Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cool Photo Editing Apps - Part 2

Computers are often associated with numbers and words but the new generation of tablets typified by the Apple iPad brings a whole new dimension to creativity. For those like me who are not artistic in the traditional sense, the ability to manipulate photographs with powerful, easy to use, touch screen apps is absolutely marvelous. Last month, I discussed a number of photo apps with some editing capabilities but whose main strength was taking pictures. This post describes some of my favorite among hundreds of apps that manipulate images although most can start with an available photo or take one using a basic camera function. My usage is limited to Apple iOS devices but many of these apps should be available on other platforms.

I won't spend a lot of time explaining whether the apps work on iPhone/iPods or iPads. That is easy enough to check out at the app store if you are interested. Certainly apps that work on images are most effective when they take advantage of a tablet sized device. However, there are some fun and useful photo editing tools for the small screen as well. Some of these apps are free while others cost $1-4.

Photo Studio, Photo Booth and Finger Design
With this background here are some of my favorites:
Photo Delight allows you to eliminate all color from a picture except selected portions. I've shown examples before and the UI (User Interface) is perfect. There are several others that do the same thing but none I've seen with the elegance of Photo Delight
Dynamic Light provides a number of stunning special effects as shown in the picture of Honolulu at the top right of this blog. Some photographs are meant to record an image as realistically as possible. Now with all the digital cameras we have plenty of "ordinary" photographs so apps like this can be used to create unusual images.
Camera FX (iPhone) and Photo Booth (iPad) offer effects similar to the popular Photo Booth app on the iMac. You preview a number of fun house type images and snap a picture of one (or hundreds!) that you like. (These apps are really in the category of camera apps I reviewed last month but I did not have Photo Booth installed at that time.)

There was a time in the analog age when filters were made of glass and attached to the front of your lens. They came in various colors; polarizing versions eliminated glare and others provided special effects. For large lenses, the filters could be very expensive. Today most of these effects can be provided by software after the picture is taken - polarizing is a notable exception. Not only are software filters much less expensive, you can experiment with different filters and different settings instead of selecting one or two filters and snapping a picture on film - never to be altered again.
Photo Studio (iPad and iPhone) and Perfect Photo (iPhone) are two apps with a collection of filters and other effects.

Photo Delight

Two things you almost always need to do to improve any photo are light adjustments and cropping. There are some apps that perform just those basic functions but many more powerful apps also include those functions.

Auto Adjust is an iPad app that concentrates on these basic functions.
Filterstorm and PS Express provide a much wider range of adjustments.
Photogene on the other hand provides numerous special effects without the basic lighting and cropping features.

For just plain fun, it's hard to beat Framed, Alien Booth and Photogoo. With the latter two you can waste hours making "interesting" pictures of your friends and family. Framed allows you to put your friends on TV, in a museum or on a milk carton among other places.

Finger Design does not process images but allows you to easily make a collage from your photos - original or edited versions. You can quickly select a background and arrange and resize any number of photos for display.

Finally, remember to check out my list of favorite apps and the places you can go to find apps.

How Shelf Space Limits Apple Competitors

On a recent visit to Best Buy one thing was striking in the technology area. Apple signs and Apple products were everywhere. There were iMacs, iPhones, iPods and iPads in several different areas surrounded by accessories of all kinds. As I was about to walk away I saw two competing tablets hidden away on a three foot section of shelf space. One was the recently released Motorola Xoom and the other was the slightly older Samsung Galaxy Tab. I decided to give both of these Android based tablets a try.

The Xoom is similar in size to the iPad and it started up quickly and offered a similar but sparse display. Of the few apps available I selected one of the three games. Upon start up I was told I needed to download a large file so I tapped OK and the progress bar indicated it was downloading. Only a minute later, it stopped and said I needed to start over again. I tried it again with the same frustrating result and gave up.

It's hard to believe but the experience with the Galaxy Tab was worse. It has a smaller but similar screen and when I pushed the start button, a message said I needed to go through a setup process; apparently it had never been used. When I started the process, I heard a sound reminiscent of a modem dialing for a connection and a minute later it reported an error and I had to start over. I tried that with the same result and gave up.

From all reports both of these are great tablets but my experience was discouraging to say the least. I certainly wouldn't draw major conclusions about the devices from this simple test. The fact that these devices were almost invisible among the Apple products was far more telling. These companies and a hoard of other tablet makers have a long struggle ahead to be recognized by the general public as competitors to the iPad and iPhone; limited shelf space at major retailers will be a huge barrier.