You have been using your smartphone camera to take pictures for quite some time now probably. If you have the desire to go beyond the regular smartphone snapshot it is time to invest in some smartphone photography apps!
Because photography apps are essential tools for improving your smartphone photography.
The only problem is there are so many Photography Apps it can be a little challenging to see the wood for the trees. That’s why I have compiled a list of 9 basic Photography Apps to help you narrow down your choice.
It’s not a complete list of course. I restricted myself to 2 types of Photography Apps: Camera Apps and Editing Apps. I also looked at different entry levels. Some apps are for the beginner and others are for the more advanced smartphone shooters.
Going Manual: Camera Apps
The first step in getting serious about smartphone photography is photographing with a camera app.
It turns your ‘point and shoot’ native camera app into a manual controllable camera.
What I look for in a camera app is the possibility to shoot in Manual mode and Shutter Speed- and ISO priority mode. Another important feature for me is the possibility to choose between file formats. You should at least be able to choose a high-quality Jpeg file.
Camera apps are platform dependent. I will give you two camera apps for iOS and two camera apps for Android.
I am an Apple girl all the way so I have an iPhone. Because I work with the iOS camera apps I am able to talk about them from my own experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Android camera apps. But I’ve read some reviews and based on that I picked two for Android phones.
After you have downloaded your camera app make sure to put it on your home screen so you can access it quickly.
Price: $ 2,99
My first camera app was Camera+. It gives you more control and it is easy to use. You can choose between a Jpeg file (always select the highest quality!), a Tiff file, a RAW file, and the new HEIF file. You can also shoot in Manual or Shutter speed- or ISO priority mode.
The interface is clear and it has few possibilities. That makes it an accessible camera app for someone who is starting out.
A downside of Camera+ is the partly blocked frame when you shoot in Semi-Auto Mode or Manual Mode because the controls take over part of the screen.
Price: $ 4,99
ProCamera is an advanced camera app and has more possibilities. Of course, the result of more possibilities is that it is a more complicated app.
You need to invest some time in getting to know the app. But once you have done that it is a great camera app and it gives you a lot more freedom than the default camera app.
Learn More: ProCamera is the camera app I cover in-depth in the Fabulous Phone Photography course.
Every image needs some tender loving aftercare. That is why the next step is choosing an editing app.
There is a huge amount of apps you can choose from. In general, you can divide the world of editing apps into Filter based and Adjustments based.
A Filter based app works best if you apply a filter first because that is what the app does best. After that, you can make some adjustments to improve the image more. But it doesn’t do a very good job if you only want to make adjustments.
All beginner apps are Filter based because it is an easy and quick way to get a nice result. Tadaa, Black and, a Color Story are all Filter based editing apps.
In the Adjustments based app, you can make all the necessary refined adjustments to optimize the image. It works very well without a filter. Of course, you can apply a filter but it is not necessary.
If you want to create photos that have a natural feel these are the only editing apps you need. Lightroom and Snapseed are Adjustments based.
Tadaa is an easy to use Filter based editing app. It comes with over 20 installed filters that range from quite natural to pretty far out there. You can adjust the strength of the filter which is very important.
The adjustments section is rather basic but it does the trick.
It has the possibility to create a mask. You select an area of the photo (a mask) and make adjustments to that area only. It is not refined enough to be of good use. Lightroom and Snapseed have this same feature but in a much more sophisticated way.
Black – B&W film emulator
I love black and white photography. I had my training as a photographer in the analog days of photography. Black & White was all I ever shot and I developed and printed everything myself.
This editing app looks for inspiration in the Black & White films we worked with back then.
So if you want to simulate old school Black & White film characteristics Black is the app to get. It is very basic and lacks the options most editing apps have. But being restricted in choices can be a good thing sometimes. This app does one thing but it does a very good job on that one thing.
This app is available for iOS and Window Phones. The exact same app is not available for Android so I searched for a similar app: Photolab Black.
A Color Story
A Color Story might look a bit simple on the surface but the app allows you to make quite a lot of refined adjustments. It has a variety of fun filters and more ‘natural’ filters.
It also provides you with effects like adding a light leak or a light flare. I’m not a big fan of those but don’t let that stop you!
It is easy to use and you can create and save your own presets. It comes with 12 installed filters and a lot more to choose from if you don’t mind spending a little money.
And then, of course, there is Lightroom. It is the number one editing program for desktop and it is available for smartphone editing as well. When you are used to working in the desktop version of Lightroom it is an obvious route to go. It works in more or less the same way.
If you are not used to the desktop version you will have to put in a little time to find your way around the app. But once you have done that you will love the app. It is a great editing app for ‘natural’ enhancements.
It doesn’t have a filter section like all the other editing apps. But it does have a presets section. One of them is noise reduction which is quite nice actually because none of the other apps I discuss has that. You use noise reduction to reduce the grainy character of a photo that was taken with a high ISO value. And if you have an Adobe account you can open up the selective section. It allows you to make adjustments to a selected part of the image.
Don’t you just love this little cutie by the way? She was very determined in distracting me from writing this post.
This is the most versatile and complete editing app out there. It is my first go to app after I have taken a photo.
It has a lot of options for enhancing and optimizing your pictures. For straightforward editing, it is one of the best apps. But it also has great filters, like the Drama filter, Grainy Film, Vintage, and HDR. And they come up with new things on a regular basis.
It is a complete and versatile editing app because it’s adjustments based and has a strong filter section. So you can do both with Snapseed. You can give your images the natural feel with the Tools or you can go wild with the Filters. Snapseed also has several tools to make adjustments to a selected part of the image.
Be a Butterfly
So let’s recap! When you are starting out in getting serious you should begin with the Camera+ app.
Once you feel comfortable working with a camera app and you want to step it up a notch you can learn to work with the ProCamera app. I’ll guide you through every step of the way when you enroll in Fabulous Phone Photography!
Tadaa, Black, and a Color Story are all Filter based editing apps. They are a good choice if you are new to editing your smartphone photos.
When you have gained some confidence and are willing to invest some time you can either learn to work with Lightroom or Snapseed. Or the both of them of course. Wanna become a smartphone editing wizard? Check out Fabulous Phone Photography! It has a bonus module entirely about Snapseed and another module on editing in VSCO!
There is no need to limit yourself. You can be a butterfly and hop from one app to the other. I do it all the time. I have over 20 photography apps on my phone!
How many photography apps do have on your phone? Do you have a favorite? Tell me in the comments!