Aviary’s business model is more about providing lightweight photo editing capabilities to other tech companies through an SDK (software developer kit) than building their own apps. And they’ve been successful at this, counting as clients such heavyweights as Box, Walgreens, and even the top online photo site, Flickr. But iPhone users can take advantage of the company’s capable, clearly designed photo editing features without having to muck about with an SDK, by installing this excellent iOS photo editing app.
Like Instagram, Aviary offers creative filters to perk up your pedestrian image, and like Snapseed, it also lets you fine-tune them with controls for brightness, contrast, colors cropping, and more. It doesn’t include its own photo social network like Instagram, EyeEm, or BeFunky, but it does make sharing to the popular networks—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr—a snap. Like a lot of photo apps, you can buy more advance photo-enhancing effects as in app purchases.
Unlike a lot of apps these days, Aviary is available in many more flavors than just iPhone: these include an HTML5 web version, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8.
Despite offering more photo editing capabilities than competitors like Wood Camera or BeFunky, Aviary is easier to use, with a streamlined workflow from selection to image adjustment to enhancing to sharing. The app starts up show your Camera roll photos, and you can simply swipe through them just as in the default Photos app. Just five buttons grace the edges of this starting interface: Along the bottom you’ve got a Camera button, Edit this Photo (from Camera Roll), and Albums, to switch from Camera Roll. At the top are Settings and Share buttons.
You actually get more control over the interface than in most iPhone apps: Settings let you change where each tool appears in the bottom menu that appears once you start editing a photo. One thing I liked about the editor was that I could unpinch to zoom in for a closer look—something surprisingly rare in iPhone photo editors.
Unlike Camera+ and Camera Genius, the Aviary app doesn’t offer any extras to control snapping pictures; those apps let you do things like set self-timers or release the shutter when you clap, as well as zoom and use separate focus and exposure points. With Aviary, you get the same minimal control offered by the built-in iPhone Camera app.
There are 16 editing and enhancing tools in all included in the app; you swipe through five at a time in the button toolbar along the bottom of the screen. Included among these are Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness—you might be surprised at how many iPhone apps have none of these, with Instagram the best-known. These Aviary tools show a flywheel control that lets you very precisely control their strength.
The first tool in the default layout is Enhance, which offers Auto, Night, Backlit, and Balance. These sometimes subtle correctors try to get the lighting right, and did improve my photos.