Hilton Head Island resident and College of Charleston student Will Jamieson took a shot in the dark and was disappointed by the result.
A computer science major, he was at home watching TV when he tried to take a picture of himself and send it to a friend. Jamieson used the front-facing camera on his smartphone for a self-photo -- or "selfie" -- but the room was too dark. The result was a black screen.
Unlike the rear-facing camera on his smartphone -- and many others -- the front camera lacks a flash.
"I thought, 'Hmm, there's got to be an app for that,'" Jamieson said.
But there wasn't.
"So I decided I'd make one," he said.
Jamieson developed Front Flash. The application simulates a flash by increasing the brightness of a mobile device's screen to provide better illumination. The app generates a white screen with an overlay of a shrunken camera frame to help the user pose for a selfie. The white border quickly brightens on the device's display when the user taps the shutter button.
The brighter the screen setting, the better the flash.
Once a picture has been snapped, the user can save or discard the photo and share it via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message.
In initial tests, the app crashed on some older Android devices, including the Galaxy S2. Jamieson said he has since updated the app to solve the problem. He also is working on updates to support video recording and provide filters for stylized photo effects.
The app works on any phone or tablet equipped with Android 2.3.3 and up, but is not compatible with iPhones, iPads or other Apple devices. Those with an iOS device can try Camera+ from iTunes."While it could definitely use some tweaks, it still manages to do the job well enough," according a review from the technology blog AddictiveTips. "Taking a picture is easy, requiring just the touch of a button at the bottom of the screen ... (so) if you have an Android device and find yourself taking self-shots more often than you would have us believing, Front Flash may just be what you need."
The app is available in both free and 99-cent pro versions from the Google Play store. The pro variant sports a brighter flash, faster loading times and no advertisements.
It has received an average of 3.9 stars out of a five-star rating from users on Google Play, and reached a peak of 5,000 downloads a day last week after becoming available June 2.
Jamieson said the app is intended primarily for college and high school students, who enjoy sharing self-photos on social media or directly with friends.
"People today love sharing photos of what they're doing," Jamieson said. "And if you're out at night or in a bar, club or dark-lit room, taking that self-photo can be difficult without Front Flash."