I’ll admit that sometimes we mobile photographers take ourselves a little too seriously. At the recent Macworld/iWorld conference, I overheard dozens of conversations that compared the number and quality of apps on every attendee’s iPhone.
It’s easy for mobile photographers to get pompous about their apps. Photographers have a long history of being gear-obsessed and while smartphone hardware has seen huge progress, a large focus of discussion is still on “OMG, what app did you use!?”
What the “oh, yeah. I’ve been on Instagram since Beta” mobile photographers forget is that a huge number of apps are made for the other mobile photographers—the teenage girls and boys who would rather take photos of their puckering faces than shadowed strangers boarding a subway train.
Rounding out every operating system’s “top” lists are at least a few of these seemingly pointless apps. Personally, I have always been curious about the draw of these apps so I decided to take a look at a few of the apps that I always stumble across in my app store browsing.
1. GirlsCamera; Android; Free
A lot of the silliest self-portrait apps can be traced back to one place: Japan. GirlsCamera is the most popular of Android’s large collection of purikura-style applications. Purikuras are Japanese photo booths that allow users to add cartoons and often draw right on the images of themselves. The photos are then printed—often on stickers.
GirlsCamera offers the same look of the purikura craze on an Android phone. You first take or upload a photo to the app—choosing one of dozens of frames to surround your face. Next, you can draw on the photo with solid colors or patterned brushes and stamp cartoon cakes and characters. My result was an awesomely cluttered self portrait that I am embarrassed to say took me about 10 minutes of sketching, deleting, and giggling.
GirlsCamera has over 500,000 downloads from the Google Play store, making it the most downloaded purikura Android app after the nail-specific DecoPetit. Windows Phone 8 users can use PuriClub (free) and iPhone users will get the effect with Photo Sticker ($0.99).
2. iSwap Faces, iOS, $1.99/Free
A byproduct of the image-obsessed internet culture of sites like Reddit (and its sister site Imgur) and 9Gag, the face swapping meme has made its way to the App Store. Found in the Tenso and Manbaby memes, face swapping switches the features of a photo’s subjects, creating a jarring and usually hilarious image.
iSwap Faces is a quick and painless way to swap your model’s faces. First, you upload or take an image of one or two people. If your photo has two people, you can select their faces and swap them. If your photo has one person, you can choose to import the face from a second photo. The face’s color and brightness can be adjusted to make the image look as “natural” as possible. Overall, iSwap Faces is easy to use and produces pretty decent results for how little effort you have to put in.
iSwap Faces claims to be the most downloaded of the popular face swapping applications. According to App Data, iSwap Faces is the #65 top paid photo app and #89 top grossing app in the US—beating out SlowShutter and Photogene2. Android users can get the same effect from Face Swap ($1.99) and Windows Phone 8 users have a free app of the same name.
3. Meme Lens; Windows Phone 8; Free
A meme, as defined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (and Merriam-Webster), is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The hivemind of the internet has repurposed this word to define the humor trends that emerge from popular forum sites. The biggest byproducts of the internet meme culture can be seen in the Advice Animals of Reddit and Rage Comics of 4Chan.
Meme Lens for Windows Phone 8 allows users to apply Rage Comic faces onto their photos. It also allows for placement of faces inside some of the most popular Advice Animal memes like Gangnam Style and Success Kid. I decided to rage-ify my headshot. In doing so, I felt like creating a “scumbag tech journalist” meme. No, this is not a thing. Don’t make this a thing.
MemeLens is not the easiest app to navigate—when taking a photo, MemeLens will use facial recognition to apply the cartoon face over the face in the image but often misses the mark. The best memes can only be activated if you “like” the app on Facebook and the Adivce Animal memes don’t fit in the screen. But for meme apps, all that really matters is the amount of “lulz” and trust me, Meme Lens has plenty of them.
MemeLens, released on February 1st of this year, has gotten over 20,000 downloads in its first month. iPhone users can rage-ify themselves with the free Ragemaker app and Android users can make strips on the free Rage Comic Maker app.