If there’s one truism about iPhones, it’s that they have some of the best cameras in smartphones. However, a great camera becomes even better when paired with an outstanding app, and Apple’s default app can be found lacking in many respects.
To help iPhone users get the most out of the cameras, we’ve compiled a list of the best camera apps to add expanded editing capabilities, filters, and features most people only expect from high-end DSLR cameras.
Camera+ 2 ($4)
Even with the latest iOS update, Apple’s native camera app is rather anemic when it comes to features. Thankfully, Camera+ 2 provides a wider range of exposure controls and advanced tools such as continuous flash, frontal flash, touch-focus adjustment, 6x digital zoom, a timer, and preset filters. The well-organized interface also makes it a breeze to utilize, whether snapping or sharing shots on social media. The app was recently redesigned from the ground up and now also includes depth tools for dual-lens iPhones, RAW photography, new shooting modes, and faster performance. A recent update added the ability to batch edit multiple photos at once by copying and pasting those edits to other photos.
The iPhone is from more than just stills — and ProCamera is an app that sports high-end tools for both photos and video. ProCamera packs a wealth of advanced features into a single app, including shooting tools like manual shooting and editing options. As an advanced app, ProCamera includes access to the histogram and EXIF data. Advanced tools like perspective correction and exposure bracketing — to capture multiple photos at a different exposure — are tough to find among camera apps. Despite the focus on advanced options, the app still sports a minimalist interface, with a host sophisticated features for setting exposure time, tint, ISO sensitivity, and more. For dual-lens iPhones, ProCamera supports portrait mode and dual-lens tools. It even features a night camera and full-resolution previews in addition to robust exposure control and more than 70 unique filters and effects.
Obscura 2 ($5)
Developed by Ben McCarthy, Obscura 2 manages to condense all of the most intricate photo features iOS has to offer into a single, minimal package. It supports a specialized RAW capture mode, as well as HEIC, JPEG, Live Photo, and Depth capture modes. It also offers a grid overlay, flash control, and every manual control imaginable. One of the app’s best features, however, is the haptics and gesture control that makes the app literally feel great to use too. The gestures can also be personalized to your tastes.
The name might be a bit misleading considering the lack of any analog aesthetics, but Darkroom takes a literal approach with a blacked-out interface designed to let your photos shine. The experience is similar to that of Lightroom, in that you can control everything from hue, saturation, and luminosity (HSL) sliders to curves, but also has a touch of other apps such as VSCO with its integrated filter collections. Advanced tools include the option to create your own filters, batch edit, portrait mode adjustments, and content-aware frames. Curves and color adjustments are available with an in-app purchase. With a 4.8 rating out of 5 in the iOS App Store, it’s a no-brainer — especially considering it’s free.
Halide is the perfect camera app for beginners who want to start with automatic and slowly work their way up to manual mode. An automatic mode makes it easy to capture great photos on the fly, but tools like focus peaking, RAW capture, and more give ultimate creative control in an easy-to-navigate app. Halide even includes portrait effects that aren’t limited to people, blurring the background on shots of your cat or your lunch on the iPhone XR. For the iPhone XS and later models, a Smart HDR mode offers a wider dynamic range.
ProCam 6 ($6)
With unparalleled control and DSLR-like functionality, ProCam 6 lives up to its name. The app sports seven different shooting modes, including a time-lapse setting and modes for light trails, motion blur, or sharp low light shots, giving you the power to choose what’s best for your particular environment. Subject track focus also lets you capture crystal-clear photos of moving subjects, while the embedded audio meter ensures audio levels are kept to a minimum when shooting video. The app can also capture simultaneous photos from both lenses, or capture depth effects with non-human subjects if you’re using the XR. The laundry list of features, and the quality of said features, make ProCam 6 worth the small fee.
Adobe Photoshop Express (free)
When it comes to photo editing software, nobody does it better than Adobe. Though the mobile version of their renowned desktop software offers a smaller workspace than most apps, it’s still one of the most capable after-effects programs you can download. Popular Photoshop features such as layers, selection tools, and adjustments all make an appearance, as do options for adding text, applying effects, and blending images. Unfortunately, many features are locked behind in-app purchases, so be ready to spend some dough if Express is your photo editor of choice.
Adobe Lightroom CC (free)
Although many of Lightroom’s tools require a newer model of iPhone to run, it remains one of the most feature-rich apps on our list, particularly for photographers who want to edit their workflow while on the move. The app automatically syncs images with its desktop counterpart — whether you’re using images shot on your smartphone or RAW images from a DSLR — allowing you to quickly edit, enhance, and share your photos using a variety of familiar tools. Since iOS 10, Lightroom also supports RAW image capture and editing. While some features need a Creative Cloud subscription, many features are still part of the free download.
What would our photography app roundup be without any mention of the undisputed king of photo filters? There are dozens of apps out there that essentially allow you to do the same thing, but Instagram remains the best given the enormous user community. It still supplies a bevy of classic filters from which to choose, along with the ability to comment, like, share, and send photos directly to friends of your own choosing.
The web-based Pixlr has long been one of our favorite image editors, and, thankfully, so is the mobile incarnation of the software. The app lets you choose from four pre-defined dimensions when resizing photos, with additional options for cropping, rotating, stylizing, and sharing photos on standby. Lighting and overlay effects even let you adjust the mood, while one-click adjustments allow for quick and automatic control. Along with the edits, the app includes a good selection of tools for creating collages, as well as creative edits like double exposures.
Facetune 2 (free)
We’ve all tried to snap a selfie only to end up with it not looking as flattering as we’d like. With Facetune 2, you’re able to turn any “meh” selfie into a Tinder-worthy profile pic. The app allows you to perform specific touch-ups like teeth whitening, blemish removal, and color correction so that your mug looks perfect when you post the pics to your social media profiles. You can even change your eye color, color over grey hair, or imitate the look of shooting with a ring light. The app is free, but some of the most advanced features require an in-app purchase.
Horizon Camera (free)
Vertical video isn’t as hated as it once was thanks to the likes of TikTok, but it’s still all too common that people shoot it by accident. When this happens, Horizon Camera offers a viable solution. Horizon simply forces your phone to record in landscape orientation, keeping the feed horizontal even while rotating the phone itself, so that the video plays back properly on your computer, television, or another horizontal device. The app includes slow-mo support at 60 and 120 fps and supports various video resolutions.
Lifecake is the app that’s bringing Grandma’s scrapbooks into the 21st century. The photo journaling app, owned by Canon, is built to chronicle childhood, one picture at a time. The user can view ‘stages’ of their child’s life by selecting and comparing different dates, and then decided who else has access to view the albums, keeping it more private than sharing an album on Facebook or another social network. The app also allows you to annotate photos or albums and mark milestones in your child’s life.
With PixelWakker, creator Joseph Wrigley brings pointillism into the digital world. The app breaks photographs down into pixels, then turns those pixels into art. Even with just a handful of filters to choose from — like pixel image, dots, lines, and color rain — you can have a ton of fun. Moreover, the app is compatible with Instagram and allows you to directly post photos to your feed. It may not be an app you need every day, but for $1, it’s a pretty easy impulse buy.
This one isn’t about photos so much as it is about illustrations, but the fun starts with a photo. For anyone who loves to draw (or simply loves art), Sktchy is a unique app that allows users to post pictures of themselves for artists to draw or paint. Sktchy is great for following your favorite artists, getting feedback on your own art, and comparing different artistic depictions of the same subject. You can view the artist’s rendition of a photo as well as the original photo itself, getting a window into the individual creative visions and techniques of each artist.
Free of frivolous distractions and interface clutter, VSCO is a stills-only app specifically built with composition and editing in mind. The app allows you to set the focus and exposure independently, as well as make subtle adjustments to color temperature, contrast, brightness, saturation, and more using a variety of tools. VSCO also contains a collection of impressive presets and film looks — some which require paid membership — and you can adjust the strength of the presets to suit your needs. In addition to the standard feed, you can peruse curated galleries of work selected by the VSCO team to receive inspiration from top creators.
Prisma works wonders to transform a typical photograph into an artistic masterpiece in a few easy steps. Prisma’s advanced features, such as artificial intelligence and neural networks, will broaden your creative capacity for aesthetic upgrades. Let Van Gogh or Picasso be your muse by selecting their unique styles to manipulate the design of your photos or videos. Prisma doesn’t just stop with still images, either, as you can also apply its stylizing algorithms to videos for some genuinely magical effects.
RNI Films (free)
Much like VSCO and Filmborn, RNI Films — short for Real Nice Images — is inspired by the analog aesthetic. Like VSCO, RNI Films gives you a few collections of film simulations that you can use to edit your image. Each of the presets is named the same as the film stock it’s looking to replicate. The app’s interface is clean and easy to navigate, so even beginners will find it appealing. Additionally, the presets are some of the more impressive ones you’ll come across in any app. That said, if you want more presets than what you can get with RNI films, you aren’t out of luck. RNI films offer additional options so that you can purchase one of five themed collections as an in-app purchase for $4.
Polarr is one of the most impressive photo editing apps you’ll find. With its wide selection of features that cater to both beginners and editing experts, it’s hard to believe you can use it for free. From basic exposure and curves adjustments to photo filters and detailed face-editing tools, Polarr is a well-rounded app that can help you get the job done. Like most apps, there are special features and effects not included in the free version. If you want to tap into some of the extra features, be prepared to pay a little for them. You can choose to make in-app purchases or go all-in with the premium version, which can cost around $20. If you’re not keen on shelling out extra cash without first sampling a product, give Polarr’s free version a try.
- The best photo-editing apps for Android and iOS
- The best iPhone apps (November 2020)
- The best GIF-maker apps and websites for 2020
- The best apps for teachers and educators
- The best LGBTQ dating apps for Android and iOS