There are thousands of photo apps on the App Store, and the things you can do with apps these days are just amazing. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different app choices on the market, especially if you don’t know where to start. In this article you’ll find the five most essential photo apps that every serious iPhone photographer should use. You’ll also see some photos that were created using each of these apps to give you an idea of what they can do.
If I could have only one photo app on my iPhone, that app would probably be Snapseed. Unlike many filter-based apps, Snapseed gives you complete control over all the adjustments you make, so you can create exactly the kind of look that you want for each photo. Snapseed also forces you to pay attention to the essential concepts of photo editing – such as brightness, contrast and saturation – which are often missing from apps that only offer simple one-tap adjustments.
While there are 15 different photo editing modules in Snapseed, I spend the most time in Tune Image which generally has everything I really need for post processing. The simple and powerful photo editing features together with the intuitive user interface make Snapseed a great choice for most day-to-day photo editing needs. Snapseed is without a doubt my primary tool for editing landscape photos and doing other essential editing tasks such as B&W conversions.
You can download Snapseed for free on the App Store.
I was lucky to discover Snapseed early on in my iPhoneography journey, and for a long time I thought that it was the only photo editing app that I needed. That changed when I stumbled upon VSCO Cam. While VSCO Cam can also be used as a camera replacement app and a simple platform for sharing your photos, its greatest strength lies in its unique photo editing tools.
Photo editing in VSCO Cam is mostly based around presets, which are similar to filters found in many other photo editing apps. But unlike the filters found in most photo apps, VSCO Cam presets actually look amazing. You can also adjust preset intensity and use them in conjunction with other custom editing tools, so you can always find the right kind of look for your photos.
You can download VSCO Cam for free on the App Store. The free version of the app comes with a smaller set of presets, and more presets (both paid and free) are available at the in-app store. If you want to get the most out of VSCO Cam, get the 38 preset collection for $5.99.
There are some really good reasons why you should consider replacing the default Camera app, and Camera+ is currently the best alternative. First and foremost, it’s photo quality. While changing the camera app is not the equivalent of getting a new camera, iOS severely compresses all photos that are taken with the native Camera app, which of course leads to lower photo quality.
The typical photo taken with the default camera app takes up only three megabytes, while photos taken by Camera+ with high quality settings take up about six megabytes. Even though you may not see the difference initially, the strong image compression by the default camera app often leads to image quality issues when photos are cropped, post-processed or printed in large format.
You can also use Camera+ to separate focus and exposure, lock white balance, use exposure compensation and other advanced photography features that are not found in the default Camera app. While Camera+ also offers some interesting post-processing features, the slider adjustments of Snapseed and the editing presets of VSCO Cam are generally a better choice.
You can purchase Camera+ for $1.99 on the App Store.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a photography technique that combines multiple versions of the same photo into one image so that both the highlights and the shadows are properly exposed. The native camera app comes with its own HDR effect, but this effect is rather week – sometimes you can’t even tell the difference between the HDR and non-HDR versions of the same photo!
However, you can get a much stronger HDR effect using ProHDR app. The downside of using ProHDR is that it takes much longer (as much as 10 seconds) to take a photo since the app uses advanced algorithms to combine the different exposures into one beautiful composite image.
ProHDR works particularly well for landscape photos. Since multiple photos are combined in ProHDR, you don’t want to use it for moving subjects. You should also try to keep the iPhone as steady as possible at the time of the capture, which can be best achieved using a tripod.
You can purchase ProHDR for $1.99 on the App Store.
Slow Shutter Cam
Shutter speed is one of the most important creative controls in traditional photography. By keeping the shutter open longer, it’s possible to blur out the moving parts of the photo to create a really unique effect which looks particularly great on waterfalls and other moving bodies of water.
Unfortunately Apple doesn’t allow true long exposure photography on the iPhone, but Slow Shutter Cam offers you essentially the same effect by combining a series of photos digitally. It’s possible to choose both the capture period (in seconds) and how strong you want the motion blur to be.
Slow Shutter Cam combines series of photos taken over a period of time, so it’s essential that you use a tripod to keep the iPhone steady throughout the shooting. You can learn more about using Slow Shutter Cam in this article about long exposure photography on the iPhone.
You can purchase Slow Shutter Cam for $1.99 on the App Store.
Emil Pakarklis is a passionate iPhoneographer and the founder of iPhone Photography School, a blog about taking better photos with the iPhone. You can get in touch with Emil on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter