There are so many ways to tinker with photos taken using your iPhone these days, the chances of finding an unabused picture on your friends’ Facebook or Twitter pages are almost zero. But it’s not just adding a filter using apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic, as adding in things that weren’t there at all is growing in popularity too.
Photo tweakers can add everything from spaceships to cats to their pictures, with varying degrees of success, plus kid’s apps let them put moustaches, hats and other comedy items on photos of their parents. It’s all a bit of fun, but very rarely does it make for a better picture. That’s right, even being able to add cats can’t rescue the genre.
WowFX is the latest in a line of photo-editing apps that wants to change this by providing all kinds of different effects to enhance your chosen snap. The effects on offer are split between flares, swooshes and colourful bursts, and more realistic images such as fire, smoke and lightning. That’s right, there’s not a cat in sight.
Here’s how it works. Upon opening the app you can instantly take a photo or select an existing one from your phone’s camera roll or from iCloud’s Photo Stream, then you can zoom in, rotate and scale the picture to suit WowFX. The process isn’t perfect, as it’s all too easy to misalign the picture and end up with white space down one side, as the app happily lets you move the picture out of its preset boundaries.
Once you’re happy with the positioning, it’s on to the fun part. There are only two buttons here, one for adding an effect, and the other to return to the start. Weirdly, when you add an effect, the back button disappears, an annoyance we’ll come back to shortly.
Tapping the “plus” sign presents you with a collection of more than 100 different effects. Another tap selects the one you want to add to your picture, and you’re returned to the main screen, where the effect “layer” can be moved around, resized and rotated to suit the image, and have its opacity adjusted too.
The effects are very impressive, especially the photo-realistic fire and water images, and being able to scale them increases the realism enormously, especially in the case of the natural effects. You can continue stacking them on your picture until you’re done. Click next and you’re given a choice of filters to apply, before finally being given the option to save or share the finished product.
It’s only here that you’re given the chance to start all over again, thanks to the earlier disappearance of the back button. As WowFX is all about experimentation, returning to the picture selection page needs to be a tap or two away at all times.
So, you decide to share your masterpiece with your friends. The options seem to depend on what apps you have installed, as I could use Evernote, Instagram and Camera+, but others have reported Dropbox and PhotoStudio as being supported as well. It’s not native sharing though, and selecting Instagram takes you to the app, rather than WowFX dealing with the task itself.
The finished result depends almost entirely on the picture with which you started. In all honesty, you need to take pictures expressly for use with WowFX, as its requirements are almost totally different to regular pictures. For example, if you want to add in some lightning and a tornado (or “torando” as the app insists on spelling it) you need more sky and a degree of open space, otherwise it looks silly. Backgrounds are important too, as if they’re too light, the effects don’t show up very well. Get it right and it can look brilliant, but don’t expect WowFX to enhance every picture in your library.
The development team made this video to show what’s possible using WowFX and it demonstrates them well, but take careful note of the composition, colours and subjects of the starting pictures — you’ll need to take similar ones to achieve the most success.
WowFX has a decent library of effects, and the ability to tweak them individually to fit the photo is essential if the finished product is going to look good, but for maximum effectiveness, you need to start with the right picture. If you don’t, it’s a bit underwhelming. The few user interface annoyances need to be fixed too, as there’s really no need to make users figure out a way to work around them on a fairly simple app like this.
The introductory price of £0.69 is just right, and it’s worth a go if you’re into playing about with your pictures, but it’s probably not worth £1.49 until the v1.1 update arrives, where 20 new effects and some interesting tweaks will be introduced.