It’s crazy, really, the amount of time and inconvenience we’ll spend trying to get the perfect shot with a cell phone. Moving objects, cropping, employing multiple apps in tandem for the desired result — like a conductor, we direct various apps into a swelling crescendo of sweet, sweet photographic production. And for what? A couple of likes on the social media d’jour? A digital thumbs-up from a friend that shows we caught their attention for a few seconds? Maybe it’s best not to think about it.
We’ve come to realize two things: (1) utilizing a set of great photo apps is key, whether you’re trying to capture the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or just snapping a selfie of your abs (not again, Anthony Weiner!), and (2) our idiosyncrasies drive some people nuts. But instead of thinking we’re off the reservation, follow our lead. We know this stuff. So give the Earlybird Instagram filter a break and read up on these five useful photo apps. Your slightly interested friends will thank you.
Snapseed (Free) is extremely robust. This app’s strengths lie in its ability to change the fundamental elements of your photo. There are few things this app can’t do, but you should use it specifically for its selective adjustment, straightening, and sharpening, along with its tilt-shift, center focus and general image tuning abilities. Every rose has its thorns, however, because Snapseed’s filters fall short. In general, they’re all terrible (Drama is decent in moderation) and you should never use them. Seriously.
A final note — it’s the only app on our list that’s also for Android. Sorry, non-iPhone users.
Where Snapseed fails, Afterlight ($1) excels. It has many of the same fundamental editing elements (sharpen, vignette, contrast, exposure, etc.,) but also touts some pretty decent filters. You can and should purchase the upgrade to get additional filters; it’s worth it. The UI is pleasant and intuitive, with adjustment sliders that work well for the large-of-thumb. It doesn’t store the photos within the app, thus saving on precious memory space (we love this).
The revamped VSCO Cam (Free) just launched, and it’s great. While it has the least number of (free) filters, they happen to be the cream of the crop. Splurge an introductory $5 on the expanded filters pack, and you’ve pretty much got the mother of all editing apps. Hands down, VSCO Cam takes the cake for quality filters. They’re subtle. They won’t turn the blue sky neon-orange or your black hair bright green, because you’re not a selfie-snappin’ preteen looking for a friend.
There is a bit of a learning curve, though; the flow of the app doesn’t feel intuitive, and only just realized we were missing out on certain functionalities we didn’t know existed (maybe we’re just dumb). Still, the quality of their signature VSCO filters cover a multitude of sins. Also, be on the lookout for the new VSCO Grid.
If you can get past the Sesame-Street-style icons and layout, PicTapGo! ($2) is actually a pretty useful tool. Little to no learning curve and stackable filters make this app purchase a no-brainer. The sharpen function works well, and the sliders provide just the right amount of control. When you open the app, you automatically choose from all of your photos, saving the time of having to import them. Every photo app should do that (I’m lookin’ at you, VSCO).
Camera+ ($1) really shines with its capturing abilities, and boasts photo burst and traditional snapshot capabilities. The best part, however, is the built-in timer. After one too many espresso shots you won’t always have surgeon-like steadiness. Pop open that app, navigate to the timer, set the phone down and let Camera+ snap away. In terms of reducing motion blur, there really is no substitute. The filters are also useful in this one.
By allowing you to place text and graphics over your images, Over ($1) turns ordinary captions into creative works of digital art. The app boasts a cornucopia of typefaces and images with upgrades-a-plenty. Check out some of the existing Over galleries and you’ll find that this app is pretty impressive. Fair warning: It’s addicting.