The best basic and advanced photo apps

If you’ve ever browsed the Apple App 
Store or Google Play, then you’ll already 
be aware that there are hundreds and 
hundreds of photography apps to choose 
from. While we can’t possibly hope to 
cover all of them here, we have picked 
a few of the best ones out.
We’ve installed and used all of these 
ourselves at some point, so if you’re stuck 
for inspiration we have no hesitation in 
recommending them. 
On this page we’ve primarily 
concentrated on photo apps that are fun 
and relatively easy-to-use. That’s not to 
say that they are in any way limited, 
though – far from it. 
Over on the facing page, meanwhile, 
we’ve selected some more-advanced apps 
that can be used as a third-party camera 
or as an editing tool for images that 
you’ve already captured.

If you have an affi nity for images with a washed-out, 
vintage or cross-processed aesthetic, then Retrica 
could very well be your go-to camera app. The app 
has been designed to be simple to use and offers no 
manual controls over your camera. That said, there are 
over 100 fi lter effects, providing a vast range of hues 
and effects. Unlike many other fi lter-specifi c apps that 
allow you to apply the fi lter at the processing stage, 
you can only apply fi lters at the point of capture. You’ll 
get a live preview of how it will look and if you can’t 
decide which fi lter to use then Retrica provides a 
‘random fi lter’ button that you can keep pressing until 
you get something you like the look of. The range of 
fi lters on offer is very good, with lots of stylish-yet-
subtle effects to choose from. Retrica also provides you 
with a blurred background effect you can employ to 
create selective focus images with. Other than that, 
camera controls are pretty sparse. Still, as a fun app 
that provides instant results, Retrica is a great app. 
AVAILABLE FOR: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Adobe Photoshop 
Express /
Lightroom Free WWW.ADOBE.COM
Adobe currently offers two mobile photography apps: 
Photoshop Express and Photoshop Lightroom, both of 
which are very good in their own right. The main 
difference between the two is that the former is more 
of a one-stop fi x for mobile photographers that allows 
you to import, edit and then share images within the 
app, whereas the Lightroom mobile app requires you 
to own the desktop version of Lightroom to get the full 
range of functionality from it. Which one is right for 
you will depend on your individual requirements. For 
many users, the more self-contained Photoshop 
Express is likely to be the more convenient and useful 
of the two, while for others the ability to sync their 
mobile images with their desktop version of 
Lightroom will prove invaluable. Either way, both apps 
offer a wide range of adjustments, along with a good 
selection of digital fi lter effects. As you might expect 
both apps are also fully compatible with Adobe .DNG 
Raw fi les created by smartphones too.
AVAILABLE FOR: Android and iOS

Free / £1.61
Pixlr makes a range of good image-editing apps for 
mobile and desktop users, along with a couple of 
browser-based editing tools. While the app is free to 
download, it does come with adverts. To rid yourself 
of these you’ll need to pay £1.61 from within the app. 
While Pixlr can be used to control your camera, the 
controls are extremely limited, so you’ll want to use 
either your phone’s built-in camera app or a 
third-party alternative. Where Pixlr really excels is 
as an image processor for mobile devices. The user 
interface is intuitively laid out, making it pretty 
straightforward to use. It offers a wide range of editing 
tools along with brush tools for more localised fi xes 
(including selective focus). Pixlr also provides a useful 
one-touch ‘Auto Fix’ feature. The app also provides a 
variety of digital fi lter effects that can be stacked to 
create a unique look. Rounding things off are tools for 
adding picture frames, stickers and text. You can also 
make collages of similarly themed photos. 
AVAILABLE FOR: Android and iOS

Launched in 2011, EyeEm was one of the original online 
cameraphone communities that allowed mobile 
photography enthusiasts to share their work and 
browse the work of others, and it currently has over 13 
million members. While the community aspect is still a 
big part of the draw, EyeEm has since diversifi ed into 
stock photography and offers contributors 50% of all 
the images it sells. If you like the idea of being able to 
sell your images then all you need to do is sign up, 
enter your details and start uploading your mobile 
images. The app has no built-in camera of its own, but 
you can open other camera apps from within the app. 
Alternatively you can also browse your phone’s image 
library for any images you want to edit and upload. 
EyeEm provides 24 individual digital fi lters, along with 
a fairly standard range of image-wide enhancement 
tools. As with Instagram the tagging system is quite 
advanced, enabling you to target who is likely to view 
– and hopefully buy – your photos. 
AVAILABLE FOR: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

When it comes to mobile photography communities 
and sharing, Instagram is the heavyweight champion 
of the mobile app world. Instagram is essentially a 
camera and photo-editing app that allows you to 
take photos, apply digital fi lters and other image 
corrections, and then share the result with other 
Instagrammers. As the emphasis is on sharing, it’s not 
ideal for lone-wolf photographers, but it is a great app 
for social photographers. Its built-in camera is about 
as basic as you can get (the only control being a fl ash 
on/off switch), but you can thankfully choose to open 
images that have been taken with other camera apps 
before moving into the editing and sharing modules 
of the app. In regards to processing, it offers 40 fi lter 
effects and a basic range of adjustment tools. There’s 
also a selective focus tool for creating tilt-shift type 
images. When it comes to sharing, you can hashtag 
keywords to your heart’s content and share your 
images directly to other social media platforms such 

Free / £2.29
Exclusive to Apple iPhone users running iOS 8.0 or 
higher, Camera+ has long been considered the go-to 
third-party camera app. The main reason for this is 
the way in which it effortlessly combines good levels 
of control over key camera settings – including 
manual focus, exposure, shutter speed, ISO and white 
balance – with advanced image-processing and 
sharing abilities. The latest version also offers an 
image stabiliser to help sharpness, and a ‘Clarity’ tool 
that acts as a kind of auto-enhance at the point of 
capture. Finally, there’s also a slow-shutter mode that 
can be used to facilitate long-exposure photography 
on an iPhone. As well as its extensive image capture 
tools, you can also use Camera+ to process your shots, 
using a range of advanced editing tools or one-click 
digital fi lters. You can even use the app to sync your 
images to iCloud – enabling you to view your images 
on any other connected devices, including iPads.
AVAILABLE FOR: Apple iPhones running iOS 8.0 and 

Camera FV-5
Free / £2.49
Designed specifi cally for photography enthusiasts, 
Camera FV-5 aims to provide as much manual control 
over key camera settings as possible. The amount to 
which it can do so does vary between individual 
Android phones, however, and the app’s two main 
headline features – manual shutter speed control and 
Raw capture – are only compatible with a number of 
top-end devices. You’ll fi nd a compatibility checklist 
on the developer’s website. Once installed, the FV-5 
user interface is fairly straightforward to use, and even 
if you’re unable to take advantage of the headline 
features FV-5 still provides direct control over white 
balance, sensitivity, metering mode, and enables you 
to take bracketed and timelapse exposures, too. You 
can even use it to re-assign your phone’s volume 
button to a camera-specifi c function, for example 
lowering/raising the ISO. While the full version will set 
you back £2.49, there is a Lite version that’s free, albeit 
with a vastly reduced maximum resolution.  
AVAILABLE FOR: Android only 

This advanced image-editing app comes with a range 
of tools not commonly found on more basic photo 
apps, including curves adjustments, RGB (Red, Green, 
Blue) controls, tilt-shift effects and 13 ‘Scene’ modes 
that will automatically adjust your image to get the 
best out of it. You’ll also fi nd a generous range of basic 
adjustment tools and a huge range of stackable fi lter 
effects. You can also add frames, text and stickers to 
your images or create collages of multiple images. 
While Fotor comes with a built-in camera, manual 
controls are sadly lacking –though there is the option 
to employ a stabiliser for sharper images, along with 
support for burst shooting. More experienced users 
will probably want to use either their smartphone’s 
built-in camera app or a more advanced third-party 
option. Image sharing to the likes of Facebook and 
Twitter is provided, with further options to email 
images also available. Fotor is neatly laid out, making 
it straightforward to navigate and operate. 
AVAILABLE FOR: Android and iOS

PicsArt Photo 
Studio Free
This popular all-in-one app allows you to take photos, 
process images, apply effects, create collages and 
share your fi nished creations. The in-app camera is 
admittedly a bit basic, with no manual controls, but 
the image processing and effects module is one of the 
most comprehensive on the market, with advanced 
features such as curves adjustments, cloning and 
perspective tools available, alongside all the standard 
adjustments. There’s a huge array of digital fi lter 
effects, backed up by a generous selection of frames, 
stickers, masking effects, clip art and suchlike. As with 
many of the better photography apps, there’s a strong 
community element to it, too, that allows you to share 
your images with other PicsArt users, as well as enter 
competitions. If you’d prefer to upload your images to 
social media, then you’ll fi nd sharing links to all the 
big-name players. The only slight issue we have with 
PicsArt is that because it tries to do so much, it can 
take a little time getting used to the layout. 
AVAILABLE FOR: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Google Snapseed 
Originally designed and released by the same 
team responsible for the legendary Nik Software 
range of Photoshop plug-ins (also now free, by the 
way), Snapseed is now owned by Google. At its heart, 
Snapseed is a powerful Raw-compatible image-
editing app that has been specifi cally designed for 
touchscreen devices. Neatly presented and relatively 
intuitive to use, Snapseed combines a range of basic 
‘one-click’ editing tools and digital fi lters with a 
selection of more advanced processing options, 
including localised adjustment tools that can be used 
for dodging and burning, or even to add selective 
focus to your images. Elsewhere, the app’s generous 
range of image-wide editing options are controlled 
via intuitive drag-and-swipe controls that work in 
harmony with a small touchscreen device. In addition 
to basic image-processing, the app can also be used 
to add frames and text to images, capped off with a 
good range of sharing options.  
AVAILABLE FOR: Android and iOS

Camera Zoom FX 
Free / £2.99
Taking its cue from Camera FV-5 (see above) and 
Manual Camera (another Android photo app), Camera 
Zoom FX is another Raw-capable third-party camera 
app that offers tons of manual control over your 
camera, including shutter speed on compatible 
Android handsets. In addition, Camera Zoom FX also 
offers a good range of shooting modes including a 
stabilised Stable Shot mode, a Best Shot mode, a 
Timelapse mode and an HDR mode among others. The 
main way in which Camera Zoom FX differs from other 
serious-minded photography apps such as Camera 
FV-5 is that in addition to providing access to all the 
serious things demanded by enthusiasts, it also 
throws in a bunch of fun stuff too such as digital fi lters 
and sticker packs. Some of this does need to be paid 
for, mind. There’s a trial version where you can have 
a look at the layout and see how you get on, but in 
order to unlock the best features you’ll need to 
upgrade to the premium version. 


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