iPhoneography Tricks: Using Hipstamatic Frames with Album Photos

by Pu on July 1, 2013

I’ve read many times complaints coming from iPhone users who wished they could disable Hipstamatic frames like they do with a number of other apps. There are also users complaining about the opposite, that is not being able to apply Hipstamatic’s effects to photos from albums and camera roll. Hipstamatic’s purists will argue that the point of the app is to reproduce the practices connected with analog photo taking, so it’s obvious you should accept a certain lack of control on the result as an added extra and use the app to shoot if you want to apply its effects to your photos. In the end, what really matters is your image; if using a certain border brings your photo closer to your way of envisioning it, you can just ignore purisms.

Eventide II

Robusta frame applied to photo taken with Vscocam and processed over with Laminar, Alien Sky, Mextures.

Today I will share a simple trick for using Hipstamatic’s frames outside the app. This is a cheap trick, really. The result relies on layer blending and it just requires five minutes to achieve, plus access to Hipstamatic (duh) and an image editing app such as Photoshop Touch or Laminar.

First of all you have to choose which frame you want to use. The method is similar for all frames, but there are some essential differences depending on their color.

For light frames

Launch Hipstamatic and choose your light border film. Point the camera at a total black surface. An easy way to do it is to lay the iPhone with camera facing down on anything flat and even, like a table, a book’s cover, or whatever you have at your disposal. Color doesn’t matter, but light should not leak in and the viewfinder has to look as close to total black as possible. Remember to turn off the flash if it’s active. When you are ready, take a photo. Now you have a blank photo with your desired border.

1. Blank shot with light frame

1. Blank shot with light frame

In all likelyhood, the blank area of the image you have so far will not be totally black. Some Hipstamatic films add color in the shadows to simulate cross process or other analog-like effects, and this will show as well. For correcting this issue, open the photo in any app that will let you adjust Levels or Brightness, Contrast and Saturation*. Bring the Levels controls closer together to adjust contrast, making the dark darker while keeping the lights as they are. If you prefer, try to do the same with Brightness and Contrast controls. Decrease Saturation if needed to eliminate any unwanted trace of color. When the dark area is black or almost black while retaining its light border, you are done. Save the result.

2. Adjusting with Levels

2. Adjusting with Levels

You can now use the frame with any square image. Just open your desired photo in any app that has a layer editing feature, then add the frame as a separate layer on top of it. Change blending mode for the frame’s layer to Screen. This will take the black away, leaving only your light frame.

3. The result

3. The result

For dark frames

Working with dark frames is basically the same, you just have to make changes to some steps in the process. First of all, you have to aim your camera at a white surface, like that of a wall or a sheet or paper. The surface should be as clear as possible, with minimal texture and sufficiently lit. Do not turn on the flash to light the area if it’s a bit dark: you will end with a strong vignette in your photo and indeed you do not want that. Rather, if you have a powerful external light source, you can aim it at your white surface. When you are ready, take a photo. Now you have a blank shot with a dark border.

1. Blank shot with dark frame

1. Blank shot with dark frame

As for the light frames, your blank picture will perhaps display a hint of color or be too dark instead of being white as you need. This is either because some Hipstamatic effects add a soft hue to the lighter tones of the picture or it may depend on your lighting conditions. To fix that, open the image in whatever app you like that has Brightness, Contrast, Saturation* or Levels controls. Bring darks and lights control closer or change brightness and contrast until your white is as white as possible and your border is still black. Decrease Saturation if necessary. Save the result.

2. Adjusting with Brightness and Contrast

2. Adjusting with Brightness and Contrast

You can apply your dark border to any square image in your albums by opening it as a new layer in apps featuring layers and blending options. Place the frame over the photo and change its blending mode to Multiply. This will automatically take the white away from the image leaving only the dark border.

3. The result

3. The result

New frames from the originals

For variety, you can make white borders from the black ones and vice versa. To do so, follow the above instructions. Then invert dark and lights with the help of Levels by reversing their respective positions.

Reversing Blacks and Whites to make inverted frame.
Once you have prepared the frames as I showed you, you will be able to use them as many times as you wish, so overall your time will be well spent—if you want to use the same frame more than once, that is. As usual, this is not rocket science and I am sure many have been using this trick on their own; however it may still be useful to know for the occasional Hipstamatic shooters that are not familiar with layer blending or more in-depth processing.

* You won’t need to fix saturation with B&W films.

Pyry July 2, 2013 at 11:19 am


would it be possible to make processed frames to a downloadable package to speed up the process?

Pu July 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Since the frames are property of Hipstamatic, you cannot redistribute them, even after altering them. However, processing them on your own for using with your art is OK.

Pyry July 3, 2013 at 6:45 am

didnt think of the legal consequences… 🙂

thanks anyway for this great tutorial.

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