Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Android Photographer

First, I wanted to say a big thank you to those that emailed me after my last post.  I am sad to hear that so many have to go through infertility, however I do think it is important that we share our stories for the sake of all those who think they are alone in this battle.  A supportive community can really help us get through those tough times.

Now, this is a photography blog, isn’t it?  I think it is about time that I wrote a tutorial, don’t you?  It has been a while!

More and more often I have found that the only camera I have with me is the one built into my phone. While I love my Nikon, and I try to take it with me as often as possible, there are those times when I just don’t feel like lugging it around, or it is not really safe to take it with me.  For those times I rely on my Droid camera.

A little bit about the Motorola Droid camera:

I hate this camera. My previous phone, the LG Dare, was much much better, and it wasn’t even a smart phone.

The Droid does horribly in low light.  Without a flash the pictures are grainy and the camera captures very little available light.  With the flash, the images are washed out and still grainy.

As for settings, there is very little you can change. There are only 3 focus modes, auto, infinity, and macro.  You can change the exposure to 3 different settings; 0, +1, and +2, but with each addition you loose quality.  There are only 5 white balance settings; auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent and cloudy.  The flash can be turned on or off. There is zoom up to 4x, but as with exposure, you loose quality as you zoom in.  That is it for controlling the settings.  As a photographer, this is horrible.  I want to change my ISO, I want some screen modes (portrait, landscape, etc.), more white balance settings, better zoom, and better low light quality.

I have heard that later versions of the Droid (the Droid 3 just came out) do much better in low light situations, but they still lack in the ability to change settings.

What makes this phone bearable are the apps available through the app market.  Without these apps I would have returned this phone long ago.

Android Apps:

There are a lot of photography apps available for android, and there are a lot of posts out there telling you which ones are the best.  The problem with those posts is that the writers judge the app based on the reviewer ratings and haven’t really tested them, and there aren’t very many pictures to show you what the app can do.  However, those posts are a great starting point for which apps to try first.  I’m only going to show you the apps I use frequently and have used for a long time, and I will show you my favorite pictures I have taken with each app.

There are several apps out there that I have downloaded thinking they would be great, only to delete them later. Here are a couple that you shouldn’t waste your phone storage space on.

Adobe Photoshop: It does very little. I found I never used it.
Pudding Camera: The free version is in Korean, so I couldn’t figure it out.
Camera360: I never used this one either.  It didn’t have enough options to justify me keeping it.
Camera Magic: This one is about to get deleted from my phone. I never use it. It doesn’t have very many filters, and it has fewer options than the built in camera. 

Now, what do I use? Here is a complete breakdown of all of the apps I use frequently. All apps are free to download through the app market. I never pay for an app.

QuickPic: Use this instead of the stock photo gallery.  It is cleaner and runs more smoothly and faster.

FX Camera
This was the first photography app I ever downloaded, so I used it a lot in the beginning.  I have to say, though, that I don’t use it much now.

It is the only app I have found that has a fisheye mode and a Warhol mode (the only other options are ToyCam, Polandroid, and SymmetriCam).

Since it only has 5 options, I find that I rarely use it.

FX Camera App: Palandroid

FX Camera App: Toy Cam

Vignette Demo
This is a very popular app on the market. A lot of people seem to really love it. It is a much better option than the stock camera, and can be set to start up when you hit the camera button.

- There are a lot of filters, something like 84 total! My favorites include Cross-processing (with 6 different color options), Technicolor (under Cinematic), Faded Vintage, Colourised Vintage, Velvia, Toy Camera, and Toy Camera Cross Processed.
- You can save your favorite filters in a different folder for easy access.
- You can add frames.
- There are options to auto-save filtered pictures and the original picture.
- You can change the screen modes. There are 11 different modes to choose from, including Night-portrait, beach, snow, action, and landscape.
- There is a self timer
- You can turn on different picture taking guides (Golden Ratio, Rule of Thirds, etc)
- There is a time lapse option ( I haven’t used this, but it seems like fun)

- On the new version I found it hard to figure out how to navigate to the options (hit the back button)
- There is no preview for filters, and you have to pick the filter before you take the picture. This means that if you take a picture using a predetermined filter you won’t know what it looks like with that filter until after you take the picture.  I find I like to apply the filter after I take the picture so I can test different filters on the image to see which one I like best. For this reason alone, I find I don’t use this amazing app as often as it deserves.

Vignette App: Cross Process (X-pro Yellow)

Vignette App

Retro Camera
This was my favorite app for a long time, and some of my favorite photos are taken with it.

- Although it doesn’t have very many filters, the few it does have are some of my favorites out there.
- The interface is cute.

- Like with most of the other photo apps there is no preview for the fillter.
- It does not have very many filters (only 6 cameras to choose from)
- There are few setting you can change
- The “viewfinder” is very small.

Retro Camera:Pinhole Camera

Retro Camera: Little Orange Box

Retro Camera: Pinhole Camera

Retro Camera: Little Orange Box

Retro Camera:Barbl

Little Photo
This is my go to app right now. I use it all the time.

- You take your picture first, and then apply all changes and filters.
- There are a lot of filters (over 50). My favorites are Lomo, 2-hand lens, 201 Film, Tone Lighting, Toy Camera, Vintage Paper, and 4:50pm
- It has several different frames.
- There are several “tools” such as bokeh, text, drawings, etc.
- You can use multiple filters on one picture (although, the quality decreases when you do)
- You can import photos taken from other apps and from the stock camera and apply filters.
- You can auto-save the original picture (which I just learned how to do)
- There is a 3 second self-timer option

- Even though I like being able to apply filters after I take the picture, it does add extra time to the process
- There are no screen modes or other regular camera settings
- The flash doesn’t work with my phone

My favorite! Little Photo: Lomo

Little Photo: 2-Hand Lens

For more images from these apps check out these flickr groups

For camera phone inspiration check out these amazing images from a recent Pioneer Women post (unfortunately, none of mine made the cut):

If you have any questions about any of these apps, or you want me to try out one of the other photography apps available for Android, let me know in the comments section or send me an email.

All  photos were uploaded to Photoshop where they were water marked, changed to the correct color mode for the web, and saved. Besides that all images are straight from my phone (and appear as they do on my phone's screen), no other actions where taken in Photoshop.

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