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Instagram 6.0: Tweak It and They Will Saturate?

Co-founder Kevin Systrom calls it the beginning of a multi-year "arc and narrative."

This morning, Instagram is rolling out the sixth version of its mobile photo-sharing app, loading it up with 10 creative tools, including the ability to manipulate images in a variety of new ways like saturation, sharpening and highlighting.

The new version for the 200 million monthly active users of the Facebook-owned service will be available for both Apple iOS and Google Android, adding a number of tools that users pay for when using other photo apps.

“We wanted to give people the ability to play with photos and not have to pay,” said Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom in an interview at the social networking giant’s Menlo Park, Calif., HQ. “We think it will be amazing for pros and fun for the casual user.”

Systrom said it was the beginning of a multi-year “arc and narrative” for Instagram, which he can better pull off due to the 140 staffers on the team, a huge increase from the dozen who came over when Facebook purchased it in April of 2012 for over $1 billion.

Among the new (and sometimes very nifty) features, according to Instagram, which seemed easy to grok in a demo Systrom gave me:

  • Adjust: Crop and straighten your photo at the same time.
  • Brightness: Makes your photo brighter or darker.
  • Contrast: Makes the bright areas of your photo brighter, and the dark areas darker.
  • Warmth: Shifts the colors of your photo toward either warmer orange tones or cooler blue tones.
  • Saturation: Increases or decreases the color intensity of the image (e.g. red becomes redder).
  • Highlights: Adjust the brightness focusing on the bright areas of the image.
  • Shadows: Adjust the brightness focusing on the dark areas of the image.
  • Vignette: Darkens the edges of the photo to direct the attention away from the edges and toward the center of the photo.
  • Sharpen: Adds a subtle crispness to your photo and makes photo clearer.
  • Filter Strength: Tap on a filter to adjust the filter strength. (Border is now within Filter Strength; tap on a filter to add a border).
  • Each editing tool comes with a slider that allows you to adjust how much to apply each effect.
  • Tap on your photo preview to compare your photo’s before and after effects.

Systrom said that his goal was not to introduce complexity to Instagram, but to take its feature set beyond its famous filters while still focusing on the main product. The service has also added videos, as well as Instagram Direct (which allows users to send photos only to each other), but that still pales in comparison to the posting of photos.

“We are aiming to make the core better, creating more of an ecosystem,” he said “Everyone can build a photo app, but not everyone can build a community.”

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