Four Fab Photo Apps

Science World in Vancouver edited with Picfx
Spacey Science World edited with Picfx

Photography has been a passion of mine for a long time. I’ve played around in a dark room, manipulated Polaroid emulsion transfers and I bought a digital camera when 4 mega pixels was a big deal. One thing I was not quick to embrace was cell phones with cameras. I saw it as a useful tool to capture data, but I was not open to the artistic merit angle. I usually carried a camera with me, so I never relied on capturing essential images with a phone. Well, that all changed when I switched from a Blackberry to the iPhone4S last year. It finally dawned on me that it was not the technical specs that was the key feature of using the camera on smartphones (though finally it was on par with point-and-shoots) it was the share-ability of the images captured. Rather than waiting to download scores of images to my laptop (usually late at night) and then finally getting around to putting them up on Facebook, I could instantly share what I was seeing with friends, family and all my social networks. Over the last year I’ve gotten more creative with the images I share and here are the top four iPhone apps that I have used the most:

Instagram

Victoria Cityscape edited with Instagram
Victoria Cityscape edited with Instagram

I started using Instagram mostly as a way to share images with Facebook, Flickr and Twitter and I played around with the filters, frames and blurs. Lately, I’ve been more interested in Instagram as a social network as there are some amazingly talented and creative people who share their creations through Instagram. I’ve started using more hashtags on my photos under @juliaaustine and I’ve seen the number of likes and comments go up as well (also the amount of spam, but I figured out how to delete those comments).

Picfx

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Powerful Sky edited with Picfx

After using Instagram for a while, I noticed that people’s images were going beyond the manipulations offered there and so I started looking for ways to add more effects to create more dramatic images. I downloaded Picfx (paying a whopping $1.99) and haven’t looked back. With over 100 effects and the ability to layer effects and control the intensity, there are a mind-boggling amount of combinations that can be created.

Bokehful

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Sun Forest edited with Picfx, Bokehful & Instagram

One of my favourite effects from Picfx was the different bokeh light layers. The only problem was that it was static, you could adjust the intensity but not the placement. Enter Bokehful. For 99 cents, I could not only control the intensity and placement, there were colour palettes and shapes literally at my fingertips! I keep reminding myself that less is more so that I don’t go overboard.

PicFrame

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Diner Desires edited with PicFrame & Instagram

A photo may say a thousand words, but sometimes that’s not enough! From the same designers as Bokehful, ActiveDevelopment, I turned to PicFrame to solve this dilemma. By dropping another 99 cents, I’m able to put multiple images together with a variety of frames and labels that I haven’t tired of yet.

Though I mostly use Instagram to share the final images, I’m finding that to create the effect that I want I sometimes use ALL of the above apps to tweak the original shot before sharing it. So get creative and take a boring pic that anyone could capture and make it your own!

Please let me know what your favourite photo app is as I’m always looking to add to my image arsenal.

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Social Media Takes the Cake

Can Social Media take the cupcake to another level? Cupcakes have been a food trend ever since the Magnolia Bakery in New York was featured on Sex and the City and this hilarious SNL video. Since then cupcake specific bakeries have been popping up all over the world. Some have disappeared and others have managed to outlast the fad. I have tried to sample as many as the cupcake offerings in British Columbia as possible, it’s only fair to the cupcakes. While all were very attractive, there is only one bakery that has cupcakes so good that I think about them daily and will pay a bridge toll just to taste them again: Frostings Cupcakery in Langley. Part of the reasonI think about them every day, besides their sumptuous cupcakes, is their presence on social media.

I shared the photo below on Twitter and Facebook through Instagram last week and it was retweeted by @frostingcupcake with the comment “Hey, we recognize those :-)”. While I did pay for the regular size ones, the little mini red velvet cupcake at the bottom was a freebie I earned by checking in at their store using FourSquare. They have three specials set up through FourSquare, including 10% off for the mayor (it pays to be important). On Frostings’ Facebook Page they share their daily line up of flavours, so because I’ve “liked” their page, it pops up in my home feed tempting me every day.

Using Social Media to engage, reward and remind their customers, Frostings has created a loyal following. Let’s compare the stats for Frostings to another more established cupcake bakery in Vancouver: Original Cupcakes on Denman.

Frostings Cupcakery Vs. Original Cupcakes

2009 – year established – 2002

1449 – Facebook Page Likes – 527

98 – people talking about them on Facebook – 21

2736 – number of Tweets – 602

1355 – Twitter Followers – 3702

618 – Following on Twitter – 46

233 – FourSquare Checkins – 338

40 – Klout Score – 37

Though Original Cupcakes has been around seven years longer and has more than double the amount of Twitter followers than Frostings Cupcakery, Frostings’ followers and fans are much more engaged with their more active and interactive Social Media presence. If you think that’s impressive, wait until you taste their cupcakes!

Update: June 13, 2012

When I tweeted this post I included Frostings’ Twitter handle @frostingcupake and got the nicest reply:

Video: Hootsuite: Owl You Really Need?

I’ve used HootSuite to manage my social media profiles for a while and I recently upgraded to the Pro Plan, going from free to $5.99 USD per month. The limit of 5 social profiles was feeling constricting and I was becoming more interested in the custom analytics available. I love that HootSuite is a local tech company in downtown Vancouver and that they seem to be committed  to staying here. Not to mention that the owl mascot is adorable! Go ahead and “like” the Meat of the Message Facebook page and you’ll be in the loop with my latest scoop (I promise they won’t all rhyme).

Do you use HootSuite? If so, what do you like about it? If not, what’s holding you back?