Tag Archives: Apple

close-up of a white and pink blossom with yellow in the middle

Interview with visually impaired photographer Chelsea Stark

Tell us something about your self and why you are passionate about photography.

My name is Chelsea Stark and I am a 36-year-old visually impaired woman. I started taking photos when I was about 12. I found that it was a great way for me to see the world around me. And I really enjoyed it. Over the years I have had several kinds of cameras. The two cameras I really enjoyed using so far are my IPhone 6 and my Sony a 6000.

 

How did you and do you learn to take good photos?

I have not taken any formal classes or training. All I know comes from practice, practice, practice. I tend to take a picture when I see something that interests me, or something I want to see up close. And sometimes just that little act of wanting to know what’s around me helps me to get some amazing shots.

 

Do you get inspirations from works of other photographers?

My inspiration comes from my loving husband Robert Park. He is a fine art landscape photographer. He has some amazing skills and amazing images. I learn so much from him every time we go out.

 

Small waterfall surrounded by green

What equipment do you use and did your visual impairment play a role in choosing the right camera and accessories?

 I have used several different kinds of cameras. Recently I have been using a Sony a 6000 and an IPhone 6. For each piece of equipment that I have used or purchased over the years one key factor was that it must have a live View Setting or capability. It is the only way I can see what’s around me and compose a photo.

 

What are your preferred subjects to photograph and do you think your choice of objects and styles is influenced by your visual impairment?

I like to photograph animals, flowers and occasionally landscape when it moves me. I use the camera mostly to get a better view of my world around me.

silhouettes of horses on a beach

How do you find your subjects as a legally blind person? Do you have an idea in your head before you go out to take pictures?

I do not go out with any plans or ideas. I find that my best images just appear. I just go out with my equipment and shoot what presents itself to me. I have found that planning sometimes leads to disappointment. And that random photo that you never expected tends to be the best photo you’ve taken all day.

 

How do you choose which photos to post on your blog and social media? Do you get sighted people to describe them to you?

When I decide that I want to post something on my block or social media, I usually just post what I like. Sometimes I will get an opinion here or there. But It is my page with my rules and my images and I just go with it.

 

You always write a short text to each photo where it was taken. How important are the location and the story behind the picture to you?

I give a location if possible because the first question I always hear is: where was that taken? By putting the location out there that question is no longer a problem. I believe it’s very important to write a little something about each image that you post. It helps people to get in the right frame of mind while they look at your image. Plus it helps with Google’s indexing.

 Inside of an Southern European looking restaurant

Do you use photo shop programmes and how accessible do you find them?

I use either a program called Aperture or IPhoto. But often I will use built-in features on my IPhone or IPad. The latest version of IOS does a decent job on photo editing. If it needs more work than that, I will have my husband or someone else do some minor tweaks to the image in their photo editing program of their choice. But a lot of times it’s just straight from the IPhone or IPad. The already mentioned Aperture is fairly accessible and also allows me to catalogue photos.

 

Do you think photos taken by visually impaired people are different to those sighted people take and do you think it is fair to compare them?

I believe every photographer has their own style. And everybody’s images are different, regardless of whether they are blind, visually impaired or fully sighted. I’m not sure if it is fair to compare photographer’s work based on whether they have vision or not.  But if vision is left out of the equation being compared to other photographers is perfectly fine with me.

 

Would you disclose your visual impairment if you were to enter a photography competition and why yes or no?

Yes I would disclose my visual impairment. I belief letting people know about my visual impairment helps them to understand my work better and makes them see the artwork in a different way.

 

How do people on the street react when they see you taking pictures?

I’m not really sure. I’ve had nobody say anything to me regarding me taking photos. But I’m sure I’ve gotten some weird books once in a while.

 Three bottles of sauce

Could you imagine making photography your profession? And what are your aims for the future with regards to photography?

It would be cool to make photography my profession. Right now my goals regarding photography are just to take some interesting images around me. And maybe sell some here and there. But at the moment it’s just for fun.

 

Do you have some general tips for blind and visually impaired people who want to take up photography?

My suggestion for any visually impaired or blind person who wants to get into photography, is to get yourself an IPhone 6. It may sound like a silly thing to start with. But it is easy to learn and will cost a lot less then a good camera.  If you find that you actually enjoy photography and you want to get something that will give you the ability to have larger images, the next step would be to do some research on cameras and see which one fits your preferences and your capabilities with your hands and eyes.

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App Review: can Image recognition Apps be Useful to Blind and Visually impaired photographers?

Nowadays the app store offers a large variety of free and paid image recognition and magnification apps. Most of them are designed to help blind and visually impaired people to identify everyday objects such as written documents and household items like cans or bottles. However, all these projects take visual impressions and convert them into text or speech output, which in a way makes them similar to our photo descriptions. Of course our descriptions are written by real people, putting their own interpretations and associations into the texts, and not by machines, using image databases to recognize objects. Still, we were wondering, if some of the apps could be useful for artistic purposes e.g. to help blind photographers to identify what’s in front of their camera or to sort photos after they were taken. I found numerous detailed tests of the various apps, but none of them focused on the artistic aspect.

Work in progress

Throughout the next weeks we are collecting apps to feature in our comparison. The aim is to get a comprehensive list of apps and to test them not on household items, but on photo motives such as landscapes, people and animals and artworks like paintings, sculptures and photographs from our blog. Therefore, we encourage you to send us names of image recognition apps and pictures of the above mentioned things as test motives. Of course you can also do tests yourself and send us your results to be published here. Are there any other apps you use to take or modify pictures? I’ll do my tests with an IPhone and IOS apps, but Android tests are also welcome. Some of the below mentioned apps work with live-recognition, so I’ll try them on potential photo motives.

I’m especially interested in how the apps deal with more complex motives such as portraits, group shots and images working with light and shadow as well as subtle colour shades. Are the live-recognition apps good enough to focus on an object before taking the actual picture? And are apps working with already taken photos good enough to help us to sort pictures or even to decide which ones are ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

Here are my initial lists of apps and thinks I want to try them out on. This is just a very general outline of the test, so feel free to add suggestions in the comments below or e-mail us at picdesc@gmail.com

Apps to test

Some of the apps are especially designed for visually impaired an blind users, others are shopping and price comparison apps.

  • Aipoly Vision (iOS, Free)
  • CamFind
  • Leavesnap
  • TapTapSee
  • ThirdEye Technologies Inc. (iOS, Free)

Test objects:

Naturally I can only test things I’ll find in my surrounding or objects we have pictures of in our blog. This is just a random list of things coming to my mind at the time of writing.

  • Different animals
  • Beach, mountains
  • reflection in water or glass
  • sky, sunset, moon
  • fire or candle
  • Portrait, only part of a body
  • group of more than 2 people
  • tree, leave of tree, flower
  • house, staircase
  • car
  • food
  • writing on a sign or wall
  • shop window
  • statue,
  • painting

Please feel free to send us items to add to the list of apps and objects. We look forward to reading your suggestions.

App Review: SelfyX – taking selfies with voice guidance

I tested SelfyX on an IPhone 6+ (IOS 8.4), therefore I can’t tell how good it is on other devices or systems. But it is definitely available for Android too. The app is not designed specifically with visually impaired users in mind, but it is Voice Over accessible. The main purpose of this app is to take selfies with the better rear camera. Of Course sighted people would normally have to use the front camera to see where the face is.

How it works:

The app is very easy to use. When you open it the first time, you have to allow it access to the camera and the photos app. Than a female voice is giving you directions how to position the phone. She directs you by saying: I can’t see you, up, down right or left. When she thinks your face is in focus, she says: cheese and automatically takes a picture. On the next screen you can share the photo with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or send it in an email. If you save it, the picture is also in your photos app, where you have more sharing options. If you delete the photo from the SelfyX App it is also deleted in your photos. To go back to the main screen, just press the camera-button on the left top corner. There is also a menu for cropping and editing the photo, but that didn’t work for me with VO. All the other buttons and menus are accessible.

How good is it?

SelfyX for IPhone, IPod Touch and IPad is for free, so I’d definitely give it a try. It is available in English and German as well as in some other European languages and Chinese. However, the first version for IOS8 hasn’t been updated since April, which probably isn’t a good sign.

The developer claims with this app you’ll never make “mis-takes” again. In my opinion this is impossible. I assume the app uses the face recognition feature which is also available in the IOS camera app. If you’ve VO turned on, it will tell you things like: one big face detected or two small faces in the left corner. It can also say whether a taken picture is blurry or well lit. However, it would also tell you that your naked foot is a face, because it detects it as skin-coloured.

SelfyX has similar problems: Firstly, it doesn’t tell you how far away you have to hold the camera from your face. An arms length is the ideal distance. The main problem for blind users is, that the app doesn’t tell you when you’re not looking straight into the camera and if you hold it too close it can happen that your whole face isn’t in the photo.

After some initial practice, I took some reasonably good Selfies with SelfyX. The app gives some general guidance on how to hold the phone, but I wouldn’t rely on it entirely. Nevertheless, it is great to see that some photography apps are accessible.

SelfyX on ITunes

Photography workshop in Canterbury, England: Day 1

Tina and an older woman looking at an IPad.
by Will Phillips

Our group met in the library of the central campus of Christ Church University,  not to be confused with the University of Kent. Canterbury is a real university town and in summer tourists replace the students.

The atmosphere of the whole workshop was informal and very friendly. As a beginner I didn’t feel intimidated or embarrassed to ask questions and the more professional photographers shared their experiences with us. See my first post about the workshop for some of the participant’s websites.

IPads

Everyone who wanted got an IPad and we got a short introduction on the inbuilt camera and photos apps and how to use the IPad with Voice Over. Since I own an IPhone I found the tablet easy to use, but I think someone who isn’t familiar with IOS devices and technology in general might have needed a bit more time. On the other hand they are very user friendly and the ideal device for photography beginners. (See this previous post about smartphone photography.)

I enjoyed looking at the taken pictures on the bigger screen of the IPad. The quality of the display was much better than that of my PC monitor at home. On the other hand it was a bit cumbersome to carry around and I was afraid I would drop it. I think my IPhone 6 Plus is a good compromise. All the same IPads are definitely nice toys.

The History of Photography

After the lunch break Simon Hayhoe, the main organizer, gave a talk on the history of photography. I won’t attempt to repeat everything. His main point was that photography as we know it today wasn’t suddenly invented, it developed over time with different camera types. Here are some of the facts I found especially interesting:

The Chinese made the first pinhole cameras (or camera obscura) 2.500 years ago. Painters like Michelangelo still used them as drawing tools in the 16th century. They reflected their subject onto a surface and retraced it from there. In the 18th and 19th century cameras became more sophisticated thanks to scientific discoveries in chemistry, enabling photographers to take longer lasting pictures and eventually to produce negatives. The word photography – photo Greek for Light and graph for Greek drawing – is used since 1839. With the introduction of the first commercial cameras in the 19th century, studio photography became affordable to almost everyone. While previously only rich people could pay a painter to draw their family pictures, ordinary people too now had their pictures taken. Nevertheless, these pictures of people in their Sunday finery sitting or standing in neat rows were still rare enough to be treasured and to be passed on to the next generation.

Around 1900 the first role film was invented. Most of us still remember the last film roles with 36 pictures all of which had to be developed. My mum used to put them into photo albums with handwritten captions underneath them. Nowadays we take hundreds and hundreds of pictures without even thinking about it. Photo shop programmes offer a much wider range of opportunities to create photo albums, collages and slide shows. I definitely don’t want to go back, but I think it is important to remember from time to time that there is a history behind photography and cameras.

Selfies:

Our first task was to take pictures of each other, trying to convey a part of the model’s personality, which was a bit difficult for me because I met everyone for the first time that day. I attempted to make people look natural and not as if they were posing for the camera. Thus, I made them talk about something, hoping they would relax, but I found it hard to keep up a conversation while looking at the person through an IPad. That’s a skill one has to practice.

Someone taking a picture of Tina. She is framed by the IPad.
by Mark Pile

Finally, we looked at inspiring photos other blind photographers made and Simon encouraged us to take selfies. Although, I don’t like selfies particularly, it was fun to apply special effect filters to my face, until I was unrecognizable; in fact it is even hard to discover the outlines of a face in some of the pictures. I felt like a child in a mirror cabinet.

While taking selfies, I found another great advantage of the IPad for me: I can see my face in the front camera even when I hold it at an arms length away from me, whereas when using devices with smaller displays I often don’t get my whole face.

We attached my IPad to a projector, so that I could see what was in front of the camera projected on the wall. It was a strange sensation to see my face that close up in the middle of the room for everyone to see, but fascinating all the same. I tried to take pselfies from unusual perspectives. For this one I held the IPad behind me to take a picture of my profile.

Tina in profile

A bit of sightseeing

After our first day’s work, we strolled out into the sunny afternoon to explore the city. Unfortunately, by the time we finished in the afternoons most sights and museums were about to close. We managed to visit St. Augustin’s Abbey, or the ruins that are left of it. It offers an audio guide, telling visitors about the various buildings and the history of the Abbey in general. The original Abbey was founded shortly after AD 597 by St. Augustine to mark the reintroduction of Christianity in South England.

Ruins of St Augustine's Abbey

There’ll be more about Canterbury’s ancient buildings in the next post about our day at the famous Canterbury Cathedral.

Tina

General comments on the voice over accessibility of photo and video apps for IPhone

Many of our community members take pictures with their phones, because they are always at hand, have built in accessibility features and allow us to share photos immediately. Additionally, the latest models have very high quality cameras. Most blind and visually impaired people own IPhones, however Android phones too offer a variety of accessibility features. By now Smartphone users with disabilities too have a greater choice which brands to buy. However, many useful apps especially designed for visually impaired users such as navigation and magnification applications are exclusively developed for IOS users. Fortunately, developers are beginning to see the demand for Android alternatives.

The accessibility of photo and video editing apps

As far as I know the number of accessible apps in the category video and photography is rather limited for IOS and Android alike. Since I own an IPhone 6 Plus I can’t judge the accessibility of Android apps. Please feel free to get in touch if you want to review versions for different systems of the apps we mention in this blog.

IPhone folder with the following apps: Photos, Videos, iMovy, YouTube, Camera, SelfieX and pikSpeakCam

While photo sharing apps like Flickr and Instagram are more or less accessible with Voice Over (the built in speech of Apple products), I haven’t found a photo and video editing programme that’s really easy to use. I still have some sight, thus I sometimes manage to use apps by turning VO and zoom off and on or tapping unlabeled buttons to see what happens. But that’s not particularly satisfying and consumes too much time. Mostly I lose patience after a few minutes and delete the app in question straight away. Furthermore, there are thousands of these apps on the app store and I could spend years testing them all, more than likely only to be confirmed that the majority of them isn’t accessible.

I’m no app developer and I don’t really care about technical details. Like most users I simply expect my phone to do what I want. If something doesn’t work, I google the problem or ask someone else to help me. I suppose it takes more time to label all elements in an app properly, but I definitely think it’s worth a developers time, especially if his or her app costs money. Personally, I’m reluctant to buy an app without knowing whether it is accessible or not. I know I could return it, but I haven’t done that yet and somehow I doubt I would do it if the app cost me only €2. Although I probably should return it to make the developer aware of how much more money he or she could earn by making the app accessible.

There are numerous tutorials, mailing lists, blogs and forums on how to use Apple products with Voice Over in English as well as in German. Probably the best known and largest community is www.applevis.com, a great source for app and accessory reviews, forums, tutorials and much more. However, at the time of writing there are only ten apps listed in the video and photo category and most of them are mainly for watching videos and organizing photos not for editing them.

Photo and Video apps on AppleVis

I found some interesting reviews of apps designed to help people to take selfies though. This can be useful for sighted and visually impaired people alike. The paid app Guided Photo Pro seems to be a bit outdated and slow, while the free app SelfieX got better reviews. I will test the latter and write a post about it soon. Additionally, there are good enough reviews of two video editing apps, but except Google Photos nothing to organize and share videos.

This may be due to the fact that some blind people are not interested in working with photos and videos which they can’t see themselves. While this is an understandable opinion, we at Photo Narrations are passionate about photography, thus we will continue looking for accessible video and photography apps and keep you updated about our findings.

Please feel free to leave a comment or contact us at picdesc@gmail.com if you know interesting accessible apps.