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Pictures & Photos

In terms of photo styling, I’ve always been a purist. I have a passionate dislike of HDR (other than when it is a necessity of commercial photography), and I think Instagram‘s filters ruin every image they are applied to. In photographic terms, I believe that a great image is taken with a lens, not constructed with an app.

But that’s not to say that all styling is bad. The subtler effects of Vignette can bring out the natural tones in a beautiful landscape, and many folks add nicely designed overlays to their images to create a kind of photo-based artwork. I’m averse to neither technique.

So PicLab looks — from its Play Store description, at least – like my type of photo app. With a focus on text and image overlays, rather than filtering, it’s clear that this image styler is aimed at classy presentation. Does it have the quality to be a worthwhile download, though?

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If there’s one app category that seems more inventive than any other to me, it’s the camera app. I know what you’re all thinking: this can’t be the case. After all, mobile photography is pretty simple — take a picture, throw on a filter, and then move on with your life. For me, it’s not that simple. I love trying out new apps and seeing what they’re capable of, and if they line up with my personal philosophy for photography.

So what is my personal philosophy? I like to take slightly over-exposed photographs that are warmer in colour temperature. I prefer shooting in digital, but work hard in post to make sure my pictures look like film artefacts. For my DSLR, I’m always trying out new workflows but don’t move too far from my time-proven Aperture workhorse on my Mac. On my iPhone and Nexus 4, I dig Instagram for its social features. VSCO has some great filters for both desktop photo editors and mobile apps too. Is there space in my life for Camera Awesome, the latest mobile photography app to take the Android ecosystem by storm? Read on to find out.

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The recent release of the Nexus 5 marked an important landmark in Android phoneography. The physical camera hardware in Google’s latest flagship phone is not a great improvement on the Nexus’ predecessor, but the overall photographic quality of the new handset, particularly after the 4.4.1 software update, shows that Google is taking mobile photography seriously. At last.

Developers are playing their part, too. Both Android-specific apps, such as Vignette, and iOS imports, such as PicLab, provide good quality, classy editing options on an OS that only had Instagram to play with, not so long ago.

But now, things have gone up another level. VSCO Cam, the self-proclaimed “standard of mobile photography” has exited private beta, and it is now ready to bring its comprehensive adjustments and subtle retro cool to our side of the mobile divide. But can this legend of iPhoneography successfully make the transition to Android?

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As an exponent of photography in a professional capacity, I just like taking photographs, no matter what the equipment in my hand may be, and that includes my phone. Unlike many of my iOS-owning counterparts, however, the range of high quality Androidography apps at my disposal is pretty small. This, in essence, can be attributed to the two main general deficiencies Android is trying to overcome — hardware, and third party apps. For many years, the photographic hardware with which Android handsets have been equipped has been inferior to Apple’s technologies, and, as a result, many development companies haven’t felt the need to bring their best products over to our mobile community.

Thankfully, things are changing. Both Samsung and HTC nowadays produce handsets which can photographically mix it with the best, and developers are responding; take the example of VSCO Cam, the self-proclaimed “Standard of Mobile Photography,” which is now currently in beta testing on Android.

Another promising new iOS-derived arrival into the world of Androidography apps is Repix. With a sleek design and a heavy bias towards stylizing, it has the usual ingredients of any self respecting Instagram-inspired photographic offering; but does it have the killer features to elevate it above the competition?

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So, you are sitting there, flicking through the latest images in your Facebook, Instagram, or Flickr timeline. Some of the photos fit into “human interest” – these photos usually include someone else’s meal – and others are mediocre views of a sunset from the inside of a car. On the face of it, you’d think that these pictures have little in common. Look and think again, though, and you will realize that there is a theme which runs through vast swathes of the photos you see. That’s right, you’ve got it; filters. Photos, it would seem, are nowadays regarded as being dull unless they’ve been doused with a squeeze of zingy Lomography, or made musty with some aged, scratched, sepia.

This popularity, you would think, should drive innovation, and an improvement in the quality and diversity of the filter apps on offer. In reality, however, most apps are just happy to be regarded as competent Instagram clones. Not so with the new Android app Camera 2. Not only has the developer, JFDP Labs, packed 28 effects into its $2.99 offering, but it has also been brave enough to try something different – live, pre-capture filtering. Depending on your outlook, this either sounds like a brilliant, killer feature, or a fast-track route to mobile-computing meltdown. Let’s find out which it is…

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Google’s latest Android version 4.2 Jelly Bean brought a major upgrade to how our devices captured photos. In addition to still photos and panoramas, Google included a new feature called Photo Spheres. The technology allows users to take a 360-degree photo, bringing a whole new look to some familiar sights. The process is similar to panoramas in that the software takes multiple photos and then stitches them together using Google’s powerful recognition software. However, as the name suggests, the technology allows you to take a 360-degree view, something that panoramas don’t handle very nicely.

The major change with Photo Spheres is that they are unfortunately no longer a traditional image stretched out like panoramas are. By default, they are almost a video or an animated gif that rotates your view around the sphere. Because of this aspect, it has become rather difficult to properly share Photo Spheres in the format they are meant to be viewed in. It is important to note that you can get a flat copy of the photo to share through traditional channels, but it won’t provide the 360-degree feeling that they are meant to.

As it stands the most efficient way to share a Photo Sphere and maintain the 360-degree viewing rotation is through Google+. However, that limits you to only sharing with people that are in your circles and only being able to receive Photo Spheres from them as well. SphereShare aims to solve this by offering a service to share Photo Spheres with other users all around the world.

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Android owners are blessed with a great operating system, which many feel is better than iOS. I think even the most ardent Google fanboys would have to concede though, that photography is one area in which Apple’s App Store holds many of the trump cards. Whilst Instagram has made its way over to Android, many brilliant photographic apps like Afterlight and Hipstamatic have not.

Where Instagram leads, though, some others have followed, and with the increasing competence of Android device camera hardware, it’s little wonder that the quality of the photography section of the Google Play store is on the rise.

Looking to add to that trend is Camera360, which has just been updated to version 4, known as the Ultimate edition. Camera360 looks to provide a complete photographic package, from the taking of a photo through to sharing, with a few edits along the way.
But is it just another generic snap-and-filter affair? It’s time to find out…

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How can you not love Pixlr? I’m certainly a fan of the series of photo-editing apps. Originally, I was impressed by the desktop version of Pixlr-o-matic, and then by Pixlr’s free online Editor. Nowadays, however, Pixlr has moved with the times, and has added its own app, Pixlr Express, to the massed ranks of mobile editors available for download on both Android and iOS.

Pixlr Express is free in the Play Store, which is surprising, given its apparent wealth of features and editing competence. At the time of writing, well over ten million folks have installed this freebie, so the assumption is that Autodesk, the developer, is doing something right. Does Pixlr Express provide genuine competition to Adobe’s paid-for Photoshop Touch, or is the lack of price-tag attached to Pixlr Express indicative of a lack of quality? Time to find out…

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It would seem that there’s barely a man, woman, or child alive who doesn’t take and share pictures using their mobile phone. Yet how many of us properly edit images before sharing them online? I don’t mean warping the colours and applying a weird frame – I mean proper editing.

Judging by the deluge of grainy, uninteresting photos which seem to fill my timelines on a daily basis, I would suggest very little editing is going on. In the case of these snaps, though, the lack of editing is understandable. In other situations, however, it’s worth taking a bit more care – one look at the galleries of Kevin Russ or Chris Ozer is enough to illustrate what is possible with a photographically-proficient smartphone, a bit of skill and some mobile editing.

It is with these situations in mind that Adobe has created Photoshop Touch, which joins a very limited selection of heavyweight image editors on Android. The feature set is impressive on paper, but can the editing king of the desktop successfully make the leap to the small screen?

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This past Christmas, I bought my first DSLR — a Canon 550D. Since then I really haven’t put the camera down. And as well as experimenting with shooting, I’ve been constantly looking for apps on my Android device to link with photography. In fact, I found quite a lot of photography applications and each one services a different purpose. However, one caught my eye from the onset: DSLR Controller.

As the name suggests,DSLR Controller allows you to control nearly every element of your DSLR. This is one of the most exciting apps I’ve used all year, so read on to find out how powerful it actually is.

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