Five amazing black-and-white filters for the iPhone

Black-and-white has been synonymous with photography since its beginning when French inventor Nicéphore Niépce captured the View from the Window at La Gras in 1826. Even with the development of the first colour image in 1861, black-and-white continued to dominate for many years.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that colour became the norm when Kodak and Agfa both released colour films. However, black-and-white still continues to be popular – the advent of digital, far from ending the era of black-and-white, has to some degree made it more popular than ever with black-and-white filters.

First Photoshop then other image editing applications made it a simple process to convert colour to black-and-white. iPhone apps, such as Hipstamatic and Instagram, have also incorporated ready-made monochrome filters into their apps.

It is easier than ever to snap a black-and-white image. But with some many smartphone photography apps featuring a plethora of monochrome filters, which ones give the best results?

Here, I’m going to look at five of the best black-and-white filters that you can apply to your images on the iPhone. They’re taken from some of the most popular apps available. Some are only available as an in-app purchase, but they worth more than the tiny download price for making your images really stand out.

Black-and-white filters in iOS 7

Black-and-white ios 7 filter

A black-and-white image created using iOS 7’s photo filters

Since the iOS 7 update last September, it became well-known among smartphone photographers that Apple had added filters to the iPhone’s camera. However, what isn’t so much talked about is that the same filters can be accessed via the iPhone’s Camera Roll, now just called Photos.

Select a photo and tap Edit in the top-right corner, then tap the filters icon (three overlapping circles at the bottom of the menu) to display the range of filters. There are three black-and-white filters:

    Mono – this removes all the colour, but makes no other adjustments.
    Tonal – this removes all the colour saturation and boosts the brightness and contrast slightly.
    Noir – this is the most striking black-and-white filter. It adjusts the levels, brightness and contrast, producing a stark contrast between the blacks and whites.

Black-and-white ios 7 filters

Tap the filters icon, which is in the middle of the menu at the bottom of the screen, then swipe left to right to view the filters.

Which filter you choose will depend upon the image. Mono produces what I would describe as a more classic black-and-white image, while Tonal has a bit more detail in the grey. With the right photo, Noir can produce some amazing images, but choose carefully as some can end up looking over-processed.

Black-and-white filters in Hipstamatic and Oggl

Hipstamatic and Oggl' black-and-white filters

Hipstamatic and Oggl have some of the most dynamic black-and-white filters available to smartphone photographers.

Hipstamatic, arguably the daddy of all iPhone photo filters, having been one of the first apps on the iPhone to feature them, has a huge array of black-and-white effects. Some come as standard while others can be added as in-app purchases.

There was a downside to Hipstamatic, however, that once you’d taken an image there was no chance to switch to another filter. Oggl , the photo-sharing app from the Hipstamatic team, changes all that as the filters can be switched at any stage in the image editing process. Take a photo and you can swipe through the app’s different “films” and “lenses” to find the best combination for your image.

A pleasing black-and-white combination in Oggl is the Wonder lens and D-Type Plate film. This produces a striking old-world feel to an image. It’s particularly suited for portraits, although it works equally well with landscapes.

Hipstamatic and Oggl's black-and-white filters

Select and image and swipe through Oggl’s ‘films’ and ‘lenses’ to find the perfect combination for your image.

Black-and-white filters in Snapseed

Snapseed's black-and-white filter

Snapseed’s black-and-white filter is highly customisable.

Snapseed is one of the more capable image editors available for the iPhone and its black-and-white filter gives you considerable control over how your finished image looks.

Select an image and choose Black & White. Then swipe up an down on the image to call up the adjustment tools – you have Brightness, Contrast and Grain from which to choose.

Snapseed's black-and-white filter

Chose the black-and-white filter in Snapseed, then tap and drag upwards to reveal filter’s editing tools

Select one of these options and then swipe right or left to increase or decrease the effect – Snapseed displays a plus or minus number above the image as a guide to the effects intensity. Then swipe up to select another option. It’s so simple to use, yet you have a lot of control over how the finished image will look.

Black-and-white filters in Flickr

Flickr's black-and-white filter Noir

Flickr has three black-and-white filters, but Noir is by fat the most strking.

This is one of my all-time favourites. In the past year or so, the Flickr app has undergone a complete overhaul and is now one of the essentials for the smartphone photographers. Tap the Camera icon at the bottom of the screen to access your photo library, then select the image you want to edit.

Noir is found under the Filter icon and is near the end of line of effects. Tap Noir to apply the filter to your image. It’s an extreme black-and-white filter with high contrast, so you image will look incredibly stark.

Flickr's black-and-white filter, Noir

Tap Flickr’s Noir black-and-white filter to apply it then tap it again to call up a set of filter adjustment tools.

Tap the Noir filter again and it will flip around to reveal further options that you can apply to the image. You can apply a Vignette, Tilt Shift (two types), Burst, Worn. The last two add light leaks and scratches to your image to give it a more analogue feel. Noir might not be for every, but with the right image you can certainly create a very distinctive photo.

Black-and-white filters in Simply B&W

Simply B&W's black-and-white filters

Simply B&W is a dedicated black-and-white app for the iPhone.

There are several dedicated black-and-white photo apps available for the iPhone, but Simply B&W is one of easiest to use. Simply B&W takes its inspiration from the coloured lens filters used by film photographers to alter the contrast when shooting with black-and-white film.

You can either take an image from within the app or select one from the photo library. The controls are very simple. On the right you select the coloured filter – each one has a description of the effect it produces.

The centre icon enables you to apply a vignette and border to the image, while the icon on the right displays the adjustment tools for Brightness, Contrast and Grain.

Simply B&W's black-and-white filters

Simply B&W’s black-and-white filters are based on the coloured lens filters associated with traditional film photography.

The tools are basic, but give sufficient control over most aspects of the image. And it’s possible with a little trial and error to produce some striking black-and-white images with the app.

Black-and-white filters: conclusion

Despite being surrounded by colour, black-and-white photography is most definitely here to stay. But with so many apps and editors around, it pays to experiment to find the filter that works best for your style.

Hopefully these will point you in the right direction as you delve deeper in the possibilities offered by smartphone photography.

Do you have any favourite black-and-white filters? Let me know in the comments below.

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Why selfies matter, and not just for the narcissistic

If 2013 was the year that selfies went mainstream, then 2014 will go down as the year when it was first televised.

Selfies are now official, endorsed by celebrities and TV networks. Selfies are no longer the preserve of teens intent on snapping themselves amidst the devastation of their bedrooms. Celebrities (or wannabes) had got in on the act, photographing their pre-awards show outfits, their ample behinds or make-up free faces.

Even prominent politicians have been unable to resist the urge to jump on the latest zeitgeist with a group selfie at Mandela’s funeral.

Kick-started by the smartphone and aided by Instagram, selfies have broken out from the confines of Facebook and personal blogs to populate the mainstream areas of cyberspace and enter public consciousness.

Selfies hit the news

The word ‘selfie’ was duly added to English dictionaries, and, at some point in 2013, the media picked up on the selfie sensation. Newspapers and news websites discovered that there were clicks to be had if they featured stories on selfies, particularly, but not exclusively, when celebrities were involved.

They quickly latched on to the word, cramming it into every conceivable headline imaginable.

But to justify this exposure the media also needed an angle, so journalists and columnists were despatched to scour Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram for selfies. Anything that could form the basis of a story on the selfie, no matter how tenuous the connection, was immediately seized upon.

Ever so quickly the media found its calling – the selfie, in fact, heralded the end of civilisation as we know it. Cue an outpouring of mock concern as commentators launched attacks on the selfie generation. That the selfie is destroying your relationships.

And if that was not enough – and the world didn’t, in fact, end – then the fad must be over, with some foretelling its imminent demise.

The selfie was every where. To selfie or not to selfie, became the overriding question in the newspapers.

The history of selfies

But let’s take a step back from all this media hype. The selfie is nothing new. It’s been around much longer than the smartphone. A lot longer. In fact, the selfie has been around almost as long as photography itself. And if you look beyond photography then you could argue that the selfie goes back even further.

American photographic pioneer Robert Cornelius is credited as the first person to take a selfie back in 1839. In those days he making daguerrotypes, a photographic process that exposed a highly polished silver surface to light.

It was also, coincidentally, one of the first recorded photographs of a person that has survived to this day. Although only a small number of people would have actually seen his selfie at the time, one can imagine that it would have been greeted with a degree of wonder.

But the story of the selfie didn’t end there, only to be resurrected years later with the smartphone. The selfie pioneers were the early photographers, whether through experimentation with photographic techniques or self-promotion, but there are many self-portraits that survive today, revealling a face behind the camera.

With advancements in photographic equipment, very soon everyone was at it, or least those rich enough and with time to spare to master the photographic technique.

The debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900 led to more people exploring the creative possibilities of photographic self-portraiture. Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was possibly the first teenager to take a self-portrait in 1914.

Aged 13, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna took the photo using a Kodak Brownie camera and a mirror. She sent the image to a friend, writing: “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”

The photographic self-portrait had established itself in the mindset of amateur photographers around the world.

Evolution of selfies

As more people came to own film cameras, the selfie too evolved. American artist Andy Warhol was an avid taker of selfies.

Warhol’s preferred medium for selfies was the Polaroid camera. He was part of a select group that had access to one of only five 20×24 Polaroid cameras in existence when they were made in the 1970s. Warhol’s 1986 self-portrait is now often used to typify the work of the artist, having been reproduced many times.

You can see the Polaroid camera that Warhol used in the this portrait of the artist by photographer Bill Ray.

The selfie by German artist Astrid Kirchherr, who at one time dated the fifth Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe is another well-known selfie.

In the image, taken in 1960, Kirchherr’s reflection is framed by the mirror, while twigs intrude upon the portrait, giving an unnatural feel to her portrait. Kirchherr’s gaze is expressionless and enigmatic, the camera and shutter release cable clearly visible, suggesting complicity with the creation of the photograph.

Some photographers have even built a career out of the selfie, such as Cindy Sherman. Sherman dresses up as different characters and personalities, creating a story round the photograph.

Talking about her photographs, Sherman explained to the New York Times in 1990: “I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they aren’t self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear.”

In other words a selfie that is not a selfie because Sherman no longer recognises herself to the subject of the image.

The selfie had become an art form. And there is might have stayed if it hadn’t been for the development of the digital camera and, ultimately, the smartphone, which combined to send the selfie into the stratosphere.

Selfies and the smartphone

The first consumer-level digital camera that was released onto the market is usually regarded to be the QuickTake 100 in 1994. The Apple camera could store up to 32 images at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels or eight 640 x 480 pixel images and it cost £535 ($749).

The first salvo in the digital camera revolution had been fired. Companies more associated with photography than Apple, like Kodak, Fujifilm, Canon, and Nikon, quickly entered the market. Apple shelved the QuickTake in 1997 with the return of Steve Jobs.

Despite the increasing proliferation of digital cameras, the selfie was largely hidden from view and it was only as social network sites started their meteoric rise to dominate the internet that the selfie began to make a reappearance.

MySpace was the lead instigator. Between 2006 and 2009, the social network garnered a reputation for amateurish, flash-blinded self-portraits, often termed the “Myspace pic”, that were posted on garish profile pages by its predominantly teenager user base.

The Facebook user, generally considered to be university educated on account of its roots, shunned such photographic representation of their person as being too tacky. And as the contest between the two rival social networks swung decidedly in Facebook’s favour, the selfie might well have disappeared, hiding out in some distant corner of the internet.

Then in 2010 a new device was to change everything. Apple released the fourth generation of its iPhone, named the iPhone 4. And it had one feature that previous incarnations of the iPhone had lacked – a front-facing camera.

Apple’s iPhone had kick-started the smartphone revolution and the computer giant was still the dominant player in the market. The iPhone 4 was launched amidst a huge amount of hype and it quickly came to be the smartphone everyone wanted.

Other smartphone manufacturers followed suit and front-facing cameras became standard. And it was the front-facing camera that gave the selfie revolution renewed vigour. Now with the aid of the smartphone screen, selfie takers could see themselves as they took their portrait – selfies had until this point been hit and miss affairs.

The selfie taker could choose just the right facial expression for the moment to take their portrait and if they didn’t like it they could delete it and try again. The barriers to selfies had been blown apart. It was now easy than ever to take a self-portrait.

And with the coinciding rise of social media sites, more people than ever were able to post and share their selfies.

The selfie was now well on its inexorable rise to prominence.

Selfies are photographic democracy

The selfie was here to stay. And the media was having a field day. Yet, there was a sense that in the eyes of the media the selfie was just a fad, a passing phase that would soon evaporate and be consigned to the history books on photography and social media.

But is it possible that there is something more permanent about the act of taking a selfie? Instead of being a blip in the long history of self-portraiture in art and photography, perhaps it’s possible that the selfie has finally reached the pinnacle of its evolutionary cycle.

The selfie is every where, that much is true. But it’s much more than that. The selfie is now beginning to reveal its true power.

Earlier this year a campaign to raise money for a cancer charity went viral – it asked women to post a no-makeup selfie. The campaign raised more than £2 million.

The success of the campaign made the headlines and put a different spin on the much derided selfie.

It has also emerged that farmers around the world have been using felfies – a selfie snapped on the farm – to connect with the outside world.

For many farmers, the profession can be a solitary life and being able to connect with people while working is proving to be a vital lifeline. So much so that a blogger has been curating their felfies.

The selfie has become so much more than images snapped by teens to send to their friends. The selfie was attempting to make the world a better place – one snap at a time.

The selfie may have come about to satisfy the narcissistic tendencies of the human race. Yet, at the same time it has become a way for people to document their daily life. Psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz says: “If we take a ‘selfie’, we are documenting our life, creating a portrait-chronicle of time passing.”

Maybe the selfie has more to do with our sense of mortality than a superficial attempt to show off how cool we think we are. And it’s this need to confront our mortality that gives the selfie its power.

Technology has given people the tools to take selfies. And the selfie gives people complete control over how they are photographed. They can control when, where and how their selfies are taken. They can choose where and with whom to share their selfies, or they can choose not to.

The power is in the selfie takers hands. Selfie takers are able to dictate their own terms on how they are perceived by the wider public. Selfies show the true face of humanity in all its variety and forms, and on a scale never before witnessed.

For the first time, the average man or woman in the street can give their face to their voice. People at a demonstration against government cuts can show their displeasure with a selfie. While governments find it less easy to ignore a multitude of faces than it does with just a number. With the aid of selfies, faceless mob can become a representation of the people. A living, breathing mass of humanity, striving to make the world they live in a better place.

Selfie takers are no longer just a number, a statistic to appear in a government ledger. The act of sharing a selfie humanises the photographer. They can prove that they are flesh and blood, with their own individual emotions and passions. Not something to be dictated to or ignored.

The selfie is heralding a new age of democracy. An age when it’s not all about the numbers, but the people behind them. And you wonder why the UK government banned voting selfies, called boothies.

Governments find it much harder to control people when they are no longer just numbers. And selfies are able to usurp that statistic. Selfies can be the true face of democracy. And that is why the selfie is important. Why do you think totalitarians regimes are always so keen to restrict the use of social networks and internet connections.

What are your views of selfies? Do you think they are a valid form of expressionism or a blight on photography? Let me know in the comments below.

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Is Instagram as popular as everyone thinks it is?

With more than 200 million active users, Instagram is by far the most popular photo-sharing platform for smartphones. So it was no surprise that when both the app and website shut down on Saturday 12 April for a few hours enough of its users noticed.

They took to Twitter to express their disappointment/vent their spleen/rant, often with a heavy dose of humour.

The cause of the outage was explained at the time by Instagram, naturally via Twitter, as “a feed delivery issue”. That tweet has since been deleted. This follows on from an early problem a couple of weeks before where users noticed old photos appearing in their Instagram feed.

Once the platform was back up and running following the most recent outage, some users noticed that their follower count had been greatly reduced. Again they turned to the internet to find out why.

Certainly, after Instagram’s downtime I also noticed that my follower count had been reduced. For some their numbers were drastically down. If you already had a ton of followers then the fall in numbers might have barely registered but for others that had worked hard to build up a small following the results were stark. It felt like the morning after a wedding in Westeros.

Posted in Instagram’s help section is following advice on Follower/Following count. It had been last been updated on Monday 14 April.

My Follower/Following count isn’t accurate.
Some users may see their follower/following count change. We recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists, so you may notice a difference in count numbers.
Keep in mind that if your follower/following count is over 200, we’ll only show the most recent 200 followers or people followed in the list. If you have over 5,000 followers or are following more than 1,000 people and would like to view a complete list, we suggest visiting a third-party site that uses our API, like or
Last edited on Monday

It’s now clear that Instagram has been having a spring clean of its users base, removing inactive accounts. When they started to do this isn’t clear, but the one thing that is evident is the cull has of inactive users from the follower/following count has been a recent occurrence.

Then in the past couple of weeks, if you logged onto Instagram, you may have seen this message at the top of the Following section.

The Instagram message informing users about the changes to their follower/following counts.

The Instagram message informing users about the changes to their follower/following counts.

It states:

Changes in followers
We’ve removed deactivated and spam accounts. Your list of followers and people you follow may have changed.

However – and this is only anecdotal and may only have affected long-term users of Instagram, such as myself – judging by the number of followers that some users have lost, it does point to the platform having lost a significant number of users since its launch. And this is despite Instagram continuing its upward projection in users, passing the 200 million milestone in March of this year.

If you’re wondering how Instagram determines an inactive profiles, it has this to say on its website .

What’s Instagram’s inactive username policy?
We encourage people to actively log in and use Instagram once they create an account. To keep your account active, be sure to log in and share photos, as well as like and comment on photos. Accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity, so please use your account once you sign up!

There is no indication of how much time has to pass since the last login before an account is considered inactive. But again looking at some of the people I follow (who I know personally, but haven’t done anything with their account since opening it) and whose accounts haven’t been deleted, it seems to be a considerably long time.

Whether the outage was the result of a glitches caused by Instagram’s spring clean or completely unrelated, it’s difficult to say, but one thing has become clear, and is something that seasoned Instagrammers have known for a while, that the photo-sharing site was rife with fake/spam accounts; and had been from since its earliest days.

Which begs the question if there are a lot of inactive or spam accounts, then how many active users does Instagram really have? And can the headline figure announced in March really be trusted?

While for many users, the effect of these bogus accounts hasn’t been an issue. Unlike Twitter, where you would often receive spam DMs, there wasn’t the ability to contact other Instagram users direct until the update towards the end of last year. Maybe Instagram has plans to up the functionality of its inbuilt direct messaging service and wanted to remove as many spam accounts as it could before doing so.

Although on the scale of disasters, the loss of followers is unlikely to dissuade Instagrammers from using the app, the comments left by users over this sudden culling of followers and the unexpected downtime does point to a growing sense of impatience with the photo-sharing platform.

Social networks’ life and blood is their user base, and if this declines then, well, you only have to look at MySpace to see the results. And the fall from grace can be swift and, leaving the site little more than a ghost town.

And lest we forget, Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram back in April 2012 and the site is still to give any return on investment, despite various reports about Instagram carrying adverts.

As yet, Instagram’s owners, Facebook, are still to make any definitive move on the monetisation front.

But what does all this mean for Instagram?

When the financial crisis of 2007/08 hit, one of the reasons for propping up beleaguered banks was that they were too big to fail, does the same now apply to social networks?

I’m not saying that Instagram is about in implode, but could Instagram be past its best? From the outside, as an Instagrammer, the reigning king of photo-sharing platforms doesn’t seem quite so secure sitting on its Pixel Throne. And while we’re a long way from the photo-sharing market descending into Game Of Thrones-style wholesale bloodshed, the signs of unrest from the small folk are growing.

And is this world, when the small folk grow restless you can be assured that Instagram rivals will be sharpening their blades, and if they scent blood then they could actively court Instagrammers to lure them away from the platform.

So far rivals have attempted to create a distinction from Instagram with their features but if they decide to proactively court Instagram users then they might deliberately start to mimic the better features of Instagram. Expect the contest between photo-sharing platforms to hot up as the year progresses.

What do you think? Has Instagram had its day? What other photo-sharing apps do you use? Let me know in the comments below.

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Six troubleshooting tips for photo apps that crash on the iPhone

Imagine the scene, you’ve just seen something that would make a great photo and is sure to get hundreds if not thousands of likes on Instagram, yet when you tap the iPhone’s shutter button nothing happens. The app refuses to function and no amount of finger tapping will make it work.

There can be many causes for the these glitches, from he processor being overworked with lots of apps to a recent iOS update that has resulted in an app becoming unstable.

It’s an all-to-common experience. Despite the iPhone’s simplicity of use, apps can still crash. And while it can be frustrating, there a few things that you can do to resolve the issue and hopefully let you carry on shooting.

If a favourite app crashes or refuses to operate they way it should, try using some of the following troubleshooting tips to make the app perform as it should.

Troubleshooting tip 1: Quit non-essential app

The first troubleshooting tip is the easiest and should free up some of the iPhone’s processor power. Simply closing an app on the iPhone doesn’t necessarily mean that the app has stopped running – many apps continue to run in the background, taking up precious processor power as well as draining the battery.

Reducing the number of apps that you have open should help the app that you want to use run more smoothly, so try closing all non-essential apps on the iPhone.

To close an app, double press the Home button then swipe upwards.

To close an app, double press the Home button then swipe upwards.

To do this, simply double press the Home button – all the apps that are running will appear in a horizontal line. Swipe through these apps from left to right, and when you come across an app that you want to quit, swipe upwards. Press the Home button to return to the normal app screen.

Troubleshooting tip 2: Force quit the app

Likewise, if the app in question keeps stalling or crashing when you try to perform a particular action, then you can force quit the app. The remedy is the same as troubleshooting tip 1 – double press the Home button, swipe horizontally to find the photo app then swipe upwards to close it.

Press the Home button to return to the normal app screen, then tap the troublesome app to open it. The app should then perform as intended. If it doesn’t then you go on to troubleshooting tip 3.

Troubleshooting tip 3: Free up memory

Taking a lot of photos on your iPhone can quickly consume memory, particularly if you also store music and video on your device. And some photo apps will start to behave temperamentally when the iPhone’s storage space becomes full.

A rough guideline is to try to keep about 500MB to 1GB free on your iPhone as this keeps enough room for apps to store data, such as photos, without you worrying about crashes.

If your iPhone’s memory becomes full to bursting and a photo app starts to play up, the solution is to simply delete some content on your iPhone. You may want to back up your iPhone first, but if you’re out and about, then a good solution is to back up some photos to a cloud storage service like Dropbox and then delete them from the iPhone’s Camera Roll.

Save photos to a free cloud service like Dropbox before deleting them.

Save photos to a free cloud service like Dropbox before deleting them.

If you’ve set up Apple’s Photostream, then images that are deleted from the Camera Roll will still be on the cloud service and available to download to your computer at a later date. To delete images, tap the Photos icon then tap the Select icon. Tap all the images that you would like delete then tap the Trash icon at the bottom of the screen.

Troubleshooting tip 4: Turn off the iPhone

If an app still isn’t work, then it’s time to perform the tried-and-tested solution to many IT problems – turn off the iPhone. To do this press and hold the wake button, which is at the top of the handset, until you get the ‘Slide to power off’ warning. Then simply swipe to turn off the iPhone.

Press and hold the Wake button at the top of the iPhone to shut down the device.

Press and hold the Wake button at the top of the iPhone to shut down the device.

Wait for the iPhone to switch itself off, then wait for a further 30 to 60 seconds before turning it back on. This clears the iPhone’s processor of data and should remove any temporary glitches in the iOS.

Once you’re back up and running, open the app and it should be working as intended.

Troubleshooting tip 5: Perform a soft reset

If turning off the iPhone doesn’t resolve your app issue, then it’s time to try a soft reset. This will reboot your iPhone. The process takes slightly longer for the iPhone to warm up than the process mentioned above.

Press and hold the Wake button and the Home button for about 10-20 seconds to perform a soft reset.

Press and hold the Wake button and the Home button for about 10-20 seconds to perform a soft reset.

Press and hold the wake button and the home button at the same time for about 10 to 20 seconds, until the Apple symbol appears. Wait while the iPhone reboots itself before turning back on. Once the iPhone has been through the entire process, any troublesome apps should have sited themselves out.

Troubleshooting tip 6: Delete and reinstall the app

If none of these tips work, then the final solution is to delete and reinstall the app.

To delete an app, press and hold any app on the Home screen until all them begin to jiggle. Find the app you want to delete and tap the cross that is now displayed in the top-left corner. The app is then removed from the iPhone, plus any of its settings.

Tap and hold any app until they all jiggle, then tap the cross to delete an app from your iPhone.

Tap and hold any app until they all jiggle, then tap the cross to delete an app from your iPhone.

To reinstall the app, go to the App Store and either type the app’s name into the search field or go to updates and tap on Purchased and select Not on this iPhone to show all the apps that you have acquired but are no longer on the device.

Tap the cloud button next to it download it to the iPhone. Any apps that you have previously paid for will not be charged to your iTunes again.

After all that if the app still refuses to function normally, then it’s possible that the app is no longer suitable for the iOS version installed on your iPhone. The app may need to be updated by the developers.

If the app isn’t updated then it’s likely that it is no longer supported and has gone to the great app graveyard in the cloud. The only solution then is to delete the app permanently from your iPhone and hunt down another that has the same set of features and functions.

Do you have any troubleshooting tips for dealing with flaky iPhone apps? Let me know in the comments below.

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Flickr gives its mobile app a radical makeover to take on Instagram

The people at Flickr have been busy. Barely 16 months after releasing version 2 of their smartphone app, the development team at the Yahoo!-owned photo site have been at it again, releasing version 3 on the iTunes and Google Play Stores in mid-April.

Version 3 of Flickr does not represent any old incremental update; the app has been completely redesigned and rebuilt, providing a streamlined interface and a greater focus on social networking.

If version 2 of Flickr took the app closer to Instagram territory, version 3 reveals Yahoo!’s firm intent to grow Flickr into one of the major players in photo-sharing on mobile devices, and possibly take a huge slice of Instagram’s market share.

A brief history of Flickr

Despite Flickr having had an iPhone app since 2009, a full year before Instagram launched, the photo-sharing site gave off the impression that the smartphone platform was something of an afterthought.

The app was essentially a way for Flickr’s users to access the website from their iPhone. It offered little in the way of features or innovation of the mobile space for smartphone users. Users could post images to their Flickr profile as well as view images, but both functions had been poorly thought out. The app didn’t possess any editing functions while the social networking side was rudimentary at best.

The app languished on the iPhone for another three years with little improvement, despite Flickr deciding to venture onto Android smartphones as well.

Then in December 2012, Flickr took a notable step and completely overhauled its mobile apps, releasing version 2 with an updated interface, access to the full capabilities of Flickr’s groups and the inclusion of 16 photo filters, something akin to Instagram’s.

Over the next eight months there followed a series of updates that added more functionality to the apps, culminating with the release of a major update in August 2013 (you can read my review of that version here).

The August 2013 ditched the original filters and replaced them with a new range that had a degree of customisability to suit your needs. Flickr also added a professional set of editing tools to adjust your images.

Now version 3 of Flickr has refocused the app with a greater emphasis on social networking, giving users an experience that is more similar those those in other photo-sharing apps. Both the Android and iOS version have received the makeover treatment.

Flickr’s new interface

Flickr 3.0’s interface is much more refined than the previous two incarnations. Open the app and you’re presented with images from those people that you are following. Drag down to reveal a search field at the top of the screen, where you can type in a term to find images on Flickr. Next to this is a compass, tap it and you are shown a set of images selected by Flickr.

Flickr’s opening screen and search field

Open Flickr and the app shows images of the people whom you are following. Drag down to reveal Flickr’s search field. The compass shows images of note as chosen by the Flickr crew.

At the bottom are options to use the smartphone’s camera and access to your profile. The picture icon (highlighted in blue) will return you to this image feed from other areas in the app.

The interface is very stylish, using a black background with icons in white outlines and a blue used as the highlight colour. The image timeline is more in line with other photo-sharing apps, and looks like a more credible rival to the one offered by Instagram.

You can Fave, Comment and Share the images that appear in your Flickr feed. Tap an image and it fills the smartphone’s screen – an additional icon appears that gives access to the image’s metadata, such as licensing, number of views and capture device. To return to the feed either tap the cross icon or simply swipe upwards to slot the image back in the image feed.

In profile mode, you can see all your images, albums and groups if you belong to any. You can join my Flickr group – HipstaGeneration – here .

Flickr’s profile page and settings

The Profile page shows your image and the groups, if you’re a member of any. Tap the Settings icon in the top-right corner to access Flickr’s settings.

Here you can also view Flickr’s alerts and search your photos. You also have access to Flickr’s setting by tapping the cog icon in the top-left corner.

In camera mode, the streamlined theme continues. There are familiar options to set the flash and switch cameras. You also have access to the smartphone’s photo library and can switch between stills and video via a ring option round the shutter button.

There are also the filters, which were introduced in August 2013. These are live and can be used to see how they will affect the image before you tap the shutter button.

If you swipe to the left, a series of grids overlay the screen to aid your composition. There is a good selection, which should be of help for most smartphone photographers.

Once you’ve taken a photo, you have access to Flickr’s powerful set of editing tools. Again the interface is much simplified – there’s the enhance option, cropping tool and the filters (even though you might have applied a filter before you took the image you can still change it in editing mode).

Importantly, it’s here that you can adjust the effects of each filter – simple tap the filter again and swipe up through the various options. Flickr’s filters each have the ability to apply a vignette, tilt-shift, light bursts and scratches to the image.

Flickr’s filters and the customisable options

Flickr’s excellent range of filters has made the transition to the updated app. The filters are customisable, simply tap the filter and then swipe down to go through the various options.

Tap the more icon (shown by three dots) and you have access to four further tool categories. The first group gives you tools to adjust the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Exposure and White Balance. The second enables you to adjust the Colour Balance with a set of sliders for Red, Green and Blue. The third option is for Levels, which is very a Photoshoppy tool to include. And the last option here is the Sharpen tool, which is a simple slider.

Tap Next in the top-corner and you’re taken to the sharing screen (by default images are automatically saved to the camera roll, but you can change this under Flickr’s settings). Here you post the image, which can be made either public or private, to your Flickr profile.

Flickr can display an image’s metadata and sharing options

Tap an image to see it full screen and you also have access via the information icon to the image’s metadata. Flickr includes various sharing options, such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

You can also add a Geo location and post it to a specific album on your profile page. It’s also here that you have options to post the image to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

What’s Flickr like to use?

The interface is now much more polished. It’s sleeker and more akin to the aesthetics of the smartphone. Flickr is easier to use, with most features just a couple taps away – the golden target for any UX design.

The filters, introduced in August 2013, are still there, complete with all their levels of customisability, which gives you a good deal of control over how the finished image will look. While the editing tools have been given a makeover, the essentials are still there, plus you now have fine control over Levels and the Colour Balance.

Sharing is a breeze. There’s no option to share to Instagram, but that may not come as such a surprise given Flickr’s direction.

Overall, Flickr 3.0 is a pleasure to use. Taking, editing and sharing photos takes just a few taps, yet the scale and depth of the tools at your fingertips gives you a high degree of control over how your final images will look.

Is Flickr worth downloading?

Flickr 3.0 has taken a long, hard look at the competition in the photo-sharing sector, and it has learnt a great deal. The developers have considered the latest trends, in particular the way more photographers are using mobile apps, and attempted to apply them to the Flickr app.

And on the whole the developers should give themselves a well-deserved pint as the Flickr app should be considered a success. There are still a few bugs, one is that the app on the iPhone 4S seems to crash a little too many times when in camera mode, but expect them to be ironed out in future bug fix updates. The camera mode could also benefit from a separate focus and exposure tool.

Flickr on the smartphone is now a much sleeker tool to use. Its greater emphasis on social networking is really making a statement as to where the future of Flickr lies. Although I said that Flickr was a real contender to Instagram with my review, that statement has only been enforced with version 3. The ball is now in Instagram’s court to see what they can come up with to keep their massive user base intact.

You can find me on Flickr here.

Have you downloaded or updated the new version of Flickr? What do you think of the revamped app? Let me know in the comments below.


Price Free to download, Free to use basic version, $49.99 per year an Ad Free account on the website, $499.99 a year for a Doublr account on the website
Buy from iTunes App StoreGoogle Play Store
The Good Great streamlined interface, Filters and editing tools inbuilt.
The Bad Still a few bugs in camera mode.
Specs Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
My Rating 9/10

Posted in Phoneography, The Apps | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Camera Slow is quick for long exposures but ads don’t sell the app

The ability to take long exposures on an iPhone opens up many creative possibilities. Yet on first appearances the iPhone looks as though it is severely limited in this area, with its fixed aperture and the shutter speed pre-determined by available light.

Fortunately there are several apps available that enable you to set a long exposure on the iPhone. Previously, I’ve covered Slow Shutter Cam, and I find them indispensable, giving you an extra dimension for taking creative photos.

This week the spotlight falls on Camera Slow, which offers a similar set of features for capturing long exposures on the iPhone. Or to give its proper iTunes title, A Beautiful FX: Slow Shutter Camera. However, once installed on the iPhone the name that appears just below its icon is Camera Slow.

The background to Camera Slow

Despite the slight indecision over the name, Camera Slow, which is the name I shall use, is an app that aims to let you creative control over the length of the iPhone’s shutter speed. It’s a free download, but one that comes with strings attached – this app contains ads. You can choose to remove these ads by making a one-off in-app purchase of 69p.

Camera Slow has been developed by JMT Apps, a New York-based media company. Founded in 2010, JMT Apps is a small company, having less than 10 employees according to its profile on LinkedIn. Yet, if you look the company’s apps listed on the iTunes Store and Google Play then you’d envious of their work rate as there are a lot of them, a lot more than could be produced by such a small outfit.

By delving a little deeper, it turns out that JMT Apps isn’t actually a developer of apps as such, but rather a purchaser of apps. The company either partners with the original developers or buys the app outright and then releases them under its own banner.

How much involvement JMT Apps has in the development of the apps is hard to say, but if this article on Entrepreneur is anything to go on then it seems the company may make some alterations but possibly nothing radical.

Which raises an interesting dilemma for smartphone photographers who are faced with a plethora of apps from which to choose. Do we invest our time and energy into mastering an app like Camera Slow (and this can be applied to many other apps) not knowing whether the original developer is still involved in the project or whether JMT Apps has a roadmap for the app’s continued development?

Will apps eventually become like disposable code, something to use for a few months then dropped when something better comes along, rather than feverishly waiting for the next update that will work with the latest iOS or handset?

Apps structured like Camera Slow give an interesting glimpse of how app development could pan out in the future. It creates an interesting, if unsettling, future for the end user.

From a personal point of view, it’s something that I’m very wary of. There are apps that I take to instantly, apps that I’ve become attached to, apps that I want to see grow and adapt to the latest technology. I’m less likely to dedicate my time to an app if I think its sole existence is to make a quick buck or that it may be defunct in the near future.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s get on with the review of Camera Slow.

How to use Camera Slow

Fire up Camera Slow, and you see a lovely landscape image with some pastel-coloured icons. Before you have time to take in this opening screen an ad pop ups. Close the ad (whatever you do, don’t tap anywhere else but the small cross in the top-right corner) and you’re back to where you want to be.

Camera Slow's opening screen and advert

Camera Slow’s opening screen, blink and you’ll miss it as it’s quickly replaced with an advert.

Once you’re through that palaver, there are four choices – just don’t dawdle because another ad will pop up, which could be 15-second video that you can’t tap away from. Likewise, ignore all the icons on this screen apart from the green Start button. The other options are for making the in-app purchase or for more apps from JMT Apps.

When you’re actually into the business end of the app, it’s time to see what Camera Slow really has to offer. The interface is sparse, if colourful in a variety of pastel shades, just six icons neatly arranged on the screen – three at the top, three at the bottom. The top icons for Preview, Flash and the option to switch between front- and rear-facing cameras. Along the bottom are icons for Exposure Time, Shutter Button and a Self-timer.

The Flash, Shutter button and front-/rear-facing camera should all be self-explanatory – simply tap its respective icon to perform the function. One thing to note about the flash is that when it’s switched on the LED light shines continuously – it doesn’t just flash when you tap the shutter button – which you would expect from a long-exposure app.

Of the other icons, the one with the Eye in the bottom-left corner holds the settings for long exposures. Here you’ll find options to set the capture mode – Automatic, Manual and Light Trail – and shutter speed. Automatic is the default and it produced okay images, Light Trail is ideal for moving lights, such as nighttime traffic or fireworks, while Manual just seemed to blow everything out, even in lowlight situations.

The Shutter Speed can be set at 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 seconds. There is also a Bulb setting represented by the letter B, which enables you to set the shutter speed for however long you want – tap the shutter button and Camera Slow takes a photo, tap the shutter button again to end the process. The Bulb setting enables you to take very long exposures.

Camera Slow's long exposure and self-timer settings

The two main setting for Camera Slow. On the left is the one for long exposure and on the right is the self-timer.

The Preview button enables Camera Slow to show the image as it is being taken, rather than presenting you with a completed photo at the end of the process.

The last setting is in the bottom-right corner. Here you have access to a self-timer (in 1, 3, 5 and 10 seconds), the option to turn the entire screen into the shutter button and an option to turn on/off the Auto Save function.

Work through the setting, inputting your desired choices, and tap the shutter button to take an image. When the image pops up, and it’s a relatively quick process, you have two editing options you can make. The first allows you to set the moment in time at which the long exposure freezes on, simply drag the slider to the desired point. The other slider adjusts the contrast, although to my eyes it just seemed to make the image either darker or lighter.

Tap the squiggly arrow on the right to save the image and you’re onto the final screen. You can share the image on Twitter and Facebook, email it and save it again. This option is not so stupid as it sounds as in the top-right corner you have access to a range of adjustment tools – again make sure you avoid the banner ad just above the icon – and you’ll want to save the image again should you make use of these.

The adjustment tools are powered by Aviary Aviary, which has its own independent app that I reviewed in December last year. These are a decent bunch of adjustment tools and it’s one of Camera Slow’s upsides that they’ve been included.

Camera Slow's adjustment tools from Aviary

When you’ve taken an image, Camera Slow offers two dedicated adjustments – Freeze Point and Contrast. You also have access to a comprehensive set of adjustment tools powered by Aviary – tap the edit button on the sharing screen

The types of adjustments on offer include Enhance, Effects (photo filters), Frames, Focus, Crop, Sharpness and so. All of which are capable, easy to use and a very welcome addition to Camera Slow. They are easy to apply with many being a simple tap or employing a slider to apply. Tap Done to return to the previous screen then tap the Green tick to save the image.

Is Camera Slow worth downloading?

The app may be free, but then you have to contend with the annoying ads on the opening screen. Camera Slow does what it sets out to do – that is, enables you take long exposures on your iPhone. And in this aspect, Camera Slow does seem to work.

Long exposures are difficult enough on a DSLR with a tripod. On a smartphone, the effect can be hit and miss, with only a decent result obtained after much trial and error. Camera Slow at least tries to make this task as simple and achievable as possible, but the results acquired were not on the same par as those obtained from Slow Shutter Cam.

The interface is basic. The pastel shades and script-style font for icons doesn’t exactly scream professionalism – this might be more suited on an app aimed at young teenage girls and not smartphone photographers.

Having the adjustment tools from Aviary is a nice touch and means that you don’t need to leave Camera Slow should you wish to make any adjustments to the image.

But it all comes down to those annoying ads. You are either one of those people who can put up with them or not. In my case, I found using Camera Slow frustrating due to the ads, with the app crashing several times as a result.

Also, I would prefer to be confronted with an up-front charge to download the app like Slow Shutter Cam, which costs 69p, rather than feel like I’m being blackmailed into making an in-app purchase for the same amount just to remove the ads.

Ads on photo apps just don’t work for me, and if they don’t work for you then it’s probably best to stay clear of Camera Slow.

Have you downloaded Camera Slow? What do you think of the app? Let me know in the comments below.

Camera Slow, aka A Beautiful FX: Slow Shutter Camera

Price Free; in-app purchase to remove adverts
Buy from iTunes App Store
The Good Adjustment tools from Aviary included.
The Bad Ads are really annoying.
Specs Requires iOS 6.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
My Rating 5/10

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How to use AirSnap, Camera Plus’s remote trigger feature

In my recent review of Camera Plus I touched upon the handy feature introduced with the March 2014 update – AirSnap. This feature turns an iOS device, which can be an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, into a remote trigger that can be used to take a photo on another iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Remote triggers have rarely been a feature in smartphone apps up to this point. Yes, you can use the volume control on your earbuds that came with the iPhone to trigger the camera’s shutter button. But this is wired remote trigger with the distance from you to the iPhone limited by the length of earbud cable.

One or two apps have focused on a wireless remote trigger, but until Camera Plus’s recent update none of the main iPhone photography apps have offered the ability.

What Camera Plus’s AirSnap enables you to do is trigger the camera on one iOS device using another iOS device as the shutter button over a Wifi or Bluetooth connection in a way that is simple to set up and easy to use. Camera Plus only works on devices running iOS 7, so make sure that you’ve updated to the latest version before trying to use AirSnap.

Here, I’m going to walk you just how easy it is to set up AirSnap on two iOS devices, in this case an iPhone and an iPad. The steps are the same regardless of whether you decide to connect the two devices over Wifi or Bluetooth, other than making sure you preferred connection method is turn on.

Step 1: Download Camera Plus

AirSnap only works between two iOS devices that are both running Camera Plus, so visit iTunes and download the app to both devices.

If you use the same iTunes account on both devices then the app will only cost once. Otherwise if the second device is owned by a friend then they will have to also pay for the app, but at 69p (99 cents) it’s hardly a huge outlay.

Download Camera Plus

Download Camera Plus from iTunes, it needs to installed on both iOS devices

Step 2: AirSnap needs Wifi or Bluetooth

Next, decide whether you are going to pair the two devices over a Wifi or Bluetooth connection. If you decide to use Wifi, make sure that both iOS devices are connected to the same network. If you decide to use Bluetooth, then make sure that on both devices the Bluetooth function is turned on. Bluetooth works up to about 10m.

Turn on Wifi or Bluetooth

Turn on Wifi or Bluetooth on both devices. Use whichever one is most convenient.

Step 3: Make sure Camera Plus is running on both devices

Before you run the app, decide which device is going to capture the image and which is going to act as the remote trigger. Tap to start Camera Plus on the iOS device that is going to take the photo. Wait a couple of seconds for the app to get going.

Start running Camera Plus

Make sure Camera Plus is running on the device you want to capture on first.

Step 4: Tap AirSnap

Tap the AirSnap icon, which is represented by a parachuting camera on Camera Plus’s main screen. You’ll see the image below as Camera Plus waits for another device to become active. Next, launch Camera Plus on the device that is going to act as the remote trigger.

Tap AirSnap to launch the feature

To access AirSnap tap the parachuting camera icon and Camera Plus will look for compatible devices

Step 5: Connect the two devices

When you’ve done step 4, AirSnap on the capture device changes to show you which device it is ready to connect to that will act as the remote trigger. Tap this option to select it. On the iOS device that is to act as the trigger, tap the tick to confirm that you wan to pair the two devices. You are now ready to shoot.

AirSnap has found a compatible device

When Camera Plus has found a compatible device, this image is displayed

AirSnap on the triggering device

On the device that is to act as the remote trigger, tap the tick to approve the connection.

Step 6: What can AirSnap do?

To take a photo simply tap the big orange shutter button that appears in the middle of the screen. The remote trigger also has a couple of extra controls that you can set on the capture iOS device.

AirSnap's interface on the remote trigger

Tap the orange button to take a photos using AirSnap. You also have access to several other controls via the remote trigger.

You can switch between stills and video and turn on the flash (your capture device must have an LED flash, as some iPads don’t). You also have the option of using the volume buttons as the shutter – this can be turned off or on via the remote trigger screen.

A preview of the image captured is displayed on the remote trigger device, but the image itself isn’t transferred to it.

Once you've taken an image, Camera Plus displays a preview on the triggering device.

Once you’ve taken an image, Camera Plus displays a preview on the triggering device.

Camera Plus’s AirSnap is a nifty feature. So incredibly easy to use and set up, it extends greatly the capabilities of your iOS devices and what you can capture by being able to trigger a camera remotely.

Have you downloaded Camera Plus? Have you used the AirSnap feature? Did you manage to get any decent results from the app? Let me know in the comments below.

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Camera Plus for iPhone set to be a game-changer with AirSnap

In the HipstaGeneration spotlight this week is Camera Plus for the iPhone.

And there’s no guessing what app category Camera Plus falls into – with a name like Camera Plus its a dead giveaway. Camera Plus, however, is not to be confused with the iconic Camera+, which in May 2012 was the 10th most popular paid app of all-time among iPhone users.

You can read my review of Camera+ here.

Despite sharing similar names only differentiated by the use of words instead of a symbol for the plus, the apps were developed on opposite sides of the planet by two different companies – Camera+ by Tap Tap Tap in the US and Camera Plus by Global Delight in India.

Camera Plus was released on the iPhone in October 2009 and has been around just a little bit longer than Camera+ (which was released in June 2010), yet it hasn’t had the garnered the same degree of fandom showered on its namesake rival.

Then in March 2014, with the release of an update to version 3.5, Camera Plus picked up a potential game changer – AirSnap – which could propel it into the big league of camera apps for the iPhone.

Camera Plus: What is AirSnap?

AirSnap is a nifty little feature that enables you to take a photo remotely using two iOS 7 devices (Camera Plus only works on iOS 7) both of which must be running the app. It works by connecting the two devices, which can be iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches, via Bluetooth or Wifi.

AirSnap assigns one to be the capture device, while the other acts as a remote trigger. The flash as well as both front and rear cameras can be accessed through the remote trigger, and you can even switch between stills and video. When you’ve taken an image, it’s also displayed on the device which is acting as the remote trigger.

Camera Plus has several key features, not least the Stabilizer, Burst and Timer modes as well as AirSnap

Camera Plus also packs in several neat features, such as Stabilizer, a Burst mode and a Timer. There is also the game-changing AirSnap, which turns an iOS 7 device into a remote trigger while another is used to take the photo.

To use AirSnap, both devices need to have Camera Plus installed and running. Tap the AirSnap icon – it’s the one with a parachuting camera – on the device you want to take the photo on and it will then find other devices that are running Camera Plus before inviting you to assign them as the trigger.

In practice, it worked surprisingly well over a Wifi connection. And importantly, AirSnap was very quick to set up with just a couple of taps. For Bluetooth connections, AirSnap works best within a 10m radius, while on a Wifi connection, presumably, it’s limited to the distance from Wifi router.

Developers Global Delight suggests that AirSnap will be perfect for group shots, although I can also think of several other uses that AirSnap would be useful, such as selfies and time-lapse photography.

Camera Plus: other key features

AirSnap sits in with Camera Plus’s other camera-taking features. There are the usual array of camera functions, which are viewed as standard on iPhone apps. These include access to the flash, front- and rear-facing cameras, a grid to help you compose your shots and Geo Location to store the GPS point at which the image was taken.

There are also a couple of features that you don’t normally find on camera apps. The first is located at the top of the screen and is the digital spirit level. Tap this and a line pops up in the middle of the screen to help you align the camera so that the horizon isn’t at an angle.

Along the side of the screen is a slider for Lumy, which is simply a way of varying the brightness of the image. Slide up to make the image brighter, slide it down to make it darker.

Besides the central shutter button at the bottom of the screen is an icon that almost goes unnoticed. In fact, this mini cog-like icon opens up access to several further features that are indispensable to the smartphone photographer.

Tap it and inside, you’ll find ways to turn on Geo Location and the image stabiliser, set the Burst mode, Timer and image size and make the whole screen and/or volume buttons act as the shutter.

The last icon of interest when in camera mode is the image icon, which takes you to Camera Plus’s gallery and gives you access to the iPhone’s Camera Roll.

Tap an image to make it full screen and you have a couple of options, such as return to camera mode, lock it (that is make the image private), edit, share (via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, text and email) and Pix’d.

The last option is a one-tap feature – it’s either on or not. Pix’d automatically enhances any photo to make it stand out. It analyses the subject to change the colour, lighting and tone of the image. In my experience it was a pleasing option, making colours more vibrant .

Tap edit and you’re into Camera Plus’s a range of editing functions. Split into three groups, these are:

  • Filters: there are ten to choose from, simply tap to apply then tap the filter icon again to call up a slider to adjust its intensity. Tap the blue arrow at the bottom of the screen when done to bring up the editing tools.
  • Tweak: this allows you to adjust Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Temperature. Tap one and up pops a slider. Simply move it to the left or right to make your adjustment.
  • Text: add text to your image with this tool. You can change its Font, Color, Letter Spacing, Line Spacing, Opacity and its Rotation. The text can be positioned anyway on the image by dragging the box. Double tap this box to type in your words.
  • Rotate: enables you to rotate the image through 90° turns as well as flip the image over the vertical axis.
  • Crop: has five settings, 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 and freestyle.

Camera Plus’s editing tools and filters

Camera Plus has five groups of editing tools, Filters, Tweak, Text, Rotate and Crop. Tap the button to call up that group’s editing tools. There are 10 filters from which to choose, some are okay, but they are on the whole a little on the weak side.

There is one last feature that is worth mentioning and that is Shake. No matter what screen you are on in Camera Plus, if you shake the iPhone then you return to camera mode straight away, so you needn’t miss any shot should you be editing elsewhere in the app.

All in all, Camera Plus has enough features to keep the ardent smartphone photographer happy.

How to use Camera Plus

Tap on the Camera Plus icon and you’re straight into camera mode. Here you can access all the features mentioned above.

Camera Plus and its focusing modes

Camera Plus is a camera app for the iPhone. Tap on the image to focus. Tap and drag and you have three options, Macro, Normal and Far, which you set depending on what type of scene you want to capture.

To focus tap the screen and Camera Plus brings up a circle with a dot, which looks a lot like Doctor Manhattan’s superhero symbol in the comic book and film Watchmen. Next to this is a small plus icon, by tapping and dragging this you can switch between three focusing modes – Macro, Normal and Far.

  • Macro focuses on nearby objects, making them look clearer and keeping the background out of focus.
  • Normal gives equal focus to everything without creating a depth of field.
  • Far brings far off objects into focus without letting them lose importance in the background.

Simply position this circle over the part of the image you want to be in focus, then slide up or down to tell Camera Plus what type of focus you want. When set Camera Plus holds that focus until you’ve pressed the shutter button.

Images are saved to Camera Plus’s gallery, however, you remain in camera mode and are able to carry on taking photos. Tap the image library icon, located bottom right, to view the images that you’ve taken. Simply tap an image to select it.

On the next screen, you have several options. Most you can ignore, but the key ones are the Share button (top right), the Edit button (bottom menu) and Pix’d (bottom menu).

First tap Pix’d to see if it improves your image, either save the effect or cancel it. Then tap Edit to view Camera Plus’s editing tools. You have five groups, but the Filters and the Tweak are probably of the most interest here. Tap Save a copy when you’re done and return to the previous screen (the edited image is also saved to your Camera Roll).

Camera Plus’s Tweak adjustment tools

In Camera Plus’s Tweak adjustment tools, you have four tool types: Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Temperature. Tap one and a slider appears so you can adjust that setting’s intensity.

To share the image, tap Share, obviously, where you have the options of sending the photo to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, iMessage and email.

Should you buy Camera Plus

Of all the features on offer with Camera Plus, the most appealing is AirSnap. The ability to use an iOS device as a remote trigger is a massive creative boon to smartphone photographers, that is should you have a spare iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch or your friends also have an iOS device.

The interface is neatly designed and is tap friendly in that you don’t need that many taps to access or use all of its features.

There are a couple of drawbacks. The filters are not as dynamic as those in other iPhone apps and the editing tools feel a little on the light side. But if it’s an editing app that you want then there are already lots of choices out there for the iPhone.

However, these are more than overshadowed by AirSnap, especially if you have more than one iOS device, and is the overriding reason to download the app. As the app is only 69p (99 cents) and under Apple’s iTunes accounts is a one-time purchase regardless of how many iOS devices you own, then it makes perfect sense, say if you have both an iPhone and an iPad.

This in itself makes Camera Plus a great reason to download the app.

Have you downloaded Camera Plus? What do you think of AirSnap? Did you manage to get any decent results from the app? Let me know in the comments below.

Camera Plus

Price 69p
Buy from iTunes App Store
The Good AirSnap, Pleasing interface.
The Bad Filters are a bit weak, Other apps have more fully featured editing tools.
Specs Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
My Rating 8/10

Posted in Phoneography, The Apps | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

An in-depth look at what Hipstamatic PrintLab has to offer

Despite the huge benefits generated by the digital revolution for photographers there is still one aspect that pixels just can’t replace from the analogue era – and that is the satisfaction of seeing the printed photograph.

The print gives a photograph an air of permanence and uniqueness, two things that aren’t really associated with digital images. Prints also look good – they can be framed, hung on walls, given as gifts and they look great in galleries as part of an exhibition.

Making prints from digitals images has never been easier. You can use a home printer to make your own prints, take a memory card to a high street photo store to use a printing kiosk, or order them from an online printer. And if you’re a Hipstamatic user then the latter option is even built into the app, via its PrintLab.

What is PrintLab?

PrintLab, or to give it its full-length title Hipstamatic PrintLab, is a printing service that enables you to order photographic prints of digital images taken, but not necessarily exclusively, by the Hipstamatic app that’s available for the iPhone.

I say not necessarily exclusively by Hipstamatic because even though you can order HipstaPrints from within the iPhone app, and hence only ones that have been taken with the app, you can also order them from the PrintLab website, which can be from any smartphone or digital camera.

Hipstamatic’s PrintLab debuted in September 2010 with the 170 update to the iPhone app, although at the time it went by the name of HipstaMart PrintLab (the HipstaMart name, which is no longer in use, was also the title of Hipstamatic’s e-commerce site that launched at the same time).

The developers had teamed up with a printing company in Santa Barbara, California, called Color Services that does the actual printing and posting. The printing service was one of the first to cater to smartphone photographers’ needs to print their images.

Originally, Hipstamatic’s PrintLab offered just two print sizes, 4in and 7in – a 10in print available shortly afterwards. And as you would expect coming from an app that has trail-blazed the square format on smartphones, the prints are only offered in the square format too. The prints could be ordered in bundles, such as 9 x 4in or 3 x 7in packs.

Then in December 2012, Hipstamatic relaunched and rebranded its print service. It dropped the HipstaMart title and renamed it Hipstamatic PrintLab. It included a new size, 30in, and added two new print categories called the Home Collection and the Travel Collection.

The Home Collection enables your images to be printed on wood panels, metal, canvas scrolls and stretched panels. The Travel Collection, now discontinued, included prints on totes, weekender bags and iPad covers.

Ordering from PrintLab

As mentioned above, there are two ways of ordering Hipstamatic prints – through the Hipstamatic app and through the Hipstamatic website. For both methods, you’ll need a Hipstaccount, which can either be created on the smartphone or via the Hipstamatic website.

To order prints (and you can only order paper prints) through the app, go to the HipstaPrints section, select the images and tap the PrintLab icon (it looks like a souped up printer). Here you can select the print size and the number of prints. Then it’s a simple matter of adding your credit card and shipping address to complete the order.

Hipstamtic PrintLab option in the Hipstamtic app for iPhone

The big selling point of Hipstamatic PrintLab is that you can order prints from your HipstaPrints direct from within the app.

You can only order images taken by Hipstamatic through the smartphone app. To buy prints of digital images taken with another app or device, you download them to a computer first and then upload them to the PrintLab on the Hipstamatic website.

Although being able to order prints direct from your iPhone is very convenient, if you do decide to use the website then you have greater choice of the materials that you can print on.

Hipstamatic PrintLab's website

Hipstamatic PrintLab isn’t exclusive to the in-app experience or the iPhone as there is a website where you can upload photos from your computer.

Go to the PrintLab and select the print size. On the next screen upload the images from your computer. After they’ve uploaded, select the images, the quantity and the number of prints. Sign in to your Hipstaccount if you haven’t already done so and enter your credit card and shipping details.

You’ll then be notified of the shipping costs and asked to place your order. When you have done this you’ll get an email notification with an estimated delivery time. The shipping time to Europe is considerably longer than in the US, and if ordering as a gift you should factor in about 20 days for delivery.

And lastly, if you live in the UK (other European countries may have similar procedures), you should be aware that if your total is above £15 then it may pick up customs charges for VAT (which is 20% in the UK) and is payable upon delivery. If your delivery does get a customs charge, then the Post Office will add on an International Handling Fee, which is £8 in the UK. This will naturally have an impact on the total cost for the prints.

PrintLab’s quality

PrintLab’s prints are made using a Fuji Frontier Minilab using Fuji Crystal Archive Type C photographic paper and Fuji chemistry. The paper is a silver halide that has archival qualities with a lifespan of more than 100 years in dark storage and 40 years behind glass.

PrintLab also uses colour management software to ensure vivid and consistent colour reproduction. The final images are then hand inspected to provide a final level of quality control.

In detail, the process works like this:

  1. The digital image passes through imaging processing software to ensure quality colour reproduction.
  2. RGB lasers expose Type C photographic paper.
  3. Color Developer develops the latent silver image and activate the dyes in the paper.
  4. Bleach Fix dissolves (removes) the silver after the formation of dyes is complete.
  5. Wash tanks remove the chemical residue.
  6. The paper is dried.
  7. Prints are hand-inspected to ensure that they meet lab standards.

PrintLab, is it any good?

For this review, I ordered 24 x 7in prints for $49.99. Shipping via Standard International Shipping added $11.48 to the order, bringing the total to $61.47 (about £38). Then customs charges and handling fees added another to £13.98 to the overall cost. This works out at about £2 per print, which is decidedly on the pricey scale for photo prints.

So are the prints worth this princely sum? The prints arrived nicely and securely packaged in a patterned brown envelope, which also folds out to form a frame for a print. Sadly, mine was covered in stickers as a result from the customs charges, so it looks less than classy when in use.

7in prints from Hipstamatic PrintLab

Several 7in prints from Hipstamatic PrintLab. Images were sharp, colours vivid and whites brilliant. The prints have a satin finish, which is very pleasing to the eye.

As for the prints themselves, it was surprising how sharp some of the images are considering they were taken on an iPhone. The prints have a satin finish, which sits between matt and gloss, that lends itself well to HipstaPrints. The paper, however, feels a little on the flimsy side compared with other prints and, in particular, traditional analogue papers.

Colour images are nicely saturated and the hues are vivid, giving, in most cases, a decent representation on paper from what is seen on screen. Some prints, however, did appear to be slightly darker than their on-screen counterparts. This was most apparent in one of the black-and-white images, where some detail was lost in the shadows. The highlights, however, were sufficiently bright with decent detail.

Black-and-white print from Hipstamatic PrintLab

Hipstamatic PrintLab’s prints tended to the dark side. This meant that some detail was lost from the shadow areas of the photo. The digital image is on the right with the print on the left.

It might also be worth considering that not all of Hipstamatic’s filters are suited to printing, particularly those that have a green colour cast, as on paper I found those prints to have a sickly appearance. And in these images, some of the colours were maybe not as vibrant as you would expect.

Likewise, if you know that the photos will appear a touch darker than the original then you can be more selective with your edit by weeding out the images that might lose detail in the darker areas.

Would I buy again from Hipstamatic’s PrintLab? The short answer is ‘Yes’, but with a couple of caveats. The first is that I would consider the number of prints, either going for a smaller pack to avoid custom charges, or going full-out with a larger pack, knowing that custom charges might be applied but hopefully getting a better price per print due to the higher number of images.

The second, I would be more selective with the images. Not only by selecting those images I deem acceptable to be printed, but also by avoiding images that have been taken with some of Hipstamatic’s less suitable filters as well as those that have desirable detail in the shadows as this may be lost should the print appear darker.

Hipstamatic PrintLab comparison with digital image

In this image, which shows the Hipstamatic PrintLab print on the right and the digital image on the left, you can see that the colours, although vivid, are a little on the darker side than its digital counterpart. While you don’t expect prints to be true to the original image, this is noticeable.

Overall, I am happy with the quality of service and the prints from Hipstamatic’s PrintLab – seeing your photos in the flesh is always a satisfying experience. The cost for the prints is reasonable, until you factor in shipping and charges to the UK, when it starts to look like a luxury.

So I will be the hunt for a printer closer to home that is capable of handling HipstaPrints in the range of sizes and materials that PrintLab has to offer. In the meantime, I’ll use Hipstamatic’s PrintLab but only for really special prints.

Have you bought any prints from Hipstamatic’s PrintLab? What do you think of the prints? Are they any other printing services that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

Hipstamatic PrintLab

Price Hipstamatic app, £1.49; Cost of prints, 4in comes in 9 ($4.99), 24 ($9.99), 96 ($34.99) packs; 7in comes in 3 ($7.99), 9 ($19.99), 24 ($49.99) packs; 10in comes in 9 ($49.99), 36 ($149.99) packs; 30in comes in 1 ($59.99), 3 ($149.99). Plus shipping Via: Standard International Shipping.
Buy from The app is available from the iTunes App Store • To order prints via the web go to PrintLab
The Good Nice looking prints, Decent range of sizes, including the impressive 30in.
The Bad Expensive if you live outside of the US.
Specs App requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Prints require min 500 x 500 pixels for 4in; min 1200 x 1200 pixels for 7in and 10in; min 1936 x 1936 pixels for 30in.
My Rating 7/10

Read my review of MetroPrint
Read my round-up of home printer apps
Read my review of Hipstamatic
Read my review of Oggl
Read my in-depth round-up of 17 Instagram rivals
Read my 6 quick tips for better photos

Posted in Phoneography, The Apps | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Stackables adds layers for more control over photo filters

Hipstamatic may have kicked started the photo-filter revolution in smartphone photography, and although it’s still hugely popular, it’s by no means the last word on image effects. App developers have, by and large, used their experience of desktop image editors, like Photoshop and Gimp, when creating photo filters for mobile devices.

To assist photographers in their creativity and increase the speed of their workflow, these effects were made so that they could be applied to an image with just a couple of clicks. They were often bundled into packages, such Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro, now part of Google Nik Collection, that were accessed as a plugin in Photoshop, or as a standalone app like DxO.

If you’ve ever used one of these desktop effects, you can easily see how these were translated to the smartphone with their one-tap simplicity.

However, as smartphone photography has matured, some developers have investigated alternative ways of applying filters to images. Developer Samer Azzam, maker of ProCam 2 has come up with Stackables – an app that has taken a very different approach to photo effects on the iPhone.

What is Stackables?

The approach that Stackables has taken is to enable you to layer and blend the different photo effects on an image. This means that, unlike many other image editors, you aren’t limited to altering your image with just one filter, like Instagram, or two filters, like Hipstamatic.

Instead, with Stackables you can apply any number of effects, layer them in any order and blend them to make something that is unique for your image.

Stackables comes with more than 150 effects, which have been created by photographer and artist Dirk Wüestenhagen. The type of effects include light leaks, bokeh textures, painterly textures, abstract weather and cloud textures, grit and grain textures, vintage filters, gradients and more.

In addition, Stackables comes with 20 adjustment tools, such as white balance, vignette, sepia, blur, tilt shift and depth of field. Again, unlike other image editors, these effects can be added as layers, which gives you a huge amount of control over how your finished edit will look.

Once you’re happy with the final edit, you can save the mix of effects as a formula for future use. These can also be shared with friends via email or from device to device. If all that sounds like too much hard work, Stackables includes several readymade formulas to help you get started.

Stackables includes a familiar set of sharing options, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with which you can distribute your images to the wider world.

Stackables works across most iOS devices, however, not all are able to handle higher resolutions. The supported resolutions for each device are as follows:

  • 16MP (4000 x 4000) on iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad mini Retina, iPad 3G, iPad 4G, iPad Air
  • 9MP (3000 x 3000) on iPod Touch 5G, iPhone 4s, iPad mini, iPad 2
  • 4MP (2000 x 2000) on iPhone 4

How to use Stackables

Stackables prides itself on its minimalist design and streamlined workflow, but on first using it this minimalism can be a little disconcerting. Fortunately, with the release of version 1.2 which came out in March of this year, the developers have included a short video that explains how to use the app – previously you were left to guess for yourself.

The video is about 10 minutes long, so it’s probably best viewed over a reliable wifi connection. You can also choose to enable Help Tip, which pop up with notes telling you how to use some tools.

Open up Stackables and you’re presented with a grid, some contain images, others icons, but there is little else to go on. With a few taps, however, you quickly realise that there are really only two icons of any importance – the camera and the picture icons. The camera icon takes you to the iPhone’s camera mode, while the picture takes you to the iPhone’s photo library.

Of the other icons in the grid, the question mark is for viewing the video, enabling the Help Tips and sending an email to Stackables. The heart icon is to like the app on iTunes, while the shopping trolley is to buy more apps by the developer. The images and the Stackables icon do nothing.

The camera mode has the bare minimum of features, so it’s unlikely that it will be your preferred method of capturing an image. Most users will probably take a photo with a more capable app and then import them into Stackables.

Stackables’s editing screen is packed with icons and can appear a little daunting. Along the top of the screen are the filter and tool categories, tap one to access its features.

The filter categories don’t have any specific names but from left to right you’ll find the following: the first one holds most of the main textures and light leaks; next is the retro filters, with names like Noir and Instant; colour filters, gradients and vignettes come next; patterns, such as Polka Dot and Diamond Knit, are accessed by diamond icon; next are the adjustment tools; followed by formulas, both for adding your own and accessing the included presets; and finally the sharing options.

Stackables editing screen with filters and blending options in the sidebar

All of Stackables filters and effects are accessible from the one editing screen. The filters are displayed in a swipeable sidebar on the right-hand side. Below the filters are the blend options (show in the screenshot on the right).

These filters and effects are displayed in the sidebar on the right hand of the screen. The filters are at the top, which is swipeable up and down. Below this are the blending options shown by the your chosen image and the word Normal (tap this to display the other options) and further down are the layers (again tap this to see the different layers). There are two more icons below the layers, which allow you to add or delete a layer as indicated by the plus or minus signs.

Along the bottom of the screen is a slider, which enables you to vary the intensity of the effect – the icon in the bottom-left corner switches the slider between Opacity and Desaturate modes. And finally there is a rotate button (bottom-right corner), so you can turn the effect through 90 degrees.

To apply a filter, tap it, then use the slider to adjust its opacity and saturation. Tap the image to remove the right-hand sidebar, tap it again to call it back. If you tap and hold, Stackables removes the filters to temporarily display the original image. Then tap the blending tool to determine how this effect interacts with the image.

Stackables editing screen with retro filters and colour casts

Tap the next two effects icons at the top of the Stackables screen and retro filters and colour casts are displayed in the sidebar. Simply tap one to apply it to your image, then tap the add layer icon if you want to keep it applied.

As you work through each of the filters, it’s best to add the ones you like to a new layer, so that you can return to them later in the edit – a layer can only support one filter at a time. You can easily delete the ones that you don’t require.

You may also notice that some effects have two-direction arrows on them. This means that the effect has more than one option. If you tap the mini icon, Stackables takes you through that filter’s different effects.

The adjustment tools work in the same way. Tap its icon and the filters in the sidebar are replaced with effects like Color Adjust, Sepia, Blur and Invert RGB. With Color Adjust tap the sun icon bottom left to view all of its tools.

Here you have access to Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Vibrance, Hue and many other familiar options. Swipe through them, tap to select and then use the slider to adjust its level. Again these can be applied as individual layers to your image.

Stackables editing screen with adjustment tools and formulas

The last two icons in Stackables display the adjustment tools and formulas in the sidebar. There are around 20 different adjustment tools that you can use to edit your image, while the formulas are preset filter combinations that you can apply to an image with a single tap.

Before you go to the Formulas, it’s best to either save the image to the Camera Roll or save the edits by tapping the share button, because if you don’t then all applied effects on the image will be lost. When you’ve done this tap the Formulas icon.

The sidebar now displays Stackables’ presets – simply tap one to apply it to your image – which is accessed by the formula icon in the bottom left. Next to this is the icon to access presets that have been created by fellow Stackables users – tap the person icon in the filter to find out more about them. The last formula icon (the one with the heart) displays your saved formulas if you have any. The tick returns you to the regular editing screen.

When you’re ready to share or save the image tap the Share icon in the top right. Stackables allows you to open the image in other apps so you can continue to edit or share the image in another app like iPhoto, Afterlight and EyeEm, if you have them installed.

Is Stackables worth buying?

Stackbales is a great if confusing little app. Its filter effects are some of the best available for the iPhone and the use of layers is an excellent idea – it really gives you great control over how the filters are applied to your image.

Another plus is that all the editing tools are available to you from within the one screen – no moving on to another screen to access a tool only to realise that you have to go back to make another edit.

However, the way Stackables works is very different to most apps, which is both a plus and a negative. The plus is obviously the layers feature. The negative is that it will take some time for you to familiarise yourself with Stackables’ modus operandi.

Although, on the surface, the way Stackables operates is relatively simple, it’s not an app that is easy to get used to – it requires a considerable amount of experimentation to find the edits suitable for an image.

The icons, although neat and stylish, aren’t in some cases a true representation of how they will affect a photo. This could be dependant on the image, of course, but it does mean that you are faced with tapping through many filters to find the right one.

The Stackables sidebar is, again, both a help and a hindrance as although it allows access to a lot of filters, it is easy to get lost as you find yourself editing the wrong layer or applying a blending option to the wrong effect.

Stackables has many features in its favour. The filters and their level of control is welcome as is the ability to pile layer upon layer. However, it’s not an app that is suitable for the occasional snapper as the degree of fruitless experimentation would be a challenge in this modern era of short attention spans.

On the other hand, for seasoned smartphone photographers looking for ever more control over filters and armed with more perseverance than most, Stackables would make a fine addition to their iPhone’s camera bag.

Have you downloaded Stackables? Did you manage to get any decent results from the app? Let me know in the comments below.


Price £1.49
Buy from iTunes App Store
The Good Excellent filters, Ability add layers is a neat touch.
The Bad Little confusing to use.
Specs Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.
My Rating 8/10

Posted in Phoneography, The Apps | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments