Were you intrigued by the picture that you just saw above? Well, that is a work of Vaddadi Kartick and he is working on NoctaCam, a camera app for iPhone.
Kartick is based in Bengaluru. He loves photography and understands cameras and apps, much better than many of us. Better than me for sure!
Kartick earned an M.Tech. in Computer Engineering at IIT Bombay. He worked at Google for almost 9 years, on most of the important products, like Google search, Youtube, Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Docs.
I have known Kartick as a very fertile, curious mind with amazing clarity of thought. I believe the same reflects in his work too.
Today, we are going to get Kartick to share about his story and his creation – the NoctaCam iPhone camera app.
All set Kartick!
Kartick: Thanks for having me, and always good to talk to you, Vipin.
Great to have you today here. I know that you have been working on an app. In fact, you left your job at Google and went headlong into becoming an entrepreneur, an app developer. That was quite a leap.
So why did you leave your job? How did this even come to happen? What was driving you?
Kartick: I was interested in photography for a long time, even in college, though I couldn’t afford a camera back then. When I had some money, I bought a point-and-shoot, and over the years learnt to use it to its potential. I was attracted to night photography, and after a while, I found myself being limited by the camera. So I upgraded to a much more powerful camera, and took many more photos, seeing the world through new eyes.
A night landscape can look mesmerizing in a photo, lights glittering like jewels. Light and movement come to life. A solid, heavy hunk of steel, like a train, can look malleable and organic, effortlessly gliding over the tracks like a ballet dancer. A timelapse can show you the moon and stars moving through the sky, in arcs. You see the cosmos in action without even leaving your balcony!
You see things that are there but you couldn’t see before. I tried fun techniques like taking a photo with two copies of myself in it. And light painting, like writing K, the first letter of Kartick, not with ink or paint but with light. Now you’ve moved beyond seeing things that you couldn’t see before to creating what you want, like an artist. Night photography is such great fun.
In the last few years, as phones took over from dedicated cameras, I tried to use phones for night photography, and found that even flagship phones like iPhones couldn’t do a good job at it. I discovered ways to use algorithms to enhance photos, doing in software what the camera couldn’t do. They produced great results, and the whole idea was fascinating, like figuring out a way to get your car to fly into space! Since I know both programming and photography, I could relate to these algorithms, but even then, it was a cumbersome process, and I ended up wishing someone would package them in an easy-to-use mobile app. I would look for apps on both iPhone and Android, buying many, but never quite finding the right one.
I then realised, “Why wait around for someone else to come and do it? I can build this myself!” I deeply care about this, and I’m the right person to do it, since given my passion and skills. I know mobile programming well and know photography, including computational photography. So, I left my job and let this passion consume me.
Vipin: The whole night photography, the way you have described, sounds magical.
So, as you said you decided to build your own app to take care of the shortcomings of other cameras / apps. The result is the NoctaCam app. Tell me more about NoctaCam? What does it do?
Kartick: NoctaCam lets you take great videos and photos at night. If you want to try out night photography, and you have an iPhone, there’s no better way to get started than NoctaCam. Or if you’ve already tried it a bit but want to take your night photography to your next level.
We’ve tested NoctaCam against many other camera apps, and NoctaCam takes as good or better photos as any of them, using our advanced computational photography algorithms.
NoctaCam is also the easiest camera app you’ve used, easier than even the iPhone camera app. You shouldn’t have to learn confusing technobabble like ISO or shutter speed to take great photos, any more than you have to understand how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car.
We have launched one feature so far, which is a fill light and a key light.
Vipin: Let me interrupt you right there. What are those?
Kartick: If you want to photograph a scene, and the natural light isn’t enough, you need to add artificial light from your camera. Photographers do this in two different ways: key light and fill light. A key light is the primary source of light by which the scene is lit.
A fill light, on the other hand, selectively brightens dark parts of the scene, while still preserving the overall feel of the scene. It lights the subject while preserving the background, so if you want to take a photo of your girlfriend in a park, and you want to capture the overall scene, not just her floating in a vacuum, use a fill light. NoctaCam offers both.
Vipin: So, will I get better pictures at my cousin’s wedding or the friends’ get together, in night or even with low light too?
Kartick: Exactly, NoctaCam is optimised for any kind of low-light photography. This could be night, or maybe you want to capture the mood in a dark cinema theater. Or even selectively brighten dark parts of a daytime scene.
Vipin: Why was the iPhone camera app not sufficient to do it? What’s the difference?
Kartick: You can see for yourself how NoctaCam is able to take better photos for different types of scenes, like an outdoor scene:
… a person:
… and a macro scene:
Vipin: Indeed, those photos look amazing. You mentioned earlier that in addition to taking great photos, NoctaCam is the easiest night camera app to use. As someone who’s not a photographer, this sounds appealing.
Kartick: Yes, as the decades go by, we expect more and more things to be automated, but night photography is still too manual. Most cameras and apps rely on the user to tweak settings if they want great photos and videos at night. Like choosing a frame rate and resolution for a video. But this isn’t the best way to do it.
NoctaCam is smart enough to choose the right settings, and the right ways to process and enhance the photo, taking care of the complex technical decisions. This leaves you free to focus on the creative aspect of photography, bringing your photos to life as you see them, which only you can do. After all, if you’re doing things a machine can do for you, you’re not exploring your potential.
Vipin: I am sure lots of users are willing to try out night photography now using NoctaCam. How can one get to your app? How to download it? Is it paid, free, or a mix?
Kartick: NoctaCam is free to download. Just click on the image below or this link:
If you want to learn more, visit us at NoctaCam.com.
After you’ve used it enough, we ask that you make a nominal contribution to bring more awesome features your way.
Vipin: You’ve talked about the fill light and key light. Do you have more features?
Kartick: Yes, we’re working on a video mode. Here’s a preview:
You can see for yourself how NoctaCam let you take a bright, clear video, unlike the iPhone camera app, which was dark and you couldn’t see much.
Vipin: This looks amazing. Are you building all this by yourself?! Is NoctaCam a one-man show?
Kartick: It started that way, but I then realised that we can do so much more with a small team. For example, we can work harder to make it easier for you to use. So I assembled a small but high-quality team consisting of engineers from IIT and BITS Pilani, and a designer from NID. This gives us the time to work on both implementation and research. We also collaborate with IISc on researching the best computational photography algorithms for our needs.
Vipin: Ok, I will ask you to be a little generous. Give us 3 iPhone native camera app tricks (OR mistakes to avoid) that one can still use to click better photographs or record videos.
Kartick: Sure. First, practice: take tons of photos. Look at them on your computer screen, notice what works, and what doesn’t, and try again. Try different scenes. Try the same scene at different times of the day, and notice the difference the lighting makes. Try it from different vantage points, like crouching and holding the camera close to the ground, and notice what a difference a fresh perspective makes, one different from what we see everyday from where we stand. Try different things, keep exploring, and you’ll find photography to be a rewarding hobby.
Second, if you haven’t tried night photography, give it a shot. The night is full of wonders that are beyond the ability of our eyes to see, but a camera could capture it. And if you don’t have an SLR, don’t let that hold you back. Start with your smartphone. One or two of the right paid apps can make a big difference, for probably a hundred times less than the cost of an SLR!
Third, learn to use fill light. If you’ve taken photos with the flash and it turned out to be too bright, and it lost the feel of the scene, the ambience, try a fill light. A good rule of thumb with the flash is to use it so subtly that viewers don’t even know you’ve used it; they just get a better photo.
Vipin: Thanks for the tips. What are your plans for 2018? If I am downloading NoctaCam app, what kind of things can I expect?
Kartick: We’ve launched one feature — a fill flash — and we’re working on many more, like a video mode, long exposure and so on. All these will launch in 2018, roughly one feature every quarter.
We keep exploring techniques and styles of photography. For example, I recently came up with an algorithm to take better black-and-white photos at night with better quality than just taking a photo and applying a filter. We found that it didn’t work particularly well, so we’ve deprioritised this feature. We keep experimenting this way, trying out a lot of things, to bring you only the best features. We invest our time so that you don’t waste yours.
Vipin: This sounds great. As you keep trying out these features, how are you validating that these are indeed useful.
Kartick: That’s a great question.
First, we validate the results of each of these internally. Our team consists of people from diverse backgrounds like engineering, UX design, marketing and even architecture, which helps us evaluate a proposed feature from different perspectives.
Next, we’re working a small but great set of photographers to understand what kind of photos they take, what apps they use, what problems they face, what they would like, and so on. With this process, we’ll be able to deliver great features that are useful to many people, whether professional photographers, enthusiasts, or anyone who wants better photos.
Vipin: Ah! So, we can expect a constant supply of delight! Tell me, how can my reader get in touch with you?
Kartick: There’s a unique opportunity for you, the reader of this blog: If you’re a photographer or an enthusiast, you can partner with us as we build NoctaCam and help shape it to fit your needs. We’ll talk to you, understand what kind of photos you take, what apps you use, what problems you face, consult with you on what features we should build, and so on.
This is different from most products, which are usually offered on a “take it or leave it” basis. That is, use it if you want, or not, but there’s limited potential for you to shape the product. We’re different. Email me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Kartick, what you are doing is awesome. Just for the fact that you have decided to be on your own, build something useful and ship it to the world, you have a lot of respect from me.
I wish you all the best. May be we will get you again sometime to talk more about the progress of the app.
So, guys this was Kartick and he is making ruckus with the NoctaCam iPhone camera app. It helps you do better night photography and brings out pictures and videos that an iPhone can’t.
Don’t believe me or him. Download the app and try it out yourself. Tell your friends, family, colleagues about it.
You must share feedback with him and help him create a really big ruckus.
The post “I am making night photography better with NoctaCam app” says Vaddadi Kartick appeared first on trading affiliate programs.
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