Dramatic night skies are quite difficult to capture in photos, due mainly to light pollution and camera limitations. But of course, with a universe of photo filter apps available for iPhone, you’d have to expect there’d be one specifically to address this issue. Night Sky FX is such an app, and it does a decent job of bringing the cosmos to your photos, provided you’re willing to deal with a couple frustrating limitations.
What is it?
Night Sky FX is an effects filter that applies starry skies, planets, nebulas, etc. to your iPhone or iPod touch photos. You have (currently) 24 night sky images from which to choose, along with various overlays to give the general appearance of a photo taken at night (adding stars to a photo taken during broad daylight wouldn’t make much sense, after all).
The touched up photos can then be saved to your camera roll for sharing as necessary.
How does it work?
After choosing or snapping your picture, Night Sky asks you to overlay the night scene you want to use. There’s unfortunately no control over these, and many of the cooler options end up being too dark for practical use, as in the photo above.
Regardless, once the overlay is set, you choose your night sky image to apply to the photo. You can enlarge them and pan them for better placement, but this does make the final result blurrier than it should be. A slider bar then allows you to tell the app where photo’s horizon is, creating a decent gradation into your night sky, if necessary.
But then there’s some real work to do. The edit feature allows you to wipe away elements of the night sky that appear overtop your photo’s subjects, like the dinosaur heads in the photo at right.
You can zoom in to try to be more precise with this, and you can switch back to the paintbrush to reapply elements you didn’t want to wipe out (there are also 10 steps of undo), but you’re still working on the somewhat small iPhone or iPod touch screen. I would much prefer to have Night Sky FX on my iPad or Mac, but that hasn’t yet happened.
Once your photo is done, you can save it directly to your camera roll. I’d say it’s a shame you can’t share it directly with Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc., but I’ve reached the point where I’m pleased when apps aren’t that invasive.
Is it contagious?
I love what Night Sky FX is doing here, but I’m not entirely thrilled with the way in which it does it. It’s perhaps too much to ask that the app could automatically detect the sky in my photos and just apply itself accordingly, but that would make it much more fun to use. Editing would also be more fun with native iPad support, where I could be more precise with my edits and get a better feel for how they look as I go along.
But with time and practice, Night Sky FX does produce some fun results, and can make your otherwise mundane family photos a bit more sci-fi…for those of us who’d want such a thing, anyway.