If you’re an iPhone user, chances are you enjoy the wonders of Instagram. It’s one of the most popular photo apps in the App Store for good reason: it’s simple, has great vintage-looking filters, and can make a photo of even the most mundane subject look artistic and well-composed. It also offers easy sharing and the ability to connect with friends and others who want to see your photos. We still think that Instagram has some of the best filters and effects out there for your iPhone photos, but sometimes we need an alternative or just want to switch things up. One of the only significant flaws of the app is that you can’t apply an Instagram filter to a photo without sharing that photo with your followers and on your profile. Below we have selected our favorite vintage and retro filter apps that will let you express your creativity on your terms.
Big Lens focuses on the tilt-shift aspect of retro photography and does a great job at giving photos that perfect blurred-out-background look. Users can either use a ‘basic’ mode that blurs out backgrounds based on a circular or linear point of focus, or opt for the more advanced mode that lets users create a mask on an object or area to use as the focal point.
The simple interface lets users take a photo and then press the round camera button as many times as necessary to find a filter/frame combination that they like. The options seem to be endless, but if you see a filter that you particularly like, all you have to do is press the star button to save it to your favorites. The app also has helpful crop, share, and save options.
Vintage Scene takes retro to a new level by taking it back to a time before Polaroids. People may think you are a time traveler who was around during the birth of photography. Make your own antique photos to become the ultimate hipster. Show that you loved photography before it even existed by mixing and matching the four old timey filters.
If you download only one other free camera effect app besides Instagram, this app is the one. Pixlr-o-matic has dozens of great filters that will give your photos an artistic, toy camera feel, but users can also choose to add even more to the photo with an assortment of lighting accents and framing options. Users can snap a photo within the app or import a photo from their camera roll to edit.
The creators of this app studied real cross-processed film photos to try and emulate the look as well as possible, and we think they did a great job. Cross Process gives users choices of which effects or ‘processes’ to create a unique look, and also gives the option of a border on each photo. Users see and hear the photo being processed with a true film-like appeal.
8mm Vintage Camera is the app for people that aren’t content with just editing photos to look old and actually want the feel of using a retro camera. Not only can you choose filters, you can look at the photo though the frame of a camera. What sets this app apart is that you can shoot retro video as well as photos. You have so many more options for what you can do.
This app lets you easily toggle between 13 different basic filter styles that all have several variations that you can access by double-tapping the photo after you’ve taken it. The filters aren’t the best vintage-like that we’ve ever seen, but we like some of the more unique offerings. Users can also save the same photo in multiple styles, which is a helpful feature.
With 16 different scene modes to improve your photo, dozens of filters (from classics to creative and quirky), and a handful of nice borders, this app has all the bases covered. We also particularly like that there is an intensity slider for each of the preloaded effects, meaning that you can tone down each effect to your desired level. The app also offers a bright LED flashlight.
The app comes preloaded with four different lens types, three different kinds of film, and three different flashes that can be mixed and matched. The interface, which looks like a vintage toy camera, can be a bit confusing, but once you get the hang of it, the photos turn out beautiful. The ‘prints’ are square and have the quirky look of a toy camera.
Polaroids are super hip, but sometimes you can’t get to an Urban Outfitters to shell out $80 for the camera and film. ShakeItPhoto will save you some money. Take a photo, shake to develop, and send it to all your friends. It puts the classic black and white border around the photo so your friend will think you scanned a real Polaroid into your email and sent it to them.
DT Writers Kelly Montgomery and Emily Schiola contributed to this article.