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Ever since I’ve seen friends sharing photos with the neat filters from Hipstamatic [No Longer Available], I’ve been looking for a free app that could do similar styles. I noticed some photos coming from Twitter friends which had this same style coming from an application called Instagram so I thought I would check it out. It turned out it was in private beta so I signed up to receive notice for when it was released – which just happened a few days ago.
Instagram describes itself as a “fast, beautiful and fun way to share photos with friends.” After a quick download and signup, I’ve found it to be everything it had promised and more.
Above all, Instagram is built around taking and sharing photos. It also includes a social network which allows you to like and comment on others’ photos. The network part is only a fraction of what is available to users of this program. The other main feature that sets this apart from other photo sharing apps is the filters that it provides for processing pictures right on your iPhone.
Similar to Hipstamatic, after taking a photo you can apply a number of filters to the photo. These filters turn the photo into an ‘analog’ photo of yore with old-school style effects. Some examples of names on the filters are “1977”, “Gotham” and “Earlybird”. Each filter has a unique effect which will complement, or detract from, a photo.
Once you have decided on a filter, or no filter at all, you then move on to add a description and/or location of your photo. The locations pull from Foursquare so there are plenty of places to choose from.
The options you have to share photos is limited to the big players – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and if you have a location set, FourSquare. They could expand upon these further – certainly there aren’t as many sharing options as in the photo sharing mega-app Pixelpipe. This being said, keeping the options simple does have an upside: the interface is clean and easy to use.
The social aspect of the app works very nicely. It is only available to Instagram app users, which sadly limits it to iPhone owners. This is a smaller pool of talent to draw from so I do not see this network growing beyond a ‘niche’ of photo sharing iPhone users. The interface is done very nicely and the transitions between pictures is very user friendly. It is hard to describe in words but I wish that other user interfaces were designed as beautifully as Instagram’s.
Much as on Facebook, Tumblr and any other number of photo sharing sites, you can ‘Like’ or comment on a photo if you please. You can ‘Follow’ other members to bring their photos into your timeline. The effect is something like a ‘Twitter for Photos’ – but the only way to send an update is with a photo.
Another neat feature is ‘Popular photos’. These list the most recent photos which are liked by a number of users and there are some good shots there.
If you are looking for a free program that allows you to apply a number of filters to your photos, Instagram is a great app to keep in your repertoire. The social network it provides, along with the tight integration with Twitter, Facebook and other services, help you to easily share photos with your friends and beyond.