Photography 101

There are thousands upon thousands of photo apps on the App Store. While some of them are truly amazing, others are average at most. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know which apps are worth your time and money. To help you find the cream of the crop, here is a list of 7 apps that every iPhone photographer should use…


Snapseed screenie

Snapseed is my favorite app for most simple iPhone photo editing needs. From cropping and straightening to more advanced adjustments, Snapseed has almost all the tools you need to greatly enhance your photos. And unlike in so many filter-based apps, you have complete control over every adjustment you do in Snapseed.

All Snapseed adjustments are sorted into fourteen different modules, from which I mostly use Crop, Straighten, Tune Image, Black & White, and Center Focus. While Snapseed’s editing functionality is not necessarily unique, it’s a great all-in-one solution with a simple and very convenient user interface.

Price: free


Camera Plus 4.0 for iOS (teaser 001)

While there are dozens of apps that replace the iPhone’s native Camera app, Camera+ is my favorite in terms of functionality and user interface. In Camera+ you can separate focus and exposure, lock white balance, see ISO and shutter speed, use image stabilizer, timer, horizon level and so much more. There are also some post-processing filters in Camera+, but I only use this app for taking photos.

If you’re using iOS 7 on iPhone 4 or 4S, you should switch to Camera+ even if you don’t need any extra functionality. Long story short, the viewfinder in the default iOS 7 Camera app has 3:2 aspect ratio on iPhone 4 and 4S, but the photos are saved at 4:3 aspect ratio. Thus the viewfinder is no longer accurate (and it’s partially covered with controls), making it hard to compose a good photo unless you use another camera app like Camera+.

Price: $1.99

Slow Shutter Cam

Slow Shutter Cam screenie

While Apple doesn’t let us change the shutter speed of the iPhone’s camera, you can get interesting long-exposure effects on the iPhone using the Slow Shutter Cam. This app is the perfect companion for long-exposure photos of waterfalls, rivers, waves and cars, as long as you use a tripod or otherwise keep your iPhone steady.

Price: $0.99


Pro HDR screenie

The iPhone’s built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) can be helpful at times, but you can get better-looking HDR photos using Pro HDR. This app will take great photos even if you only use the automatic settings as I normally do. If you want more control, you can also set the exposures manually, which will then be combined into a single well-exposed photo.

Like any HDR app, Pro HDR works best for landscape photography or scenes with bright sky, but fails for moving subjects. It’s also essential to keep your iPhone steady, though if your hands are somewhat stable you can also use Pro HDR without a tripod.

Price: $1.99



Panorama photography is another function that Apple has included in iOS, and that other developers have improved upon. While there are many panorama apps on the App Store, AutoStitch offers better stitching algorithms and more control over export settings than any other panorama app that I have tried.

AutoStitch lets you shoot panoramas inside the app where you can extend the image both horizontally and vertically, or you can import partially overlapping photos shot in any other photo app. It means that you could take photos in ProHDR and then stitch them in AutoStitch to create a beautiful HDR panorama.

Price: $1.99


VSCO Cam photo description

While the name suggests that this is yet another camera app, it is actually a lot more than that. VSCO is a camera replacement, a great editing app, and a photography community, all packaged in sleek minimalist design. However, VSCO really stands out in editing, which is the only feature of the app that I use regularly.

VSCO has some great editing presets that unlike most one-tap solutions aren’t overdone. In addition to basic adjustments such as saturation and contrast, VSCO also offers more advanced functionality such as adding tint to highlights and shadows separately.

Price: free



Of all the apps listed here, Filterstorm is by far the most advanced. It means that some of you will love Filterstorm, but others will hate it. If professional editing tools such as curves, levels, layers and masks are familiar to you, then this is the app that you should use. But if you don’t have desktop editing experience, Filterstorm can be really hard to figure out.

Price: $3.99

Of course, there are many good photo apps that are not included in this list. Please leave a comment if you think that another app deserves to be here.

Emil Pakarklis is the founder of iPhone Photography School, a website that helps people take better photos with the iPhone.

  • jjj

    Mextures is by far the best photo app

    • Mextures is good, but I didn’t include it in this list of “essentials”

  • Anthony Nguyen

    How about iPhoto? Is that any good?

    • you could use it but I recommend using snapseed.

    • Maxim∑

      it is really good, has a lot more features than other editors but can be a little bit complicated. If you plan on buying a new iOS device it will be free

    • I don’t use iPhoto, its effects are mostly boring, and the user interface is really confusing on the iPhone.

    • Glorin

      not yet… it needs work

  • Mugunthan Thamilvannan

    How about Blux Pro and Zitrr Camera ?

  • leart za jmi

    i recommend:
    1. Snapseed, 2. Facetune, 3. Mextures, 4. PicsPlay Pro
    Camera +, Filterstorm and Slow Shutter Cam are crap 🙂

    • Glorin

      You lost me at (3) Mextures… it’s crap

      • leart za jmi

        since i am a old (now) senior designer 🙂 i test a lot of apps, and mextures yes, is not that good like the app claims, but if you test all the filters, some of them are in grade to satisfy you

  • Barry

    Snapseed usually get my job done.
    And for video, SloPro, for dramatic recording you know.

  • Ever since Google purchased Snapseed I have a hard time using it. I mean, it takes 10 steps just to select a photo to edit. I don’t use the Camera for Camera+, just the editing features and they work pretty well for me.

    • I would have also preferred for Snapseed to stay with Nik Software since they stopped adding new features at Google. But it’s still my favorite editing app and I can deal with pressing a few more buttons to import.

  • mafish

    Instead of Camera+, i use 645 Pro Mk II, to me it seems to be more professional than Camera+

    for panoramas the best one i ever used, is Photosynth from Microsoft, and its free!

    nice article btw, thansk!

    • Photosynth is great too, but I like AutoStitch because you can export panoramas at super high quality and stitch photos from other apps.

      I’ve been meaning to check out 645 Pro Mk II for a while.

  • Gavin Fiddler

    PhotoFusion or Superimpose

  • @dongiuj

    Slow shutter, colorblast and PhotoStudio are the ones that I like using.

  • Dixon

    Missing: Ps Touch, Ps Express, ( no need to say must have apps ), Camera Bag 2 ( really cool imo ), Pixlr Express ( awesome !! ), dynamic light, Art Studio ( painting and artwork app but u can also edit photos with it )

    • PS Express is unusable these days, they really ruined it with a recent update 🙁

      • Dixon

        U are right ! But .. Your fault if u havent saved the old IPA on your PC

  • thanks , great apps

  • Steve Jobs

    is there another app like “Slow shutter app” but for free ?

    • but but… you can download everything from the AppStore for free!

  • Joonyaboy


  • Julio

    You should try vividhdr by ittiam systems, IMO it’s better than the other HDR apps, including prohdr and there’s great support from the developers

  • rosssimpson

    VSCOcam is unreal! Had it since it’s first days!

  • The new ProCamera is better than Camera+ imho.

    • The problem with Pro Camera is that you can’t use volume buttons for shutter release, which is how I take almost all my photos. It would be great otherwise.

      • Noel Chenier

        They used to have it, but were forced by Apple to remove it according to the developer. I know that other apps have it, but for some reason Apple hasn’t forced them to do so.

      • Misho told me the same thing. Strange, isn’t it?

    • on3simpleclick

      ProCamera looks nice, but doesn’t support iOS6.

      • Guest

        The old versions still does, and is currently free.

  • on3simpleclick

    Purely from a photographic standpoint..
    -Camera+ for taking photo’s
    -PS Touch for major edits
    -Photosynth for Panorama
    Snapseed use to be good. Mextures is crap.

    • I’d say that Snapseed is still great. It hasn’t gotten worse, though they no longer add new features these days.

  • Pusheen

    I’ve tried all those apps. In my opinion everyone should check out “Cortex Camera”. It makes better low light pictures than nokia’s best phones! And I think the best way take pics while there’s a lot of sunlight is using the stock camera app with HDR. The best editor is still snapseed.

    EDIT: and for those who love vintage pics Hipstamatic is still the best app (very expansive though)

    • Looks like people are complaining about the latest release of Cortex Camera. Have you seen the photo quality go down recently?

      Hipstamatic is very specific, the edit-before-you-shoot model isn’t for everyone, but there are people who do amazing things with it.

      • Pusheen

        I’ve tested Cortex Cam and IMHO is still great. I agree on Hipstamatic

  • ✪ aidan harris ✪

    Photoshop Express and Photoshop Touch by Adobe are great apps for taking and editing photos.

    • PS Express is a complete disaster now, full of bugs 🙁

    • on3simpleclick

      PS Touch is awesome.

  • seanodotcom

    List is missing Tadaa – an active, independent, alternative to Instagram, but a fantastic full-fledged editor in it’s own right — and free.
    Big Lens allows for great DoF effects.
    And SloPro (finally, with iOS 7) turns your iPhone 4S/5/5C into (almost) a 5S with slow-motion video that’s dead simple to edit.

  • using Camera+ for the past 2yrs and it just gets better & better

  • eksksp

    The best one I have ever used is kitcam.

    • on3simpleclick

      Kitcam is great. But it disappeared from the App Store since Yahoo bought them out. Hopefully it appears again sometime in the future.

  • AppleBits

    I recently got Cam X, overall I love it, mostly because is low light flash situations (ip5), the pic comes out amazing! Downside is that you have to accept or delete each shot after you shoot before you can take another.
    I like 645 Pro MK II, also, but it does seem to not want to focus well sometimes.
    Other arsenal: Snapseed, camera+, vsco, Slow Shutter, and for fixing golf swings- SnappyCam is great.

  • Bob

    A real photographer would never use any apps, just saying.

    • False.

    • rikomenzies

      Many “real” photographic techniques introduce false elements into a shot. Film, tintypes, pinhole cameras, they all introduce artifacts into the image that many consider to be aesthetically pleasing.

      Before the days of digital editing, photographers deliberately altered their negatives in the darkroom. How is that any different from using an app?

      Perhaps you need to expand your understanding of what “real” photography is. You’re not the authority on it, I can tell you that much. There are plenty of amazing photographers out there with more established careers that would beg to differ with your statement.

    • And any real photographer – regardless of how you define real – would want to separate focus from exposure, use exposure compensation and see the shutter speed and ISO values. You can’t do that without apps.

  • jimphoto

    Photography assignment generator! Gives me tons of ideas for shooting, keeps me on track for my photo 365! No filters, effects, camera etc…just inspiration!
    Also love perspective correct for fixing wide angle distortion, and letterglow for putting text on my photos.

  • Fabio Rodrigues

    ActionShot is good for some types of photo art as well, but I used it only 3 times in a year, so it is not THAT essential

    Very good post! I love the iPhoneography section lol

  • Tobo

    Camera+ is the best for taking photos and its built in “scenes” function. That’s why I don’t use Snapseed for manually editing the saturation,contrast,brightness etc of my photo. I wish that it was universal though.

  • Tobo

    Just downloaded Mextures, Afterlight, SnappyCam Pro and Facetune for iPad. So far Mextures is crap, filters are not that good at all, and the app is not even universal, waste of $1.99. Instagram has better filters than it. Afterligh is good but yeah, not essential. Don’t know what unique features it has. SnappyCam Pro, what I would like to describe it as the true burst mode of your iphone’s camera, super fast and produce best quality images and Facetune is great for editing those shots.^^ Overall, Camera+ is the best and really an essential app for photography. And Photo Editor by Aviary has the best sets of filters. 🙂

  • Chris Marion

    Slow Shutter Cam is great.

  • vsco cam should be on the top of the list.

  • RobOnMV

    After using an assortment of apps for my photos I often run them through “perfectly clear”. For Real Estate interior photography trying the “fix dark” features will sometimes significantly enhance darker photos. Really worthwhile to check out.

  • Yehuda Leibler

    when i use snap seed to edit my photos it takes dow their quality….. any way to avoid that?

  • Gee Deezy

    I’ve been getting good results with Fotor HDR. It only combines two images (rather than 3 to 5), requires a tripod for best results, and only results in a 2MB JPG, but overall the image quality is very good and my clients have been very complimentary of the photos I have supplied to them using this tool.

    I wish it had some way to get larger resolution images out, but I can’t complain much about the results! Best for social media but I’ve made some prints up to 16×20 with good results.