There’s an old adage amongst photographers that goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” The point being that when the perfect scene pops up, any camera is better than no camera at all. And since most of us carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go, more often than not the best camera we have just so happens to be an iPhone. Moreover, the camera on the newly-launched iPhone 6S and 6S Plus — and those adorning nearly all recent iPhone models — are nearly as powerful or more so as the point-and-shoots of yesteryear, with a massive selection of sophisticated applications that render them even more versatile. Check out this list of our favorite photography apps for iPhone if you want to make the most of your smartphone’s camera, whether you’re looking for a way to shoot, edit, or organize your photos with the touch of your finger and a little intuitiveness.
Even with the iOS 9 update, Apple’s native iOS camera app is rather anemic when it comes to features. Thankfully, Camera+ provides a wider range of exposure controls and advanced tools such as continuous flash, frontal flash, touch-focus adjustment, 6x digital zoom, a timer, and preset filters. The well-organized interface also makes it a breeze to utilize, whether snapping or sharing shots on social media.
When iOS 8 launched, rather that updating the existing ProCamera app, developer Cocologics decided to go ahead and make an entirely new app. The new app — now optimized for iOS 9 — still sports a minimalist interface, with a host sophisticated features for setting exposure time, tint, ISO sensitivity, and more. It even features a night camera and full-resolution previews in addition to robust exposure control and more than 70 unique filters and effects.
ProHDR is probably one of the most fully-featured apps we’ve encountered in the HDR category. The interface isn’t quite as slick as VividHDR, but it offers you a wider range of control over exposure adjustments and tone-mapping settings. It also features an array of beautiful preset filters for you to use, if you’re into that sort of thing, along with options for digitally zooming, cropping, captioning, and setting a self timer, among other features.
When it comes to photo editing software, nobody does it better than Adobe. Though the mobile version of their renowned desktop software offers a smaller work space than most apps, it’s still one of the most capable after-effects programs you can buy. Popular Photoshop features such as layers, selection tools, and adjustments all make an appearance, as do options for adding text, applying effects, and blending images. Unfortunately, many features are locked behind in-app purchases, so be ready to spend some dough if Express is your photo editor of choice.
Although many of Lightroom’s tools require a newer model of iPhone to run, it remains one of the most feature-rich apps on our list, particular for photographers who want to edit their workflow while on the move. The app automatically syncs images with its desktop counterpart – whether you’re using images shot on your smartphone or raw images from a DSLR – allowing you to quickly edit, enhance, and share your photos using a variety of familiar tools.
What would our photography app roundup be without any mention of the undisputed king of photo filters? There are dozens of apps out there that essentially allow you to do the same thing, but Instagram remains the best given the enormous user community. It still supplies a bevy of classic filters from which to choose, along with the ability to comment, like, share, and send photos directly to friends of your own choosing.
The Web-based Pixlr has long been one of our favorite image editors, and thankfully, so is the mobile incarnation of the software. The app lets you choose from four pre-defined dimensions when resizing photos, with additional options for cropping, rotating, stylizing, and sharing photos on standby. Lighting and overlay effects even let you adjust the mood, while one-click adjustments allow for quick and automatic control.
A mere $4 is a small price to pay for perfection. Not everyone is as photogenic as this guy, and more often than not, the images you snap of yourself and your friends aren’t as flattering as you’d like them to be. That’s where Facetune comes in.As the self-professed favorite app of Kim Kardashian, one of the most photographed celebs on social media, the app allows you to perform specific touch-ups like teeth whitening, blemish removal, and color correction so that your mug looks perfect when you post the pics to your social media profiles. Hell, you can even change your eye color or color over grey hairs.
If you’re looking for a solid after-effects app that doesn’t cost anything up front, check out Photo Editor by Aviary. Recently acquired by Adobe, it’s got plenty of advanced features and a sleek, minimalist interface from which you can stylize and edit your photos using a wealth of purchasable filters and content. Like Facetune, Aviary includes tools for eliminating redeye and whitening teeth, along with options for adding text, replacing color, and sharing.
The aptly-titled Manual, one of the more recent photography apps to hit the App Store, is a sight for sore eyes. The mobile software gives you full control of the shutter, white balance, ISO, focus, and exposure composition for a more hands-on approach to capturing photos. Furthermore, you can use the app to monitor automatic exposure values and view a live histogram, that is, when you’re not using the flashlight or slick grid mode.
Photoblend makes being artsy easy. The photo editor allows you to blend to images together to create a simple, double exposure effect, with the option to add a melange of quotes to your photo (i.e. “To love and be loved”). Furthermore, you can add images to one of Photoblend’s many traditional frames, or add modern figures such as an owl, peace sign, tree, or sun, among others. Is it gimmicky? Yes, but who really cares?
Luminance made its name by allowing users to stack different filters on top of one another to create a more personalized photography experience. The mobile app includes a suite of special effects that can be applied to pictures, along with basic photo-editing tools that allow you to crop and rotate your images. Luminance sets itself further apart by allowing you to export pictures at different resolutions (Small, Medium, Large, or Original).
We know you would never, ever record vertical video on your iPhone. But for your friends that might do it by accident, Horizon Camera offers a viable solution. Horizon simply forces your phone to record in landscape mode, keeping the feed horizontal even while rotating the phone itself. The app includes slow-mo support at 60 and 120 fps, and allows you to record at a resolution of your own choosing — so long as it falls within the scope of a pre-selected list, of course.
Vine is the network of six-second videos that just keeps growing. Built to interface quickly and easily with social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, Vine is the perfect encapsulation of modern attention spans. Don’t like that video? Don’t worry, it’s over already! Check out the trending Vines, which are sure to keep you entertained, or add your own to the mix to share with your followers and other potential viewers.
Paper Camera is a lighthearted take on your average photo filter app, and offers a number of cartoon-style filters, each with a number of sliders that let customize your pictures to your heart’s content. Unlike most apps, Paper Camera applies the filter to the camera rather than the photograph, allowing you to see what a picture might look like before you actually take it. The app also allows you to import and filter your own photos.
Lifecake is the app that’s bringing Grandma’s scrapbooks into the 21st century. The app, owned by Canon, is built to chronicle childhood, one picture at a time. The user can view ‘stages’ of their child’s life by selecting and comparing different dates, and decide who can view the albums. The app also allows you to annotate photos or albums.
With PixelWakker, creator Joseph Wrigley brings pointillism into the digital world. The app breaks photographs down into pixels, then turns those pixels into art. Even with just four filters to choose from — like pixel image, dots, lines, and color rain — you can have a ton of fun. Moreover, the app is compatible with Instagram and allows you to directly post photos to your live feed.
For anyone who loves to draw (or simply loves art), Sktchy is a unique app that allows users to post pictures of themselves for artists to draw or paint. Sktchy is great for following your favorite artists, getting feedback on your own art, and comparing different artistic depictions of the same subject. Touted by creator Jordan Melnick as “the perfect place for artists to find inspiration,” Sktchy’s community grows every day.
There are dozens of apps designed to give your photos a tilt-shift look, but TiltShift solely focuses on tilt-shift photography and nothing more. Not only does it house the ability to apply real-time effects and let you share your photos across your favorite social platforms, but it includes a lens blur feature, bloom adjustment, and the ability to choose a shaped aperture. Furthermore, the interface is streamlined and simple, making the editing process easier than ever before.
Have you ever found yourself in dire need of an app that creates ransom notes? If so, Ampergram is perfect for you! The app allows you to choose from a ton of real-life photographic fonts to create a unique message. With Ampergram, you can utilize community-uploaded fonts, default fonts, or take photos of letters you see in real life to add them to your library. Just keep in mind that Digital Trends does not take credit for ransom notes created this way.
Free of frivolous distractions and interface clutter, VSCO Cam is a stills-only app that specifically built with composition and editing in mind. The app allows you to set the focus and exposure independently, as well as make subtle adjustments to temperature, contrast, brightness, saturation, and more using a variety of tools. You can even adjust the strength presets, or peruse a curated gallery of impressive photos from the creators.
YouCam Snap brings something different to the table. The app lets users capture real-life photographs of displays, charts, presentations, and the like. The app then automatically de-skews, straightens, and enhances the photos so that they can be used as reference material or sent to others. A student might snap a picture of notes on a whiteboard, for instance, and the app will adjust the angle of the picture and render the notes readable for future use.
This article was originally published on October 2, 2014, and updated on May 2, 2016, by Nick Hastings to include Vine, Horizon Camera, Paper Camera, Lifecake, PixelWakker, Sktchy, Ampergram, and YouCam Snap.