We can’t all be great photographers. But with the iPhone, we do carry a better camera in our pockets than the point-and-shoots we owned years ago. Plus, now we have technology to do the heavy lifting for us. The iPhone’s camera is one of the simplest things out there and the most suited for the “flick and click” type scenarios where you don’t want to think about the focus or the exposure, you just want to take a picture. The iPhone’s camera works out the dirty details by itself and always gives you something promising.
But that might not be enough. To me it almost never is. Which is why I seek counsel of the best free photo editors out there. Read on to find out which one might suit your needs.
It’s best to download all three of them and play around. Because different pictures might need different editing features.
1. VSCO Cam
For me, VSCO Cam is the one that started it all. It’s not a feature rich camera app, nothing compared to apps like Camera+ or Camera 360 but it’s a lot better than the default app. And anyway, it’s not the camera that’s the best thing about this app, it’s the editing features.
I used to call VSCO Cam the Instagram that never was. It does a lot more than Instagram’s filters and does it better. Instagram’s recent update added the fine tuned settings like contrast, saturation etc but I still think VSCO is better. Especially the filters. They always manage to make a dull photo interesting.
With VSCO Cam you also get a community. It’s like Instagram for photography nerds. So here you’ll mostly find artful object photography or landscapes instead of selfies and portraits of coffee cups.
What is it good for? For being a better Instagram than Instagram (in almost every regard).
2. Photo Editor by Aviary
Aviary is like VSCO Cam without the community but with more features. Unfortunately a lot of them are locked behind the paywall.
I like Aviary for its playfulness. While VSCO Cam can sometimes feel like it takes itself a bit too seriously, Aviary is like a fun college grad on a spring break. Add party hat stickers? Sure. Fake rain? Why not.
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But it does a lot of things right. For instance go to Splash -> Smart color and start dragging your finger over the area you want to have in color. The “smart” color knows which color you’re referring to and will take care of the borders for you. Once you’re done, it looks really good, it looks like something that was done with Photoshop.
Other things like the one-click enhance for different scenes and the dozen or so filters are quite nice as well. But they aren’t as good as VSCO Cam. You have the basic controls for blur, saturation, contrast, etc.
But if you’re going to go for Aviary, you’ll have to spend a couple of dollars on the extra filters to make the most out of it.
What is it good for? For having fun effects to play around with while serving powerful features like the color/black and white splash effect that no one else has.
Litely is the VSCO Cam of 2014. If you thought VSCO was posh, wait till you try Litely. And I mean that in a good way. Litely has a bit of sophistication to it that even VSCO does not. The app’s UI is gorgeous, so are the filters and presets.
If you’re starting out with a relatively good photo, even something that’s grainy or overexposed, you can count on Litely to make it all better. Litely plays into the app’s name. It makes everything livelier – lighter, smoother, sharper (top image was edited with Litely).
Litely is the photographic equivalent of playing smooth jazz.
The free presets are nice to begin with and you can control the implementation using a slider. Tap with two fingers for a before/after shot.
To a non-instagrammic eye, Litely can look a tad monotonous. If you feel so, get your hands dirty with the manual settings. You can handle the exposure, sharpness, vibrance and vignette on your own. These settings really bring out the color and motion from the pictures.
If you want to do anything more, you need to purchase more presets.
What is it good for? For making your photos look effortlessly cool.
So shed your Instagram shackles and give these advanced photo apps a shot. Snap away!