The genres of photography, image editing, styling and sharing, being among the most popular on the iOS App Store (after platformers and games in general, of course), are becoming increasingly saturated, which makes it quite hard for both new users and seasoned iPhoneographers to pick out the good ones. Seeing this as another opportunity to help our readers out, we’ve compiled a list of fifteen of the best free apps from the aforementioned genres.
This list includes apps that allow capturing, editing, styling and/or sharing photos for free, which is why we’ve left out the likes of Dotti Disposable Camera, Hipstamatic Disposable, & PopBooth mainly because the apps themselves might be free but their core purpose or majority content isn’t. Also, note that none of the following apps are iPad-exclusive, though several do have iPad variants.
Inarguably the most popular mobile photo styling and sharing app to date, Instagram comes packed with several beautiful filters, linear and radial tilt-shift blur effects and an auto-enhancement feature called Lux, that allows you to balance the contrast, tone and color of your photos with a single tap. The app lets you share your photographic endeavors on its network, follow other users as well as view, Like and comment on photos uploaded by them.
There are now more than a few Instagram spin-offs available on all major mobile platforms, but as the app was one of the first, and still is one of the best of its kind, it has a much larger and faster-growing userbase than its competitors.
Microsoft’s Photosynth is one of the technology giant’s better contributions to the mobile world and perhaps one of the best panorama capturing and sharing apps out there. Unlike most other panoramic photography apps, Photosynth lets you capture 360 degree panoramas on both the vertical and horizontal access, enabling the user to capture the entire environment around a point. The capturing process is extremely simple, and the results are usually without much blemishes if not flawless.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Calling Adobe Photoshop Express the “Photoshop for smartphones” would be pushing it, but it is, nevertheless, quite a handy image editing tool to have on your device. The app sports essential image editing and styling options, including basic editing tools (Crop, Straighten, Rotate & Flip), color adjustments (such as Exposure, Saturation & Contrast), filters (such as Sketch, Sharpen & Reduce Noise), filters and borders, providing you with a quick, no-fuss way to enhance your mobile photos before you share them with friends.
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Piictu is a simple app based on a unique concept that makes capturing photos all the more fun. Users from all over the world upload photos to the app’s network and reply to each others’ uploads with more photos, or piics, as they are called. So if, for instance, someone uploads a screenshot of their favorite technology blog captioned “My favorite blog. What’s yours?”, you could reply with a screenshot of the AddictiveTips homepage. Just an example, of course.
The easiest way to describe Pudding.to would be to call it an enhanced, cross-platform (Android and iOS) Instagram alternative. In addition to capturing photos, applying filters (which, in this case, are better than those found in most other similar apps), linear tilt-shift effect, and sharing the results with the app’s own network, Facebook & Twitter, you can find and connect with Pudding.to users in and around your location, upload up to four photos at once in the form of a “photo story” of sorts, and emoticons add/or tags to each upload, signifying your mood, sharing your current location or tracks from your iTunes library.
Read the full review
Magic Hour Lite
A rich photo styling app with a very well-crafted interface and styling mechanism. In addition to providing you with over 40 built-in filters, and endless collection of downloadable ones (uploaded to the app’s online repo by other users), Magic Hour allows you to create and upload your own, and adjust existing ones. You can tweak the hue, saturation and brightness values, adjust the curves, vignette, texture and frame of each filter, and top it off with a radial tilt-shift blur. Magic Hour’s simple yet comprehensive nature landed its Android variant a spot on our list of the best photo editors for the platform.
Read the full review (Magic Hour for Android)
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iRetouch, as its name suggests, aims to help you enhance your photos, or clear even the slightest blemishes from them. The app sports a minimalistic interface and basic editing tools (resizing, cropping, rotating and color adjustment) and a collection of advanced tools that truly hold it apart from other apps of its kind. These include selective blur, smudge, color adjustment (involves painting the chosen effect over the photo with a brush size, softness and opacity of choice) and an excellent adaptation of the Photoshop’s clone stamp tool for removing unwanted objects from an image. Though a little slower and harder to use than that of TouchRetouch for Android and iOS, iRetouch’s clone stamp tool provides equally good (if not better) results. Moreover, the app is an excellent alternative to TouchRetouch, as the free iOS variant of the latter adds a watermark to each result.
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Picture Effect Magic
With 95 impressive image effects (around half of which are adjustable), over 30 frames and graffiti, basic image editing tools (rotate and crop) and color adjustment, Picture Effect Magic is perhaps one of the most comprehensive image styling apps on the iOS App Store. Apart from the aforementioned, the app sports the option to draw doodles over images, retain or remove color from, or apply the mosaic effect on selective parts of an image by painting the selected effect over it with a brush shape, size and transparency of your choice.
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There is no shortage of conventional photo-sharing iOS apps that bank on quantity, which is why apps that bring something new to the table are an instant hit with users, which, in turn, is why glmps has made this list. That app lets you capture photos and the few seconds that led to each. Each Glimpse consists of a photo along with a video of the few seconds before its capture, and can be shared over the app’s very own network. Glimpses uploaded by glmps users from all around the world can be viewed, Liked, commented on and re-shared.
Pho.to Lab is a cloud-based image-styling app that has been included in this list courtesy of the inexhaustible amount of effects that it provides. As of this writing, there are over 450 effects, filters, frames, face montages and collages in the app’s online repository.
Read the full review
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Developed by Autodesk, the company behind AutoCAD, Pixlr-o-matic is a quick and easy way to apply gorgeous filters, effects and frames to your photos. Although not as feature-rich as other apps from the genre, the app produces better results than most.
Read the full review
Based roughly around the concept of Hipstamatic Disposable, Pinweel is the ideal app to have on your iDevice while attending a special event with friends or family. The app lets you capture and import photos, apply filters to them and upload them to an album that is shared between a group of contributors who you can invite from Facebook and Twitter. Photos captured by each contributor are shared with all others in real-time, can be Liked and commented on. That’s not all; you can set albums you create as public or private, allow anyone to upload to your public albums, follow friends and the photos uploaded to group albums created by them.
A easy-to-use app with a simple yet extremely well-executed concept, Pic Collage is a downright treat to use. The app allows you import multiple photos from your local library, Facebook, and the web, capture new photos, and create and share gorgeous collages out of them within seconds. You can set a background of your choice, add stickers and text, resize, rotate and edit the border of each photo or set any as the background of the collage. To top it all off, the app comes packed with an Aviary photo editor for applying effects to and adjusting the brightness, saturation and color of photos.
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Retro Camera is a quick and simple way of giving your photos a vintage look. The app focuses on simplicity and presentation, and its results are impressive. It allows users to pick from a collection of retro cameras (each sporting a different effect), changing the looks of the capturing interface accordingly. Results are instantly processed and saved to Camera Roll, but can also be viewed from within the app’s built-in gallery.
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Although there are countless sketch effect apps out there, very few get the effect right. Sketch+ is perhaps one of the best in this regard. The mechanism is the same, of course; the app lets you capture/import photos, and choose one of several effects that make it look hand-drawn. You can also choose to retain the color of the original photo in the (otherwise grayscale) result.
Did you find one or more of your favorites in the list? If not, which ones would you add to it? Feel free to leave us a comment, and if you liked this post, don’t forget to check out our compilation of great photo editing and sharing apps for Android.