Ever since that star-studded Ellen Oscars photo, it seems the selfie has saturated every inch of pop culture. But no matter how widespread selfies are, the fact remains that it’s hard to reach out your arm and tap your phone’s screen while also attempting to look cute.
That’s why FaceSnap, in all its simplicity, is a great tool to have around. The new iOS app — which is free until this Friday, and regularly $0.99 — is a photo timer for your smartphone. It takes a series of selfies in successive bursts, pausing a few seconds between each take to let you decide on a pose. That way you can spend less time focusing on pulling the trigger and more time mugging for the camera.
This is a feature that the iPhone’s camera app is surprisingly lacking. And Apple is not alone: The standard Android and Windows Phone camera apps don’t have a photo timer, either (many Samsung and HTC One phones do, however).
FaceSnap’s app goes one step further than just a timer, however. There are two settings that use a room-scanning technology called Galileo. Switch to Party Camera, and your phone’s back camera will slowly evaluate the room. When a face is detected, it’ll snap a series of five images. Move on to Room Surveillance, and the camera will randomly survey your space, snapping a single image when it recognizes a face.
Depending on whose hands this falls into, these tools could be awesome or creepy: awesome because they’re a great way to capture candid images of your friends at a party or crowded room; creepy because the ability to discreetly hold your iPhone up, scan a room for faces, and take photos could be abused by stalkers and weirdos in public places.
That being said, FaceSnap’s Galileo technology isn’t really advanced enough to capture clear photos of moving people. It will pick up and photograph a person only if she’s facing your camera nearly head on. And, even then, it takes a few seconds to stabilize and count down.
It’s no Narrative Clip, but we timer-deprived iPhone owners can’t be choosers. Try it out before Friday, while it’s still free. You might look a little less distracted in future selfies.
Here’s how to use it:
1. Download the app here (for free until Friday) and open it.
2. The first thing you’ll see is — surprise — your face! You have beautiful bone structure. Give yourself a pat on the back.
You’ll notice that when you remain still and stare straight at your phone, a green box framing your face will appear. That’s FaceSnap’s Galileo technology at work. Once it’s picked up your face, tap the opaque Snap bubble.
3. Your phone will immediately take three photos in a row of your face, after which it will pause for three seconds (displayed in countdown mode within the bubble), and then resume. To stop it, tap the opaque Stop bubble.
4. To see the results of your photo bursts, tap on the yellow folder at the bottom-left corner of the screen.
5. From there you’ll enter an extensive gallery that features take after take of your face. Almost like one of Andy Warhol’s classic silkscreen portrait series, except with more duckface. To delete and send whole batches, tap the paper icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
6. You’ll be given the option to select as many photos as you want, and then decide below if you want to delete or send them.
7. Back at the home screen, you can switch among modes by tapping the tool icon on the bottom right of the screen.
8. You’ll be given three options. To switch quickly, tap the mode you want, and then tap Done.Below there are descriptions to remind you what each mode does.
I tried out the latter two to see how effective they were. In both Party Camera and Room Surveillance modes, I wasn’t able to get photos of anyone who wasn’t looking directly at the camera for an extended period of time.
In other words, walking through the hallways with my phone pointed at people was completely ineffective, and probably weirded some people out.
Below is a series of photos I took of my colleague Daniel while he was getting coffee in the breakroom.
They’re more candid that they might be than if I asked him to pose. But this feature would probably work better in a public park or subway, where globs of people are sitting relatively still.
10. If you want to adjust the frequency of or time breaks between photo bursts, scroll down in the Settings section. You can also ask the camera to pick the best of a photo series, to capture only new faces (which would be great if you were attempting to photograph every person at a party), and to expand the angle at which it can capture a face.
It’ll be cool to see if and when FaceSnap expands and improves these features. It might just generate more natural selfie poses. And lord knows we need those.