Smartphone photography has come a long way, and it is hard to beat the combination of quality and convenience that it offers. That said, sometimes a bit of help is needed. Luckily, there are tons of popular apps and websites to assist with filters and other editing tools to make your photos as spectacular as possible.
My family and I recently visited the Disneyland Resort for the holiday celebration currently underway, and I’ve got to tell you, it was a magical, festive time. I’ve got the photos to prove it!
Here are some of the pictures that I took with my iPhone, and details of how I altered them to get the best pictures possible. Both Instagram (mobile app) and PicMonkey (online) are free services (although PicMonkey does have a premium membership available). There are numerous others available, but these are the two I prefer.
Christmas in Cars Land 1 of 11
It was after hours when I walked by Cars Land, and it was empty, glowing bright in holiday wonder. I went without a flash to better capture the decorations, and I was very happy with how the lights look. Unfortunately I was at such a distance that zooming in resulted in a grainy effect. That's where the snow came in.
Using PicMonkey, I cropped the photo to frame the street with seasonal lighting, and then I added a snow overlay to turn the grainy look into a holiday wonderland.
The Traditional Santa Picture 2 of 11
Santa stopped by the Elias & Co. department store for a classic photo opportunity. My boys were happy to oblige. I was faced with a dilemma here as I would like to have gone wider and shown more of Santa's chair and the awesome vintage display, but in doing so I would lose a lot of the emotion. I opted for the smiles.
This photo was cropped with Instagram, then adjusted for saturation and temperature in PicMonkey where I also added the frame, because it just felt right.
Santa in Hollywood 3 of 11
Before the boys could sit on Santa's lap he had to fly in from someplace much colder. Here is flying over Hollywood in front of Disney's El Capitan Theatre.
That background is actually a painted wall, and the Santa display is strung in front of it. I had the boys stand back a few feet and framed it for perspective.
The photo was cropped in Instagram, then I used the tilt-shift option to focus on Santa while blurring everything else for an illusion of added depth.
Love a Parade 4 of 11
Disneyland's "A Christmas Fantasy" parade on Main Street, U.S.A. is an incredible experience highlighted by all of your favorite Disney characters as they enjoy the season. And Santa!
I did take some nice photos of the parade itself, but none of them captured the magic better than the looks on my boys' faces. And like any self-respecting parent, I couldn't decided which photo was cuter so I went with the collage.
The photos were individually cropped and filtered using Instagram, then I used PicMonkey to create the collage and blur out the faces of other guests.
Location: Disneyland Park
Ornament Selfie 5 of 11
I thought these ornaments were really pretty and had a cool, vintage feel about them. They are also highly reflective, which under the circumstances made a shot without some sort of reflection downright difficult. I decided to embrace it. That's me in the center of the ornament(s), and now I'm forever hanging on a Disney Christmas tree. I like it.
Photo was cropped and filtered using Instagram.
Blue Christmas 6 of 11
It is my understanding that blue poinsettias are the result of watercolors on white, but knowing Disney these lovely flowers in New Orleans Square were probably created with a wand. Merryweather?
Obviously these plants would be beautiful photographed from any distance, but the close-up provides a real look at what is happening as well as releasing the image from the context in which I discovered it, and that's fun, too!
Location: Disneyland Park
Sign of the Season 7 of 11
This is actually a sign around the skating rink in Downtown Disney. I thought the somewhat obvious hidden Mickey and the nod to Frozen via the snowflakes (and additional displays in the area) made for a very cheerful image.
Using PicMonkey, the photo was cropped and framed.
Oh, Christmas Tree 8 of 11
This tree is featured a few times in this post. The close-up ornament from a previous photo is bottom right, and the vintage Mickey Mouse and teddy bear in the top photo can be found beneath the tree's branches.
Using PicMonkey the photo was cropped, adjusted for contrast, filtered to add more light to the tree (it was very overcast), and then framed in a festive color for a dash of holiday whimsy.
Sleep On It 9 of 11
Not every memorable photo needs to be in the park(s). There is plenty of magic happening on that pillow, too. Photo cropped in Instagram, face paint highlighted in PicMonkey to contrast shadows
Location: Grand Californian Hotel; Disneyland Resort
Go Toward the Light(s) 10 of 11
The "World of Color - Winter Dreams" show is incredible. It features tons of lights, water, and over 17 million pixels (a high definition TV has two million). Turn off your flash and let the "World of Color - Winter Dreams" do all the work.
Photo cropped in Instagram, added contrast on PicMonkey
Warm Hugs 11 of 11
Adding depth to a two-dimensional, animated background is as easy as a carefully placed shadow and playing with the light. Also, making too big of a deal out of it. Sometimes close enough is cute enough.
Photo cropped in Instagram, filtered to imply coldness (note the shorts)
Whit Honea is the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book (January, 2014/Adams Media). Read more at his site Honea Express. You can follow Whit on the Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).