App Smart

Making your selfies the talk of social media

Miley Cyrus has done many things recently, but I think my favorite among them is elevating the “selfie” photo to something like a modern art form.

I love selfies. Be honest: I bet you, too, have held your smartphone at arm’s length, grinned awkwardly and snapped a self-portrait or two for Instagram, à la Miley.

Odds are that you’ve relied on your phone’s standard apps to snap these pictures. That’s a shame, because there are many other apps that can take selfies to the next level.


Free on iOS and Android


Frontback is my favorite selfie app because it’s unique. It takes two shots, one from the phone’s main camera and one from the camera that faces the user. Then it combines them into a single image. The result is a self-portrait in context, with a sense of the scene around you.

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The app’s interface is simple, and there are only a few extra options.

For example, before you snap your two images — one at a time — the screen shows you a preview and you can choose a self-timed option or use the flash. That’s all: No filters, no frames, no fuss.

Once you’ve taken the two images, you can save the final product to use in another app, like Twitter. Or you can share it through Frontback’s own social system. Using this option does mean you’re joining yet another social network, but it’s not required to use the app.

Frontback won lots of praise when it was solely on iOS, and now it’s newly available on Android.


$3 on iOS


Facetune may be just a bit controversial for the same reasons Photoshopped photos of models in magazines are.

The app lets you make small but important adjustments to pictures to improve how you look.

The interface is slick and easy to use.

Each of the different effects has on-screen advice, and it’s easy to apply and undo effects.

You can smooth out wrinkles, patch spots, whiten your teeth, narrow your cheeks, and make many other small alterations, most of which are impressive.


The trick, I’d say, is not to get too vain and overrefine your photo so it looks weirdly artificial. I prefer the warts-and-all natural look, but of course your mileage may vary.

There’s no Android edition of Facetune yet, but for a great alternative, check out Perfect365. This app automatically detects your eyes, nose, and mouth and uses the information to apply effects like adding color to your cheeks, tweaking your eyelashes, or even applying fake lipstick.

Its interface isn’t quite as easy to use as Facetune and I often had to adjust the app’s automatically identified data points to, for example, properly line up with the edges of my mouth.

It’s fun to play with, though, and it’s free.

There’s also an iOS version.

CamMe is an app on iOS that helps create selfies without your outstretched phone-holding arm appearing in the photo. CamMe detects when you hold your hand up to start the photographing process, and waits for you to make a fist before it starts a countdown.


$2 on iOS and Android

For a simple but effective app that’s all about special filters, look no further than Retrica. This iOS and Android app has a clean, minimalist interface and takes pictures as nicely as many rivals do. But it stands out because of its image effects.

There are 80-plus filters to choose from, as well as effects like blurring the background, adding borders, and more. It’s fun to use, if sometimes a little confusing, and there’s a free edition that has embedded ads and more limited features, including a reduced number of filters.

Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.