Lisa Bettany has been a competitive figure skater, a photographer, and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” but she’s best known for a far more humble title: app developer.
Four years ago, Bettany co-created Camera+, a staple for every photographer with an iPhone that has become one of the top 20 paid apps in Apple’s App Store and sold more than 12 million copies. But four years after the whirlwind of success that followed, Bettany finds herself in a different place – both literally and figuratively.
For one thing, she’s exchanged what she describes as “the New York/San Francisco high life” for the quieter setting of Victoria, British Columbia. Too restless to do the same thing creatively for too long, the self-taught shutterbug also is branching out, with a game app in the works, a new camera app launched a few weeks ago and an app development company of her own that she’s launched in Canada.
“5 a.m., I’d be up working, constantly trying to figure out what the next trend would be.”
It’s an impressive result, all the more so considering she started out not as a developer but as someone whose potential as a competitive figure skater had been sidelined by a back injury. She ended up starting a blog to post the photos she’d taken after being given a camera by a friend. The photography and blogging distracted her from the injury, got her out of bed – and, eventually, led to opportunities, including one with the company tap tap tap, with which she came up with the idea for Camera+.
The career decision she made back then became a recurring theme on her current professional trajectory:
Namely, in the absence of an obvious way forward, she invents one.
“For me, I certainly had no experience making apps at that point,” she said, adding that it took a year to put out the first version of Camera+. “The app ended up doing well, and that kind of opened the doors to a lot of other opportunities. When I reached that point, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I probably took a year off after we hit the peak. I had to re-evaluate what life is about.
“I’ve moved back to Canada after four crazy years, where I was working 20 hours a day,” she tells Digital Trends. “5 a.m., I’d be up working, constantly trying to figure out what the next trend would be, what people wanted. I sort of lost touch with – I don’t know, humanity – and almost became kind of a robot. But I came back home and really found a sort of peace. And I thought a lot about what I wanted to do next.”
In tandem with the four-year anniversary in June of Camera+, she helped launch a new app last month called MagiCam that was a response to users who wanted “something a bit more simple and clean.” That is, they wanted the power of Camera+, which boasts a wide range of sliders and adjustable features, but they also wanted all that editing power to happen in the background while they enjoyed more of a one-touch experience.
“Camera+ was intended to be more of a professional app that gives you all the tools you need to take amazing photos,” Bettany says. “We were sort of the first ones to really push the boundaries of what you can do on an iPhone to make it as good as what you can do with a point-and-shoot.”
And there’s more coming along those lines. A Camera+ update is in the works that draws on the new bells and whistles that iOS 8 will bring, but Bettany is mum on the details for now.
Another thing she’s excited about – and equally reluctant to say too much about yet – is the game she’s worked on that she says will be out in about a month.
“With the game, I wanted to try my hand at producing the whole thing,” she said. “We’re so close. It’s been done for a few months now – and yet it’s not done. There’s always that fear, with Camera+ being so successful, when you’re going out there by yourself. But it’s a beautiful game, and I’m actually working on it with a friend I used to skate with who’s an amazing designer.”
Bettany’s life today is less about capturing and more about creating. “For me, with the photography and apps – it’s about creating something bigger,” she says. “I’ve sort of taken a step back from the selfie life, from putting it all out there. I did so much of that. I feel like now I just want to create things.”