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Photography 101: The Best Android Photo Apps Right Now

Hi, I'm Brad. You don't know me, yet. For the next few months, I will be writing a blog series for Peachpit titled, Photography 101. I am not a photographer. The only camera I own is in my Android Galaxy S4. I have always been more interested in what the mind can remember than what a photo can capture. This being said, for the coming months I am going to throw myself into the world of photography and document it through this blog. It's called Photography 101 but really, it's photography for idiots (like myself).

So, without further preface, "The Best Android Photo Apps". For more information, check out "Android Photography: Take Better Photos With Your Android Phone."


San Francisco, Clay St. onto Transamerica Pyramid

I am traveling this week. The photo above was taken on my Samsung Galaxy S4 camera. It is a 13 megapixel camera capable of shooting at 25 frames per second, or, if you do the math, 100 photos in 4 seconds using the burst feature. By all counts, when the 13 megapixel for the S4 was announced, it was a big deal for the sole reason that it jumped Samsung's flagship smartphone from 8 megapixels to 13. Pretty large jump.

As noted by PC Mag:


"The jump from 8 to 13 megapixels is a big one, and, like our own Sascha Segan, I am dubious if it will be an improvement. Jamming more pixels onto an already tiny image sensor is likely to do more harm than good when shooting in low light—and unless you're outdoors when the sun is up, you are likely in low light. An image sensor that is physically larger, like the one in the Nokia 808 PureView will do more to improve the quality of images."

So, right off the bat, by up the pixel rate and jamming it into a smaller sensor, problems can arise. This being said, if you are like me and you enjoy taking travel photos, let's talk about the best photo apps for the Android platform.


1. Google Camera



San Francisco Sunrise


Google Camera. It comes installed on all Android devices and, as the name suggests, is Google's own photo manipulation app. Some of the best features of the app include Lens Blur and Panorama to create 360 degree images. As phone makers understand the seemingly never ending trend of selfies, the Lens Blur feature comes in handy for manipulating the foreground and background of a given image to focus the image to your liking. Again, great for selfies. Lens blur allows the user to utilize a DSL-R like focus on any photo.

As for the panorama feature, or what Google calls "Photo Stitching", in my experience the app does a better job at creating an extra wide 360 image than most other manufacture installed applications.

Download Google Camera.


2. Instagram



San Francisco, Capital Restaurant, Clay Pot


If Instagram is anything, it is ubiquitous. The app now has over 300 million users. With multiple options for photo manipulation - filters, blurs, zooms, tilts, etc. - Instagram offers the masses an easy photo manipulation app which makes the most of social media. The application is dead simple to use and requires no photography skill outside of what looks best to your eye.

While the application is designed to be dead simple to use, a point and shoot app, it could be argued that Instagram, more than any other platform, is pioneering a new age of photography through sheer creativity. Due to the constraints of the application, a bevy of high end Instagram accounts have popped up with the simple intention of stretching the limits of the application and in turn, the limits of digital mobile photography.

If you don't believe me, check out the following Instagram accounts who are constantly pushing the limits of the tech: Adam Senatori, Joshua Lott, Paul Octavious, This Wild Idea and Othellonine.

Download Instagram.


3. Camera360 Ultimate



San Francisco, Coit Tower


With nearly 3 million reviews and downloads, to say that Camera360 Ultimate is one of the leading photo manipulation applications available for both Android and iOS is an understatement. The application packs a few dozen effects designed to appeal to the widest range of mobile photographers. With a dead simple interface, the application enables photographers to integrate app effects into photos in real time, easily swipe between features and apply effects to certain part of an image using the touch of a finger (light blur for example).

Beyond simple filters, much akin to Instagram, the applications provides users with the ability to apply layers, shift, tilt, image textures, frames, manipulations and zooms. For the very fair price of free, Camera360 Ultimate is a great mobile camera application worthy of every Android (and iOS) snapper.

Download Camera360 Ultimate

4. Cymera



San Francisco, SFFD


Another mega popular Android photo manipulation application. With over 10 million downloads and more reviews than anyone can count, Cymera has made it's name in camera apps by specifically marketing to and being used for taking photos of faces. The application is built to support, edit and manipulate both selfies and pictures of other people. With apps built to focus on certain features, play with skin tone and highlight the best parts of a smile, Cymera is the go to for every and all face obsessed mobile photographer.

Download Cymera.

5. Camera in the Raw



San Francisco, Hills


I admit, this is an argument point. While the Android platform has some very helpful and very cool photo manipulation applications designed to enhance your photos, an argument can be made for ditching all apps in favor of camera in the raw. By this I mean instead of relying on applications to alter your mobile photos for the better, rely strictly on the time of the day, your ingenuity and your creativity to create great photos. Sure, this means understanding how light falls at certain times of the day (personally, I dig the longer shadows at dawn than at dusk) and it involves understanding how to frame a photo in terms of depth field (does a focal point in the background eliminate detail in the foreground?). That said, pulling off a pure photo sans application help is wonderful and should be sought after.


Note: All photos within this post were taken with the authors Samsung Galaxy S4 using various Android camera apps.


Remember, if you like this content and want to chat about it, you can reach me at the following social spaces:

  1. Twitter: @bleibowi
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