App Store

So near yet so far for Fotor

When I was conducting my recent app spring clean, one of the apps that wasn't sent packing was Fotor, an editing package that I was asked to review by its makers. I've been trying it out for a few days, but the images I've edited specifically for this review I shot today, in glorious sunshine with the help of an Easy Macro band. As an editing package, Fotor offers a lot, but I think it falls short of replacing one of my current favourites. Fotor gives you the option to import photos from your camera roll or take a photo in-app. If you opt for in-app, you get a choice of three subject placement overlays: grid, golden spiral, golden triangle. Or none at all, if you prefer. Whether you take a photo in-app, import it for editing, or save it after editing, it will be stored in Fotor's photo folder, according to date.

In-camera shooting options

When it comes to editing functions, features, and filters, Fotor is well endowed. You can adjust contrast and brightness and saturation and white balance and shadows and highlights, add text and stickers, apply a tilt-shift effect or a vignette, and compile a collage. There's a gamut of free filters—nine folders, ranging from 'Lomo' to 'Scratch', each with nine options—as well as some paid-for additions and 12 paid-for scenes.

A good range of basic edits

Fotor includes some neat touches. Being able to assign your favourite filters to a specific folder, making them easier and faster to apply, for example. Having each photo's details (time and date, exposure, and geo-location) at a tap is great. And I appreciate having plenty of sharing options, too.

More than enough filters to go around

However, there are some frustrating oversights. The omission of a straighten function being top of my list. And not being able to crop a vertical image using a 4:3 aspect ratio without first rotating it to a horizontal aspect, and indeed various other aspect ratios, is a bit... odd.

A very odd crop function and no obvious straighten feature

I didn't find the slider that is used to control the intensity of the adjustments especially accurate: if I tried to set it to 12 points, it would easily wind up at seven or 16. Without a reset button, returning the slider to 0 was sometimes tricky. And I have to confess that I'm fond of being able to compare my adjustments with the original image, which I can't do with Fotor.

But when all was said and done, I did like the final edit

Fotor, I'm afraid, won't be making its way to the 'Photography A' folder on my phone. It doesn't offer me enough of what I need and there's too much of what I don't. But that isn't to say it won't be for you. It's free to download and available for Android and iOS, so worth a look.

Spring cleaning my photography apps

I acquire a huge number of photography-related apps on my phone. Some of them I'm requested to review, some of them I choose to download so that I can compare them against similar apps, some of them I download for a specific purpose and never use again, a few of them I even use on a regular basis. I'm not too bad at sifting through them perodically to delete those which aren't serving any purpose and doing nothing more than consuming memory on my phone, but when I realised that I had four folders of photography apps, I concluded that it was time for a spring clean. Thus began the great app cull of Spring 2014. It was a fairly simple process based on the question 'Do I use this app?' If I did, I kept it; if I didn't, it was sent to the great spare app repository in the cloud. Admittedly, I did make a few exceptions, but all will be revealed.

Snapseed is my go-to editing app (followed by Aviary and ColorTime) so why did I have Photoshop Express lying redundant on my phone?

Adobe Photoshop Express? I don't remember the last time that I used it. I prefer Snapseed or Aviary. Gone!

Camera+? Plenty of people rave about it, but I've never got on with it. Gone!

Camera 360 Ultimate? I downloaded it when I was writing the Surreal book; it's served its purpose. Gone!

Loom? Now integrated with Dropbox making the app defunct. Gone!

Luminance? Again, lots of people love it, but I've never been drawn to it in the same way. Gone!

Marksta? An excellent app if you choose to watermark your mobile images, but I don't. I downloaded it when I was writing the Social book, but seeing as I no longer need it, it's... Gone!

Plastic Bullet? In the unusual event that I want to add filters and washes and heaven-knows-what to my photos, Pixlr-o-matic and FX PhotoStudio get the first looks-in.

Water My Photo? Not used it in almost two years. Does it still work? Gone!

And this list doesn't even skim the surface of those that have already enjoyed their five minutes of screen space and been moved on to pastures new. These include DXP Free (I prefer Juxtaposer); NoCrop, Squaready, and Squaregram (out-flanked by Instacrop and Instasize); and blasts from the past Photogram and Flex Photo Lab.

So what's left? Well, with three folders' worth, still quite a lot. I could probably condense it to two folders if I tried hard enough and made a choice between long exposure apps, plumped for either Instacrop or Instasize, and when I've finished off a few things I'm working on that require apps here and there. But I've still plenty of editing options with Snapseed, Aviary, and ColorTime, not to mention the tools that come with EyeEm, Flickr, and Instagram. There's touchReTouch for heavier duty removals, Touchnote for sending postcards, and Flipagram for flipbook-type-videos. Finally for triggering there's Triggertrap (obviously) and Gorillacam.

And there are a few apps that I've kept despite not having used them very much. I'm hoping that by making them more visible amongst my photo app arsenal, I might feel more inclined to tap them. I'm sure that I was suffering from a case of app-blindness with so many unused ones camouflaging ones that I might otherwise be useful. It's certainly been a liberating experience for my phone's memory; I'm hoping it might be an enlightening one for my mobile photography now.

Less is more, I think.

All the love for Litely?

There's been quite a bit of love for Litely over the past few days, following its release as an iOS app earlier this month. Developed by Cole Rise, one of the engineers behind Instagram filters Amaro, Hudson, Sierra, Sutro, Mayfair, Willow, and Rise, it's a photo editing app that offers a range of subtle filters and simple tools. When Sarah Perez of TechCrunch declared that Litely is the best new photo-filtering application for iOS, I decided that I needed to commandeer my parents' iPad, download it, and give it a whirl. The best new photo-filtering app for iOS is high praise and with my expectations set to stratospheric, I was anticipating something revolutionary. To give Litely its dues, it does have a lovely interface, the filters are subtle, and being able to adjust their intensity is much appreciated. But I think that it requires a little more fine-tuning before it can justify the unmitigated praise that's being heaped upon it.

I love the attention to detail, for example the marker beside each filter indicating the colour influence it has.

My most fervent criticism concerns the crop function. Given my dislike for the Flickr app's crop utility, I must be a stickler for them. I don't mind only having the choice between the original and a square aspect ratio, but I'd quite like to be able to actually crop an image and get closer to my subject. Litely lets you do this on-screen using the pinch function, but it doesn't seem to apply the crop after you've selected the 'Tick' icon. Please don't tempt me and then deny me. It's cruel. And if I can't crop, at least let me straighten.

Are these editing functions enough?

The editing functions comprise exposure, sharpen, vibrancy, and vignette. All of these are useful and easy to apply, but I'd still appreciate a white balance correction (even if I am meant to be adding a filter), a contrast slider, and maybe a tilt-shift option too. Does this make me greedy? Maybe, but I think this is Litely's biggest stumbling block.

Having started out as a collection of pre-sets for Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, and Camera Raw, Litely wasn't about actual editing. Those programmes offered all of that functionality with spades. In its transference to an iOS app, it has lost that purity. It's neither a one-stop-editing-shop nor an app devoted to filtering, and neither is there an inherent photo-sharing community, like Instagram or EyeEm.

Using the Heather Faded filter

By offering a few editing tools and nine filters for free, with a further 36 filters available at a price, it is falling between two stools. If it gave me all of the editing tools I want and need, it could possibly tempt me to augment the filters and stick with it. But I'm just not that bothered by a half-baked editing app with a few filters on the side. Equally, would I care to download just a bunch of filters? I'm not likely to, but I know people who are. Without a community to keep me coming back, it doesn't do enough to justify my interest, however delightful the interface or subtle the filters.

In conclusion, I've not fallen in love with Litely the same way that others have, but I do feel that it has potential. Now it must decide what it wants to be.

Litely is available to download for free from the App Store (nine filters plus basic editing fnctions), with three further sets of filters available for $1.99 each.