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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. 

Instagram

(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. 

Camera+

($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.

Hipstamatic

($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. 

PicPlz

(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

Amateur Food Porn Has Got To Stop

January 27th, 2012 01:00 admin View Comments

foodporn4.jpg“We eat with our eyes,” Iliana Regan told me, “and then it travels to our brain, and we love the sensation of the taste and the hot. I think it does a lot for the senses.” Pretty steamy, right? Food is sexy. There can be no doubt. But just like sex, it’s not always pretty. And in food and sex alike, humans love to take pictures.

There are laws about the sex part, but food is not censored in our society. The temptation is strong in the smartphone age to share our daily deeds with the world. It makes them less mundane. Meals are miraculous, really. Food is sacred. It gives life. But the rest of us on the Internet aren’t at the table with you. We can’t taste how good it is. Sometimes, if the light’s not quite right, or you’re too close up, what feels really good to you might look really gross to us.

RWW’s Curt Hopkins: “Good lord, man. That’s the slop pail from a Burmese hospital.”

foodporn1.jpg

This is just intended as a friendly tip. We would never presume to dictate what kinds of fun are or are not allowed. We just have some… let’s call them aesthetic concerns about the lack of aesthetic concern sometimes sorely needed before posting a photo of food. It’s food, remember? It’s supposed to look delicious. It may taste delicious, but your Instagram followers, who don’t get to taste it, might lose their appetites if you’re not careful.

foodporn2.jpg

Food porn can be exceedingly pleasant. Professional photographers with solid equipment can make even everyday meals look irresistible. The website FoodPornDaily features one new shot every day, and they’re invariably good enough to make you say “MMMMMMmmmmmmm.” Iliana Regan has talented photographers capture the food she creates, and her images are lovely.

foodporngood.jpg

But a smartphone sensor won’t always do it justice, and Instagram filters tend to turn things very brown. Just something to keep in mind.

“All pictures of food on social media look like the street next to a major university on Sunday morning.”
 - Curt Hopkins

“The key is good post-processing,” says ReadWriteWeb webmaster Jared Smith, “and not just slapping an Instagram filter on. This digs to a deeper issue. Instagram has introduced a lot of people to photography that otherwise probably wouldn’t participate. They get into the filters and the like.”

“Punk as fuck,” replies production editor Curt Hopkins. “And I like that. EXCEPT FOR FOOD.”

“There have been amateur photos of everything from crimes being committed to mountains to ladies to flowers that have been lovely, arresting, striking,” Hopkins says. “But there has not been one single amateur picture of food on a social media site that does not look like a pile of grey-beige recycled meatloaf. This includes lobster and cake.”

foodpornsushi.jpg

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier has an important counterpoint. “You put them in your feed,” he reminds us. “You followed them.”

“I unfollow people for this all the time,” I reply, “but there are some people whose tastes I mostly like, or who are my friends, and I don’t want to miss out on their lives.”

“It’s like getting gross-rolled.”
 - John Paul Titlow

“You have to take the good and bad, then,” Brockmeier says. “Just saying – if a friend of mine is like ‘I don’t like cat pictures, stop posting them to Facebook,’ my response is, ‘You can unfriend me if you want. This is my feed. I’ll post whatever makes me happy.’ Now, if the cat pic is my cat licking herself, you might have a more valid criticism.”

What we are responding to here is the photo-culinary equivalent of cats licking their butts. The Web is a wonderful place to share photos. Lord knows there are enough ways to do it. But before you tweet your breakfast, take a look at the photo. Savor it. Then ask yourself, “Does this look good enough to eat?”

foodporn5.jpg

Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

Disclosure: Iliana Regan is the creator of the Chicago underground supper club One Sister, for which ReadWriteWeb’s Alicia Eler has done some social media consulting in the past.

Lead photo by Iliana Regan

Photo 2 by Jon Mitchell

Photo 3 by Simon Mayo, found in Twitter’s top image search results for “stroganoff”

Photo 4 (the good one) by Jennifer Moran

Photo 5 by Joel Sierra, found in Twitter’s top image search results for “sushi”

Photo 6 by Nabila Huda

Source: Amateur Food Porn Has Got To Stop

Flickr Head of Product Steps Down: Is It an Omen?

March 14th, 2011 03:26 admin View Comments

While Yahoo has said that it is “absolutely committed” to social picture sharing site Flickr, the same might not be said for the folks at the top of the company. Today, Flickr head of product Matthew Rothenberg announced that he would be “stepping away from Flickr,” the third such departure since Flickr co-founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake left in 2008.

Can Flickr hang on in the photo sharing realm or will other niche social photo sharing services and Facebook – the biggest photo sharing site on the Internet – take its place?

Rothenberg made the announcement on his Twitter account today, writing “Here goes: after 5 years, I will be stepping away from Flickr. Will miss working with such a talented, hard-working, and hard-drinking team.”

A number of products at Yahoo have been on shaky ground lately, with the company announcing last fall that it would shutter Delicious, MyBlogLog and Buzz. Now, as Facebook continues to dominate social photo sharing on the Web, and photo sharing apps like Instagram and PicPlz take off, confidence in Flickr’s ability to stay afloat could be waning as well.

Professional photographers may also be abandoning the site, as it has had troubles lately with censorship and even accidentally deleting thousands of photos and telling the owner they were gone forever.

Does Rothenberg’s departure spell serious trouble for Flickr? It could, but it doesn’t sound like it does for Rothenberg. “And yes, I know what I’m doing next,” he later tweeted, “but not announcing it just yet.”

Source: Flickr Head of Product Steps Down: Is It an Omen?