I have a degree in Commercial Photography and spent a lot of years as a youth and high school sports photographer. I may not do that often anymore, I'm still very much into taking pictures, though now I only shoot baby photos of my little girl.
Following the old photography rule that the best camera in the world is the one that you have with you, I shoot a ton of stuff with my phones. My two month old Galaxy Nexus just took its 1,000 photo last weekend, and like a lot of phones, it produces images that need some help from time to time.
I installed PicSay Photo Editor on my OG Droid the minute that I found it. Even though I bought the paid version, I never really loved it all that much. Then I tried Photoshop Express on my phone. Though I really like Photoshop Touch on my Acer A200 tablet, Photoshop Express has been more frustrating than useful.
I've now found Aviary Photo Editor, and I gotta say, I'm sold on it. I'm not sure how long Aviary has been around producing great, free apps but it has been a few years by now. The Aviary app for Android is newish, having only been released a few months, and I wasn't really quick to jump on it when I saw all of the blog coverage of it. Yep, I had pretty much given up on finding a decent phone app for editing my photos.
First, it's important to mention that Aviary is a non-destructive photo editor. That means that you'll still have your original image once you are done correcting or tricking out your photos, and this is the default action and only save option that you'll have. You'll never, ever be stuck with the results of an Aviary image edit as the only version of your image that you'll have.
Aviary is what so many other editing apps aren't: simple. The auto correct function in Aviary is by far the best available, enhancing images instead of pointing a finger at flaws in mid-tones and shadow areas. Results from the auto correct function are modest, but spot on in almost every instance for me, while the results that I get from Photoshop Express and PicSay leave unflattering pixelization in flesh tones. That alone makes this app a winner for me, but then we get into the finer controls of the app, and that's where Aviary really shines through.
Every one of these editing apps that are available offer things like brightness, contrast, exposure, saturation and color temperature adjustments. Photoshop Express comes fairly close in ease of use, but doesn't quite offer the simplicity of use that Aviary does, and the finer adjustments that Aviary produces are far superior for me. That little adjustment dial at the bottom of each window makes precise adjustments a breeze. That's something that no other photo editor had been able to do for me.
Thanks to Instagram, filters are all the rage these days, and people STILL love the hell out of them. Aviary has that base covered as well, and they do a very nice job of adjustments in most cases. Unlike Instagram, when you work with an image in Aviary you have the option to apply the effect to the full frame image, or you can crop it down before applying the effects. That's up to you.
The Aviary filters tend to have much more normal names than what you find in Instagram, and even though there are add-on filter packs for sale, most people will find what they are looking for in the free set of 12 filters that are included with the app.
If you are really into the filters thing, or if you're like me and just want to throw a few dollars to Aviary for all of their hard work, you'll find 3 additional filters packs for sale in the Google Play Store for $.99 each. If you want them, need them or simply have to have them each of the themed filter packs offers 6 new effects for you to use. In doing the screenshots for this Spotlight story I actually discovered that there was a 3rd filter pack that I hadn't bought, so I took care of that right away.
Once you've applied all of your effects and enhancements, the Aviary share button brings up the standard Android share menu, so you can share your images in any app that normally pops up in your share option window.
Last: the output. Aviary saves your images at the resolution that you select in preferences, but it's not quite that simple. The high-resolution output from Aviary has far exceeded the results from Photoshop Express. My first few 8×10 prints from Aviary edited images were far superior to older prints that I had done from images edited in Photoshop Express. Running those images back through Aviary, I got better output. On screen, images appear to be nearly identical, but the proof for me was on paper. Aviary wins.
Aviary is a totally free, ad free app that is available for download in the Google Play Store for both phones and tablets. I have it running just fine on my Galaxy Nexus on ICS 4.0.4, as well as my A100 and A200 tablets running ICS 4.0.3. The app doesn't offer a true tablet layout, and I think that there's lots that Aviary could do to improve the tablet app experience, but I'm able to do everything that I want to do, and the app scales up the bigger screens just like you'd expect it to.