Ready to edit on the go? Matty Graham and the AP staff take you through the best photo apps for your smartphone photography that will help make the difference when shooting creatively…
Smartphone app stores are awash with photo apps, but which ones are really worth downloading? Photography apps can be powerful tools, enabling you to make the most of images captured both on your smartphone and files you’ve transferred from your camera to your device via Bluetooth.
However, there’s no point clogging up your smartphone with apps that can’t cut it. This feature rounds up the best photo apps that we’d recommend. Some will help you capture images in a new way. While others will unlock the door to creative editing, but all are worth hitting the download button for…
Best Photo Apps for your smartphone
It should come as no surprise that having Photoshop in the name means this app has it all. From core exposure and colour adjustments to Healing. However, if you want to ramp up the editing then Photoshop Express has you covered with advanced technology such as Auto Object Selection and Face Contouring.
That said, although there is plenty of advanced tech, there’s also more fun features too, with an emphasis on creating tools for social media use. From text and graphics to easy-to-use collage tools, so you can merge multiple images together.
One further set of noteworthy features is the Quick Actions, where complex jobs can be completed in one-click. Jobs such as adding Denoise to a grainy image, Smoothing out skin or even adding digital make-up to our subject. All of Photoshop’s power, compressed into a smartphone app – Amazing!
Photographers know what Lightroom can do, how it works and the smartphone version will be instantly familiar to those who have used the software on a desktop. The combination of varied one-click Presets and easy-to-use sliders means this is a great app for those photographers who need to edit images quickly on the go.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll be able to access more advanced features such as being able to quickly remove Chromatic Aberration or enable Lens Corrections, particularly useful if you want to correct the effect of wide-angle lenses.
Remember, you can edit RAWs as well as JPEGs and there’s also plenty of sharing options available, such as the ability to choose the file type you export the image as (JPEG, TIFF, DNG) or the option of uploading straight onto your social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram.
Best photo apps: Snapseed
Whisper it quietly, but Snapseed (which is now owned by Google) has actually been around for over a decade. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for editing your images because this app really does have it all. Tools range from basic exposure/colour adjustments to more advanced HDR and Mono conversion features. The Head Pose option offers a Liquify-style solution to change the direction of gazes in your portraits while the Selective options will allow for precise adjustments to both JPEG and RAW files.
Perspectives can be altered and distractions can be quickly banished with the Healing tool option. For those feeling more creative, Double Exposures can be created in seconds, and vignettes and borders can be accessed to add the final touches to your images. Photos can be exported as new files or you can overwrite your original photo to save space on your smartphone. Quite simply, you’ll struggle to find a better free photo app, full stop.
Okay, we know Instagram has maybe lost its way a little over the years, and now there’s a shift on the platform towards Reels and adverts. That said, you simply can’t deny the ‘Grams’ power for getting your photos in front of a massive audience. The simple-to-use filter function does allow for a big change and very stylised effects, but obviously there are more advanced features to correct exposure, enhance colours and ramp up contrast.
Detail can be improved via Structure and Sharpening sliders and finishing touches such as vignettes can be added. Of course, it’s worth remembering that Instagram is also a great app for inspiration too. Off to a landscape location, type in a hashtag, followed by the location name and you’ll see what other photographers have captured at the scene, enabling you to explore compositional options before you even travel to the location. Yes, this app is used by far too many for silly selfies, but at its heart, it’s a fantastic photography resource.
Google is a big name so it’s no surprise Google Photos is a thoroughly comprehensive photo app. Essentially, you get 15GB of storage free and more if you pay. It’s better to think of the app as a home for your photos as there’s also a lot of options for storing and quickly finding your imagery.
However, that’s not to say that the app neglects the editing features. Photos can be quickly enhanced with a high degree of precision. Thanks to sliders that allow you to increase or decrease values such as Saturation, Exposure, Highlights etc.
There are additional ‘wizzard’ style features such as Auto Enhance Lighting which work well and will save you a fair amount of time. Lastly, the app makes it very easy to complete the job and forward on edited images to our contacts in your phone, which will appeal to those working in creative teams.
Available for iOS and Windows, this free app is packed with easy-to-use features that can completely transform a photo and allow you to add a creative stamp on the frame. From the more conventional exposure and colour adjustments. Pixlr also offers a highly effective Autofix option, which does a great job at enhancing the image and even balancing the exposure of skies in landscape scenes.
There’s also a camera function that adds ‘Picture Style’ filters so you can get an idea of how your final image will look. The Collage feature to showcase multiple images at the same time. One of the coolest features Pixlr offers however is the huge range of creative borders that can be added around your frame with just one click. From grungy looks to modern and clean borders – there is something for everyone.
Sometimes smartphone photography apps don’t need to help you capture or edit images. Sometimes their job is just to provide inspiration. In this area, apps don’t come better than 500px. 500px has been around for over a decade and is the go-to place to scout out locations, research different portrait lighting techniques or just to be surprised and inspired by all the amazing imagery on the app.
Dig a little deeper though and you’ll also discover that there are plenty of resources on there for photographers. Although some need to be paid for, others are free. For example, there are videos on ‘how to build a photo set on a budget’ or ‘how to shoot fine art at home’. You can also drill down further and refine your search by typing in keywords or you can take in one of the curated galleries from the 500px staff.
Available for both Android and iOS devices, this app is designed to make it possible to scan photos using your smartphone without the need for any additional software. The photo app will cleverly merge a number of photos, meaning that it can remove reflections and glare, for example when using the flash on your smartphone, or from other light sources.
If you need to quickly get a printed photo into digital form, then this is a great way of taking advantage of your smartphone, and using free software. If you wanted to move up to higher quality scans, then have a look at our guide to photographing film photos at home with a camera.
When Fujifilm announced the Instax Mini 12 instant camera earlier this year, they also released their smartphone app Instax Up!, which is available to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. The app has been designed for instant photographers who want to quickly digitally scan and store their photos. The time and place a photo was taken can be added, as well as tags that can be used to organise your collection of images.
There are several basic editing options available, and you can adjust the photo’s contrast, brightness, saturation, and colour temperature. There’s also an option to share photos through messaging apps or posting directly to social media like Instagram and Twitter.
Paid-for apps need to offer a huge amount of value to compete with the free alternatives. But Photopills really does deserve a place on your homescreen. A must-have app for landscape and astrophotographers, the comprehensive app will help you plan and shoot your shots and it works like this. A map feature lets you pinpoint a location with great accuracy. Then, it will display both the direction of light throughout the day and also the times of golden hours or moonlight.
That’s not all though, because there’s also an exposure calculator with a feature to factor in an ND filter (and change the strength of the filter) so you can capture balanced exposures. Add in a Depth Of Field table, Hyperfocal table, a Star Trail feature and an amazing Night Augmented Reality feature and you’ll soon realise why this is one of the most highly regarded apps out there. If you shoot any photos outdoors, you must download this app.
Want to shoot some astrophotography but feeling a little lost? The free version of SkyView will help you find your bearings, as this clever app works with your phone’s camera and augmented reality technology to help you line up celestial targets that you can then choose to shoot with your phone or to swap in your DSLR and shoot with that instead.
Basically, this app takes all the guesswork out of astrophotography and I found the app to be hugely accurate. For a total investment of absolutely nothing, every photographer should be downloading this app; even if you only use it for the search function alongside using your camera, it’s an excellent piece of technology.
Smartphone apps can even come in handy for those shooting film. Light Mate is a highly useful app that can be downloaded completely free. With variables such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you can dial in your settings, point your phone at a subject and the camera will read the light levels and suggest the appropriate exposure information.
It works with both the front and back camera on your smartphone (assuming your device has both). It could save you a fair amount of money on over or underexposing frames on pricey film. The whole app only measures 6MB in size so is definitely one to keep on your phone just in case and that won’t eat up the storage on your device.
Lee Filters – Stopper Exposure
If you use Lee Filters out in the field then this app is a must-have that will take all the guesswork out of using the brand’s filters. All you have to do is select between the Little Stopper (6-stops), Big Stopper (10-stops) and Super Stopper (15-stops). Then, dial in what would be the balanced shutter speed without a ND filter.
The app will immediately disappear the recalculated shutter to use once you’ve swapped in the ND filter so you don’t have to mess about with trial and error. Better still, once you’ve dialled in the setting, the app even has a timer function. So, if you are using the Bulb function on your camera, you simply start the timer and end the exposure once it’s finished – easy!
Other smartphone photography apps to try: ProCam 8, Filca, VSCO Cam, Lensa by PrismaLabs, and Prisma Art Effect Photo Editor.
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