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Summary:

Aviary, a maker of mobile photo editing tools, is introducing an update to its four-month-old mobile software development kit today with more effects, better controls and high-resolution output. Can photo editing tools hasten the demise of point-and-shoot cameras? Aviary thinks so.

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Smartphones are helping cut the legs out from under point-and-shoot cameras, which are seeing less use as people turn to their mobile handsets for photos. But while the rise of smartphone hardware is driving the shift, the ability to do more and more mobile photo editing from a smartphone may also be accelerating the trend.

That’s the belief of Aviary, a maker of mobile photo editing tools, which is introducing an update to its four-month-old mobile software development kit Wednesday. Version 2 of the software comes with a bevy of improvements, including one-touch enhancements, more effects, a slicker design and better dials and controls for editing and cropping. A key improvement is the ability to handle high-resolution images, so users can not only edit high-quality images but also output at the same resolution, something most photo tools don’t offer. The improvements will be rolled out in mobile apps in the coming weeks, and some tools like high-res output will be available to developers on request.

The improvements come as Aviary is booming, with the number of photos edited through its software growing by 50 percent monthly and now topping 10 million a month. More than 300 web and mobile developers are using Aviary’s free tools and embedding them into their apps and websites.

Alex Taub, who leads business development at New York City-based Aviary, told me the ability to enhance already high-quality pictures makes smartphone cameras even more valuable to users. He said as more people take advantage of photo editing tools, especially ones that can output at high resolution, users can be more reliant on the smartphone camera they carry with them all the time.

“You have the iPhone 4S camera, which is now eight megapixels, and you couple that with an editor like Aviary, and you’re cutting out the need for a point-and-shoot camera,” Taub said. “Point-and-shoots have been sort of on the cliff, but the ability to edit and edit high-res will just push it off the cliff.”

I’m not convinced point-and-shoots will die overnight thanks to photo editing tools, though it’s clear users are moving away from dedicated cameras. As we reported last month, smartphones now take 27 percent of pictures, up from 17 percent a year ago. Pictures from traditional cameras declined to 44 percent of all photos, down from 52 percent a year earlier. In the next year, we should see a point where smartphone pictures overtake camera photos if this trend holds up.

Adding smart editing tools could indeed speed up the process. I still a crave my Canon when I’m in low-light situations and other settings, but having enhancement tools that can improve an image means I might be able to salvage and use more shots from my smartphone without yearning for dedicated hardware. Because I can apply all kinds of effects and filters and share them quickly, I can make more use of even simple shots that would take added work to transfer and edit from a point-and-shoot. The iPhone and many Android devices already have editing tools included, but they usually don’t go as deep as Aviary’s tools.

It won’t be necessarily easy to establish a causal relationship between the death of traditional camera-based photos and more editing tools, but if Aviary in particular and mobile photo editing in general keep growing, I think we’ll have to consider what role editing tools are playing in the whole trend.

One other interesting bit of news out of Aviary’s update is that it’s also introducing the ability to sell in-app premium content, with revenue shared between Aviary and the developer. Aviary will sell premium effects packs, themed sticker packs and branded sticker packs that are designed by the brand. Aviary has been testing these sales with some partners over the last couple of months and expects to make it available to developers in the next two to three weeks. This will be another way for developers to make money, and it’s also an important monetization tool for Aviary.

  1. Phone cameras need to be much faster to start, to focus and process their photos before point and shoots disappear. (After all, that’s the main reason P&S’s exist. And do you really want a heavy zoom lens on a phone? But cameras, in general need to incorporate the processing software and make it easier to send photos to the net or your phone. I’m thinking convergence, not one or the other.

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