Instagram 6.0: The Only App You Need?

 

 

Using the Shadows slider I was able to remove any detail in the silhuotte without boosting the overall contrast of the image. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Using the Shadows slider I was able to remove any detail in the silhuotte without boosting the overall contrast of the image. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Instagram has struck a fine balance between simplicity and control. Aditya Nair wonders if he’ll ever need another editing app.

Since Instagram first launched almost four years ago, numerous companion apps have cropped up. These let photographers fine tune their pictures before sharing them on the internet, particularly Instagram.

Apps like VSCOCam and Litely were born to cater to the niche created by the Instagram-conscious cellphone photographer. But Instagram’s latest update may change all of that.

Taking Back Control
With the 6.0 upgrade, Instagram has added new tools like Brighten, Contrast, Warmth (White Balance), Highlights, Shadows, Vignette and Sharpen.

The decluttered interface of the app lets you makes edits without being overwhelmed by too many options. When you use one of the editing tools, a thin grey line appears below it. This lets you identify the tools you have already used. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The decluttered interface of the app lets you makes edits without being overwhelmed by too many options. When you use one of the editing tools, a thin grey line appears below it. This lets you identify the tools you have already used. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Traditionally, Instagram had stayed away from adding these features to avoid complicating their layout. But 6.0 manages to do it, while still maintaining the app’s ease of use by dividing the layout into three tabs—Filters, Lux and Edits.

Each of the features has a slider that ranges from 0–100. With most phones, you can see the changes happen in real time as you scroll from one end of the spectrum to the other.

 Maximise Colours: With the Contrast and Saturation tools, a lot can be done to enhance colours. However, use the Saturation tool sparingly as it can look overprocessed very easily. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Maximise Colours: With the Contrast and Saturation tools, a lot can be done to enhance colours. However, use the Saturation tool sparingly as it can look overprocessed very easily. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The Auto adjust function, now called Lux, gets a slider as well. When you click on it for the first time it automatically jumps to 50, from where you can increase or decrease the amount.

The Explore function of Instagram has been updated too. It now shows you popular images on the basis people you follow and images that you have liked in the past. Earlier, only trending images would show up.

How Good is It?
The amount of detail the tools can recover is pretty amazing. While it most certainly won’t hold its own against desktop software, it’s as good as every competing app I have used.

 This image was shot in contrasty light, but the Highlights and Shadows tools managed to recover a lot of detail. Photograph/Aditya Nair

This image was shot in contrasty light, but the Highlights and Shadows tools managed to recover a lot of detail. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Sharpen works well for mobile screens but images may look oversharpened when you view them on a PC. Once you are done making your edits, you can tap and hold the image with your finger to see the before and after previews. Unfortunately, the maximum image resolution has not been increased and still remains 2048 x 2048px.

 Slight sharpening helped make the image more graphic. But avoid going beyond 20–25. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Slight sharpening helped make the image more graphic. But avoid going beyond 20–25. Photograph/Aditya Nair

What’s New With Filters
The app doesn’t see any new filters this time. But, filter controls have improved dramatically. And by that, I mean you finally have filter control. Double click on the filter to adjust the intentsity using the 0–100 slider. This is similar to the control offered by apps like VSCOCam, Snapseed and others. 

To add the filter’s border, you need to select the grey square near the slider. Earlier borders had a dedicated buttonon the main screen. While this doesn’t change your workflow much, finding the new location for the option can be a bit difficult the first time around.

Mix and Match Filter Borders: You can now apply a border of a random filter without changing the overall look. Just select the filter’s border and drag the intensity slider to zero. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Mix and Match Filter Borders: You can now apply a border of a random filter without changing the overall look. Just select the filter’s border and drag the intensity slider to zero. Photograph/Aditya Nair

iOS Continues to Get the Special Treatment
Every filter on iOS devices has a border assigned to it. However, the same filters, for example Valencia and Rise, on the Android version of the app don’t have any borders. I was hoping this would have changed but sadly it hasn’t, especially for filters like Amaro that have interesting borders on iOS.

On iOS, Straighten is called Adjust and lets you crop the image as well, in addition to straightening and rotating. With Android devices, you will only be able to crop the image when you import it.

 Tweaking with the Straighten Tool: Existing features like Straighten (the Rotate function can be found within this feature) and Tilt Shift are now under the Edits tab. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Tweaking with the Straighten Tool: Existing features like Straighten (the Rotate function can be found within this feature) and Tilt Shift are now under the Edits tab. Photograph/Aditya Nair

But Will It Be the Only One You Use?
Quite frankly, while I love VSCO, I don’t find myself using it to edit pictures as often now.

That said, Instagram still doesn’t compete with VSCO or Hipstamatic in terms of sheer number of filters. For collages or adding text, you are still going to have to rely on third party apps. The same goes for uploading rectagular photos using apps like SquareIt.

Unfortunately, you still can’t add more than one filter to an image, unlike with apps like VSCO. You still need reupload an edited image to add a second filter in Instagram. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Unfortunately, you still can’t add more than one filter to an image, unlike with apps like VSCO. You still need reupload an edited image to add a second filter in Instagram. Photograph/Aditya Nair

But, if you are happy with the Instagram filters or use no filters, the other editing apps on your phone are going to be gathering digital dust for a long time.

Check out Aditya’s Instagram feed on @dial1800shrink

AT A GLANCE
SPECIFICATIONS Needs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher; iOS 6 or higher, optimised for iPhone 5 onwards
WHAT WE LIKE Addition of editing tools, amount of detail recovered
WHAT WE DISLIKE  No new filters, iOS and Android disparity
WHY BUY IT It is an extremely easy way to build up a global audience. Plus, now all your photos can be edited within the app.

FINAL RATINGS 93%
FEATURES  Basic editing functions, control over intensity of filters  22/25 
PERFORMANCE  Good image quality but still limited to 2048 x 2048px  29/30
EASE OF USE  Extremely easy to navigate  34/35
SPEED & RESPONSIVENESS Doesn’t lag or hog up too much battery  8/10
Tags: Aditya Nair, cellphone photography, Android, instagram, iOS, VSCO, VSCOCam, august 2014, mobile apps, Litely