I love to photograph food, but I don’t love my food going cold while I upload, edit and share mouthwatering images. Over a year ago I stopped using Instagram to edit images as other apps like VSCO Cam provided enhanced editing capabilities and more beautiful filters. With increased functionality came complexity and frustration — sometimes I just want to snap a quick pick of my tower of flapjacks and be done with it so I can enjoy my meal. Leave it to a food blogger to come up with a solution to a problem many foodies face.
Stephanie Quilao of Noshtopia blog founded Vibrantly to help foodies create “stunning food photos in one tap.” She has lofty goals: to make iPhone food photos look “Pinterest-level” good and simplify the process. The lady walks her talk and every photo on her blog is taken with the iPhone. She’s a great example of the adage that a beautiful photo can be captured with any camera, not just a DSLR.
So, can Stephanie deliver on her promise that, “in one tap, your ice cream shots will look bright and creamy,” and “your friends will be able to see the details in your beautiful Dragon Sushi Roll?”
Keep reading to find out.
I opened the app with high expectations; I had been to Stephanie’s blog, Noshtopia, and found it to be bold, colorful and bursting with her outgoing personality. The initial screen set me up for a great experience: a beautiful photo of vegetables with the announcement, “Your food photos just got a whole lot prettier!” The app does require users sign in, and I was happy to see three options: set up an account or sign in with Facebook or Twitter.
The home screen is purely utilitarian, aimed at getting started as quickly and simply as possible. I tapped the add+ and found two options displayed with attractive graphics: take a photo with the camera or upload one from my camera roll. Vibrantly is beautifully designed, modern and uncluttered. My only caveat is that the fork icon doesn’t really match the aesthetic of the rest of the app, with its cursive handwriting and feminine doodles.
Once I gave the app access to my photos, it instantly imported thousands of images from my camera, segregating them into categories based on the app source: Camera Roll, Instagram and VSCO Cam. I decided to take a photo in the app, and I like how it seamlessly previewed the image instantly so I could decide whether to Retake or Use Photo. On the app website Stephanie expresses the desire to “grow sustainably like an organic farm.” It’s obvious she’s dedicated to building an app with a solid foundation that functions beautifully from the start.
I got my first photo uploaded and the app guided me through the editing process, beginning with cropping. I, for one, am tired of the restrictive Instagram square, so I was happy to see that Vibrantly maintains the photo as a rectangle in landscape and portrait mode. Dragging the cropping box by the corner is fine, if a little finicky for me. I do prefer the option to crop a photo with the touch of a button into a shape chosen from the menu, like VSCO Cam offers.
I couldn’t find any options to rotate the photo, which I think is an essential function. After I cropped the photo and tapped Done, the app instantaneously displayed the image with its selection of filters applied at the bottom of the screen. I found it quick and easy to try each filter on my images and select my favorite. The app only has five filters to choose from: Cara, Meyer, Popcorn, Farm Table and Briquette.
It would be nice if the app introduced the filters and explained the story behind each one as a short tutorial. I did find this information in the settings, but it should be at the forefront. I think Stephanie’s photo editing filters are clever, like Popcorn, which brings out the textures of wet foods (ice cream, for example). I’m not sold on all the filters, though, and especially Meyer, which is supposed to add “zestier, sharper brilliance,” but I found it resulted in more blown out, pixelated images.
The last step in photo editing is labeling, where I was prompted to add a photo caption, location and context, along with date and time. Stephanie wants Vibrantly to function more like Pinterest than Instagram, and plans on adding search functionality in the future so users can comb the community for inspiration. The app has no search or social functionality at the moment.
Stephanie has found a niche in the app market that needs serving. I stopped using Instagram to edit photos over a year ago, and the new VSCO Cam has become a bit more complicated than I would like. It would be great to have an app with filters made for food photos that keeps editing quick and simple so my supper doesn’t get cold while I’m trying to post a photo. At this time, the app does not offer enough functionality for its $2.99 price tag.
Stephanie goes into detail on her website about each planned update for the app and rolling out new features, trying to convince users why they should pay for her product. She should have either waited to release the app when the functionality is in place or come down on the app price to be competitive with her peers. That being said, Vibrantly has a good foundation and Stephanie seems driven towards continued improvement. Vibrantly was just released in September, and I look forward to watching this young app grow up a bit.