Ten Best Photo Apps for the iPhone

Are you on Instagram? Do you wonder how people get all those cool effects onto their photos? (In case you aren’t familiar with Instagram, it’s kind of like Facebook or Twitter but you use pictures for your updates.) I really resisted instagram for a long time. Mostly because it offended my artistic sensibilities that all photos have to be square. But I’ve made my peace with that and now I’m having endless fun. (Want to follow me on Instagram? I’ll follow you back! Look for @heyhildie).

Whether you’re a fan of Instagram or just want to upload pictures to Facebook or message to friends, it’s terribly useful to be able to make your iphone pictures look tip-top without having to export them to a computer. There are piles of apps that will make your pictures look fantastic and are incredibly fun to play with. The big problem with editing pictures directly in your camera is that each app usually just performs a couple of functions. If you want your photo to have all the bells and whistles (labels, a font, some cool effects), you’re going to have to run it though several different apps. This sounds like a chore but really it’s super fun. Let those creative juices flow!  These are my favorites apps:

(Not sure how much of this applies to other smartphones. We only have iphones around here).

Instagram has a few filters you can apply and a tool to crop your photos to be square but I like the flexibility of an editing app. In an editing app you can adjust lighting and exposure and sometimes do some color correction too. You can also add frames and sometimes special effects. My favorite app is PhotoToaster  (99¢) There are lots of different filters but unlike other apps, you can adjust saturation, color, softness, vignette size and other sorts of things. It has way more control than other photo editing apps and I really like it. I’m also a fan of Camera+ (99¢). This is probably the easiest to use of the apps–once you figure out how to import the photos. That took me a while–Each filter is adjustable so if you like your pictures to have an Instamatic look to them, you can make them look just a little bit Instamatic or get the full effect. I LOVE this feature. PhotoToaster doesn’t have that. PicFx  ($2.99) is another good editing program, although it specializes more in fun effects rather than improving the quality of your photo. PicFX requires you to make all photos square whereas the other two apps will let you keep them rectangular. It has tons of cool filters and also some nice bokeh features.

TouchRetouch. The best 99¢ you will ever spend! (Don’t even bother with the free version. It’s no good.) This is a pretty amazing app that lets you remove unwanted items from your picture. It takes a while to get the hang of (fortunately it has some very helpful in-app tutorials), but once you do you’ll love it. It can take anything out of your photo, from a zit to a car in the background. Pretty incredible considering it’s a tiny screen and you’re using your fingertip. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have transparency settings so it’s not going to look so good if you’re trying to remove wrinkles or undereye circles. Here are two shots before TouchReTouch (on the left) and after (on the right). I removed some stray floaties in the background and a dead tree limb on the left side.

Phonto is another app I could never live without.  Phonto is simply the best app for putting words onto pictures. Not only are there a ton of fonts to choose from, you can upload your own fonts from your computer! It’s incredibly easy to resize them, change the colors, add shadows, change the spacing and pretty much anything you’d ever want to do with words. Best of all it’s free!

Diptic  (99¢) is my preferred app for making collages. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use. You can make the edges of pictures rounded or squared. You can make the entire collage rounded too. Like super rounded. As in a circle! Fun!


Making Tape (99¢) is another app that will keep you occupied for hours. It makes it look like you’ve stuck really cute washi tape (which is sort of like fancy masking tape) on your pictures. Perfect for labelling! There are hundreds of tape designs to choose from. There are fonts available too but as the app is Japanese, most are not-so-interesting English fonts. I love this app but occasionally it can be difficult to figure out.

Another cool labelling app is called LabelBox. It is a little more polished than Masking Tape (since it isn’t supposed to look like masking tape. Duh). Some of the fonts I like and some I don’t (you can’t pick which font you use in Label Box). Whether I use Making Tape or Label Box I usually add the label with no words on it, save the picture, then run it through Phonto to add words in a font I like better.

LensLight (99¢) has every sort of light, bokeh or lighting effect you could possibly want. Need a sun flare? Shooting stars? Streams of sunshine? Heart-shaped bokeh? (Bokeh, by the way refers to unfocused areas around the background/edge of photos. Usually they look like blobs of light.) This is the app for you. Less is more with this app, but you can get some really cool lighting effects with this app. P.S. I spent about half an hour trying to figure out how to “undo” in this program. There is no undo because each effect that you like must be saved (“rendered”) if you want to add another. I am not a very intuitive person.

 Bubbleframe (99¢) is right up your alley if you’re at all scrapbook-y. It’s a super girly app for one thing. But it reminds me of really easy digital scrapbook layouts. Except for the background, though, everything is in circles. Cute backgrounds and fonts make this very-intuitive app very easy to use. This took me about 90 seconds to create:

I hope you have fun using some of these apps. Just try not to ignore everyone for too long while you’re editing and uploading a picture during dinner/at the zoo/hanging out with friends.

| Filed under Entertainment, Good Things, How-To

6 thoughts on “Ten Best Photo Apps for the iPhone

  1. My Gosh, Hilde! Can we guess that ALL your children are in school ALL day long and you now have hours to fool around with your cell phone camera?! This is certainly different from your summer blog posts (short to non-existent).

    You are definitely having fun, though! And are not afraid to try every app in the book! Good for you! Fun Stuff! (I’m way to old for this! Just give me my simple PhotoShop 5.0, and I’ll do my best!)

    1. I don’t sit around all day editing photos. This is what I do when I’m waiting for my kids to get out of school or sitting at the dentist’s office.

  2. P.S. I LOVE the round collage of Maggie the dog (a.k.a. Margaret Thatcher the King Charles Spaniel). And you STILL can’t get York to smile!

  3. So THAT’s how they do it! I’m have had serious photoenvy on instagram lately!!! Unfortunately, I also seriously lack time to do all that fun stuff. But at least, on occasion, I’ll now know HOW to do fun stuff. Once again, thanks for doing all the hard work for me!

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