Posts Tagged ‘photo filters’

9 Photo Filter Apps to Enhance Your Mobile Photography

May 31st, 2012 05:30 admin View Comments

With the advent of the smartphone, photography has fundamentally changed. While professional photographers will scoff at the masses and their apps, some great art is being created through smartphones. Mobile developers are rushing to meet the demand, and photo filter apps are a hot commodity right now, especially after Facebook spent a cool billion dollars to acquire Instagram. There are so many photo sharing, editing and filtering apps out there now that it is hard to determine what is best for you. To narrow the topic, we take a look just at apps that provide filters and give you nine of the best on the market. 


(Free — iPhone, Android)

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Instagram, Facebook’s billion-dollar baby, basically launched the entire category of photo filters turned into mobile social media networks. Others have tried to emulate it, but have never succeeded in besting Instagram’s easy-to-use interface, its variety of filters or the community it has built. What is Instagram? It is a camera app that can make your photos look like the best hipster smartphone photography you have ever seen. It also functions as a Twitter-like mobile social network, allowing people to follow each other and see what great photography they are producing with their smartphones. Sound extremely simple? It is. But, sometimes the simplest ideas can be worth a billion dollars. 

Facebook Camera

(Free — iPhone)

So, Facebook spent a billion dollars on Instagram knowing full well that it had its own camera app complete with filters in production? Hey Facebook, it’s your dime. Do as you please. This is an app for the iPhone that taps into your entire Facebook photo stream and provides nominal filters for your photos. The filters are nowhere near Instagram-cool, but Facebook at least gave it a nominal shot. Check out the settings in this app and you will understand why Facebook created it. It cannot access the iPhone’s camera roll if location services is turned off, and one thing that Facebook craves more and more of these days is your location data. As for the filters themselves, they are relatively ordinary, very tame in comparison to other great photo apps that are available. 

Retro Camera

(Free — iPhone, Android)

Before Instagram came to Android, a plethora of interesting photo apps tried to fill the filter void. One of the most fun is Retro Camera (also available on iOS). Ever wanted to see what your smartphone photos would look like from a pinhole camera? Or maybe that old Polaroid that your father always lugged around on family vacations? Retro Camera gives users a variety of old-school cameras to give their photos that traditional feeling. 

Camera Fun Pro

($0.99 — iPhone, Android)

Camera Fun is… well, it’s fun. It has one of the widest selections of filters to add to your smartphone pictures, but instead of trying to be hipster cool, it is more geek chic. What does your scenery look like in black-and-white chalk outlines? Or perhaps you prefer it to look like a blueprint. Green nightvision will give you that “this is what it feels like to be a Marine in the dark” feeling. Try out the various sketch filters to see what your photos would look like if they were drawn by a talented artist using a pencil. 


($0.99 — iPhone)

Camera+ is more of a photo editor than a filter generator, but there are a variety of filters baked into this feature-packed app. In addition to adding borders, cropping, adjusting the rotation and adjusting lighting for your scenery, its filters come in four different categories with nine options each. That includes your standard color filters (sepia, cyan, etc.), retro filters such as toy camera or “hipster,” special effects including miniaturization and polarization or nostalgic filters like Contessa or Helios. Camera+ is easy to use and allows you to do just about everything you ever learned in high-school photo class. 

Camera Awesome

(Free — iPhone)

We love it when application developers come up with fun new words. In this case, we are presented “awesomize” from SmugSmug, the makers of Camera Awesome. The “awesomize” feature is a one-click button that optimizes your photo base on sharpness, contrast, lighting and vibrance. The filters in Camera Awesome have fun names, too. The black-and-white feature is called “Hoth” (the snow planet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), a faded, sepia tone is called “More Cowbell,” and a filter that looks a lot like it was derived from photos from the American Civil War is called “The Dude.” Our John Paul Titlow once said of Camera Awesome, “an iPhone app that Instagram and Apple could learn from.


($1.99 — iPhone)

We are sensing a trend here. Apparently, photo filter apps were built by hipsters, for hipsters. You thought that Instagram was the ultimate hipster camera app? Hipstamatic takes uber-cool and aloof to a whole new level. It employs a series of lenses that give photos that retro feeling and is similar to Retro Camera in that way. The difference from other camera apps, though, is that the user interface is more difficult to navigate, it is a paid app ($1.99 is not that bad but still not free), and it requires a series of in-app purchases to acquire new lenses. Users can send their photos to Hipstamatic, which will print them and send hard copies to the user. Also allows for easy sharing with Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. 

Photo FX Ultra

($4.99 — iPad)

Photo FX Ultra is an unusual entrant into this list because it is not iPhone or Android smartphone-centric. Rather, it is an iPad app that has the most robust preset of filters on the market. The reason that developers create photo apps specifically for smartphones is simple: that is where people have their cameras. Very few people use their iPad as a camera. That might change now that the third-generation iPad actually has a decent camera, but the iPad 2 was terrible for taking photos. Yet, as a photo editor, the iPad is a great tool. If you can import your photos to the device, Photo FX Ultra can allow you to make them look like almost anything you want. It has 77 filters organized into eight groups, 934 preset settings and 65 different color or black-and-white film looks. Share across almost every photo platform. Fo the serious photographer, the $4.99 is a great investment. 


(Free — iPhone, Android)

PicPlz deserves a spot on this list even though many other photo filter apps have ecilpsed it in recent years. In comparison to other photo filter apps, it has a limited selection such as “Russian Toy Camera” or “The 70s.” It allows you to share photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Dropbox and Flickr. One interesting feature is the ability to add stickers to photos. Hey, that could be zany with good fun had by all. PicPlz’s best attributes are that it is simple, it is free, and it’s available on both the iPhone and Android platforms. 

Source: 9 Photo Filter Apps to Enhance Your Mobile Photography

Facebook Releases Instagram Clone, Two Months After Acquisition

May 25th, 2012 05:46 admin View Comments


redletterdave writes “Six days after the company’s IPO and two months after it acquired photo-sharing app company Instagram for $1 billion, Facebook debuted a photo app of its own on Thursday, called Facebook Camera. The app is now available as a free download in the App Store, and it’s currently only available for iPhone and iPod Touch owners. Facebook Camera is set up very similarly to Instagram and includes most of the same features (including photo filters), but Dirk Stoop, Facebook’s product manager for photos, said Facebook was working on this application long before the Instagram acquisition on April 9.”

Source: Facebook Releases Instagram Clone, Two Months After Acquisition

Camera Awesome: An iPhone App That Instagram and Apple Could Learn From

March 1st, 2012 03:15 admin View Comments

old-polaroid-150.jpgThe fact that smartphones have made a huge mark on photography is no breaking news. The company that was once most synonymous with taking photographs is now in bankruptcy, while the most frequently-used camera on Flickr isn’t one of Nikon or Canon’s DSLRs, but the iPhone 4.

The cameras that come built into iPhones, Android devices and Windows Phones are now capable enough to replace point-and-shoot digital cameras in most people’s lives. On top of that, we’ve seen the rise of photo-editing and sharing apps like Instagram, Hipstamatic and Camera+, all of which give new visual life to the images people snap on their phones. If you thought there wasn’t room for one more photo app, you obviously haven’t played around with Camera Awesome yet.

The app comes from the folks at SmugMug, but is not strictly tied to the company’s flagship photo-sharing website. Instead, it’s a stand alone iOS application that gives the iPhone’s native camera a serious run for its money and includes a feature or two that the Instagram team would be wise to emulate.

camera-awesome-screenshot.jpgCamera Awesome has basic photo filters like Instagram and Hipstamatic, but the app’s functionality goes well beyond that. Its photo-editing features are comparable to more sophisticated apps like Photo Gene, and start to make Photoshop Express look like something of a joke. You can adjust sharpness, temperature, vibrance and contrast on a photo once it’s taken. You can crop images and select from preset visual effects, filters, textures and frames. Each tab offers a handful of options for free, and then includes dozens more for a 99 cents each. That’s how they’re monetizing this otherwise free app.

Before you even get to the filters and editing features, though, the act of taking a photo is markedly improved from what’s possible with most other photography apps out there. There are visual guides to help with composition, including a level to help ensure the horizon is straight and a grid that splits the screen into thirds so budding photographers can craft images that adhere to the age-old “rule of thirds.” Using multitouch, you can tell the camera to focus on one part of the image and adjust the exposure on another part.

Other features they managed to cram into the camera include image stablization, multiple exposures and timed exposures. These are all things that come standard on many digital cameras these days, but are not built natively into most smartphone cameras. Apple could learn a thing or two here.

Camera Awesome also shoots video, and even has the ability to record things that happened up to five seconds before you hit the “record” button, which is kind of insane.

Of course, this is, at its heart, a photo-sharing app. Yes, they’d like you to upload images to a SmugMug account, but you don’t have to. It works with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa and YouTube. They’re interested in adding support for Instagram, Path, WordPress and Tumblr, CEO Don McAskill said on Twitter. It’s not clear if integration with services like Path and Instagram are feasible.

Camera photo by Alan Levine

Source: Camera Awesome: An iPhone App That Instagram and Apple Could Learn From

Path, Timeline & Worship of The Self

November 30th, 2011 11:30 admin View Comments

path150.jpgAn app called Path launched its version 2 do-over yesterday. “The smart journal that helps you share life with the ones you love,” it calls itself now. I ignored this app until today. All I saw from version 1 was emoji spam in my Twitter stream. Let’s take it as read that version 1 failed to catch on, hence version 2. How does an app help you “share life with the ones you love?”

The tech “world,” or “scene,” or whatever it is, is in love with this app. It tingled with excitement when Path went “stealthish” in 2010. It launched later that year weirdly lacking in features, and the blogerati still fawned over it. What is it about Path? How does “love” arise from Objective-C and 3.5 inches of glass? By evoking the people in your life, of course. And Path does that, just as Facebook does. It’s a life stream. An ego trip. “Share life with the ones you love,” especially yourself.

Your Path, Your Timeline, Whatever

path_timeline.jpgPath, in the exact manner as the conspicuously not-shipped Facebook Timeline, makes your life into a story, and your friends and family are the characters. You, of course, are the protagonist, the narrator, the star. Choose a profile picture. Choose a cover image. Share what you’re doing. Are we talking about Facebook or Path? Exactly.

But Path’s attention to detail puts Facebook to shame. Granted, that’s easy to do when you don’t have to bleed money out of your users’ eyeballs yet.

Path is a closed network. You can syndicate to Facebook or Twitter if you choose, but within Path, it’s for a limited number of close friends. It’s full of cute signals of feeling and emotion, including emoticons and Instagrams – I mean, photo filters. The user interface is damn awesome, eye-poppingly original, soft and intimate. You can go to sleep and wake up in it, and the icon changes with the phases of the moon.

Doesn’t that sound nice? Sure, it has that whole single-player-mode, where-are-my-friends problem, but it’s so sexy and flattering, even when I’m alone! Just invite them all. They’ll all join in. Right?


Stickiness & The Social Web

I didn’t do a poll or anything, but crawling the blogosphere every day, I get the sense that people aren’t satisfied with the Web. Why should we be? Bandwidth is expanding, interfaces are improving, the hardware is more responsive than ever. The Web is a communication medium that spans the globe, and by the measure of any engineer, we should be communicating better than ever. We probably are. But we aren’t satisfied.

We’ve wound up with a social Web in which tools have to be “sticky” to catch on. Facebook is the stickiest, because that’s where “everyone” is. But – no offense, Windows people – Facebook is like the Windows of Web 2.0. It’s the most broadly compatible platform, but we all resent using it a little. Do you know anyone who loves Facebook? It keeps getting noisier, more confusing, and less secure.

But 800 million people use it anyway. It’s “sticky.” “Everyone” is on there. “I don’t use Facebook” is the new “I don’t have a cell phone,” it is said.


So, here’s Path. What Facebook should be, some say. It’s for real friends, supposedly. not “friends” like the 2,000 people on Facebook. You can use Facebook like that, but then there’s all the politics: can I unfriend this person, maybe I’ll just mute them, what if I want to see their photos, &c, &c, &c. Sometimes it’s nice to get a fresh start.

But then you have the Google+ problem. You have to convince your real friends to join in. And you, as the kind of person who would try an app like Path, say to them, “You guys. It’s so cool. We can share everything with each other. Look at the moon!

Then your friends go to the App Store or the Android Market and they peer into this uncanny valley of ego-streaming, and what do they do? Well, when Facebook introduced Timeline, what happened? A million or so (roughly 0.125%) users turn it on, Facebook looks at the data and panics. Launch date after launch date blows by. Facebook turns its attention to privacy concerns and doesn’t mention Timeline.

Path is just like Timeline, only more elegantly constructed. Unlike Timeline, Path is readily available now. Go ahead. Try it out. Gaze at yourself. Does it make you want to share?

Source: Path, Timeline & Worship of The Self

Mashape, The Etsy Of Cloud Services, Goes Beta; Lets You Monetize Your APIs In A Click

June 2nd, 2011 06:07 admin View Comments

Mashape has a somewhat unusual backstory: The Italian startup spent two years looking for funding in its home country, only to be rebuffed at every turn. So, in 2009, it moved operations to Silicon Valley. The team found funding in less than three weeks. Granted, it was $100K, but it was enough to begin building a real service. Persistence, it seems, is key. (It also helps to have a great idea and position your business in a market that’s on the rise.)

As you may have noticed, APIs are all the rage these days. Twitter attracts 15 billion API calls per day, Google and Facebook were pulling in 5 billion per day as of last year, Amazon currently stores over 260 billion objects in S3, and receives 50 percent of its traffic through its API. You get the picture. Mashape, which is going into private beta today, hopes to ride this API surge to victory through a marketplace makes it simple for developers to discover, distribute, and consume all things API.

API consumers can use any API listed on Mashape via a single Developer Key and a standard interface, so that once you’ve learned how to consume an API on Mashape, you know how to consume then all. Developers can even test their APIs by using Mashape’s online Test Console.

At this point, Mashape is supplying more than 110 APIs, both published and private, and has tallied more than 22K API searches. The APIs in stock range from stuff that helps you get your homework done to music services and photo filters — and even more obscure APIs like “DNA manipulation” or a “Nitro accelerator”.

“We believe that APIs have no limits”, said Mashape Co-founder Augusto Marietti, “though I still have to figure out exactly what kind of API a ‘Nitro Accelerator’ is”. The APIs listed on Mashape are both free and for charge, and today the startup is launching a simple (and free) tool that enables users to monetize JSON APIs. Once a user has listed an API, they can set up billing with a single click. Users can choose monthly charges, give API call limits, and give a price per additional call. Pretty cool.

Source: Mashape, The Etsy Of Cloud Services, Goes Beta; Lets You Monetize Your APIs In A Click

With A New API, Aviary Wants To Become The Twilio Of Photo Effects

May 4th, 2011 05:57 admin View Comments

Mobile apps like Instagram and PicPlz made photo filters popular, and now every photo app needs to have filters and effects. But not every developer wants to spend the time and resources to come up with his own effects. Online image-editing service Aviary hopes to fill that need with a new photo effects API it is launching today. Alex Taub, head of business development for Aviary, took me through a demo of the new APIs and what they can do in the video above.

Developers can choose from a variety of effects and filters—everything from red-eye reduction to “Badass” (which makes photos look like Andy Warhol prints). There are also effects like Toy Camera, black and white, or adding a logo. watermark. Aviary hopes to become the Twilio of photo effects for developers (much like Twilio gave rise to apps like GroupMe through its SMS and telephony APIs).

Source: With A New API, Aviary Wants To Become The Twilio Of Photo Effects

Keepsy Taps Instagram For Fast, Easy, Awesome Photo Books

April 26th, 2011 04:00 admin View Comments

People love photo albums, but they hate making them.

That’s what Blake Williams has come to realize in the months following Keepsy’s launch. You may recall back in December of last year, the startup launched as a way to create tangible photo albums with all of your friends using Facebook. It’s a good idea. But again, there’s a barrier to entry. So now Keepsy has a new product to alleviate that problem.

“Instant Albums” hooks into your Instagram pictures via their API and in seconds build you a complete photo album. Once you give them your Instagram credentials, Keepsy pulls in what it considers to be your 35 (or so) best pictures and organizes them for you into this book.

Boom. Done.

Even untouched, the end result is pretty great.

How do they determine your best Instagram photos? It’s a relatively simple algorithm that combines the use of popular photo filters with the number of likes each picture received. Time-stamps are then used to place similar pictures close to one another so that page clusters make sense.

Of course, you can alter your books to add more photos, take some away, tweak/add the captions (Keepsy will auto pull-in your Instagram picture captions), rotate others, add in different backgrounds, etc. This is all done via a web-based editor that’s simple to use. It’s all just dragging and dropping.

Once you have the album you like, you can share it digitally on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Or you can order a hard cover physical book starting at $29.99 for 30 pages. Williams notes that this is 10 more pages than Apple gives you for that price point for photo books made through iPhoto. (Each page is an extra $0.99.)

Once created, books should take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to get to the person you’re sending them to via FedEx. Unfortunately, the service is going to be U.S.-only for the time being. But Williams hopes to expand quickly.

I’m looking at one of the books right now that Williams threw together for me to show me what they look like. It’s great. It’s a perfect keepsake and/or gift for a variety of occasions. And again, the key: simple to make.

So why focus on Instagram for this new product? Because the photo sharing app is the hottest among the new trend of photo services that are all about quick captures taken on the fly. Williams wanted to make a photo book service that reflected that ease.

“The process of creating an album on conventional sites is cumbersome, slow and usually pretty canned. You may end up with a decent looking album, but you dread the hours of input it takes to create one,” Williams notes. And the space is still a $1 billion market that’s growing.

Others, like the recently launch Postagram, are clearly seeing the opportunity to turn these quick mobile pictures into tangible goods as well.

Williams notes that this Instant Album roll out is just the first of many that will hit in the coming weeks all aimed at making photo album creation simple, fast, and fun. As someone who has spent hours making a photo album online before, I very much welcome this change of pace.

Source: Keepsy Taps Instagram For Fast, Easy, Awesome Photo Books

With Tilt-Shift And A News Feed, Instagram Is Ready To Rock SXSW

March 11th, 2011 03:30 admin View Comments

For all the talk of group messaging apps being the breakout hits at SXSW this year, most people are overlooking another genre: mobile photo-sharing apps. But that’s probably because a few of those apps already are pretty big hits. Take Instagram, for example. The app already has well over 2 million users, even though it’s not even six months old yet. For some context, when Foursquare successfully launched at SXSW two years ago, they left town with just 5,000 users.

But just because Instagram has had some early success, that doesn’t mean they don’t recognize the value of putting out a new app in time for SXSW. And this morning we get just that. And it’s brings two pretty significant upgrades.

The first big addition is a new camera feature called tilt-shift. If you’re a camera app fanatic, you’ll undoubtedly already know what this is. For everyone else, it’s a new effect that allows you to focus on a certain part of an image and blur the rest. “It’s one of the most popular filters people have used outside of Instagram,” co-founder Kevin Systrom says, noting that they decided to build their own from scratch.

This marks the first time that Instagram had ventured into effects that weren’t straight-up photo filters. And it’s going to lead to a lot more interesting combinations of photos as it can be combined with any of the existing filters.

But the bigger addition is the new News Feed. Previously, the News tab in the app consisted of new follower, likes, and comment notifications. It was useful to new users, but pretty bland overall. So Instagram redid the entire thing.

Now the News area is more akin to a robust News Feed like what Facebook and other bigger networks offer. You can see who your friends started following, what pictures your friends like, and which ones they comment on. What’s great is that these can be photos from people you don’t already follow, so it’s a powerful new discovery tool.

I’m excited that the new version gives people a whole new way to browse Instagram. Through your friends’ activity you have rich way for discovering beautiful photos you may never have seen otherwise. The new features open up new doors for exploration and discovery which make Instagram that much more fun to use,” Systrom says of the new feature.

Fans of the way the News tab previously worked can still find that functionality in the new “You” area of the tab. But this has also been given an entirely new look, to be more clickable.

And the Instagram update comes with two other smaller updates as well. You can now finally share Instagram images over email. You can enter one or multiple email addresses in the settings and use the toggle switch to determine if you should send them out with each picture or not. This is useful for services that accept pictures via email (and undoubtedly for parents/grandparents who have no idea what Instagram is as well).

There’s also a new geolocation layer baked into Instagram. While location has been a part of the service since day one, this was previously relying solely on Foursquare’s place database. That’s still there, but just in case you don’t want to tag a picture to a specific place, Instagram will simply record the coordinates that you took the picture at. Why? “This means that within the API, you can find your photos more granularly based on locations,” Systrom notes. He also says that when the website they’re working on rolls out, it will make it so that every picture shows up on a map.

Oh, and one more thing. Regular users of Instagram will know what a pain it is to reply to someone — you have to manually type in their username each time or they may not see it. Well now you don’t have to type it in anymore. Simply hold down on a username you wish to reply to and you’ll get the option to do just that.

That alone may be worth the upgrade.

Instagram’s rivals aren’t sitting still either in the quest to dominate SXSW. PicPlz just released an update that added photo borders and collections yesterday.

You can find Instagram in the App Store here. It’s a free download.

Source: With Tilt-Shift And A News Feed, Instagram Is Ready To Rock SXSW

PicPlz Beats Instagram To An API

February 7th, 2011 02:54 admin View Comments

In the battle among the new crop of social photo apps, winning over the hearts if consumers is only one part of the equation. Winning over the minds of developers is the other part. While Instagram is far and away the early leader in terms of users, rival PicPlz was able to come out first with an API today. PicPlz’s API will allow developers to pull photo feeds from its service, and create things like slideshows and other widgets from its growing library of shared photos. It will also allow developers to upload images and take advantage of PicPlz’s photo filters. Meaning any photo app can now add a one of PicPlz’s filters as a feature.

Instagram is also working on an API, which is supposed to be coming out any day now. Already, it had to block one service called Followgram that couldn’t wait and was scrubbing the service for interesting photos. CEO Kevin Systrom tells me that beta signups will open up later today (check out this Founder Stories video where he talks about how he views the competition). They will still have to wait for the actual API to become available. Meanwhile, developers can start playing with PicPlz’s API.

Giving developers tools to build engaging new apps on top of PicPlz is the first step from consumer app to platform. But those two things go hand-in-hand. Developers want to work on popular platforms. PicPlz also announced a new feature that will appeal to power users: the ability to apply Creative Commons licenses to your photos. Embracing Creative Commons was a factor in Flickr’s early success, and it could certainly encourage more sharing in these new mobile socia apps.

Finally, PicPlz is adding an analytics dashboard for brands, celebs, and musicians to track which pics get the most views, likes or comments. The company could end up charging brands for the dashboard if it proves useful enough, or maybe open it up to all users.

Source: PicPlz Beats Instagram To An API

PicPlz Adds Dropbox Support To Preemptively Cure Filter Regret

January 25th, 2011 01:23 admin View Comments

We’ve all walked down the street and seen someone with a weird tattoo and thought, “they’re going to regret that later”. What may seem cool at the time, might not seem so cool years from now. Is it possible that the current crop of mobile photo filters will lead to the same type of regret? PicPlz clearly thinks it’s possible.

A new feature the service announced today is Dropbox integration. This nifty ability has been turned on from the backend, so iPhone, Android, and web users can use it immediately. And if you do use it, you’ll be able to automatically save both your original photo and your filtered photo to your Dropbox account in the cloud.

It’s a cool integration that’s a good idea. I’m sure we’ll see more mobile services utilize it.

But the reasoning behind PicPlz’s move here is just as interesting. As they write:

This way, you can use picplz to post images with filter effects and not worry about:

Permanently and irreversibly altering your valuable pictures

Leaving the unfiltered version of the picture trapped on your phone

While PicPlz, like rivals Instagram and Hipstamatic, is built around the idea of taking and sharing photos that have been altered using filters, they’re also clearly aware that some users are hesitant to do this. In fact, there’s no shortage of people who think this type of behavior is simple a fad that will pass. And then we’ll all be longing for our original, unfiltered pictures — we’ll want to remove the tattoos.

Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. Plus, both PicPlz and Instagram have already allowed you to save both the original version of a picture and the filtered version. But this new integration does make it a bit easier  to not think about.

Source: PicPlz Adds Dropbox Support To Preemptively Cure Filter Regret