Layrs lets you separate the foreground from the background of your pictures with the swipe of a finger, and then adjust each area separately. You might want to increase the contrast of the ocean without affecting the kids playing on the beach, for instance, or add a blur effect to a sailboat in the foreground without changing anything about the sky. Once you're done, you can save the new photo to your phone's camera roll, e-mail it, or share it on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. (Posting to Facebook didn't work when I tried it this week, and the app does force you to crop your original picture into a square format so you can work with it on the iPhone's screen.) The company that makes Layrs, Artware Studio, is self-funded, and has been working on the app since last year. CEO Moti Kintzlinger is based in Israel, while the head of marketing and business development, Janice Ozguc, works in Boston.
"As part of the development process, we worked with focus groups, professional photographers, leaders in the Instagram community, as well market research firms," Ozguc says. Future generations of the app with more advanced features may cost money. Ozguc and Kintzlinger worked together previously at Octalica, a semiconductor company in Newton and Israel that was acquired in 2007 by Broadcom.
Below is a picture I shot last weekend, and then the same photo edited with Layrs. I left the sky alone, but brightened up the foreground.
The second app, Pixtr, promises to automatically upgrade your pictures of people, with a kind of intelligent airbrushing. It first tries to identify faces, then removes blemishes and "enhances" skin tones and symmetry. I haven't been wowed yet by Pixtr's improvements, though, and it sometimes changes the shape of cheeks or eyebrows in a way that seems weird. Sometimes, the app doesn't like a photo's lighting or angle, even when it seems decent.
Pixtr was developed by an Israeli team, but they are participating in the MassChallenge competition this summer in Boston. Uri Levine, a founder of the mapping startup Waze (acquired by Google last month), is an early investor in Pixtr.
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.