Monday, October 18, 2010

Pictures Lab for Windows Phone

"Windows Phones are going to be absolutely amazing devices for taking pictures and dealing with pictures." - Joe Belfiore at the official Windows Phone 7 launch event in NYC. I totally agree, they are. Just think about that each device needs to have at least a 5 megapixel camera and the little camera button with the "pocket to picture" functionality. I've been working heavily to enhance this photo experience with my kind of skills. This blog post contains information about the Windows Phone app I created and will also provide the references to how it works internally.

Download here

Pictures Lab is the ultimate picture effects app for all Windows Phone device types. "a Swiss Army knife of photo tweaks". "a must-have for WP7 devices ... the program provides a set of amazing effects and tweaks for your photos" : "Pictures Lab offers a ton of effects for your money."

If you like to make beautiful photos, then this app is a perfect addition to your phone’s toolset. Pictures Lab provides you with thousands of different modifications for your photos and has a camera functionality with superior features like face detection auto focus, steady mode and much more. It's also integrated as a Lens.
Pictures Lab is the original with high quality filters, features and great user experience. It's fast and responsive and you quickly get your job done with just a few moves. Often been copied, but never reached.
Microsoft uses Pictures Lab in its presentations as a "delightful app" which "Looks and feels like an integral part of Windows Phone". "Uncluttered, polished experience".

The app comes with controllable, easy-to-use, but advanced effects like different vintage and hipster-like filters, Tilt Shift (miniature faking), HDR, Lomo, Soften, Auto Adjust, Sharpen, Comic, Bulge, B&W, Sepia and many more. Dynamic previews of the effects are shown in a list, making it possible to easily pick the right one. The high quality borders are also presented in a nice preview list and can be combined with any filter and any aspect ratio. Multiple effects can also be combined.
It is also possible to crop, rotate and flip images. An enhanced picture and the EXIF data can be saved to the phone’s pictures hub or shared directly on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Later editing is also supported. The app performs the image processing on the original picture in its original resolution, thus making it also possible to print the image or use it as desktop wallpaper.
Full Pictures Hub Apps integration and support for landscape and portrait orientation. Trial version with complete functionality only save is disabled.

    If YouTube works better for you.

  • The well-known site Engadget lists it under The best apps, accessories, and tips. They write: "... a must-have for WP7 devices ... the program provides a set of amazing effects and tweaks for your photos ..."
  • Gizmodo included Pictures Lab in Windows Phone 7 Essential Apps, Reviewed. They also recorded a video. They write: "Your phone isn't complete until you can take photos that look like they came out of a $5 camera from 1974. Pictures Lab fortunately offers a ton of other effects for your money. $2."
  • Gizmodo Australia also featured it in the article The Best Windows Phone 7 Apps.
  • wrote: "The app, a Swiss Army knife of photo tweaks, will be one of my first downloads."
  • wrote that Pictures Lab is the #1 app worth paying for: "Tilt-shift effects, crop and rotate... Pictures Lab combines the fun effects of an iPhone photo app like Hipstamatic with the useful fixes you're mostly likely to need (sharpen and - in the imminent update - crop) in a beautifully designed app that crosses the power of Silverlight with the tools of the Windows Phone 7 interface. Pick a photo, see all the possible effects as thumbnails or swipe up and down to try them one at a time."
  • listed it in the article: "The first Windows Phone 7 apps you should grab"
  • MSN UK listed it under the "20 top mobile phone app". And they put my fat nose on the front page. Fortunately two of my girls brought the beauty back to the page.
  • America's popular WIRED magazine with a circulation of 800,000 featured Pictures Lab in there special edition WIRED App Guide.
  • UK's popular gadget magazine T3 with a circulation of more than 60,000 featured Pictures Lab in the 02/2011 issue on the page: "Killer Apps"
  • Pictures Lab was featured in Channel 9's Hot Apps series.
  • Nokia writes "it’s the closest thing to having Photoshop on your mobile phone."
  • Nokia included Pictures Lab in Top of the Apps: 10 Hotties.
  • Softpedia featured the Windows Phone 8 update.
  • All About Windows Phone reviewed the app: "Pictures Lab is one of many photo toolboxes for your smartphone, but it's the one that I enjoy using the most." and "Very, very much recommended."
  • All About Windows Phone also reviewed the Windows Phone 8 update: "It goes significantly beyond the one shot filters typically offered in apps of this type (Nokia Creative Suite, HTC Photo Enhancer) to the point at which it's about a lot more than just fun filters."
  • Another very popular UK magazine Stuff wrote a 5 stars review in the March edition. They write that Pictures Lab is better than a well-known iPhone app.  
  • Germany's popular media and design magazine PAGE with a circulation of 20,000 featured Pictures Lab in the 01/2011 issue
  • Microsoft features Pictures Lab in their presentation slides for Windows Phone under the category delight: "Looks and feels like an integral part of Windows Phone 7". "Uncluttered, polished experience".
  • listed it as one of the Five must have apps for Windows Phone: "Pictures Lab is $2.99, but well worth it in my opinion for all of the new features added to the camera on your phone."
  • The famous blogger Scott Hanselman says in his Essential Apps blog post: "Pictures Lab is a nice effects and editing application (if not THE BEST editing app) for Windows Phone. All the functionality is there and cleanly integrated with the Photos Hub. Crop, Rotate, Effects, etc. It's a must-have if you are doing any photography on your phone."
  • Business Insider writes "Pictures Lab is like Instagram for Windows Phone 7. Take pictures with Pictures Lab, apply filters, and share them with friends."
  • The famous design site Smashing Magazine included Pictures Lab as an example in the article Introduction To Designing For Windows Phone 7 And Metro
  • Bright Hub lists Pictures Lab as the first app in Top 5 Samsung Focus Apps: "It is considered one of the most popular photo editing programs on the Windows Phone platform, and for good reason. It has an array of sophisticated and beautiful effects ..."
  • APC (Australian Personal Computer) writes: "WP7’s best picture editing and effects app.Pictures Lab has received a lot of attention as the “go-to” image editing suite for new WP7 users – and for good reason, too."
  • Mobility Digest wrote: "This app makes me happy. Tons of features, seems simple to use and it’s cheap – that’s a win! It even has a trial mode that includes all effects."
  • Mobility Digest also posted a walk through: "I didn’t realize it, but when you go to the list of available effects you get to see a preview of the effect which is really great and I have to say, I’m really impressed for how much this app can do."
  • Mobility Digest listed it in: "The First 25 Windows Phone Apps To Download"
  • Pocket-Lint wrote in the article Best Windows Phone 7 photography apps: "... the smart way to go is with Pictures Lab..."
  • wrote: "Speaking of pictures, for two bucks you can have a great little mobile suite of photo effects, fixes, and basic editing tools. The Windows Phone 7 UI language really shines through in this one."
  • Mobile Choices listed it as one of the two Windows Phone apps in The 12 best Christmas apps: "...turning lifeless images into photographic masterpieces..."
  • The blog Noisecast recorded a nice video review: "The program @PicturesLab is the best photo editor for Windows Phone 7, hands down."
  • wrote: "If you love to add effects to your picture then this is one app video you wouldn’t want to miss."
  • also wrote a review including a video
  • wrote: "... interesting photo effect application."
  • also got the WP8 update and : "... Things fly along nicely and the effects don’t take too long to apply in full ..."
  • wrote: "There is no doubt that any phone device is incomplete without good picture depiction. A fantastic photograph app known as Picture Lab is now available for Windows Phone 7."
  • has it on the list: "50 Windows Phone 7 Apps to Get You Started"
  • has it on the list: "Samsung Focus: 30 Best WP7 Applications"
  • The German site wrote: "Die App sieht wirklich klasse aus und lässt sich allem Anschein nach wirklich gut bedienen. Wer also befürchtet hat, dass Windows® Phone 7 zu wenig Möglichkeiten für gute Apps bietet, der wird mit Pictures Lab sicherlich eines besseren belehrt. Die App wird sicherlich zu meinen ersten Käufen aus dem Marketplace gehören."
  • The Portuguese site also wrote an article: "Pictures Lab a caminho do Windows phone 7"
  • Dave Campbell wrote a nice review: "All-in-all, I give Pictures Lab 5 stars"
  • John Papa wrote: "Overall, very nice app, good UI, snappy (which was a surprise to me since it does a lot)."
Feature list
  • Full support for Windows Phone 7 and 8 including all screen resolutions.
  • 30 advanced effects: Ten different vintage and hipster-like effects, Tilt Shift (miniature faking), HDR, Lomo, Soften, Auto Adjust, Sharpen, Comic, Bulge, B& W, Sepia, Manual, Edge Detection, Night Vision, Rainbow, Mirror, X-Ray, Heat Image, Colorization, Negative and Bitmap.
  • Editable effect parameters with ready-to-use default values.
  • Combination of multiple effects.
  • 11 high quality borders and more seasonal borders.
  • Share on Facebook, Twitter, Email, NFC and much more.
  • Take photo functionality with face detection auto focus, steady mode, rule of thirds grid. Integrated into the phone as a Lens. The steady mode requires a device with a gyroscope. The face focus is enabled if the device supports focus at point. It also supports devices with a front facing camera.
  • Post edits from the Pictures Hub using the WP Rich Media extension.
  • Crop, rotate and flip also with predefined aspect ratios.
  • Multi-touch manipulation for Tilt Shift and other effects where multi-touch is meaningful.
  • The app can save edited pictures with advanced effects applied in full resolution even on a device with 256 MB RAM. Thus making it also possible to print the image or use it as desktop wallpaper.
  • Full Pictures Hub Extras integration.
  • The trial version includes the complete functionality and all the effects, only the save functionality is disabled.
  • Support for landscape and portrait orientation.
  • Effect list with dynamic previews and caching of the larger previews.
  • Flicking through the effects on the main page.
  • Setting for the maximum output size, JPEG quality and many more.
  • State preservation when the app is deactivated (tombstoning).
  • Localization for English, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Portuguese (Brasil).

How it works
Some of the image processing algorithms that are used in the Pictures Lab app would normally be implemented as pixel shaders for Silverlight. The Windows Phone platform doesn't support custom pixel shaders at the moment, therefore all effects are implemented in C# and manipulate the WriteabeBitmap Pixels' in some way. How this works in detail was shown in my Coding4Fun articles I've written months ago. This is actually where Pictures Lab has its roots. The first article described all the necessary basics and two simple effects. The second part of this short Coding4Fun article series shows how to implement the basic tilt shift and vintage effects you can find in the Pictures Lab app. Yes, some parts are open source! Except the secret sauces I gotta keep for me that adds the final touch to the effects. I also wrote blog posts about some parts of the application that are surely interesting for other Windows Phone developers.
The Slider control that is used in the App was originally developed by Nokola and then adapted for Windows Phone and made bindable by Clint Rutkas and myself.

To be continued
The planned feature list for the next versions is already pretty long and I have some real diamonds on there. You can follow @PicturesLab on Twitter to get all the status updates. I'd also like to know what feature you want to see in a future version. Just write a comment.


  1. Great work - awesome App!

    Congrats on getting it to the marketplace.

  2. This one is rellay gonna be an app to get as soon as I get my hands on a phone :)

  3. nice job. Just tried this from marketplace.

  4. Great job! I really like the tilt/shift (miniature effect).

  5. Thanks for the kind words everyone. It's much appreciated.

    @Nokola: Thanks again for making and sharing this lightweight Slider.

  6. Really nice collection of effects - only the absence of a WP7 device until next month will prevent me from buying it ;)

    P.S. The picture of you with the bulge effect has a weird resemblance with the hoohead.

  7. Hi Marcel,

    Thanks, but who's "the hoohead"

  8. This one is on my "apps to buy list" as soon as I have my phone.

    René, did you already chose a phone?

  9. Hi aldarIT,

    I want a well designed phone, with a good display and a superb camera (of course ;)). I want a quality camera, not quantity (megapixels).
    The HTC Mozart seems interesting, but I also like the Samsung Focus. I will wait for the first reviews until I decide, which shouldn't take too long.

  10. Great work. Can you help me?
    I want select image from device and then get some region from this picture, and save this region as new photo. How Can I do this?

  11. Hi Rene,

    I know WM 6.x is obsolete but PLEASE create at least 1/10th of Pictures Lab for this ye olde but still widely used platform.

    Anything - three, ok, two predefined effects will do (like ORWO/Polaroid effect for instance).

    It will be greatly appreciated.