Fixing pictures on your phone has become a pretty big deal lately. Big players like Facebook and Twitter are starting to bundle photo filter and adjustment tools into their apps, but there’s still a home for the dedicate photography app. There are a ton of popular ones that continue to thrive and offer armchair photographers the opportunity to share some really slick shots. As a point of comparison, I’ll be using three pictures and sending them through each of the apps to give you an idea of what to expect: one portrait, one close-up, and one landscape shot. Here are the originals.
So, in order of personal preference, my top photograph editing apps are...
Snapseed is my top pick for post-processing apps on Android. It has a really innovative and natural-feeling user interface that relies on horizontal and vertical swipes. Pinch gestures allow for fairly localized adjustments, which is something you hardly see in other photo editing apps. There are a few creative filters, but not an avalanche of them, and they’re all cleanly categorized for easy access. I gotta say, it's a great thing that Google acquired the developer, because I'd love to see Snapseed functions loaded in the native Android camera or gallery app.
Camera Zoom FX has a really slick Holo-style theme and acts as a great default camera replacement by leaping right into shooting mode from the get-go. Filters are busted up into sensible, easy-to-access categories, or you can screw around and make your own manually then save them as favorites. If that’s not enough for you, you can also download additional “goodies” from Google Play which further expand what’s available in Camera Zoom FX. Some are free, some aren’t, but the fact that they aren’t in-app purchases is really helpful for seeing what’s actually included.
The user interface for CameraMX is generally pretty usable, though the effects pane is a little cramped and for some reason it needs you to register an account to access certain filters. I do like that every effect has a slider so you can adjust the intensity of each one individually. The standard adjustments are similar, and cover the usual ropes such as contrast, saturation, white balance, and all the rest. Best of all, you can get a live preview of what the effects will look like before you start hitting the shutter button.
Perfectly Clear is less about filters as it is about correction. You won’t find anything especially artsy here, but there are a ton of practical, adjustable alterations here, such as skin smoothing, eye enhancements, and a very cool before and after slider that lets you quickly see just how much your original photo has changed. Overall, PerfectlyClear does a great job on portraits specifically, and the before/after slider is extremely useful in knowing if you're getting a good bang for buck.
Aviary is the engine that Twitter has picked to power their photo adjustment, and it’s easy to see why. The stand-alone app has a large, finger-friendly user interface that’s easy to navigate. Premium themed content packs are available for those that want to expand the selection of filters and adjustments available, but those in the free version should be enough to get you started. If you feel like getting goofy, there are stickers, drawing, and text which can be overlaid on your photos. A redeye, tooth whitening, and manual blemish remover make Aviary just about as well-suited to portraits as Perfectly Clear.
PicsArt has a bunch of dramatic, highly adjustable filters available. Most of the effects have two, if not three sliders which you can tweak to suit your taste, and full-screen filters and borders can be switched between a variety of different additive effects, such as screen, overlay, darken, or multiply. Many effects can be painted in to specific areas with a brush, and color pickers are available at just about every turn, though there’s plenty of goofier stuff too, such as clipart, stickers, drawing, and talk bubbles.
The classic photo filter app still does very well for itself, even with a whole slew of pretenders to the throne. Instagram’s biggest selling point remains its social angle (and will continue to be now that Facebook owns it), but the filters it has to offer remain very nice. The UI and animations while navigating Instagram on Android are make the experience an absolute pleasure. Of course, you’ll have to deal with your photo’s aspect ratio being cropped into a square, but for many, this is their primary way of sharing pictures out to the world.
The original photo editing app is available in two formats, though only one of them is smartphone-friendly. Photoshop Express is free, fast to process, and has all of the important adjustment tools you would need to have to fine-tune your pictures. There are easy-to-access undo and redo buttons so you can bounce between your edits very easily. There are a handful of creative filters available too, but the main focus of Photoshop Express is to be fast and clutter-free. Of course, it helps that Photoshop Express plugs in pretty seamlessly to other Adobe properties, including the desktop client and cloud service. If you're looking for something more full-bodied, be sure to try out Photoshop Touch for tablets.
Vingette is meant more as a photographing app, with lots of tools available available to apply effects directly after shooting, but you can also share shots from your device's photo gallery to do some post-processing later on. Vingette offers a ton of different filter options, and includes many preloaded collections. Many of them play around with aspect ratio in some interesting ways, such as providing presets for Google+ and Facebook cover images, in addition to providing the more traditional adjustments, such as contrast, brightness, and saturation. The UI is fairly bare-bones and more text-heavy than a photography app should be, but the sheer amount of customizability options makes up for the stark navigation.
The one thing Pixlr-o-matic has going for it is sheer volume of filters and effects you can add to pictures. There aren’t a lot of options as far as classic photography adjustments go, but between the three separate types of filters, you will not be hurting for quick and easy options to spruce up your next profile picture. You may want to also check out Pixlr Express, which has more of a focus on fine tuning than filters.
Honorable mention: Paper Camera, because it's just so darned cute.
There are plenty of other photography apps out there in Google Play - what are your favorites? How much post-processing do you put into the photos that you share from your phone?