Not to be left out of the wave of recent photo app updates, Flickr has released a new version of its iOS app (and also revamped its web interface). The photo sharing service, founded in 2004, is a popular website for professional photographers and enthusiasts. But it's struggled to remain relevant as Instagram and other social photo sharing services have reshaped the way we share images. Yahoo’s apparent inattentive attitude toward Flickr (the app hadn't seen an update in nearly a full year) has further pushed users on to fresher options like 500px.
During the smartphone revolution, many of Flickr’s devoted users were turned off by its clunky photo app. Ratings for Flickr’s iOS app hovered around three stars in the Apple App Store. Earlier this year, Flickr users begged the new Yahoo CEO to “make Flickr awesome again."
This latest update is seen by many as Flickr’s saving grace. Some even claimed that it blew Twitter, Facebook and Instagram out of the water. One user summed up Flicker fans' excitement in a review on the App Store: “Now it finally feels like FLICKR!”
Lovers of the site will continue to use Flickr for its community of photographers and public storage for their online portfolios; but will this app update be enough to attract new users, or will Flickr go the way of MySpace?
As with any photography app, the actual camera capabilities are worth reviewing first. When you open up the capture screen on the updated Flickr app, you are greeted with basic camera features—flash, composition grids and tap-to-focus. A two-finger touch on the screen will reveal a circle and a square—the square will choose your focal point and the circle will pick your exposure. The addition of manual exposure sets the Flickr app apart from the native iOS camera app, but many other photography apps also offer this feature.
While the capture aspect is solid, the new Flickr really soars in its editing and filter options. The Aviary-powered editing tools let you adjust brightness, contrast and even hide blemishes. After you are done performing basic edits, you can choose from one of 16 different filters (all named after animals). Flickr’s filters are more intense than its direct competitors. In a delicate composition, they can totally blow out details or harsh out shadows, but they are a welcome change to the same light sepia washes you see in nearly every similar app's filter palette. If you are a staunch anti-filter purist, you can turn of the filter option entirely in the app’s settings menu.
Flickr lies in a middle ground between a photography-only portfolio site, anonymous forum and social network. It has a strong online community of photography enthusiasts that often go by aliases, but it also functions as a forum for professionals to offer each other support and criticism. Though a wonderful photo sharing tool, Flickr is not exactly a social network as others have become.
Since Instagram cut off ties with Twitter and Twitter updated its photo features to lure Insta-Tweeters, Flickr has emerged as a photo-sharing Switzerland in the tech wars. Flicker users can still share photos on Twitter to be viewed within a tweet instead of opening in a new page, its Facebook integration remains strong and users can also upload photos to their Tumblr page or send them via email.
To make Flickr's own social networking easier, a tab lets you view your contacts' photos. This new feature showcases your contacts individually with thumbnails of their most recent images. This page is also where you will find the groups tab to check out what people are posting in the photo communities you are a part of.
Along with the new filters, Flickr has revamped their profile navigation. In profile browsing, the “faves” star sits next to the comment bubble at the bottom of the photo. If you turn your phone to landscape mode, you can enter a slideshow of any photo stream. When viewing photos, you can now zoom all the way in to pixel level while having the photo remain sharp the entire time.
Flickr has started to make better use of its location feature by placing photos on a world map for browsing. The app features a “Nearby” browsing option next to Flickr’s famed “Interesting” browser. The Nearby feature displays what the algorithm thinks are the best photos uploaded near your current location.
Android and Windows
While both Android and Windows Phone 8 do have a Flickr app, they don’t have the same fully updated version as iOS. You can find similar photo filters in the Android version (updated earlier this month). The filters on the Android version are named after places instead of animals and have a more distinct generated vignette than the more organic film-mimicking iOS filters.
A step in the right direction: The new Flickr app is easy to use and very pleasing to look at. All filters aside, the manual focus and exposure features combined with Aviary's simple-yet-comprehensive editing tools make this free app a must-try for mobile photographers. By utilizing these features while providing better navigation for its extensive online community, Flickr will not be fading into cyber obscurity just yet.
What we're looking for next:
- Auto-save all captured photos. The Flickr capture interface is great but it will not save a photo unless it is first uploaded to Flickr.
- White balance control and focus/exposure locks for more thoughtful compositions.
- Filters for a purpose. Sure, the film filters are super cool, but it would be nice to have filters that cater to more practical photographers—maybe a special filter for florescent lighting, or a levels controller.
- What's on your Flickr wishlist? Let's hear from you.
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