Top Five Photo Apps

Mobile photography has now gone way beyond snapping a blocky, 2 megapixel shot of your friends on a night out then hastily uploading it to Facebook (before tagging everyone’s pixelated faces). Even though hardware’s moved on in leaps and bounds, with 8-12 megapixel cameras being standard for high-end phones, there have been big developments in what happens after the camera shutter closes.

Simply taking a photo sometimes isn’t enough when even the amateur photographer has so many photo editing and manipulation options available. With Instagram having popularised the idea of adding effects to mobile images there are more and more editing apps becoming available across all platforms, allowing users to pull off seemingly limitless tricks. Here we take a look at some of the best of those digital manipulation apps.

5. BeFunky Photo Editor

BeFunky is a simple, free photo editor for Android that allows changes to an image’s contrast and brightness along with other effects. The app’s interface is easy to navigate as it is built on icons and sliding controls that allow small, accurate alterations to be made.

While the contrast and brightness effects are good, the sharpening option is particularly impressive, something which can be very important when taking photos with a phone. There are also several effects similar in style to those popularised by Instagram, with thumbnail previews appearing at the bottom of the screen, removing the need to wait for images to render every time an effect is tested. Overall, BeFunky offers an accurate and versatile way of touching up mobile photos that cost the user nothing.

4. Photosynth

Whilst there are many apps available that allow users to create large, panoramic images of their surroundings, Photosynth is probably the best. Microsoft has made an unusual foray into the world of mobile photography and pulled a success out of the bag and there are several factors that make this app the best of its kind.

Being a Microsoft creation, Photosynth is available for Windows Phone, a plus for the platform which is otherwise seriously lacking when it comes to apps that expand a phone’s camera functions. With the software also available for iOS it’s only Android users who miss out.

And miss out they do, with Photosynth’s brilliantly simple interface almost doing the work for you. Although the iOS version does seem to be a little more intuitive than its Windows Phone equivalent both work in the same way –  slowly wave the phone around and the app automatically captures images as the device moves. A few seconds will be spent rendering before a large, clear, panoramic image remarkably free of distortion is created. The final product can then be uploaded to various social networks or saved as a jpeg.

3. Fast Burst Camera

One drawback of many phone cameras is that they automatically render and save an image as it is captured. This process invariably takes a few seconds and makes quick, repeated snapshots difficult. Enter Fast Burst Camera, a handy app available for Android that suspends the rendering process and allows a rapid sequence of shots to be taken. Images are then saved after the pictures have been captured.

In practice, this allows the user to capture several shots of very fast action without missing any detail. The app is perfect for sporting events and the like, creating a sequence of images that can be fun to scroll through, as well as allowing the user to pick out the best ones to keep. Although some blurring can occur, a little practice can produce some great results and Fast Burst Camera is a simple app that performs a much-needed function admirably

2. Snapseed

Snapseed pulls off an incredible feat – it does Photoshop better than Photoshop can. While Adobe’s leading piece of editing software has been transferred to mobile, it doesn’t have anywhere near the functionality of its desktop counterpart and trades on its name more than its capabilities.

Snapseed is different. The app feels like it is built from the ground up and has been specifically tailored for the mobile user. While its functions are simple, they are incredibly effective, giving users real control over contrast and saturation.

Functions such as tilt-shift effects are present but Snapseed’s real strength is in the basics; colour-correction, cropping, brightness-adjustment and the like. The app’s interface makes brilliant use of touchscreen inputs with functions controlled via simple up-down, left-right swipes. The finished results are great too – this app allows the user to make subtle but important adjustments to their mobile photos and improves them no end.

1. Hipstamatic

The app that originally brought vintage photo effects to the iPhone still does it better than anything else. Hipstamatic gradually grew in popularity through images being shared on Facebook before Instagram came and stole its thunder. The experience the app’s developers have shows in the results that it produces.

Based on a system that sees the user choosing from a variety of virtual films, lenses and flashes, the finished results Hipstamatic creates are more varied, detailed and of a better quality than those produced by any other photo app on the market. Whilst combining the options creates many possible results, the app is carefully built to keep them all within the realms of plausibility, with all its effects doing things that compliment an image, rather than simply adding a crazy effect for the sake of it.

Hispstamatic’s interface also encourages the user to put more thought into the final image before taking a shot – while effects are selected prior to capturing a picture, they are not previewed and are unchangeable afterwards. We found that we began to learn exactly how each effect works and put more thought into setting up the app before taking a photo in the same way a photographer would, choosing between films, lenses and such in the days before digital photography and Photoshop.

Hispstamatic is expensive, with the basic app costing 69p and extra charges for adding new films and lenses. However, the results it produces are excellent. Mobile photography has found a niche in that phones have the power to add effects to an image in the way that digital cameras do not, and the results Hipstamatic produces are second to none.

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