing to remember is that images that show people are extremely popular. Keep that in mind when taking your shots but always remember to get a model release before attempting to submit in the stock site.

4. Take photos of lovers at romantic spots – during this season of love, people are drawn to places with romantic atmosphere such as parks, landmarks, and restaurants. With the use of a portable printer, a laptop and your camera, you can strategically set up in an area where people normally go to for picture taking. By giving selling prints right after taking shots, you give the customer quick service and results.

5. Make use of photo gift items – like Christmas, Valentine’s is a day of gift giving. Take advantage by placing your photos on gift items such as mugs, T-shirts, and the like. PhotoStockPlus members have a product line-up that makes it easy to sell photo gift items.  All you need to do is upload your images, set up pricing for the gift items and the site will do all the hard work for you, from transferring the prints to the products, to shipping them out to customers. 

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5 Paid iPhone Photo Apps Guaranteed to Add Pizzazz to Your Shot

You might feel overwhelmed with the number of photo apps in the iPhone App Store. I know I was, so I did some research and downloaded some (okay, a lot) of photo apps in my quest to search for the perfect photo app that has everything I wanted and needed. After some time I realized there is no such perfect photo app. However, there are some which can do only a few things but do them extremely well. Here are five paid iPhone photo apps which I tested and now can’t do without. They are well worth the price of a few dollars for they greatly boost the bland shots I’m getting from my iPhone 2MP camera.

1.  SwankoLab ($1.99) – long before anyone could conceive of the idea of digital processing, the photographer’s darkroom existed. It was a place of alchemy where images appeared from blank paper or plastic film with the use of chemicals. Darkroom magic has been recreated with the SwankoLab app. The visuals are very appealing with the rich dark wooden shelf that holds various chemicals which you can mix unto the processing tray below. Experiment with eight various formulas and watch your images materialize in different effects depending on which chemicals you chose. Nine more chemicals are available with an additional one time $1.99 subscription fee. Not bad at all considering the number of combinations you can use.

2.  Hipstamatic ($1.99) – From the creators of SwankoLab is a camera replacement app which allows you to imitate vintage toy lenses such as the John S lens and the Kaimal Mark II lens. You can also choose from a variety of lenses and flash settings, all with just a flick of your finger. When you open the app, the screen displays an image which simulates the back (or front, if you press the flip icon) of an analog camera, including a small square viewfinder. This viewfinder is not precise, so what you see is not usually what you get. The experience of this randomness adds to the appeal of the app. You will have to take a picture for the app to be used, unlike some photo apps where you can use images already saved in your photo library. Hipstamatic saves the images in a square format and the results from the filters can be very moody and unique. More filters and lenses are available in what is called ‘HipstaPaks’ which you can purchase from within the app.

3.  Photo Forge ($2.99) – if you’re looking for a photo editing app which will answer most of your needs, then this could be it. This app packs quite a punch, having extensive features to help tweak your image to your satisfaction. It offers very useful adjustment tools such as the unsharp mask, crop tool, levels and RGB curves. It also has several effects such as Lomo, Dreamy and Vignette. On top of that, it provides illustration tools as well such as brushes with color and transparency options.

4.  CameraBag ($1.99) – this camera replacement app simulates several effects that you would get from various cameras and lenses.  These presets vary from Helga, to Colorcross to Fisheye. You may take a picture or get one from your camera roll or photo library. To change the effect, just swipe your finger left or right and you’ll immediately see the various results. What could be easier than that?

5.  Best Camera ($2.99) – what better iPhone photo app developer than a professional photographer?  When Chase Jarvis decided to make an app, he wanted to make sure it did everything an iPhoneographer was looking for.  You can use Best Camera to take a picture, edit it using 14 presets, and then upload it straight to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, website or to your email. That’s quite a lot of features in one app, which makes this one of the top rated photo apps in the App Store.

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