When life is filtered

Tags: Knowledge

Here are a few tools to help you stand out from the crowd of over 200 million monthly users active on Instagram

Did you know that Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users? And of these, more than 75 million user post daily to this immensely popular mobile photo-sharing social networking platform? Wondering what the fuss is all about anyway? Well, the Instagram app allows you to take pictures (and videos) with your phones, apply digital effects to them, and post them online instantly on the Instagram service. It lets you share them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, too.

Why is Instagram so loved? Bascially because it’s an instant, fast, easy and fun way to communicate and share with a global community. It encourages casual, effortless creativity sans the skills of a photographer. No one cares if your images are of dubious quality. Rather, there are filters for discoloration, scratches, or a quasi-vintage look for images. From selfies to groupies, landscapes to streetlamps, pets to petuniaas, Ferarris to food porn, you can Instagram anything and everything — without so much as a single word alongside. A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

A wee bit of editingInstagram has an in-built graphics toolkit but it is fairly limited. At times you do need to enhance your photos to make them more interesting and arresting. While there are a surfeit of free image manipulation tools available for iOS and Android smartphones, Aviary and Snapseed are easily the best. Both are easy to use and offer quite a handful of features to tweak and tune your photos. Since Instagram officially came to Windows phone as recently as March this year, there aren’t too many ‘gram apps’ for it as yet. However, 6tag, Pictastic and Fhotoroom are essential tools. In fact 6tag bests Instagram at its own game by providing a richer experience than the original! Overall, for the Windows phone brigade, Nokia creative studio reigns supreme. Lastly, there’s Hipstamatic Oggl.

Filters and fish eyes

There are a multitude of apps to create special effects for Instagram. VSCO Cam for Android and iOS for instance is an elegant add-on for Instgrammer. Apart from presets, it allows excellent control of image exposure, temperature, fades, and vignettes to define and refine the look of your image. Apps like LE Cam (Android) and Slow Shutter Camera (iOS) let your mobile take long exposure shots to depict traffic light trails at night, or speed effects of passing trains and cars during the day. For an old world, vintage feel try XnLight Effect Bokeh on Android and Afterlight on iOS.

Globe Photo and Planet Camera on Android and RollWorld on iOS let you take interesting fish eye pictures. While Globe Photo is very basic and doesn’t allow any post-click manipulations, Globe Photo and RollWorld do. The last mentioned (iOS only) option, though gratis, offers a number of nice effects and control sliders to fine tune your images and its not ad supported.

Have a number of interesting shots on a topic that you wish to post as photo collage frame on Instagram? Download Pic Frame and/or Pic Collage. Both these free Instagram-compatible are fairly decent, easy to use photo grid making utilities are available on Android as well as iOS. Windows users can boot up Nokia creative studio for the job.

Ever feel restricted by the Instagram square picture format? Turn to Square InstaPic on Android, Squaready on iOS, or InstaSquarer on Windows Phone. And if to you ever want to save a photo off Instagram, try InstantSave. The app is available for both Android and iOS.

Texting & hashtagging

If you like to add text with some flourish to your Instas there’s nothing faster and cleaner than InstaPlace, InstaWeather and InstaFood. This trio of apps for Android and iOS provide the easiest way to embed text and location to a photo. You can use a preset or personalise it. For a somewhat more labourious but freeform process, try InstaText (Android and iOS) or Overgram (iOS).

Once you’ve been on Instagram for a while, you realise how vital hashtags are to the scheme of things. A hashtag is word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#) on socmed sites like Twitter and Facebook to identify a topic. Popular or trending hashtags automatically draw more views (and hence likes) and offbeat ones slip away unnoticed. Apps like HashTags (Android), TagsForLikes on iOS, and Tagram for Window phone can help attract people to your posts.

One last thing: rest assured, you don’t need any prior knowledge of Photoshop or photo editing whatsoever to use any of the apps mention here.

(The author is a freelance personal tech writer)

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