With the cameras on mobile phones getting better by the hour, smartphone users on all mobile OS platforms are spoilt for choice when it comes to photo editing apps. But if you have tried a few, you probably already know that not all of them are worth the precious space on your phone. Even Adobe Photoshop – the king of the hill in the desktop image editing arena and something I was excited to no end to see on Android – has been quite a disappointment as far as editing prowess and flexibility goes.
So when Aviary, Adobe’s counterpart as far as web apps go, decided to come out with an Android version of their photo editor, I knew better than to hike up my expectations.
If you have had anything to do with images and the web over the last few years, you have undoubtedly heard the name Aviary. Pretty much a pioneer in web-based image editing and creation apps, Aviary has been around and has garnered quite some respect over the years. So when they decided to put out a photo editing plugin rather than an app on Android, things got a little curious.
Turns out, it’s quite a masterstroke. Rather than launching an app specifically to edit a photo for use somewhere else, the plugin lets you edit an image from wherever you are on your phone, letting you go back to what you were doing without having to mess with another app.
Edit images from any app
The way the Aviary Photo Editor plugin works is by adding itself to the “Share” menu on your phone. While you are browsing through your photos – either after shooting them or later on – simply hit the Share button, select Aviary Editor, and see the photo open up in an editing interface. Hit Save once you’re done, and a new version of the photo is saved with the changes while keeping the original image intact.
For a photo editor, the app comes with all the features you might expect: one-click enhancements, brightness and contrast settings, effects and annotations are all there. Everything is categorized into sets at the bottom of the screen in a multi-page horizontal scrolling pane. The interface is overall very intuitive and I had no trouble figuring out how to get pretty much anything done. That’s quite something for an app that tries to do so many things while leaving most of the screen real estate for the image you are editing.
Editor interface and one-click enhancement
The ‘Enhance’ set is immediately available on the left, and for good measure. I found the automatic image enhancement spot on for the most part, rarely ever needing to go in and tweak the brightness, contrast or saturation settings manually. There are also one-touch enhancement settings for night shots and backlit images, with another one for balancing out the colors in an image. You can toggle each of the settings on and off to compare the results, although I would have loved for it to remember a setting once applied and not re-process the result every time I hit one of the buttons.
The all important photo effects
The all-important ‘Effects’ come in next, with a small set of simple effects as part of the free version. You can purchase more sets, though I really don’t know why one would bother given the huge variety of apps with better effects already available in the Android Market for free. The Stickers category is not even a teaser with only one option in the list: to purchase sticker sets from the market.
Typical image editing functions
What follows are the typically photo editor staples like rotation, cropping, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. Select one and use the presets or sliders to make the changes you want. Nothing fancy here yet, so I expect these functions to improve over time.
Strictly basic annotations
Annotation tools are going to feel pretty limited here if you are used to some of the other apps on Android. For drawing, you can select a brush size and color and draw to your heart’s content. Text is limited to a single font with an obnoxious while outline that for some reason can’t be removed. You can resize, rotate and move the text and change the fill color, but that just wasn’t enough for me.
Same goes for the remaining functions like Whiten and Blemish; I simply couldn’t get them to work the way I wanted, no mater how much I tried. There is also red eye removal which required a photo with the red eye effect – something I haven’t encountered in so long, I had to stretch a bit to try and remember what it did!
As is fast becoming a norm with free apps on mobiles, not everything the app can do is included. Although most basic functions and effects are part of the free package, you have the ability to purchase the presumably more complex and nicer features. I found the editing capabilities pretty good for a first version of a photo editing app, although the selection of effects left much to be desired considering what’s already available on the platform as part of a whole bunch of free apps.
All in all, the Aviary Photo Editor Plugin for Android is a decent start for an app that will no doubt improve over time. If Aviary’s other apps are any indication, I expect the app to grow in leaps and bounds over time and turn into an indispensible tool for editing images on the go.