Photo Apps for Dummies

As the field of journalism evolves, it’s becoming increasingly important for journalists to have at least somewhat of an understanding of photography. Luckily, as everything becomes more digital, it’s much easier for those with minimal photography skills to take decent-looking photos. You may not know what an f-stop is, or why saturation matters, or what white balance does, but with some handy dandy photography apps, you can shoot almost like a professional. You may be asking – why can’t I just use my phone’s camera? It’s got, like, 8 megapixels or something, right? Well, yeah, it does, but the camera that comes on your phone can be so much more useful with the help of some inexpensive add-ons. With these apps, you have much more control over focus, brightness and filtering, as well as adding more edits and overlays after you take the photo. You can add things like burst speeds, continuous flash, grids, stabilizers, and more. Crazy, right?

So without further ado, here are some of the most useful photography apps that I’ve discovered!

1. Camera+

There are 2-3 apps on here that I’d recommend you download ASAP if you’re doing any sort of photography. Camera+ is one of them. Camera+ does just about everything. While the camera is open, you can touch-adjust aperture, add a flashlight to more naturally light a scene, use a grid to help line up a shot and adds a longer digital zoom. After you take the shot, Camera+ has a “Clarity” feature where a single tap can help quickly adjust the photo. You can then adjust colors, intensity, brightness, saturation and more manually. You can add vignettes, borders, captions and more. Camera+ also syncs with iCloud Lightbox so you can access photos on any device connected to it.

Price: $1.99

2. Photoshop Express

If you’ve used Photoshop (or been intimidated by Photoshop), Photoshop Express is essentially a really nice, clean and highly minimal version of Photoshop, or a lighter version of Camera+. With a smooth interface, Photoshop Express allows you to straighten, saturate, edit, adjust and more in the app. This is a great app for people with minimal photo experience and just want some quick ways to make their photos look better. While it doesn’t offer the range of one-tap options that Camera+ does, Photoshop Express is a great option for those who are just looking to quickly edit a photo or two and go.

Price: Free!

Photoshop Express app interface

3. PicFrame

You’ve probably heard of PicStitch – advertised as the #1 photo collaging app, it’s a pretty good free option (pssssttttt, there are better options for varied collages coming later on!). PicFrame is essentially the upgraded version of PicStitch, and I think it’s worth the buck for a lot more flexibility with border size, colors, patterns and text options. It has an easy, user-friendly interface with tons of options for different collages. You can also edit, crop and filter the photos themselves once you’ve already dropped them into the frame. Lots of different options for more professional-looking collages.

Price: $0.99

Photo collage created with PicFrame

4. PhotoGene

On the pricier end of photo collaging apps is PhotoGene. PhotoGene is essentially a combination of Photoshop Express and PicFrame – it offers a ton of different frames to choose from while still allowing for lots of in-app adjustments like saturation, white balance, straightening, color, levels, curves and more. It allows for retouching photos as well, with heal, dodge, burn, sharpen tools and beyond. With PhotoGene, you can also add text bubbles, captions, and more in-depth layered collages.

Price: $2.99

5. Pixlr Express

In my research for this post, I downloaded this app to test it out and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite photo editing apps. Pixlr Express offers an awesome user experience and a great photo editing tool for the more artistic side of photography. This acts as kind of hybrid between a mini-Photoshop and Instagram-like app, with tons of filters that can be edited and adjusted, as well as tools like heal, brighten, sharpen, focus which can all be fine-tuned to specific parts of the photo. Pixlr Express allows the user to create collages as well – you can physically overlay photos on top of each other or use one of their collage templates. Overall, a really fun app to mess around if you enjoy editing photos.

Price: Free!

Pixlr Express interface

6. FaceTune

For the more professional photographers in us, FaceTune is a great tool for creating that seamless, cover model effect for the people in your photos. While some of the other photography options offer small tools for healing blemishes, FaceTune goes all-out: whitening, smoothing, brightening, patching, the whole shebang. FaceTune is really useful if you know you’re going to be taking a lot of close-up shots of people and just want to clean up any blemishes, stray hairs or the like.

Price: $2.99

7. VSCO Cam

After initially being very confused as to what this app even did, I started to understand why people are hailing it as “the new Instagram,” I started to understand why it’s as popular as it has been. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you probably will very soon – but for right now, it’s only gained a lot of traction in “hipster” crowds. It’s essentially an upgraded version of Instagram, with multiple filters you can overlay onto your photo and then scale back with sliders. The in-app camera is actually pretty useful, it offers not only a grid, continuous flash, and almost all the other features of other apps, but also a stabilizer which lets you know when your photo is level. It also allows you to follow other users “grids,” or photo streams (interestingly similar to Instagram… hmmm…). VSCO Cam’s downfall  is that it is really not user friendly. Nothing is labeled and for a new user, it has a fairly large learning curve to get used to the extremely minimalistic design and remember what all the different buttons do. After you get it, it’s pretty cool, but it’s not as intuitive as some of its competitors.

Price: Free!

VSCO Cam interface

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