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Add Retro Effects to Your Photos With CameraBag

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At a Glance
  • Nevercenter CameraBag

Is it pure nostalgia, or does it say something about the digital camera when we go out of our way to make our digitized snaps look like they were made using a box Brownie, or Instamatic? CameraBag 2 ($29, 30-day free trial) is a fun way to inject a retro feel into your sterile digital snapshots.

CameraBag 2 screenshot
The style effects in Camera Bag range from stylish borders to wacky colorization to vintage looks---all fully adjustable.
CameraBag 2 uses a very elegant, artful interface to get you started. Simply upload your JPG, PNG, TIFF, or RAW images individually or in a batch; and click on one of more than twenty pre-loaded styles. CameraBag 2 includes everything from self-explanatory Monochrome to the more esoteric Poolside, Hipster, or Lolo. In case the preview thumbnail isn't enough, CameraBag 2 also displays descriptions of each style---for example, Skater is described as "skinned knees and noisy photos." But the captions are just a cute aside: Since the effect does not destroy your original image, try them all until you find what you like.

Unlike FotoSketcher (free) which is a similar program that focuses on turning your photographs into fine art, sketches, cartoons, and watercolors, CameraBag 2 delves into the lost art of film photography. CameraBag 2 even includes borders to make your image look like it's printed on torn paper, or is from a non-digitized era: 47mm, 35mm, Infititi 50, Insta, Vinyl, 75mm Strip, Slide, and Safety Film. For digital scrapbookers, it's the perfect pairing to a program like Serif's CraftArtist ($60), which will take those nostalgic images and allow you to arrange and embellish them.

CameraBag was originally developed as an iPhone app, but don't get confused with Instagram, a free app for mobile Apple (and Android to be released soon) devices that pays homage to the square formats of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras: This new version of CameraBag works on your desktop or laptop PC and has been rebuilt from the ground up to be a pretty powerful image editor too. Use CameraBag 22 to crop, rotate, and adjust your image. Each change you make shows up as a tile on the panel at the bottom. If you change your mind you can always return to that particular effect and change or delete it. Effects can also be reordered to achieve a different look.

Once you have the basic style you envisioned, you can use CameraBag 2's easy sliders and curves to tweak your image. The simplicity of CameraBag 2's sliders remind me of Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 ($90), as does the ease of adjusting brightness, color, contrast, crop, exposure, saturation, tint, and vignettes, to name a few areas. CameraBag 2's tools are all in one place and you can use them to control the way your image looks at a beginner's or advanced level. For example, the Contrast tool includes a Brightness Origin slider that changes the point at which you want to make the pixels lighter or darker. Another great feature is the Straighten tool: Use a slider in CameraBag 2 to rotate your image within a non-rotating frame. No more guessing at degrees of rotation, or cropping to square off the image after you've rotated it.

Unfortunately, in CameraBag 2 you cannot select parts of your image, change individual pixels, or print your images: For that level of detail you'll need something akin to Photoshop ($700). Try Serif PhotoPlus X5 ($90), Xara Photo & Graphic Designer, Paint.NET (free), or GIMP (free)

CameraBag 2 will also save combinations of styles and adjustments as Favorites, allowing you to achieve the same effect multiple times; and also includes a batch process to save you time. And CameraBag 2 really proves it's non-destructive---if you accidentally batch process an image you didn't want to change, or overwrite the original, simply switch the changes off.

CameraBag 2 is very easy to use--the 40-second tutorial is testament to how easy--and fun to create your own style. The image manipulation takes some practice to perfect, but the effects are worth it--especially if your images need perking up with a bit of wistful yearning for less digital times.

--Clare Brandt

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At a Glance
  • Camera Bag is an artfully-designed, non-destructive image editor for photographers looking for nostalgic effects.


    • Instantaneous: No waiting around for renderings
    • Large sliders for detailed control
    • Easily apply and un-apply effects


    • No print option
    • Mainly nostalgic effects
    • Resize only by pixel
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