I use Flickr to host most of the pictures that are here on Whatever, and one of the nice perks of Flickr is its integration with Picnik, an online photo editing suite with some nice features and filters. Unfortunately, Picnik is going away soon, a victim of integration with its parent Google, and now I’m left to find a replacement suite for quick-and-dirty photo filtering. I use Photoshop for serious photo editing, but a lot of the time I don’t need serious photoediting, I just want something to make the picture look different. It’s been ironically easier to find apps for that that on a cell phone (I use Vignette most of the time) than it has been on the computer proper.
A couple of days ago I stumbled upon Camerabag 2, a photoediting suite that has filters, frames and editing tools, with a relatively simple scheme for mixing and matching each. I have to say I’ve been pretty pleased with it. The mix-and-match aspect of it is especially nice; some of the other photo filtering programs I’ve played with have not made it as intuitive to put one filter on top of another and tweak both. The program fulfills my need to fiddle with the look of a picture without making it a drag to do so, and I like that a lot.
In addition to a set list of styles (filters) and borders, Camerabag 2 has a category of filters called “Favorites,” which are basically preset macros of various combinations of filters/adjustments/borders. You can use them as they are or tweak them by adjusting the individual components. You can also create your own (as I did above with the picture of me and Dave Klecha) and then save them for future use. As noted before, it’s pretty easy to figure out and catch on. My one complaint is that the various “smudgy” borders don’t seem to auto-generate variations, so all the smudges/creases/whatever will be the same across all the pictures. But that’s a relatively small gripe (and seems to suggest using those borders sparingly, which I think is probably a good thing, anyway).
I’ll note that I don’t think this sort of filtering necessarily makes pictures better — we could nerd out for days about whether the Instagramming of Photography has been a bane or a benefit. I think if you start off with a crappy picture, putting an ironic 70′s Instamatic border around it isn’t suddenly going to make it good, and if you have a good picture, you can filter it down into hipster mediocrity without much effort. That said, there’s something to be said with making a photo what you want it to be, and if fiddling with it with filters and effects gets it to the emotional space you want it to be in (or, to overthink it rather less, makes it look cool to you), then why not. I think it’s a little silly to get bogged down with concerns about authenticity when you’re taking pictures of your cat.
In any event, if you like tweaking your photos on your computer but don’t want to have to break out Photoshop for every little thing, I can recommend Camerabag 2. So far, it’s been making me happy, and it gives me lots of options to play with. And it’s $25 at the moment, which doesn’t suck either. It appears available for Mac and PC; check it out.