Instagram vs. Lightbox vs. PicPlz vs. Aviary and More…

Imagse from Instagram and alternatives

Ever since the bombshell dropped, that Instagram had sold out to Facebook, a lot of us have been looking for an alternative.

Now the sell-out may not be the end of the world as we know it, but we expect in a very short time that Instagram will change their terms of service to read All yur pics iz mine! and we’ll be forced to share on Facebook primarily. That may not happen. Facebook might simply embed Instagram as the built-in camera on their smartphone apps and leave the rest of us who don’t Facebook to use a stand-alone Instagram like we do now. But is that really why they invested a billion dollars to acquire Instagram!?

Some of the alternatives that have been mentioned include: Aviary, Flickr, Hipster, Lightbox, Magic Hour, MOLOME, PicPlz, Pixlr-o-matic, Poctos, and StreamZoo.

A search on the Google Play store for “photo filters” or even just the Photography category reveals more than 1,000 results! Granted they aren’t all Instagram-like apps, but reading through the first few pages reveals that there are a lot of choices. More than we can possible review here, sorry.

So for your consideration, here are some alternatives to Instagram. Not an exhaustive list, but the list I am considering. They aren’t all drop-in replacements for Instagram, but the ultimate result is the same: sharing fun, quirky photos.

Lightbox

This was the first Instagram-on-Android app that I tried. It worked really well, and pretty much works like Instagram. The most interesting twist for Lightbox is the camera is interchangeable, so if you prefer another camera app you drop that in, or you can use Lightbox’s camera independently of Lightbox.

PicPlz

This is what I first switched to after the sell-out announcement. It too works pretty much like Instagram, in fact pre-dating Instagram in it’s creation. The interface is not as intuitive though – it sounds simple enough: one touch effects. But you end up with a long list of combinations when in fact having a few separate toggles and lists would probably be faster. The coolest thing about PicPlz is that it integrates the Aviary tools so you can go beyond effects and actually edit your photos on your phone.

Hipster

This one actually sounds cooler than Instagram and represents something I’ve done on family vacations: I use my phone to send personalized, custom e-mail post-cards. The Hipster app takes this simple idea, builds-in a camera, filters & effects, and makes an entire community out of it. You can flip your post cards over and see more information about the photo.

Flickr

Perhaps not one you’d expected to see in this list, the Flickr app actually works perfectly as an Instagram replacement – it even has a built-in camera to go with the filters & effects and sharing. And it has the added benefit of the power of Flickr once you’re back at your computer. So everything you share ends-up in your Flickr account, the same place you share the photos you take with that hefty DSLR – no integrating multiple sites into your workflow or directing your followers all over the intertubes.

Aviary

This is another odd member in the list. Aviary revolutionized online media editing (not just photos) and has a suite of tools anyone can integrate into their apps (either mobile or web based). But this isn’t an app, in fact this is a sharing plug-in that allows you to add filters & effects (and a whole lot more) to your photos before the final step of sharing them via your favourite service (ex.: TwitPic for Twitter). Even though Aviary is free, there are add-ons (filters, lenses, stickers, etc.) available for purchase.

Pixlr-o-matic

This is the big-daddy of filters and effects. There are so many it would overwhelming, but they’ve thoughtfully included an effects manager so you can decide which ones show up as your initial choices. Obviously the coolest thing about Pixlr how much you can do with your photos (84 effects, 287 overlays, and 193 borders), and their interface is solid and well thought-out so it doesn’t have be overwhelming. This is app will have you playing with the same photo for hours if you’re perfectionist.

What’s missing? Something Native!

Especially from Google, that has PicasaWeb, I would have expected something like the Flickr app. Between Google+, PicasaWeb, Google Docs, Blogger, and the upcoming GDrive they offer at least four ways to store and share your photos. But the mobile experience is horrid (PicasaWeb synchronization is either all or nothing, Google+ auto-uploading is unreliable, third-parties filling the gap aren’t really an integrated solution).

And Apple too, known for their outstanding media software, should be leading the way rather than leaving the way for others to build a billion-dollar enterprise!

In conclusion

After trying all the aforementioned apps on my phone, a few more in an emulator, and visiting a few web sites (but the apps didn’t make the cut) I can say one thing for sure: there are a lot of choices!

My current, likely final, solution is using my built-in camera and embellishing the shots I want to share on Twitter (via TwitPic) using Aviary. The Aviary tools are very powerful, though typically I’ll just crop and add a filter, if I need to there’s a lot more I can do. And I’m really tempted to buy the Viewfinder effects.

The other thing I’m adding to my workflow, that I discovered while researching this article is QuickPic. This replaces the default gallery and makes working with the photos (and videos) on my photo much easier, including opening them in Aviary and sharing them.

Happy snapping!

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog

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3 Comments on "Instagram vs. Lightbox vs. PicPlz vs. Aviary and More…"

  1. Mia March 22, 2013 at 3:33 am -

    What I really like about Aviary is the fact that you’re not required to create an account and store your pictures with their company; unlike with Instagram where I would have to sign up for an account and store my photos with them, and THEN opt to share if I want to. I just want to edit my photos, in my phone, and then share them on facebook IF I want to, without having to worry about how many and which photos were uploaded to a third-party! Privacy-wise, Aviary is the better option and I really appreciate the professional editing tools it offers, including teeth whitening!!!