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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Snap like a pro

Smartphones are making it easier to take great pictures with the help of photography apps. JASMINE OSADA zooms in on 10 of the best.
The Straits Times - January 4, 2012
By: Jasmine Osada
| More
Snap like a pro A preview of the Camera+ app


HDR Foto

For people who cannot figure out what the high dynamic range (HDR) feature on their iOS camera does, this app can help them make the most of it.

Snapping a picture in HDR mode is easy with this app - simply frame the picture, tell the app which are the darkest and brightest areas of the image you are taking, then hit the shutter button. The app snaps one photo for each lighting extreme, then combines the best of both to create an HDR image.

Once done, the completed image can be further adjusted in the editing mode. Advanced settings, such as adjusting the colour balance and contrast of a photo, can be fine-tuned in this mode. Simple but useful features, such as a crop and rotate tool, are also great bonuses. 

Available for: iPhone

Photo Rotate & Crop

This is very handy for quickly rotating or cropping an image. It also includes a simple brightness and contrast tool for users to make a quick tweak and gussy up a photo. The straightforward user interface makes using this app very easy.

You can import, edit and export a photo in a matter of minutes.

Available for: iPhone 


Free for a limited time

Blurry photos are a common result when one uses a smartphone camera. This app ensures the camera will snap a picture only when it detects that the phone is steady. It uses the iPhone's accelerometers to detect movement.

To take a picture, just frame the image, then tap the shutter button. A camera shake meter will appear and you must hold the smartphone steady until the shutter clicks. 

Available for: iPhone

Little Photo

The 'little' is deceptive. This app is packed with camera and photo-editing functions. It is great for snapping a picture, then editing it instantly within the same interface.

Users can add text and effects or even draw on a photo. The app also comes with more than 50 different photo filters that can be applied in varying degrees and layered over one other.

There is no limit to the effects you can apply to each picture, so this app offers many options to experiment and be creative.

Available for: Android

Color Touch Effects

Ever fancied creating one of those photos that are monochrome but feature only one object in colour? This app will do just that. Best of all, you do not need to be a photo-editing pro.

Start by choosing a picture to edit or by snapping one using the app's camera. The image is automatically presented in monochrome. Users can choose which parts of the photo to colour by simply painting over the desired area.

To sweeten it further, the app contains 18 other effects that can be applied to an image and used the same way.

Available for: Android

Night Camera

Taking pictures at night can be tricky, especially since smartphone cameras are not as powerful as their digital camera counterparts.

Though no miracle worker, this app does help you make night shots look better. Users simply have to frame their shot and tap on the screen to snap the image and the app will do the rest.

In our tests, pictures taken using this app appeared clearer, sharper and more detailed than those taken using the smartphone's default setting.

A paid version of this app, Night Camera+ ($3.91) is available for people who want to use the app without advertising banners. This version also includes extra features such as geotagging and an option to mute the camera's shutter sound.

Available for: Android 

Adobe PhotoShop Express

Although it has a lot less muscle than its PC cousin, Adobe's PhotoShop Express is still a useful tool to help you improve the look of your snapshots. This app offers a few basic tools, including crop and rotate functions, exposure and colour saturation adjustments and a modest selection of six filter effects.

What stands out is its Straighten Tool, which is handy for quickly correcting a photo that looks slanted. The app also lets users store their photos online after they sign up for a account.

Available for: iPhone and Android 



US$0.99 (S$1.30) for a limited time

This app does not just make your iPhone a better camera, it is also a great photo editor that is simple to use.

It offers functions such as an image stabiliser mode and a burst mode, which are standard in digital compact cameras but not in smartphones.

Camera+ also comes with a fuss-free photo editor. In this mode, users can import photos or work on shots taken using its camera function. The well-designed user interface has icons that are clearly labelled, instead of a text-based menu. It is ideal for people who have little or no photography smarts.

It includes 16 different image adjustment presets to experiment with, a crop and rotate tool, and filter and border effects.

Available for: iPhone 

Large Aperture Pro

US$1.99 (S$2.60)

Photos taken using a large aperture lens usually feature the subject in sharp focus against a blurred background. While your iPhone can't do this on its own, this app can help transform your shots.

First, it blurs the photo. Then the user paints over the areas he wants to be in focus and adjusts exactly the degree of blurriness desired in the background. Effects can also be added so that backgrounds with depth will appear to blur gradually.

Available for: iPhone 

Paper Camera

US$0.99 (S$1.30), from Apple App Store; $2.49, from Android Market

The world around you can look a little more like a comic book with this quirky app. As its name suggests, Paper Camera is equipped with 11 effects that can change an ordinary photo into one with paper-based art effects, such as a pencil sketch or pastel drawing.

Users can import an existing image or take a picture using the built-in camera function. The app's camera applies the selected effect to the viewfinder screen in real time, so that you can see the effect even before the shutter clicks.

Available for: iPhone and Android




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