Vaporwave artwork is something that I see plenty online, especially on social media platforms like Instagram. Even if you’re not really into the music or the subculture, I think it safe to say that most people just like cyberpunk themes, neon and pastel colors, and the overall aesthetically pleasing visuals. Vaporwave does lend itself to a dreamlike quality which Instagram models as well as everyday folk may gravitate towards to make their content more interesting. One of the reasons I say this is because of the sheer amount of vaporwave or retro photo editors you can find just on the IOS App Store. I’ve see ones with well over 11,000 reviews/reactions from people. So there is clearly an interest in making your photos in the style of vaporwave.
As an interesting experiment, I downloaded a few of these (mainly the ones with a decent amount of reviews and appeared at the top of the search results) to see if they were worth it and to those in the vaporware community, would there really be a good tool for them and to they really capture what the artwork is about as well as its main themes.
Exploring A few of these Apps:
VaporCam was the first one I saw on the app store as soon as I did a search using the term “vaporwave”. It was released onto the store in 2017 and was made by a developed called Wiepeng Zhong. After just googling the name and some light research there was not really any info to go on.
It describes itself as a surreal photo editor to bring a 1980s-1990s dream like effect to your images. You can use gifs and images from the library available on the app as well as glitch and VHS static effects.
As you can see from the images above its not a terrible app. It has a decent amount of filters with saturation, color tones, texts, pictures and other things to mess around with. I also found no issue in editing photos in the app as soon as I booted it up. It was pretty instantaneous to add photos from your gallery and begin editing right away.
However, there is a yearly fee if you want to access all the images and filters it has to offer. Its about $20 USD a year. I find it kind of strange why you would charge anything for a photo filter that you may not use all the time. How many times do you plan to add vaporwave themed filters and pictures to your photos in as given day.
Out of all the apps I found in this category of editors, this one strikes me as the most professional in a way. It has a decent logo and its been around for a while. The app is quick and works just fine. What is available for free is kind of fun to poke around in. Overall its a decently well made app.
R4VE is a photo and video editor that claims to be able to make memes, create covers for musical albums, produce movies or even make logos as well as basic photo editing. It honestly has some interesting features including making basic slideshow style movies where you can control the speed of the frames per second so with some tweaking it can almost seem like a stop-motion animation. It also sports a HUGE selection of stickers and new download options for more images and stickers as well as other common things you find in a photo editor app like filters, text, and effects.
I was able to make a super basic stop-motion kind of movie with the app fairly easily and so the developer’s credit there was a quick start tutorial to show you how all the features work which I appreciate as I was a bit lost upon opening it.
This was also another app that had a “PRO” membership kind of thing going on. From what I can tell its either $3 a month or a $40 one time purchase. Kind of a steep price if I’m being perfectly honest.
R4VE was created by a developer called Maxim Kartuzov. He also created a second app called HSHTG-Hashtag Generator which is a program that helps users generate accurate hashtags by you uploading a photo to it and it would generate the tags for you. Besides that I was able to find some info about this person. He currently resides in California and is still actively updating the app as his last update was January 2020. A lot of people also claim the developer listens to feedback and users are generally happy with the application overall. I can count as one of them because I had no problems whatsoever.
After messing around with it for a bit, its actually a neat little piece of software. Its easy to learn thanks to the tutorial, had no bugs or major issues and I can see it being of some use for people who want to add some pizzazz to their photos. Also the library of choices you have on the free version is quite impressive compared to the other ones I found.
Final Thoughts, Criticisms, and some Pros
I found at least three more of these but to not make this article too long, I just stuck to the two that were at the top of the search results.
I did see for those other three, it was the same deal. They all had membership subscriptions and the same types of options available for filtering photos and stickers.
To be completely fair to these apps, for the most part they run well, are at the very least decently designed and set out to what they were created for. Which is so you make photos more appealing based on your tastes if you’re someone who is into vaporwave themes.
These were the ones I found with lots of reviews and downloads but there are LOADS more. All of them seem to be the same in terms of their business model. That you need to buy a membership/subscription to access all the content on the app. The question is, is it worth it to subscribe to these photo premium memberships?
No and here is why.
It can be great to make your selfies a bit more interesting or add a different filter to your pictures but there is a bit of a problem as of 2020. You can easily add these kinds of effects and even gifs/pictures now on Instagram. Facebook has been testing AR technology on the platform for a while and now as of the last one-two years, independent AR creators can now submit their own filters and AR creations. A lot of them are the dreamy and weird filters like you find on these apps.
The biggest thing is that they are all for free, if you already have an account on Instagram, you can now easily try these by swipe left on your account and scrolling through the filters until you find the “Browse Effect” option. Here you can easily find what your looking for, I just typed in vaporwave and I found TONS that you can use. See below for the couple I found including some pictures I took.
Also adding gifs and images to your story or pictures has been around for quite a while now. I also typed in vaporwave and they are a decent amount of options for you to chose from as well as key terms like retro.
So in a way (and I’m not trying to sound too mean) but these apps are basically outdated and useless. Not to mention you have to pay an egregious amount in my eyes for something that is basically free already. While you maybe saying hey “$20 a year isn’t so bad” but remember you’re paying $20 a year for full access to a bunch of stickers and filters that you can find for free on Instagram and how many times a day to you plan to add vaporwave themes to your photos. If your someone who runs a professional Instagram account or website, my guess is you would already have professional photo editing software you use or are extremely savvy with the platform enough to many the images look anyway you desire. I can only assume these apps are designed for the average social media consumer or maybe even small/independent photo bloggers.
My point is as a reviewer don’t waste your money when free options are available. I don’t mean this out of any disrespect to the people who developed these apps but I have to be blunt about it.
Also if you are going to charge a fee for using all the features of the app, I think it needs more then just complete access to all the banners, stickers and whatnot. You need more to justify it in my opinion. It just seems odd to charge a monthly fee anyway. This isn’t Adobe Photoshop where its a massive editing platform with all the bells and whistles you need.
Why not just make it a paid app anyway? Like around $5-$10 dollars upfront? Of course I know why you bring consumers in when its free and you get them to subscribe if they like the app a lot. Its not a bad business model.
The only thing I can think of where the could be useful is if your in a placer with a terrible WiFi as Instagram does complete depend on a decent internet connection to access all their content correctly. The apps from what I see don’t need that. Also yes if you want a quick an easy app to allow you to add the exact filter you want, these apps are also great. Not everyone is editing savvy so having a program do that for you makes a tons of sense. The good thing is those types of effects are the ones that are free for the most part. If you want to pay for the extra features or membership, that is totally up to you.
At the end of the day, I don’t recommend you sign up for app subscriptions like this as it seems like a bit of a huge price tag for what you get. Use the free tools already available or take a class and learn how to make really cool edited images.