If you’d asked me a few years ago if I had any addictions, I would have said no. I told myself I didn’t have an addictive personality. It turns out I just hadn’t found my drug of choice – photo editing apps.
Like any drug dealer, these developers hooked me with the easy fix. Here – try this free download, it will turn your photos into amazing pieces of art in seconds. And boy, did it ever. Soon I was applying effect after effect to my favorite photos, but there was a problem. I liked too many of the results. I got into the habit of saving multiple versions of the same image, albeit with different styles, rather than just stopping at one.
As my camera roll filled up, I tried to regain my self-control. I forced myself to only save the best of the best. Unfortunately, this created a whole other problem. I wouldn’t save anything until I’d applied and seen everything. Over time, seeing the same effects applied over and over, I grew less impressed with the results. Sure, the app would release a new style now and then, but it could no longer keep up with my desire for a new, bigger, wow factor – for more, more, more.
I realized my one source for fun with photography was no longer enough to satisfy my needs. I decided to venture into a place I knew could provide more. I joined Instagram.
Suddenly, I found myself taking photos of the most random things. An empty park bench. A rusted bridge. Cherry blossoms separating me from a brilliant blue sky. My kids, long used to their mommy whipping out her phone to capture the moments of their childhood wondered why the lens was no longer exclusively focused their way. ‘Mommy might need this for her website or for a book cover,’ I’d reply, somewhat embarrassed.
My kids don’t read my blog, or they might wonder why they haven’t seen much crossover yet.
I may be a lost cause now, but I thought I should provide a list of free apps to avoid in order to protect yourself from a similar fate.
This was my gateway app. Once you grant the app access to your camera and your photos, all you have to do is select or take a photo and then press a single button to apply an artistic effect which makes your photo look like it was painted in the style of an artistic master. My personal favorites are the Gothic, Candy, Dreams, and Composition styles, but there are plenty of others to choose from. You can also control the intensity of the style with a finger swipe.
When I originally downloaded the app, it automatically cropped photos into a square image typical of what is posted to Instagram, but now allows for a full-screen image. Additionally, Primsa has launched their own social sharing site.
Canva (www.canva.com) / PicMonkey (www.picmonkey)
If realism is more your thing, but you still like to add some oomph to your photos, Canva and PicMonkey both offer filters to adjust lighting, contrast, color, and intensity. However, both have their limitations, especially for the free versions. I use Canva if I am trying to also incorporate clip art, stock photos, or text. I used to use PicMonkey if I was trying to soften, sharpen, focus or otherwise add a zoom effect to a photo, but they’ve taken steps in the last few months to make more and more of their better features only accessible to premium users.
Which brings me to my most recent find:
Adobe‘s suite for the Creative Cloud. http://www.adobe.com
You may be more familiar with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, both of which are a far cry from being free, but Adobe also has a few ‘lighter’ apps which are powerful enough. Even better, you don’t have to have a paid creative cloud monthly subscription to use them.
So far I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Fix, Adobe Photoshop Mix and Adobe Spark Post.
This app does what it says. It can fix your photos via subtle tweaks. With built-in face detection, it can instantly smooth those pesky wrinkles away, boost your smile, and remove unwanted composition elements such as logos on t-shirts or photo bombs such as bunny ears through its spot healing tool.
This app is designed to make it easy to swap out backgrounds or merge multiple images into a single composition. Want to make your friends jealous with an impromptu trip to an exotic destination, but short on funds? Simply take a picture of yourself lounging on your couch and replace it with a beach front chair.
Actually, it’s not quite as simple as the tutorial would lead you to believe. You have to pay extra care as you trace around the image you want to keep otherwise your results, with their jagged digital edges, will scream photoshopped. After spending far too long with less than ideal results, I recommend leaving this trick to the professionals.
If you are editing for a blog post or social media post, this tool packs some serious punch. I specified my preferred image size and uploaded a picture. The tool automatically suggested a color palette for my text based on the background image. From there I was able to change out layouts, adjust filters, and even add animation to my text with a few simple button presses. The only issue I had with the app is that it adds a watermark to the bottom of your graphic unless you also ‘share’ it with a friend.