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The iPhone’s camera has been regarded as one of the best smartphone cameras in the industry. However, some other smartphone manufacturers offer more editing and software features tailored to photography than Apple does.
You can now record time lapse videos, adjust the exposure more easily while shooting, and edit specific lighting elements more closely.
After increasing the exposure, you’ll notice the flower looks brighter and more colorful.
Select the photo you want, then tap the circular icon on the bottom of the screen to access the color slider. Open the photo you want to edit, tap the Edit button at the top of the screen, and then tap that same circular button to access the lighting slider. Since my original iPhone back in 2008, I’ve become an avid photographer, though I am certainly not a professional — it’s just something I like to do for fun. However, I’ve accumulated so many photography apps over the years that I have most of them sitting in a folder, only opened when I need a certain effect applied. On the first launch, Enlight takes you through a brief tutorial that will show the basics of using the app.
Enlight has a multitude of tools available in the following categories: Canvas, Image, Filters, Tools, Artistic, Brushes, Text, and Finalize. I enjoy using filters to give my photos certain moods and appearances, and I’m delighted that Enlight has many filters to choose from, ranging from analog to black and white to duo color gradients. One of the issues I’ve had with other apps is the fact that I can never get the image to the proper size for Instagram.
The settings of Enlight give users the option to save geolocation data, choose export quality (compact, normal, high, or pro), unsaved session capacity, and delete or reset presets.
If you’re a mobile photographer, then I highly recommend checking out Enlight for yourself. I’ve found joy in shooting and editing photos since I was very, very young, and I’m lucky to have been able to play with cameras and post-processing methods from both the film and digital eras. I’m also assuming that most of you are looking for a good photo editing app so you can polish your photos before posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Photo Stream, etc.
After using such a large number of iOS photo editors, I can confidently say that the above criteria is actually a very tall order.
Before I get to those, though, I’d like to ask you a question: What do you think of when I say “digital photo manipulation”?
If you said “Photoshop”, you’re right; if you said anything else, go directly to Jail and do not pass Go. Having put that out of the way, let’s look at the three photo editors which I comfortably recommend, and why VSCO Cam is the best of the batch. If you follow some of the best and most popular Instagram photographers, chances are they use VSCO Cam.
But before we dive in, let’s start with the bad news first: VSCO Cam’s user interface is a bit different.
Tapping on an image thumbnail in the library view will display a row of icons across the bottom to deselect, flag, edit, export, or delete the image. Taping the edit button (the one that looks like a wrench and paintbrush), takes you into photo editing mode — where you can apply any one of VSCO Cam’s one-tap filters. VSCO Cam comes with ten free filters, while an in-app purchase of $6 unlocks the full array of 38 additional presets. If you have a few bucks, I’d highly recommend the all-encompassing bundle which gets you all of the additional presets from the different filter bundles. There are also a couple of free sponsored preset packs available, one from Street Etiquette and one from Levi’s, and I recommend them both.
From the photo editing view, tap on the white bar below the preset thumbnails and four options will appear: a paintbrush (the presets, selected), a wrench (advanced tools), a little arrow (undo one step), and a big arrow (revert to original).
The split tone tools aren’t as advanced as Afterlight (more on Afterlight below), but the simplicity of the ones in VSCO Cam make it more discoverable for more people. VSCO Cam also includes access to VSCO Grid, which is Visual Supply’s attempt at creating a gallery experience specific to images created with the app. Once you’ve got that sorted out, though, it’s like having a much nicer, simpler, more beautiful Instagram feed, with (probably) fewer photos of expensive San Franciscan toast. There are some really nice performance enhancements, too, which you’ll notice when you start the app. As for the camera view, it now includes a clever level, which is a welcome enhancement if you’re like me and have a hard time with lining up using a grid overlay alone. My only quibble with this app, aside from the UI quirks, is that no other app seems to display it in the Share sheet.
I recognize that there might be some who protest that its interface peculiarities and lack of iPad version preclude this from being the best photo editor for iOS.
Kyle Steed has 165,000 followers on Instagram, and he posts some truly breathtaking images on a regular basis. Editing photographs should be enjoyable as I assume one rejoiced at taking them in the first place, so one day I deleted all the apps I had purchased and elected to master at least 2 of them: VSCO Cam and Snapseed. Once I’ve selected a photo that I’m pleased with where both the exposure and focus is at its best, I import the image into VSCO Cam where I apply a filter according to the mood I’m looking to achieve. I wasn’t aware of a difference in quality between posting from the camera roll or posting from an app, but it’s very clear once you know what to look for. Most of my pictures are taken with the Camera app that is included in iOS (because it’s really quick to get to from the lockscreen). I do like to take my time on an edit and quite often import the images that I like and will perhaps partway edit them there and then.
Darkroom is a relative newcomer on the iPhone photo-editing scene, but already a promising one. All edits are non-destructive, and Darkroom provides a scrollable history of every edit you’ve made to each photo.
Edited photos in the library viewer are marked by a little pencil icon with a blue circle around it.
It also lacks any built-in social network or discovery features, a la the excellent VSCO Grid. The editing tools, at least on an iPhone 4s, actually obscure part of the photo so it’s harder to edit.
For one measly dollar, you can have a fast, beautiful, easy-to-use, and extremely advanced universal photo editor for iOS.
When you first launch Afterlight, you’ll see two options: take a photo, or choose one from your library.
If you’re willing to dive into the more advanced set of tools, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
But if those are my two biggest problems with Afterlight, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that this is a great app.
If you’ve been involved in the digital photography scene for a while, you’ll probably be familiar with a little company called Nik Software.
The filters are separated into a few categories — “Black & White”, “Vintage”, “Grunge”, and “Retrolux” — and they’re a mix of gorgeous and mediocre. The real gems are in the Retrolux and Grunge sets, though both take a little bit of finessing to work correctly.
It’s a good app, and I have no qualms about recommending it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have problems with Snapseed.
Despite these issues, Snapseed is a great piece of software to have in your toolbox, if for the Selective Adjustment tool alone. Most apps here are great for one-tap beautification and filtering, with a few advanced tools to satiate more serious photo geeks.
Occasionally, though, the app seemed to be pushing the limits of what was possible on my iPhone 4S. If you’re kinda nutty, you can edit photos of up to 26 megapixels or RAW files on your freakin’ cell phone. This is mitigated somewhat by Photo Stream, but unfortunately Photo Stream doesn’t download full-quality images to iOS devices. But, like the initial release of iPhoto for iOS, many of these tools are hidden behind hidden, opaque gestures.
While I think VSCO Cam is the best photo editing app for iOS, there are those of you who will disagree for various reasons. But that’s okay — all of the above apps are truly excellent, and I feel comfortable recommending them to you. If you do choose to layer your apps, be advised that you’re always editing with, and saving to, a JPG. Also, don’t worry about a bunch of photos all looking similar due to these recommendations.
Is this behind-the-scene information going to completely transform your photographs into a work of art? We love VSCO Cam because of its incredible selection of one-tap filters and its powerful fine-tune image editing tools for those who want more.
Google Photos is the best cloud management solution for photos for most people due to its low cost, ease-of-use, and helpful features.
For a classy journaling app that works on all your devices, you can't do better than Day One. Just updated, Tweetbot has all the features you're likely to need and then some, plus it is delightfully well designed. You can easily paste text in OS X without any formatting by using a quick keyboard shortcut. Nicholas Cole-Farrell is the Director of Technology at The Brandeis School of San Francisco, a K-8 independent school in California, USA where his passion is empowering students, teachers, and staff with tools to grow their understanding of the world.


The leaves in the background are a little too exposed, but this could work if you plan to crop the image to focus on the flower. Not only can you change photos to black and white, but you can control which areas are darker than others. By tapping on the clock-shaped icon above the viewfinder, you can choose to set a timer for either 3 or 10 seconds. Apple has now given developers access to its Photos app, which means once you download the app you can use more editing tools without having to leave the Photos app. As they always say, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” and that has held true for me all these years.
So when I heard of Enlight, I was intrigued, since it has pretty much everything you would need for photo editing in one place.
The dark theme helps put all of the focus on your images rather than the app itself, and it works well.
While it may look like any other photo editor at first, the app provides new features that were previously only available on desktop editing software, according to Zeev Farbman, CEO and co-founder of Lightricks.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Enlight has access to the manual camera controls that Apple introduced in iOS 8, so the camera functionality is a bit limited.
For those who like getting artsy, there are things like watercolor, sketch, and even urban effects. Basic adjustments, filters, artistic effects, detailed corrections, refitting, collages, fun text and meme stickers, gorgeous Instapaper fitting, borders, tilt-shift, and much more. Much like the rest of the digital photo world, there’s the sense of experimentation at no additional cost, but the always-with-you nature of an iPhone and the software available for it have truly transformed the way I view digital photography.
But VSCO Cam still stands as our pick for the best iPhone photo editing app, and it may now be the best iPad photo editing app as well. There are some tools, including all of the ones mentioned in this article, that can be used for photos you want to print and frame. And I’m still not certain any one app perfectly executes all of these, but there are a few that come very close.
It’s not bad, but it doesn’t quite fit in on the iPhone with all the other standard button layouts you find in most other apps.
Though a peek in the iPhone app’s application package seems to indicate that one is in the works.
There’s a good reason for that admittedly bold claim: VSCO Cam is developed by the Visual Supply Company who are best known for building a fantastic series of plugins for Lightroom that mimic classic film stocks.
I usually use the stock Camera app for this reason, but the VSCO Cam, er, camera comes with a few neat tricks built in. By simply adding a library and these tools, VSCO Cam jumps from being merely a photo editing tool to a full photo library tool, almost akin to having Aperture or Lightroom on your phone. Tapping on a thumbnail will activate that filter onto your photo, and tapping again will allow you to adjust the intensity of the filter on a twelve-step sliding scale.
The free filters are all quite fantastic and there’s no reason you can’t process some excellent photos without buying any of the additional filters. Presets are denoted by a letter-number categorization system, and can be purchased for $1 for each pack of three filters (listed below).
Having all of these filter presets can seem a little overwhelming at first, but they’re all great filters.
With VSCO Cam you don’t have many egregiously wrong choices of filters, just ones that look much better than others for a particular photo.
I never noticed heavy artifacting or noise, and that inspires a sense of confidence in the ability to mess around with different looks to try to achieve the right mood for the photo. There are the usual suspects — exposure, white balance, cropping, and straightening — as well as a few unique tools: there’s a button to add a vignette, another which adds some faux film grain, and one which fades the image and makes it look like it’s been sat in the sun for a few years.
Rather than having distinct RGB sliders to precisely mix your tonal value, you get some preset colours (cream, blue, green) and can modify the strength of those colours. The biggest news with this version is that the social component, VSCO Grid, is now native and fully integrated, though it remains true to VSCO’s philosophy: there’s still no button to “like” an image, nor any way to comment on one. If you tap “Grid” on the flyout menu, you’ll see VSCO’s curated grid, and a button to search for users by name — there’s no way to find your friends on Twitter or Facebook. When you enable it via the camera settings menu in the upper left, the level will be red; when the shot is perfectly straight, it turns VSCO green.
The menu uses a lighter-weight variant of Proxima Nova, fitting with the iOS 7 aesthetic, and there are a few graphical tweaks here and there.
Despite iOS’ limited inter-app sharing ability, most other photo apps include a button to pass the photo from their app to a different app in the Share sheet; that is, you can make a few edits in Filterstorm Neue, then tap “Export” in that app and select “Send to Afterlight” to open the image in Afterlight with no intermediary step. We reached out to a few talented and popular Instagrammers who were kind enough to answer our questions about their photo editing workflow. Cory uses a combination of Snapseed, Afterlight, VSCO Cam, and Filterstorm, all of which are mentioned in this review. I then proceed to export the photo into the Camera Roll where I fine-tune elements such as vignetting, warmth and sharpness to the photograph. Finding an interesting face or an interesting character is very exciting for me — people are interesting. When I need to, I will shoot in the VSCO Cam app if I need to make use of the Focus and Exposure tools (tap the screen with two fingers and it will identify two targets that you can drag around the frame at will). I find myself becoming more critical of what I post and regularly go through my camera roll of pre-edits deciding whether to delete them or not.
I’d estimate that out of the 2,300 images I have posted to Instagram, maybe 10 at the most are taken with my DSLR. It doesn’t have nearly as many filters to choose from, but the ones it does have look great and you can actually create your own filters, plus it offers finer control over levels (brightness, contrast, saturation, etc) thanks to the gradual sliders it uses rather than incremental ones.
For now, it will remain a great supplementary editor to VSCO Cam, should we ever need finer control over the editing process. After you choose an image, you’ll see six easy-to-understand icons across the bottom: revert, adjustments, filters, textures, cropping and straightening, and frames. The results you can create in just a few taps are varied, interesting, and always believable. In a couple of minutes, using only these two tools, you can substantially alter or enhance an image’s mood.
The split toning tools offer separate controls for highlights, shadows, and — unlike most applications — midtones as well. Most notably, a few filters are only available after committing to “liking” the app on Facebook, which seems like a cheesy publicity thing. The only reason I’m not calling Afterlight the best is simply because VSCO Cam is just so darn good. Nik was a German company that produced a range of pro-grade colour correction and grading software for digital photographers.
Some of the Vintage presets are beautiful on nearly any image, while I struggled to find an application for others.
The Retrolux filters often begin with their contrast and saturation cranked up, along with faux light leaks and scratches.
Say you took a photo of someone in a red jacket walking across a largely monochrome frame, and you really want to pop that red.
Snapseed also works on the iPad and, if you have one of Apple’s camera connection kits, you can import and edit RAW files. The problems I have are mostly the result of my expectations of an app made by a company which also makes tools for professional photographers. If you’re anything like me, you want to present photos that defy others’ belief that they were created on your phone. Never once did the app come across as an attempt to shoehorn a desktop app into a phone; a clone stamp tool doesn’t sound easy on a touch screen, but it’s very forgiving, for example.
I experienced a couple of crashes after using masking tools; this didn’t occur on my Retina iPad Mini, so I suspect this was a case of the app hitting the smaller memory limits of my iPhone. It keeps track of history states, so you can rewind to a particular point in your edit before things went completely awry.
That’s a problem when you’re probably shooting photos on your iPhone; it’s much more convenient to edit them on the same device. Apple engineers are smart, though, and foresaw this hurdle, so they built something into iPhoto called Beam. It’s got a plethora of multi-touch tools, not to mention a completely automated straightening tool. Did you know, for example, that tapping and holding on an area of an image, then dragging outward will allow you to adjust just that colour tone?
You can create beautiful photo books right on the device — I’ve bought a few kinds of Apple’s printed photo products and they’re extremely nice. It doesn’t appeal to me on the iPhone and, though I enjoy some of the tools and printed products I can create on iOS, I don’t think it’s the only photo editor you should have. You may prefer to edit on your iPad, so you’ll want a universal app (for now); or, perhaps you may prefer the filter set of another app.
That means that every time you save the photo, it compresses again, losing a little bit of data and, consequently, some image quality. I don’t even think this workflow instills that into my own photos because the most important aspect of photography is that you’re ultimately satisfied with what you shoot as you’re holding the camera regardless of what you may apply to it afterwards as a form of enhancement. Without the iPhone, I definitely wouldn’t have the same passion for photography as I do right now, and having all of these awesome photo editing apps contributed to that. Enlight is also fast, as it loads up your Camera Roll in the bottom ribbon, similar to how Darkroom has your entire Photo Library accessible from the start, so there’s no importing involved.
If you choose to use an image that you already have, just select it from the Camera Roll ribbon or choose another album from your device. The basics are covered here, such as cropping, skewing, rotating, adjustments, clarity, tilt-shift, blending, and filters. This allows users to crop the photo from the inside, which brings objects closer together without losing anything important.
The Instafit feature in the Finalize category applies bars on your image to make it into a square.


They can be divided loosely into two categories: those which enhance, and those which add silly or fun photo effects. Then, you’ll find that it has an unintuitive interface, and it’s slow, and it hasn’t been updated for iOS 7. All of these apps were tested with the same batch of ten images, all shot on my trusty iPhone 4S.
There are parts of the interface that feel a bit like they were ported from another platform, such as the gesture to close the side “hamburger” menu which doesn’t actually respond to a corresponding finger drag.
Similar to a few other advanced camera apps, you can separately define focus and exposure points; unlike most other apps, though, you can also lock white balance independently as well.
They span the gamut of high contrast and over-saturated to faded black and white, and they always look natural. But, as I said, the filters all appear quite natural; the warming filters add a warm tone, but they don’t make the photo look as though it was taken on the Sun. The Grid is supposed to be a way for you to exhibit your best photos in a simple and non-distracting environment.
Similarly, vertical axis level markers on either side are red when you’re pointing the camera upwards or downwards, but they turn green when the camera is flat. There is no app, as far as I can tell, that will share to VSCO Cam, necessitating the additional step of exporting then importing manually from the camera roll. At this point, the majority of photo editing apps have the ability to import your final image directly into Instagram, which may seem like the sensible thing to do but the reason I never opt for that route is because doing so degrades the image quality of your photograph.
There is no way to filter the library to display only edited photos unless they’ve already been exported to the Darkroom folder. For those of us who tend to edit in batches, the process of exporting multiple photos in a row quickly becomes tiresome.
It’s completely free to download, with a $3 in-app purchase that unlocks the ability to edit RGB curves. Tapping on any of these, aside from revert, presents myriad additional tools, but it’s never overwhelming. These filters are of superlative quality, too; as with VSCO Cam, I didn’t notice significant artifacts.
Unlike in most apps — even desktop applications — the sharpening tool doesn’t completely ruin your image. But, these “locked” filters become available after the UIWebView appears, so you don’t actually have to log in to Facebook. So, when they released their first piece of consumer-grade software in the form of Snapseed, people took notice. Tapping on one leads to one of the more interesting interaction models I’ve seen in a while: vertically scrolling on the image itself will allow you to select what attribute of the tool to edit, while scrolling horizontally on the image will alter the value of that attribute. Once you reset those options to more reasonable values, there are some beautiful options hidden behind the star-shaped button.
In Snapseed, you can drop a Selective Adjustment point on that jacket, pinch to change the adjustment’s boundaries, and really punch that jacket’s color. I dislike the way Snapseed always applies edits destructively; there’s no way to change an effect after you’ve applied it.
Among its many, many tools, you’ll find a clone stamping brush to remove distractions, and a curves tool to perfect the tones of your highlights and shadows.
The filters are, for the most part, subtle and natural, and there are soft brushes to edit specific areas of an image.
It’s kind of awesome to have a professionally-bound hardcover book of photos you’ve taken in the last year on your coffee table.
It makes more sense to me to edit photos in VSCO Cam, Afterlight, or Snapseed and then use iPhoto for minor touchups or to create printed products. Sometimes, for example, I like to start my edit in Snapseed because of its powerful Selective Adjustment tool, then hop over to VSCO to finish up. Using any more than three of these apps in succession to edit one photo will likely start showing artifacts of compression, so I strongly advise a conscious choice of which apps you’ll use per photo. Regardless of your specific processing workflow, you can only edit with what you already have in the image.
The robust tools and editing features of Enlight are tucked away into a simplistic side panel drawer, with everything clearly labeled and accessible. Once you have an image, slide your finger from the right edge of the screen to reveal the navigation menu. The app also makes use of intuitive swiping gestures to control the intensity of each effect, and it’s fairly accurate since the value does not change when you lift your finger from the screen. For images that need a lot of adjustments, there are tools that reduce noise, brighten underexposed images, and make proper corrections to tone, details, and color. The best part of this, though, is the fact that these bars are highly blurred parts of your photo, so that everything looks perfect together.
I just wish that the camera part of it integrated manual controls, but it’s easy enough to launch the native Camera app from Control Center.
To build a movie, you simply drag a photo, video clip, transition effect, title, or song to the storyboard or timeline, then arrange those elements to your liking.The app also lets you trim and split clips, overlay sound effects and voice recordings, add custom pan-and-zoom effects, and so on. For this review, I only looked at those which enhance and improve — I am not interested in adding stickers to my photos, turning them into a meme, nor adding icy white irises to a friend’s portrait.
We’re assuming the vast majority of photos you take with your iPhone will be seen on screens and distributed digitally. Meanwhile, the cooler filters give an edge to photos without making them look like the Blue Man Group.
While I’m extremely comfortable in Photoshop and Aperture, in many ways, I prefer the simplicity of VSCO Cam. It also means that you can feel comfortable editing when you’re running low on battery power. I believe this is an issue with VSCO Cam not providing the feature, and not entirely the fault of other developers not including it. It is the best app for taking a photo from bland to beautiful in just a couple of taps, and it does so with panache and grace.
From experience the prime alternative would be to save your final image directly to your Camera Roll and proceed with launching Instagram and subsequently share it with the world. I’m fond of it because it makes me smile but it’s not a particularly flattering photo of the subject! There’s also an option to hide screenshots in case your library is cluttered with those. As of this writing, the local Camera Roll is not viewable as its own folder — only All Photos, which includes everything on your Photo Stream. Everything has been considered so well that it opens up a world of high-grade image editing to everyone.
I’ve also found that some of the filters leave noticeable gradient banding across similarly-coloured areas, such as in the sky. Or, perhaps you prefer the sky and landscape from an HDR photo, but you want the silhouetted figures in the foreground from the original photo? Edits are all completely non-destructive, too, and because it’s an Apple app, it can use private APIs to save directly on top of the original image in the camera roll (as I said, non-destructively). The fact that there is an always-visible button to overlay hints on the app’s UI tells you that it isn’t necessarily going to be the easiest app to use.
Using a combination of these apps is more powerful and perhaps more useful, in certain circumstances, than simply trying to use one app.
Focus on making great pictures straight out of the camera, and use these tools to enhance what already exists. The app can also keep 10 unsaved sessions by default, so you can go back and make any changes before finalizing them later on. And if you like to single out specific parts of an image, Enlight gives you to option to apply tonal effects to parts of an image at a time. It supplies various motion and static titles, but you can edit things like colors, fonts, and sizes to create customized text. But, of course, it doesn’t require you to make these decisions; you can be perfectly happy to leave the camera in “Auto” and it will sort everything out. There’s something about having these limitations which demands that you create a beautiful image without fussing around in an overwhelming amount of advanced tools.
I then will [use the] Filterstorm clone tool [to remove] any eye distractions in the photo and apply the filter to it using VSCO Cam or Afterlight. I think the thing I like most about this version of the app is that it’s non-destructive — I can revisit an image and tone down some of the edits I have made (or completely remove them). There’s a simple slider to control how intense a filter is applied; thankfully, the filters are tasteful and realistic enough that you can usually leave the slider at 100%. You can take the value of the first to 0 with the interaction model noted above; for the vignette, just pinch outwards like you want to zoom in on the image. Both devices have everything set up correctly, both are on the same Wi-Fi network, and both have Bluetooth on as a fallback (though I’ve also tried it with Bluetooth off). To be fair, Snapseed’s interaction model is not entirely intuitive either, but all of the tools behave in the same way. You can change the unsaved session capacity from five to 50, or just have an unlimited number. For the iPhone edition, Pinnacle had to rejigger the interface for a smaller screen, though not as much as you might think.
Shooting this type of subject matter has inspired me to become more interested in street photography and to get out there with my camera. This remains an admirably simple app to use, especially if you watch the 5-minute tutorial video that shows you around the interface.When you're done editing, you can export your movie to Facebook, YouTube, or even Pinnacle Studio for PC or iPad.



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