Camera

The best basic and advanced photo apps


If you’ve ever browsed the Apple App Store or Google Play, then you’ll already be aware that there are hundreds and hundreds of photography apps to choose from. While we can’t possibly hope to cover all of them here, we have picked a few of the best ones out.

We’ve installed and used all of these ourselves at some point, so if you’re stuck for inspiration we have no hesitation in recommending them.

To start we’ve primarily concentrated on photo apps that are fun and relatively easy-to-use. That’s not to say that they are in any way limited, though – far from it.

And then we’ve selected some more-advanced apps that can be used as a third-party camera or as an editing tool for images that you’ve already captured.

Easy to use apps

Instagram

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Price: Free
Website: www.instagram.com
Available for: Android and iOS

When it comes to mobile photography communities and sharing, Instagram is the heavyweight champion of the mobile app world. Instagram is essentially a camera and photo-editing app that allows you to take photos, apply digital filters and other image corrections, and then share the result with other Instagrammers. As the emphasis is on sharing, it’s not ideal for lone-wolf photographers, but it is a great app for social photographers. Its built-in camera is about as basic as you can get (the only control being a flash on/off switch), but you can thankfully choose to open images that have been taken with other camera apps before moving into the editing and sharing modules of the app. In regards to processing, it offers 40 filter effects and a basic range of adjustment tools. There’s also a selective focus tool for creating tilt-shift type images. When it comes to sharing, you can hashtag keywords to your heart’s content and share your images directly to other social media platforms such as Facebook.


Retrica

app

Price: Free
Website: www.retrica.co
Available for: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

If you have an affinity for images with a washed-out, vintage or cross-processed aesthetic, then Retrica could very well be your go-to camera app. The app has been designed to be simple to use and offers no manual controls over your camera. That said, there are over 100 filter effects, providing a vast range of hues and effects. Unlike many other filter-specific apps that allow you to apply the filter at the processing stage, you can only apply filters at the point of capture. You’ll get a live preview of how it will look and if you can’t decide which filter to use then Retrica provides a ‘random filter’ button that you can keep pressing until you get something you like the look of. The range of filters on offer is very good, with lots of stylish-yet-subtle effects to choose from. Retrica also provides you with a blurred background effect you can employ to create selective focus images with. Other than that, camera controls are pretty sparse. Still, as a fun app that provides instant results, Retrica is a great app.


EyeEm

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Price: Free
Website: www.eyeem.com
Available for: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Launched in 2011, EyeEm was one of the original online cameraphone communities that allowed mobile photography enthusiasts to share their work and browse the work of others, and it currently has over 13 million members. While the community aspect is still a big part of the draw, EyeEm has since diversified into stock photography and offers contributors 50% of all the images it sells. If you like the idea of being able to sell your images then all you need to do is sign up, enter your details and start uploading your mobile images. The app has no built-in camera of its own, but you can open other camera apps from within the app. Alternatively you can also browse your phone’s image library for any images you want to edit and upload. EyeEm provides 24 individual digital filters, along with a fairly standard range of image-wide enhancement tools. As with Instagram the tagging system is quite advanced, enabling you to target who is likely to view – and hopefully buy – your photos.


Adobe Photoshop Express /Lightroom

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Price: Free
Website: www.adobe.com
Available for: Android and iOS

Adobe currently offers two mobile photography apps: Photoshop Express and Photoshop Lightroom, both of which are very good in their own right. The main difference between the two is that the former is more of a one-stop fix for mobile photographers that allows you to import, edit and then share images within the app, whereas the Lightroom mobile app requires you to own the desktop version of Lightroom to get the full range of functionality from it. Which one is right for you will depend on your individual requirements. For many users, the more self-contained Photoshop Express is likely to be the more convenient and useful of the two, while for others the ability to sync their mobile images with their desktop version of Lightroom will prove invaluable. Either way, both apps offer a wide range of adjustments, along with a good selection of digital filter effects. As you might expect both apps are also fully compatible with Adobe .DNG Raw files created by smartphones too.


Pixlr

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Price: Free / £1.61
Website: www.pixlr.com
Available for: Android and iOS

Pixlr makes a range of good image-editing apps for mobile and desktop users, along with a couple of browser-based editing tools. While the app is free to download, it does come with adverts. To rid yourself of these you’ll need to pay £1.61 from within the app. While Pixlr can be used to control your camera, the controls are extremely limited, so you’ll want to use either your phone’s built-in camera app or a third-party alternative. Where Pixlr really excels is as an image processor for mobile devices. The user interface is intuitively laid out, making it pretty straightforward to use. It offers a wide range of editing tools along with brush tools for more localised fixes (including selective focus). Pixlr also provides a useful one-touch ‘Auto Fix’ feature. The app also provides a variety of digital filter effects that can be stacked to create a unique look. Rounding things off are tools for adding picture frames, stickers and text. You can also make collages of similarly themed photos.


More advanced apps

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Camera+

Price: Free / £2.29
Website: Camera.plus
Available for: Apple iPhones running iOS 8.0 and higher

Exclusive to Apple iPhone users running iOS 8.0 or higher, Camera+ has long been considered the go-to third-party camera app. The main reason for this is the way in which it effortlessly combines good levels of control over key camera settings – including manual focus, exposure, shutter speed, ISO and white balance – with advanced image-processing and sharing abilities. The latest version also offers an image stabiliser to help sharpness, and a ‘Clarity’ tool that acts as a kind of auto-enhance at the point of capture. Finally, there’s also a slow-shutter mode that can be used to facilitate long-exposure photography on an iPhone. As well as its extensive image capture tools, you can also use Camera+ to process your shots, using a range of advanced editing tools or one-click digital filters. You can even use the app to sync your images to iCloud – enabling you to view your images on any other connected devices, including iPads.


Camera FV-5

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Price: Free / £2.49
Website: www.camerafv5.com
Available for: Android only

Designed specifically for photography enthusiasts, Camera FV-5 aims to provide as much manual control over key camera settings as possible. The amount to which it can do so does vary between individual Android phones, however, and the app’s two main headline features – manual shutter speed control and Raw capture – are only compatible with a number of top-end devices. You’ll find a compatibility checklist on the developer’s website. Once installed, the FV-5 user interface is fairly straightforward to use, and even if you’re unable to take advantage of the headline features FV-5 still provides direct control over white balance, sensitivity, metering mode, and enables you to take bracketed and timelapse exposures, too. You can even use it to re-assign your phone’s volume button to a camera-specific function, for example lowering/raising the ISO. While the full version will set you back £2.49, there is a Lite version that’s free, albeit with a vastly reduced maximum resolution.


Google Snapseed

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Price: Free
Website: support.google.com/snapseed
Available for: Android and iOS

Originally designed and released by the same team responsible for the legendary Nik Software range of Photoshop plug-ins (also now free, by the way), Snapseed is now owned by Google. At its heart, Snapseed is a powerful Raw-compatible image-editing app that has been specifically designed for touchscreen devices. Neatly presented and relatively intuitive to use, Snapseed combines a range of basic ‘one-click’ editing tools and digital filters with a selection of more advanced processing options, including localised adjustment tools that can be used for dodging and burning, or even to add selective focus to your images. Elsewhere, the app’s generous range of image-wide editing options are controlled via intuitive drag-and-swipe controls that work in harmony with a small touchscreen device. In addition to basic image-processing, the app can also be used to add frames and text to images, capped off with a good range of sharing options.


Fotor

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Price: Free
Website: www.fotor.com
Available for: Android and iOS

This advanced image-editing app comes with a range of tools not commonly found on more basic photo apps, including curves adjustments, RGB (Red, Green, Blue) controls, tilt-shift effects and 13 ‘Scene’ modes that will automatically adjust your image to get the best out of it. You’ll also find a generous range of basic adjustment tools and a huge range of stackable filter effects. You can also add frames, text and stickers to your images or create collages of multiple images. While Fotor comes with a built-in camera, manual controls are sadly lacking –though there is the option to employ a stabiliser for sharper images, along with support for burst shooting. More experienced users will probably want to use either their smartphone’s built-in camera app or a more advanced third-party option. Image sharing to the likes of Facebook and Twitter is provided, with further options to email images also available. Fotor is neatly laid out, making it straightforward to navigate and operate.


PicsArt Photo Studio

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Price: Free
Website: picsart.com
Available for: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

This popular all-in-one app allows you to take photos, process images, apply effects, create collages and share your finished creations. The in-app camera is admittedly a bit basic, with no manual controls, but the image processing and effects module is one of the most comprehensive on the market, with advanced features such as curves adjustments, cloning and perspective tools available, alongside all the standard adjustments. There’s a huge array of digital filter effects, backed up by a generous selection of frames, stickers, masking effects, clip art and suchlike. As with many of the better photography apps, there’s a strong community element to it, too, that allows you to share your images with other PicsArt users, as well as enter competitions. If you’d prefer to upload your images to social media, then you’ll find sharing links to all the big-name players. The only slight issue we have with PicsArt is that because it tries to do so much, it can take a little time getting used to the layout.


Camera Zoom FX

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Price: Free / £2.99
Website: www.androidslide.com
Available for: Android

Taking its cue from Camera FV-5 (see above) and Manual Camera (another Android photo app), Camera Zoom FX is another Raw-capable third-party camera app that offers tons of manual control over your camera, including shutter speed on compatible Android handsets. In addition, Camera Zoom FX also offers a good range of shooting modes including a stabilised Stable Shot mode, a Best Shot mode, a Timelapse mode and an HDR mode among others. The main way in which Camera Zoom FX differs from other serious-minded photography apps such as Camera FV-5 is that in addition to providing access to all the serious things demanded by enthusiasts, it also throws in a bunch of fun stuff too such as digital filters and sticker packs. Some of this does need to be paid for, mind. There’s a trial version where you can have a look at the layout and see how you get on, but in order to unlock the best features you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.





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