Technology

Instagram Alternatives: It's Not Just About the Filters

By / Dec 18, 2012 (Snapseed/Google)

In recent weeks, it seems like all the major tech players have upped their smartphone photography game. Don’t limit yourself to the most popular app: Try these Instagram alternatives.

It’s not just about Instagram.

We’ve covered the platform’s success in the past, how it has created the perfect balance between a social network and a photo-editing tool.

But now might be a good time to consider if you need to jump ship. Instagram is making changes to its platform that are frustrating users. On Monday, it was reported that the service was updating its terms of service to include this line: “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

That comes on top of changes to Instagram’s relationship with Twitter that are frustrating users—as Associations Now’s Chloe Thompson pointed out recently.

Fortunately, there’s competition out there—and those companies are upping their game. And let’s face it, associations always have a good photo-op, right? Check out these worthwhile alternatives that your staff should keep in mind when covering events, tradeshows, and the choppy waters of social media.

Twitter Gets Filtered

In the midst of the recent drama surrounding Twitter and Instagram, Twitter offered its own entry to the photo-editing game—the introduction of filters to the Twitter mobile app.

It’s clearly an Instagram alternative, though not as full-featured. Twitter’s process of creating the images is extremely simple, requiring just a couple of taps to add an extra dynamic to the uploaded photos.

In case you’re curious about the results, here’s a picture of a particularly amazing cup of coffee I got recently:

Not bad for a product where you’re more likely to write about the great cup of coffee you just had than take a picture of it.

Flickr’s Return to Form

Could 2013 prove a comeback year for Flickr?

In 2004, the photo-sharing service made a name for itself by encouraging social photo-sharing on the web in a way that few outlets were trying at the time. Quite literally, it had a five-year head start against Instagram. When it launched, it offered many innovations that made the service appealing for photographers, including a focus on high-quality image uploads and the ability to allow photographers to retain control of their work.

However, after Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005, the product began to languish in an incompatible corporate environment, and by 2010, it had lost ground by tripping at the gate with its smartphone offerings. The tale of Flickr’s decline has been widely reported and is often seen as one of Yahoo’s biggest mistakes.

That is why Flickr’s worthy iOS relaunch last week (shown above in video form) drew so much attention. The launch coincided with a redesign of the website, focused on clean design and an experience that’s more appealing to photographers who may not be pros. It also follows the move of legendary Google engineer Marissa Mayer to Yahoo earlier this year. The company’s new approach encourages a simplicity across multiple platforms. And it introduced filters, too.

The Hengill volcano, situated in southern Iceland. (photo by Ernie Smith using Camera+)

The App Behind My Vacation

Last month, because I’m crazy, I took an extremely short vacation to Iceland with my fiancée.

We fit a lot into two and a half days, including a hike through a snow-covered volcano that might have prevented a few blog posts from going online had I slipped. It was sort of dangerous, but it was beautiful, and we didn’t really have enough room in the bag for a great camera to capture the views. Fortunately, I had the excellent iPhone app Camera+ on my phone and was able to take great photos with strong focus and better bells and whistles than Apple’s default camera app.

It’s really good. With ties to social networks, it’s a solid Instagram alternative. It makes the hardware camera better. It makes you a better photographer than you have any right to be. (It also has filters, including an amazing workhorse called “Clarity,” which helps make almost-good photos shine.) And most impressively, it’s the work of a tiny company, tap tap tap.

You could do a lot worse with $1. Highly recommended.

A photo of the greatest shoe ever created, toned with the help of Snapseed for the iPad. (Photo by Ernie Smith)

Google’s Dark Horse

While numerous apps, such as Adobe’s PS Express, offer a darkroom-like experience on mobile platforms, the one that’s perhaps the best with this approach is Snapseed, which is effectively a fully featured darkroom in app form, allowing for photo-editing, filtering, and tilt-shifting features. It’s arguably offering the first real competition to Photoshop in years. While Mac and PC versions of the app exist, it’s on mobile platforms (including, just recently, Android) that Snapseed shines, clearly designed with touch screens in mind. Perhaps that’s why Google acquired Nik Software, the creator of Snapseed, earlier this year.

While Google already had tools like Picasa to its name, Snapseed’s filtering and toning features struck a nice balance between the complex but powerful desktop version of Photoshop and the somewhat oversimplified approach that Instagram takes.

When Google made Snapseed free on iOS and Android earlier this month, it led some in the photography community to speculate that the company would create an Instagram alternative of its own—and conceivably give an advantage to its Google+, which has struggled with perception issues since its launch last year.

Now whether that’s the case, Google now sports the most efficient photo-editing product on any platform.

How does your association use mobile photos to tell great stories? What’s your favorite tool? Looking forward to your thoughts.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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