Friday, 18 March 2011

My Top-five photo-editing apps for smartphones

These apps put a picture-editor in your pocket

They bring sophisticated photo-editing and darkroom effects within the range of the complete novice.

I’ve been playing around with a range of photo-editing apps recently, and I’m impressed with what you can do in terms of creating photo panoramas, adding effects, frames and combining individual photos in a clean and elegant picture layout or grid.

It means you can create some very professional effects without any photographic knowledge at all – apart from having an eye for a good shot. After that the apps take over, turning your snap into something that wouldn’t embarrass the pages of a glossy mag, let alone a web page
Not all the apps do all of these things, most go for one aspect of picture editing and publishing, so you can use them best in combination, as I'll demonstrate below.
Because I use an iPhone, and believe it’s the best phone for journalism, my list is slanted towards that phone, but some of the apps are available for Android as well, and if they aren’t I’ve tried to identify a reasonable alternative.

1 Autostitch

Autostitch automatically recognises matching images – that is, images where some of the same information is contained in them. So if you take a series of pictures that overlap by about a third, Autostitch turns them into a complete panorama, which it builds with no input from you.
Perfect when you’ve got a line up of people to shoot, or a panoramic landscape, or if you simply want to take several shots of part of the scene you wish to capture and have the app knit those elements together.
So you can use it simply to make up for the narrow lens angle achievable on the smartphone own lens
Here’s a simple panorama:
 Here'a scene that wouldn’t fit in one frame

I've left the borders as they are, but Autostich has a cropping tool so you can tidy the image up if you like.
You can also get creative with Autostitch. You can trick it, by loading pictures that while covering the same scene, don’t all overlap and have key elements of the scene in different places:
For instance, there is only one stone pillar in the middle of this labyrinth, but because I shot about 15 pictures, not all of which overlap, several viewpoints combine and it looks like
there are several ghostly pillars
Likewise, there is only one statue of Elgar, and one rock obelisk, in this park in Malvern. But notice how the shops in the background ahve bene stitched perfectly, because this element of my photos had enough common data for Autostitch to do its job:
 Likewise, there's only one cat, and he wasn't moving fast at all:

 You'll find a demonstration of my other four top photo-editing apps at the MMJ website:

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