You might get an eye roll in some circles if you say you shoot with your phone. Some might say that phones aren’t real cameras, but the truth is that phones are incredibly capable cameras that can sometimes succeed where bigger rigs might fail. Thankfully, there are a bevy of mobile apps to streamline the process from shooting to editing. Here are our picks for best mobile apps.
Hipstamatic is by no means a new app, but it’s a staple of the mobile photography scene. Its wide array of lenses, films, flashes and cameras offer a great degree of customization, and while the idea is to create film-like images, Hipstamatic creates film-like images with digital flavor. The images that come out of Hipstamatic’s camera look far better and much more intriguing than what comes out of the dedicated camera app in your iPhone or Windows phone. We’re waiting for an Android version.
1-Hour Photo is one of our favorites here at the Phoblographer. It’s an iOS app that holds your images for an hour before letting you see them, bringing back the feel of dropping off a roll at your local photo lab. While it lacks controls in the way of exposure, focusing and the like, it does a surprisingly good job of rendering photos in black-and-white. They just look good, and it’s a stellar way to slow down. Yes, it’s $0.99, but it’s $0.99 well spent. Check out our review here, and pick it up in the App Store.
With VSCO Cam 4.0 came functionality for the iPad. Of course, that’s not something we’d necessarily recommend, but there are people who do it. Anyway, VSCO Cam is one of the premier, if not the premier, editing app for iOS and Android. With a smooth interface and excellent presets, VSCO has secured its spot on the home page of many phones, including mine. It can take photos, too, which is a good thing to keep in mind when you’re not shuttling photos over from your camera to your phone. Pick it up on iOS and Android.
This is a two-part suggestion as this app is tied to a case called COVR Photo. Essentially, it’s a case for your iPhone 5/S that has a built-in prism lens that allows you to take photos with the phone parallel to the ground. Essentially, hold the phone as though you were texting, and you can take a photo. It’s a great choice for street photographers who use their phone, and the app is essential because it flips the image rightside up. The case would benefit from an articulating prism, which would make horizontal photos easier to manage. Check out our review here, and pick it up here. (There’s an iPhone 6/+ version in the works.)
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop Express is a stronger editing in platform in terms of an images flexibility. Whereas VSCO Cam is great for overall aesthetics with its myriad presets, Photoshop Express is better for levels. If I find that I have an images where the shadows are too deep or the highlights are too blown out, Photoshop Express does a good job of recovering those areas. Unlike VSCO, the full editing suite isn’t available. The app is free, but some functionality is tethered to in-app purchases. Pick it up for iOS and Android.
EyeEm’s a favorite here at The Phoblographer. It’s an editing platform, a surprisingly robust social network and a marketplace for your photos. Most photo apps don’t offer in-house options for selling, but EyeEm does, which can make it an attractive option for some. The editing suite offers 24 filters, which is more than Instagram, but far less than VSCO Cam. If you crave more options, you might want to look elsewhere. They also host competitions, and this site’s Editor-in-Chief, Chris Gampat, served on the jury for one of the categories last year. Pick it up on iOS or Android.
If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve either embraced the lack of camera control or you’ve lamented it. The latest iOS did open up control somewhat, but it’s not where it should be. Enter Manual. It’s a streamlined camera app that gives you control over everything that could possibly be controlled with the iPhone’s camera. From shutter speed and ISO to focusing and color temperature, Manual gives you as much as it can for $1.99. Aperture seems to be the one sticking point as that is fixed across iPhones. The shutter speed and ISO controls are a bit clunky, but it’s something you get used to. It’s a shame that iOS 7 users can’t use this app. For the iPhone 5, it’s f2.4. It’s available for iPhone 5 and higher, so long as you’ve got iOS 8 installed. Pick it up here.
This is the alpha and omega when it comes to photo apps. With hundreds of millions of downloads and an extensive social network, Instagram is the place to make and share your photographs. It has a modest amount of filters, especially when you consider VSCO Cam, but that doesn’t make Instagram any less popular. If anything, it simplifies your choices because you only have so many to choose from. Thankfully, it has a full editing suite. Sadly, we still have to rely on third-party apps to bring in uncropped images. Pick it up for iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
ExifWizard & Exif Viewer
Phones aren’t the best when it comes to viewing and parsing EXIF data, but fortunately, there are a number of apps that can help you see the data behind your images. For iOS, we recommend Exif Wizard, and for Android, we recommend Exif Viewer, though you can see some of your image’s exif data by clicking Get Info in your options.
Adobe brought Lightroom to mobile last year, and we reviewed both for iOS and Android. It allows for easy integration with Lightroom on your computer, as you can shuttle a collection of photos to be edited on your phone or tablet. It offers Lightroom’s basic functionality, and you can either export to your camera roll or shuttle them back to your computer. Our main gripe is that you need to have a Creative Cloud subscription in order to use this app at all. It would be very nice if it were standalone. Pick it up on iOS or Android.