When I was growing up, an app was something you ordered at a restaurant.
Now I have hundreds of them on my phone. I’m not complaining, though. I can still get mozzarella sticks whenever I want.
But I can now do a million different things with the supercomputer in my pocket, including some incredible things with the photos I take. iPhone photography apps have gotten better about as fast as the smartphone camera has.
But, just like the mayonnaise section at the grocery store, there really are TOO many options, and plenty of them are just not impressive. So I rounded up a few big ones that I like to use. These are the ones worth checking out.
The Best Photo Editing Apps for iPhone
Snapseed is great for many reasons, but its number one feature? How easy it is to use. It’s more powerful than your native Photos app, but it’s not as complicated as more professional-grade tools.
Trust me on the ease of use here. Lightroom is awesome (spoiler alert) but it’s quite the Tolkien journey if you’re not a photographer or designer already.
Like a lot of photo editing tools, you can edit color, exposure, framing, white balance, and even perspective. You can edit portions of photos, get rid of unwanted objects, or retouch your subject’s skin if there’s a blemish or a dark spot.
There are tons of preset filters and “Looks” but you can also customize and create your own at any time. My favorite part is that Snapseed even saves my most recent edits so I can apply them to a new photo. This can save so much time.
Snapseed is perfect for anyone who wants to level-up their Instagram game, but doesn’t necessarily have any formal photo editing training or expertise.
If you’re looking for a more professional-level tool, you can’t do much better than Adobe Lightroom CC (Creative Cloud). It’s not that Lightroom can’t be helpful for beginners, but if this is your first leap into photo editing (especially on your iPhone), you maaaayy want to stick with something a bit more simple and move up to this one later. Adobe stuff is very powerful, but there is definitely a learning curve.
Lightroom is a professional’s tool, straight up. You get plenty of filters, brushes, and color adjustments. It also has cloud storage and built-in camera capabilities so you can capture full-sized RAW images (and then edit them) right inside the app.
But honestly, the real MVP of Lightroom is that you get to see tutorials created by actual pros. Photographers will lead you step-by-step through edits they make and you can follow right along, practicing on your own photos. I used to have to buy a separate book (with accompanying CD-ROM) for that kind of training.
But let’s talk about the price.
Those of us who used Adobe’s tools pre-Creative Cloud can get pretty salty at the idea of having a subscription instead of a one-time purchase. However, the CC setup allows Adobe to keep products updated across the board, which ends up being cheaper for users because they don’t have to keep buying new versions (or simply suffering through the old ones).
The cool thing about Lightroom for iOS is that some of its features are available without having to pay anything. Free features include presets, profiles, tutorials, their pro-level camera, and basic photo editing features. There’s no reason not to flirt with the deep end of this pool before you’re ready to buy it. The option for the paid version is $10 a month – which sounds a bit pricey at first. But, it’s worth mentioning that for that price you also get the desktop version of Lightroom as well as Photoshop.
First things first. It’s pronounced “Visco.” VSCO is an incredible filtering app for both still photos and video. You may have seen people using the hashtag #vsco on Instagram — this is the app they’re referring to, and it’s very popular. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a list covering the best photography apps for iPhone that doesn’t include this one.
Similar to Lightroom, VSCO operates on a freemium model. You get access to 10 presets and basic photo editing tools right off the bat (like saturation, grain, and contrast). If you become a member, you get access to over 170 presets, advanced editing tools, tutorials, and vintage film filters.
Even if you don’t pay for the extra stuff, you still get to be a part of the VSCO community. It’s sorta like Instagram, except it’s not public for the entire world to see because it’s restricted to other VSCO users only. One of the fun things they do is highlighting member photos. So if you’re trying to increase your cred as an aspiring photog influencer, this is a place to share your work and try to get a shout out from the editors.
Many of you have already heard of this app, but probably for the wrong reasons.
FaceTune (now on version 2) is the selfie-editing app largely known for its ability to smooth out people’s skin and whiten their teeth. Wrinkles and spots vanish, and what’s left is a flawless, airbrushed effect. To the untrained eye, you might suspect that the selfie subject gets regular facials and uses the most expensive skin serums on the market. Or that they are indeed a mystical creature made of mostly a foggy skin-ish haze. But they’re probably just using FaceTune.
Celebrities and selfie addicts of all levels of fame are frequently called to the carpet for its overuse, giving people (namely women and girls) unrealistic expectations for what they should (or even can) look like. Given our company’s mission of focusing on authentic moments, we debated even including FaceTune on this list. But in the end, we didn’t want to punish a fantastic app for its misuse by some.
The truth is that FaceTune 2 is actually a very powerful photo editing tool — it goes far beyond just turning people into Barbie dolls. This tool works by detecting facial features, which allows the user to alter individual features of a person’s face — their eyes, smile, nose, etc.
Of course, it has a bunch of the same features as other photo editing apps for iPhones (and Androids, for that matter), but it’s far more powerful than most of the tools you’ll find in the App Store. How many apps do you know of that will let you change the direction of the light in your selfie?
FaceTune 2 is so powerful that one TechCrunch reviewer boasts it can “re-shape a whole face.” (If you don’t believe us, you can check out this gif from her review.) While this is definitely possible for professionals in Photoshop, the FaceTune team was able to bring these features to everyday normal people like us, ready or not.
Look, I get it. You’re probably skeptical. And rightly so. But I would just encourage you to look past the airbrushing effects of FaceTune 2 and get to know the app on a deeper level. It’s better than its rep suggests.
The Best Camera Apps for iPhone
The camera app that comes with the iPhone is certainly a good enough camera for most. But if you do know a little more about taking photos with a DSLR, you might find yourself wanting to change settings that you just can’t with the stock camera app. Well, here are a few great options.
The original Camera+ (co-created by Lisa Bettany) was a smash hit in the App Store, but, like The Dark Knight or The Empire Strikes Back, its sequel is even better. Using the Camera+ 2 app instead of your built-in camera app gives you way more control over your photos ahead of time, instead of hoping you can fix your mistakes later.
You can manually adjust the shutter speed, ISO (light sensitivity), and white balance. Doing so before you take a photo will help you get premium quality upfront, which is always better if it’s an option. It’s harder to edit grain out of a finished photo without messing up the image than it is to just take a better photo from the start.
Of course, you can do wonders these days with a photo editor, but “fixing it in post” isn’t always an option. Pros will tell you to start off with the highest quality image possible, and Camera+ 2 is an excellent way to do that.
Aside from buying external iPhone lenses (which you can also do) ProCamera is probably the closest thing to a DLSR camera you’ll get in an iPhone photography app. National Geographic called it “a must-have travel app” and I think they know a thing or two about travel and photography.
ProCamera is incredibly versatile and comes with a massive feature list. You get all the basic photography tools you’d expect, plus so many more you probably didn’t know existed. You can manually adjust every setting you could ever dream of, shoot in multiple different file formats, and it even comes with its own self-timer.
If you’re already an actual pro photographer who wants better images out of their iPhone, ProCamera is definitely the way to go.
This app could have gone in any category on this list — it has great editing capabilities, its own powerful camera, and tons of fun features. Moment Pro could easily become your one-stop shop for taking better quality photos.
One feature I really love in Moment Pro is the zebra bars, which is a professional-level tool that comes on DSLRs and video cameras to help show you when the image is over- or underexposed. When you turn zebra bars on, black and white bars appear in the over- (or under-) exposed areas of the image, so you can fix them. Hence the name “zebra bars.”
Moment Pro is meant to give you the look, feel, and technical capabilities of a DSLR with the convenience of a smartphone — and we can assure you it delivers on that promise. This one is definitely worth a shot.
The Most Fun iPhone Photography Apps
I just recently came across this one cool iPhone photo app called Pixlr. It has basic photo editing capabilities, but that’s not really the best part of this app. This thing is a collage king.
It has a fantastic set of tools to make photo collages, in addition to some border and filter options for your photos.
Also, if you don’t have an iPhone capable of portrait mode, check out their focal blur effect, which will let you focus on one point of your photo and blur the rest.
Pixlr has just enough tricks up its sleeve to give it a permanent home on my iPhone.
We might all have smartphones now, but even some of us millennials grew up with analog cameras and film. If you’re like me you probably have a box or ten of old photo prints from your parents or your own childhood that you’re basically just keeping stored safely in a closet or attic.
But in a world of external hard drives and cloud storage backups, having a single set of prints in a box in an attic just feels… dangerous. What if they’re damaged or destroyed? All those photos would be gone in an instant.
Enter: Google PhotoScan. This app uses your iPhone camera to capture photos of your old photos, digitizing them and turning them into editable pieces. We’ve recommended them before, but this one is so good, I’m bringing it up again.
They even have this cool process for taking glare-free photos by looking at multiple angles of it. Glossy prints will never again ruin your photo of a photo, and you’ll have your old family moments that matter stored safe and sound on your phone, the cloud, an external hard drive, and whatever other device you want to store them on.
Last but not least, a bit of a wild card. Go ahead and download Momento. All I have to say is this: Momento lets you turn Live Photos into GIFs.
You remember what Live Photos are, right? How your iPhone camera captures a very short movie of what’s happening, even on a still photo? Yeah, you can use Momento to make GIFs of those.
You can adjust all kinds of aspects of your GIFs, like speed, brightness, and zoom. You can also add text, stickers, music, and filters. It’s like Tik Tok meets Harry Potter’s animated photos.
Momento is so much fun to play with and I know you’re going to love it. Also, please send us your homemade GIFs. Especially if they involve babies or pets.
Putting Your Photography Apps to Good Use
So now you should have a great little set of apps on your iPhone that help you take and edit some incredible photos. Now what? I just have one tiny ask. And it’s not for me.
Don’t just forget about these photos after you post them to your Instagram. The moments that matter in our lives deserve to be on display in our homes. The bright, shining, beautiful faces of your favorite people are what make your home yours.
Obviously, I believe strongly that our glass prints are perfect for celebrating your best photos and memories. But I don’t care as much that you use OUR prints as I do that you print them somehow. Celebrate your stories where you can see them every day.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with. If you enjoy any of the apps on this list, please let me know by tweeting us @FractureMe, or by commenting below. I also want to know what other photo apps I’m missing out on.