updated 10/5/2012 4:20:10 PM ET 2012-10-05T20:20:10

Sharing photos has become one of the top activities on smartphones. And while there's no shortage of social photo-sharing apps, built-in editing capabilities are pretty limited.

What if you want more than an Instagram filter? You could try feature-rich PhotoShop Express, but you may grow tired of the app's offers to buy extras.

Aviary, a free photo-editing app, provides a wider range of editing options, but is still easy to use on a smartphone. It has the filters of Instagram; the text, drawing and stickers of an online editor such as PicMonkey; and a few extras you won't find anywhere else. Plus, this all comes without a barrage of offers.


Why we like it

Aviary has five things going for it:

Fast start: Open the app, and the last picture you took on your phone is waiting for you. But if that's not the one you want to edit, start scrolling to the left. This fast-start feature is not found in most photo-editing apps, which usually require you to open the camera roll and choose a photo to get started. Aviary also provides the camera-roll option, so if you're looking for an older photo, you can tap "gallery" and see them all.

Fine-tuned editing control: In Instagram, contrast is an on-off proposition; either you activate high contrast by tapping the sun icon, or you don't. Aviary instead offers a spectrum tool to make minute adjustments to brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness. For quicker cropping, you can select from six presets, including square (Instagram format), and common print sizes such as 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 — a feature that Photoshop doesn't offer. A tap instantly shows how your photo will look within the selected size.

Light correction: Aviary's "enhance" feature does more than simply apply an automatic fix like most programs do. You can choose to correct a photo's lighting in three ways: Apply a night effect to combat low light problems, use the backlit function to remove unwanted shadows or tap balance to offset fluorescent lighting.

Meme-maker:Aviary doesn't just bring more sophisticated editing tools to the smartphone. You can also use the built-in meme-maker to add witty sayings to a photo and start your own meme.  [SEE ALSO: How to Make Your Own Memes]

More sharing options: Aviary lets you share photos to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram (see caveat below), as well as by email.


Keep in mind

The one popular feature that's missing from Aviary is a collage maker. You'll need an app like PicFrame to use multiple photos in one picture. Aviary for iOS has also lost its share-to-Instagram capability with the launch of iOS6. However, the team expects to receive approval soon from Apple on its updated version for iOS 6 and iPhone 5.

Bottom line

About the only feature Aviary lacks is a collage-maker. Otherwise, it's a go-to app for mobile photographers who want professional effects without the extra work and delay of desktop solutions. And of course, it's free.

Key specs

  • Available for iOS (iPhone and iPad versions), Android and Windows 7
  • 21.7MB storage required
  • 12 filters
  • Fine control for brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness
  • 6 cropping presets
  • Drawing and text in 20 colors (no font options)
  • Free

© 2012 TechNewsDaily


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