25 November 2014

10 best iPhone camera and photo editing apps

The latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have the best cameras yet from Apple. Despite going with an 8MP sensor for three years now, the Cupertino company gave its latest set of handsets faster phase-detect autofocus and even optical image stabilization on the larger phablet. Similarly iOS 8 brings a host of improvements to the default camera app, with new timelapse tool and ability to shoot slow motion movies - plus all the OS level editing tools.

10 best iPhone camera and photo editing apps

While Apple's prepacked imaging tools are great and all. The iPhoneography only truly sings when with a collection of apps to expand the capabilities of smartphone photography. With this in mind we've rounded up the 10 best camera apps letting you pull off all sorts of new tricks including toy box images, camera shake free videos and fixing lens distortion.

1. Manual

One of the biggest new camera features of iOS 8 was the ability to finally adjust your exposure settings. Although you can manually brighten and darken the frame with the basic built-in camera app, the Manual app adds some more granular control over settings such as ISO and shutter speed.

You could use this added flexibility to capture a long exposure by decreasing the ISO while lengthening the shutter speed. Alternatively when you want to shoot fast moving action in dark conditions, raise the ISO and shoot at a faster shutter speed. What's more, the app also gives you access to more features such as exposure compensation, manual focus and white balance.

The only thing you won't be doing in Manual is editing your images afterwards. Manual is strictly a camera shooting app, focused purely on transmuting moments into pictures.

2. Photoshop Touch

While Manual might not have any editing options whatsoever, look to Photoshop Touch for all your post processing needs. This versatile post processing tool lets you tweak your images for everything from brightness, contrast, saturation to toning down the highlights (otherwise known as the bright parts of the frame).

Beyond some basic adjustments, the mobile Adobe workshop comes with layers and many of the same filtering effects from the full fledged desktop app. With these tools you could apply a blur to one layer and blend another image into the frame, all while adding a grainy texture to to create the effect of double exposed film.

It might sound like overkill for the everyday iPhone snapshot, but it's crucial to have a fully featured image editor when more and more of the best DSLR cameras can wirelessly transfer images over to a smartphone. Like Lightroom Mobile for the iPad, Photoshop Touch also lets you remotely edit images you have stored on Adobe's Creative Cloud.

3. Hyperlapse

iPhones don't just take good pictures, they're also excellent video cameras in a pinch. The only problem is camera shake (vibrations caused by unsteady hands) can make just about any short film unwatchable and its unavoidable unless users have the steadiest of hands, brought a stabilizer rig of some sort or got an iPhone 6 Plus with OIS.

Luckily for you, Hyperlapse is a new video app from the minds behind Instagram. The app was initially introduced as a tool to create cinematic timelapses, but its best feature is actually to create extremely smooth video.

Even with this video of me jogging through the Union Square subway station, Hyperlapse manages to wrangle most of the camera shake as I'm moving. This vibration smoothing feature becomes even better when you shooting a short clip while standing in place. Soon enough all your videos of your kids to amusements you find on the street will be completely shake free.

4. SimplyB&W

Color photography is modern and all that, but black and white photography still has it place in the world. Going with a monochromatic image is great for accentuating the lighting or capturing emotion in a photo by removing any distracting hues.With this in mind we're nominating SimplyB&W as the best camera app to make black and white images.

This app can take any image you take and convert it into a grayscale image. For the best looking black and white images, you'll also want to mess around with the color levels by darkening reds or brightening the yellows. Luckily SimplyB&W includes a few templates, which darkens and lightens certain colors. You can also apply filters and add a vignette (dark circular border) to the image to make it a really classic looking image.

5. VSCO Cam

While we're still on the topic of classical film looks, there's no other app that comes with as many excellent film simulations as VSCO Cam. With the app you can add little desaturating and color shifting filters just like Hipstamatic and other apps. VSCO Cam, however, also has a few more options for tweaking the exposure and adding film grain. If you want a simple image editor that also offers some great filter effects, VSCO Cam is it.


Distortion is big problem with mobile phones because they all tend to come equipped with a wide-angle lens. If you've ever taken an image of a brick wall or a buildings head on, you might have noticed the center of the frame bulges out causing lines to curve into a bowl shape. It's a small but unmistakable problem all smartphones cameras suffer - that is until SKRWT showed up in the app store.

This vowel-deficient app corrects (or adds more) distortion letting me square up this image above of the Brooklyn Bridge. SKRWT is also a great iPhone camera app if you want to change the perspective of an photo. For example you could take a photo of building looking upward to capture the whole thing. Then make a few adjustments to create a final picture that look like it was taken while looking at the building head on.

7. TiltshiftGen2

Enough talk about fixing images, now it's time to do something fun with our photography again. Creating toy box (or miniature) pictures is something you can normally only do with a special and very expensive tilt-shift lens. Well, there are plenty of ways to replicate the same effect with some software trickery including the TiltshiftGen2 camera app.

Making a toy box image is a little tricky but TiltshiftGen 2 simplifies the process into position the center of the blur area and picking the shape of the blur. For the best results it's a good idea to bump up the saturation to make the colors pop and look more cartoonish. Also keep in mind that not every image works well with the miniature effect. The best images that work with this type of photography are often birds-eye of a scene below.

8. Brushstroke

There's more than one way to create a beautiful image and the Brushstroke app will turn your real life stills into gorgeous watercolor paintings. The process is as simple as picking an image to convert and hitting the go button. After a few seconds Brushstroke will pop out a freshly painted image that can be further customized with different brush styles, colored paints and differently textured canvases.

There are a handful of other painting conversion apps like Waterlogue and Popsicolor, but Brushstroke has always been the fastest app on the draw. Unlike the other apps, Brushstroke also lets you tweak the image with settings like saturation and brightness.

9. VividHDR

Smartphone cameras are notorious for capturing poor dynamic range, where the overall image looks flat and lifeless between the brightest and darkest parts of the frame. It's a problem that really extends to all cameras and it's caused by the imaging sensor only capturing a single instance of light.

One way of correcting for this is taking a bracketed exposure (one underexposed, one normal exposure and one that's overexposed) and combining it into a single high-dynamic range image. The iOS camera comes with built-in HDR shooting mode, but it's results can vary with strange color effects to adding no benefit at all.

iPhonegraphers seeking more control and better images should pick up VividHDR. It takes multiple images and splices them together just like the built-in camera app, but VividHDR also has more options letting you choose whether the final picture looks true to life or ventures into the world of surreal imagery.

Once again there are other apps that produce the same effect including Pro HDR and True HDR. In our experience, though, VividHDR produces the least amount of ghosting and processes images faster.

10. Slow Fast Slow

One of the neatest video tricks the iPhone 5S camera introduced was the ability to shoot slow motion videos. But watching balloons pop or skaters pull tricks in just slow motion by itself is gets old really fast. This is where the Slow Fast Slow video editing app comes to let you manipulate the tempo of your video.

Speed up slow motion back to regular speed or put motion into fast forwards. Alternatively, you could take a regular movie clip and alter the frame rate in multiple sections. Slow Fast Slow can even take a video and turn it on its head to play backwards.

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