Suite 48 Analytics describes what’s driving the photo-app market

Advances in smartphone hardware, APIs and native apps are driving third party photo app vendors to new frontiers

Native smartphone camera apps do much more than enable basic camera functions. These apps include features such as HDR, burst, dual focus/exposure points, exposure compensation and panoramic image capture that were once the exclusive domain, and the main value proposition, of third-party camera apps. While this might appear to doom prospects for these third-party camera apps, Reinventing the Camera App Market, the latest study from mobile-photography research firm Suite 48 Analytics, comes to a different conclusion.

Late last year Google and Apple substantially enhanced their smartphone camera APIs, giving camera app developers a whole range of opportunities to access the improved capabilities of the newer phones’ hardware, and in doing so differentiate their products from native camera apps. According to the study, which analyzes 21 top-selling or otherwise notable camera apps and includes the perspectives of key executives at developers leading the market, numerous apps have already taken advantage of these advanced APIs with many more soon to come.

“As smartphone cameras get better and better, mobile photographers’ expectations for photo quality have likewise increased – they’re demanding better smartphone photo capture tools,” says Hans Hartman, president, Suite 48 Analytics and report author. “That sounds like an obvious statement, but it hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, smartphone photographers were willing to live with lower resolution, grainy, or otherwise low-quality photos, as long as they could still make these photos look enticing through filters from apps like Hipstagram and later Instagram. Going forward, filters are an option for creative expression – not a requirement to make the photos worth keeping or sharing.”

The study concludes the camera app market has become a “long tail” market, served by three main categories of apps:

  • Camera apps offering SLR-like control of the smartphone camera, such as A Better Camera, Camera+, Manual, or ProCamera 8 + HDR.
  • Camera apps focusing on ease-of-use, such as Z Cameraand Camera51.
  • Specialized camera apps with specific use cases, such as CamFindFast Burst Camera, Slow Shutter Cam, or Mobile Hidden Camera.

“The implications of advanced cameras embedded in current and new categories of mobile devices, coupled with enhanced camera apps that leverage the programmatic access to these devices, will be examined in depth in the Disrupting Through Hardware panel discussion at the upcoming Mobile Photo Connect conference, an executive conference focused on promoting innovation and partnerships in the mobile photography ecosystem.

The free Reinventing the Camera App Market white paper can be downloaded at

Make your own photo gallery — on Google

google gallery

Getting your pictures posted on the precious wall space in a traditional gallery can be tough. Soon it will be simple to start your own space — online.

Google is launching an Internet art gallery on which emerging artists can display their work to a larger audience.

There are of course plenty of online image sharing and viewing sites, some free for basic features, some paid and allowing storage and print sales, among other functions. Why turn to Google? For widespread exposure, perhaps.

The Open Gallery will be part of the larger Cultural Institute, which connects to famous museums worldwide. It will let museums, galleries, and individuals create a virtual exhibition for artworks of all kinds.

“We’ve built the technology so you can focus on your content,” the company says. “Powerful free tools for artists, museums, archives and galleries. Easily upload your content. Create collections, exhibitions or tours. Publish a new site or enhance your existing one.”

You can request an invite here.

Google Europe has more on the new project here.


Google automates image selection, enhancement


google photos

We all know that it’s all too easy to take dozens if not hundreds of shots at an event — and all too hard to sort through them all at a later time to see and share the good ones. Now Google will apply it search and image recognition technologies to consumer imaging, in its social service Google+.

Auto Highlight “helps you find your favorites faster by de-emphasizing duplicates, blurry images and poor exposures,” Google says, “and focusing instead on pictures with the people you care about, landmarks, and other positive attributes.”

google highlight

The new free Google+ features will roll out over the next week. “Your darkroom is now a Google data center,” the company says. “Great pictures aren’t taken, they’re made. And it’s the making part that many of us don’t have time for. We’d all love to have photos that capture our vacations and birthdays and anniversaries the way we remember them. But wonderful images require lots (and lots) of work. We think everyone should be able to make beautiful photos, so today we’re launching a set of initiatives aimed at improving your photos automatically.”

Other new features include:

• Auto Backup/Instant Upload: automatically backs up mobile pics as they are snapped, with unlimited free storage for a “standard” size image of 2048 pixels wide.

• Auto Enhance improves brightness, contrast, saturation, structure, noise, focus, “and dozens of other factors automatically.”

• Auto Awesome creates a new image based on a set of photos. “If you upload a sequence of photos, we’ll try and animate them automatically,’ Goggle says. “Or if you send us a few family portraits, we’ll find everyone’s best smile, and stitch them together into a single shot.”

More information is here.

Google packs cameras into the Grand Canyon


google grand canyon

“No matter where you are, you don’t have to travel far or wait for warmer weather to explore Grand Canyon National Park,” Google says.

The Google team captured the “breathtaking imagery collection” with its Trekker, an Android OS-running, 40-pound backpack system with a 15-lens camera.

Google is displaying new panoramic imagery “of one of the world’s most spectacular national monuments.” the company says. “These beautiful, interactive images cover more than 75 miles of trails and surrounding roads, making our map of this area even more comprehensive, accurate and easy to use than ever before.”

With the browser-based immersive imaging, you can “take a walk down the narrow trails and exposed paths of the Grand Canyon: hike down the famous Bright Angel Trail, gaze out at the mighty Colorado River, and explore scenic overlooks in full 360-degrees.”

More than 9,500 panoramas “of this masterpiece of nature” are now available on Google Maps.

More on the Google cams in the canyon is in this Wired article.


Google finds photos faster


google image search

Have you worked with Google’s Image Search? I find many a photo exec’s pic there when I couldn’t track it down anywhere else. (It’s amazing how many companies in the photo industry have websites without pictures of their latest products or important personnel.) Now that task may get even easier, as the Web search leader has once again tweaked it photo finding features.

“People looking for images on Google often want to browse through many images, looking both at the images and their metadata,” the company says. “Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience. In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable. You will be able to quickly flip through a set of images by using the keyboard. If you want to go back to browsing other search results, just scroll down and pick up right where you left off.”


• Metadata will now appear underneath the image in the search results, instead of redirecting users to a separate landing page.

• Key information will be featured much more prominently next to the image: the title of the page hosting the image, the domain name it comes from, and the image size.