I’m very excited to feature a guest post by Sarah Brown from Lace and Buckles today. You probably already know how much I love Sarah’s blog from this post, but what you may not know is that she’s not only one stylish blogger, she’s also a graphic designer with an impressive knowledge of everything digital. Today, she’s sharing some of her favorite phone apps to take better photos with us.
Make sure to check out her blog after reading her post!
At some point in time, you’ve likely scrolled through your Facebook or Instagram feed and come across a photo that portrays a certain kind of magic, something you thought couldn’t be done with the humble smartphone camera. A good eye for lighting and composition, a steady hand, the innate ability to make your subjects feel comfortable…these are all skills of an accomplished photographer. However, with the right software on your smartphone, you can cheat this system a little!
With the right apps, you have at your fingertips what you need to elevate your iPhoneography and create and share memories with your friends that will have them asking “how did you do that?” I’ve tried and tested my way through the App Store to bring you nine of the best apps to do just that.
A Beautiful Mess ( $1.29)
Anyone familiar with the ‘A Beautiful Mess’ blog will instantly recognize this app as the work of sister duo Elsie and Emma. Their sweet hand drawn designs run consistently throughout the software, from the title screen to the adorable overlays you can edit your pics with. The photo editor features easy enhancement tools, cropping and vintage filters – with the option to adjust the strength of the filter, which is nice. You can create cute, unique collages and add cool asymmetrical borders to your pics, and there is a great array of beautiful handwritten phrases and doodles unique to this app. With the variety of backgrounds and overlays available, you can take a break from photos and create cute little squares to share on Insta or FB with doodles, quotes or free text.
- The Good: The unique stickers and cute and quirky UI make for a nice app experience.
- The Bad: It’s a little confusing to use at times. There seems to be no option to ‘undo’; rather you have to ‘start over’ completely.
- The Verdict: Jump on this app wagon if you’re an Emma and Elsie fan.
Photo Editor by Aviary (free)
Aviary uses the native iPhone camera to take photos in-app, also offering the option to bring in existing photos for editing. This is a great basic photo editing app as it performs all the required tasks like cropping, focus, brightness etc., with some really nice auto enhancement tools. The beauty of this app is its simplicity; the user interface and experience are lovely, with a nice clean design. Aviary offers some simple effects and filters: the app comes free with one pack of effects, frames and stickers, with more available for purchase in-app. This app is also great for sharing, with options to share to a variety of social networks as well as other compatible apps.
- The Good: Simple in design but complex in function, with a beautiful user interface.
- The Bad: The pop-up ads for in-app purchases are a little annoying, but hey, people gotta make their money.
- The Verdict: Easy and fun to use – a step up from Instagram.
Square Sized (Free with ads, upgrade available in-app for $2.49)
Square Size gives you the convenient option to bring in photos from your Instagram or Facebook account, in addition to those from your camera roll. The best feature of this app is in it’s name: easy square-ification, imperative to the modern Instagrammer. You can rescale your pics to fit into square, or leave a border on top and bottom or left and right, with the option to add colour. It’s easy to add text and overlays, but the photo editor is more than a little clunky.
- The Good: The easy resizer means your pics will be Insta-perfect every time.
- The Bad: The photo editor is pretty terrible, and it’s hard to undo any changes you make. There lots of stickers and overlays on offer IF you upgrade to the full version, which just doesn’t seem worth it.
- The Verdict: Good for resizing and not much more, but great for creating attention-grabbing Instagram images.
As the name might suggest, this app is perhaps the closest thing you can get to a professional-scale camera with your out-of-the-box iPhone. It offers a range of different camera modes, such as portrait, night mode, burst and more, and you have control over the megapixel size of photos as you take them. It offers a few more aspect ratios than just the standard fare, and various grids include the fibonaci spiral for that golden photographic ratio.
- The Good: You can be very specific about how your camera captures photos with no gimmicks.
- The Bad: This app ran a little slow for me, and the capture between modes is different, which is confusing.
- The Verdict: The camera app for serious iPhoneographers.
InstaMag (free with watermarks, upgrade available in-app for $2.49)
The cool thing about this app is the unique collage and magazine layouts it as to offer. There’s a whole host of professional looking magazine, travel and long-scrolling pinterest templates, and onn top of that, there’s a heap of filters you can use to edit individual pics within collage mode. The template text is editable so you can create your own magazine covers or unique travel pics with ease.
- The Good: You can have a lot of fun with this app – it’s perfect for mucking around with friends, creating unique holiday memories, and for creative exploration and inspiration.
- The Bad: You can’t change the fonts on templates, and the free version requires you to have the ‘Instamag’ watermark on all of your pics which destroys the magic that you are a photo editing genuis (but that makes it worth the upgrade).
- The Verdict: Impress your friends with classy collages and layouts.
AfterLight ($1.29 )
This has been one of my favourite all-round photo editing apps for a while, and with all the features and ease of use, it’s easy to justify the small cost. The awesome editing tools in a simple user-interface makes it easy to adjust the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, colour temperature and more. The app has so many filters and cool film grain, light-leak and bokeh effects, with the ability to change opacity of filter or effect. The in-app camera has a low-light boost with a slow shutter speed for better night time photos.
- The Good: This app is so comprehensive and easy to use that anyone can turn an average pic into a high-quality photo.
- The Bad: There are so many filters available and it takes so long for the preview to load it’s almost not worth bothering with them.
- The Verdict: Highly-editing vintage or modern looking photos that don’t look cheesy, worth $1.29.
PS Touch is literally Photoshop for your iPhone – or at least close as that can possibly get with current technology. You can do pretty much anything you can normally do in Photoshop, of course without the precision of a mouse (but it could be good with a stylus on the go). Expect classic photoshop features such as working in layers, plus the standard range of effects you would expect to find in a photography app. The curves tool is easy to work with and can seriously enhance your iPhone pics if you sort of know what you’re doing, but considering the cost, this app is not really for beginners.
- The Good: Advanced photography editing for those familiar with Photoshop. You can also can edit photos from the creative cloud which is good for those on the go.
- The Bad: The painting tools end up looking like kids doodles (but I’m no artist), and it’s a little pricey for the space it occupies in no man’s land between computer photo editing and smart phone editing.
- The Verdict: Must-have for Photoshop die-hards, otherwise don’t bother.
Camera 360 (Free)
This is a truly advanced camera app, offering image stabilizing, a timer function, grids, facial recognition and more. The in-app effects store has huge amount of effects packs that include filters, magic skin effects, picture-in-picture scenes, overlays, color effects and seriously so much more. You can create a number of collages, play around with fun mirror effects and create cool color pops. The front camera has a built in ‘magic skin’ feature, giving your selfies that perfect glow every time, with automatic auto-focus that works wonders. This app gives you the option of synching your pics to the camera roll, storing the photos in-app or in the cloud, which is great for organisation. The user interface is really nice, and allows you to use the effects in camera mode or to edit pre-existing photos.
- The Good: Once you familiarize yourself with this app, it is incredible. The in-built effects can remove the need for editing all together, and with the sheer variety this app has to offer, you can define a signature style or create hugely varied images that will make your friends say “how did you make that picture!?”
- The Bad: There are so many features it becomes a little overwhelming. It’s easy not to explore the true potential of this app – you really need to sit down and learn where everything is, and what you like, before you can get the full benefit.
- The Verdict : This app is amazing, albeit a little overwhelming. How is it free?
Studio Design (Free)
This is the app for the design democracy, allowing anyone with an iPhone to be a graphic designer (with a little practice and a good eye). In my opinion it’s the best app for overlays, with a huge market offering free and paid packages including seasonal and third party packages by celebrities and brands. The overlays work like layers in the side menu, which makes things easy – albeit a little messy if you go overboard with the overlays. It has a nice simple photo editor with the standard fair of editing tools and filters, but the really interesting thing about this app is the community and the social network function.
To use the app, you need to create a profile, and your images are posted into that profile and go into the flow of the news feed. You can follow other users, and like, comment and remix their pics. You can hashtag your pictures and follow trending hashtags, and outside of the app you can use #madewithstudio to follow the community on other social networks.
- The Good: heaps of overlays, frames, textures, stickers, fancy crops and more that allow you to create truly original images.
- The Bad: It’s another social network to keep track of.
- The Verdict: A fun, dynamic image creator with a highly active community.