There’s an old adage amongst photographers: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” The point being that when the perfect scene pops up, any camera is better than no camera at all. And since most of us carry our phones with us everywhere, the best camera we have is more often than not an iPhone. Thankfully, the cameras on the new iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max — and nearly every recent model, for that matter — are nearly as powerful as today’s best point-and-shoots, especially when paired with the massive selection of sophisticated apps available in the App Store.
Whether you’re looking for a new way to shoot, edit, or organize your photos, these camera apps are here to help. Turning a boring shot of your feline companion into a masterpiece has never been easy.
Even with the latest iOS update, Apple’s native camera app is rather anemic when it comes to features. Thankfully, Camera+ 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.
When iOS 8 launched, rather than updating the existing ProCamera app, developer Cocologics decided to go ahead and make an entirely new app. The new app — now optimized for iOS 12 — still sports a minimalist interface, with a host sophisticated features for setting exposure time, tint, ISO sensitivity, and more. 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.
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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. 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, such as those touted alongside the latest iPhones.
ProCam 5 ($6)
With unparalleled control and DSLR-like functionality, ProCam 5 lives up to its name. The app sports seven different shooting modes, including a time-lapse setting and one that slows the shutter speed, giving you the power to choose what’s best for your particular environment. Subject track focus also lets you capture crystal-clear photos, even if your subject is moving, while the embedded audio meter ensures audio levels are kept to a minimum when shooting video. The laundry list of features, and the quality of said features, make ProCam 5 worth the small fee.
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 work space than most apps, it’s still one of the most capable after-effects programs you can buy. 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.
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, particular 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.
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.
Not everyone is as photogenic as this guy, and sometimes the images you snap of yourself and your friends aren’t as flattering as you’d like them to be. 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. Hell, you can even change your eye color or color over grey hairs.