Good Bad Photography (3)

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Today we are trying out Photoshop Express, Adobe’s free, simple, and – let’s face it – almost entirely pointless image editing app.

It does the basics well. At least you assume it does, being from Adobe. I can’t honestly swear I can tell if one app is adjusting brightness or contrast better than another. The cropping, rotating, and flipping tool is impressively quick and smooth though, so it might be worth the effort of downloading for that.

The touch-propelled interface, where the whole screen is your slider control, is great for easy precision control on the phone. But what’s there to do with it? As far as treats go there’s a positively grudging selection of eight frames and seven filters. Even Instagram makes that look weak, never mind an effects cornucopia like Pixlr-o-matic. Apparently there are additional ones available to the iPhone version – for money – but there’s no readily apparent way to get them here.

It shows every sign therefore of being the deliberately watered-down free sibling of the paid-for Photoshop Touch app. Which alas I cannot use until Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4) finally reaches us. I’ll probably find a use for this on occasion, but it will never be my first resort.
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Good Bad Photography (2)

Pixlr-o-matic

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This was a perfectly safe-looking house before I let Pixlr-o-matic at it

Oh, I’m liking this one. Pixlr-o-matic, unlike the Instagram and Hipster I discussed earlier, is not about applying pre-set combinations of effects. Instead you can choose the combination, from three different categories called Overlay, Filter and Frame. Plenty come with it, and you can quickly download many more – even seeing them applied in preview before you download, which is pretty amazing.

This is a really well thought-out app in the way that it manages to combine speed with flexibility. Obviously it takes longer to use than one of the others, simply because you have so many more options, but it means you can apply your own tastes rather than be restricted to the aesthetic ideas of an app’s creator. And to speed things up you can remove effects from the interface, getting ones you don’t like out of the way or even reducing it to just a few favourites. The rest remain accessible, but are a few taps away. For me, that flexibility easily outweighs the extra complication. There’s room for both types of app on a phone of course, but I see myself using this one far more often.

A couple of other great features:

A button to apply a random combination of filters that you can keep hitting until you’re pleasantly surprised. It abandons all control, but adds fun.

Single-click cropping to square. It just cuts off the sides, unfortunately there’s no zooming or panning, but it’s quick and it’s great to have the choice.

Best of all though, Pixlr-o-matic allows you to save your pictures. Are you surprised that that’s a bonus? Too many of these apps are so “social” that there is no option to save an image to your phone! You can only upload it.

This is the one Facebook should’ve bought. Maybe they just couldn’t pronounce it. Far, far better than Instagram or anything else I’ve found so far. And it costs exactly one billion dollars less.

Get it here.