Images have become one of the most common currencies of the internet, and with smartphone cameras able to at least match most point-and-shoot cameras, there’s really no excuse for having poor photos online! While you can find good quality free stock imagery on sites like Wikimedia Commons and Free Images, at least you can guarantee you haven’t accidentally infringed any copyright if you take the photos yourself.
But taking the photos is half the battle (and taking decent photos will be the subject of another post). How do you edit them so they don’t look so flat and lifeless? I’d always use Photoshop, and have done since around 2003, but it’s extremely pricey (unless you get the less powerful Photoshop Elements), and there is a learning curve. A good free alternative for a desktop PC is Serif PhotoPlus Starter Edition, and I hear good things about GIMP, but what if you just want to edit and upload a photo direct from your phone?
There’s always Instagram, with its inbuilt editor and filters, but how about dedicated photo editing apps? I gave a few a go, and I’ve decided that these four offer the best experience – and they’re all free!
Made by Autodesk, this app is available for both iPhone and Android, and is probably my favourite because I’ve been using it the longest. You can retouch photos (the Heal function works like the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop), alter brightness and contrast, adjust the hue and saturation, and so on, and it also comes with a host of built-in filters and effects, such as light leaks, textures, and vignettes. You can also add text to images, and though you can choose the font, you can’t alter the text size. Some of the filters or textures are a bit naff, and you soon find yourself using favourites, but it’s a pretty solid app.
Here are a couple of examples using what’s on offer.
This app is available for both iPhone and Android, and it’s a relatively recent addition to my arsenal. Again you can apply filters, and apply image adjustments, but as the name implies, it also acts as a camera. You can upload photos to your library and share them, and you can even create journal posts that let you essentially create a blog post including your images, which is great for travel photography. It’s also a community as well as an app so you can search for individual photos or people, and do a spot of visual networking. It’s a lot more powerful than Instagram and at the moment the photos are a lot more artistic than the cat pictures and food photos on the ‘Gram. If you’re looking for visual inspiration or you want to share your pictures with more serious photographers, then give this one a go.
If you want to follow me on VSCO Cam, then go here.
This app is available for both iPhone and Android. As with the others, there are the usual image editing options like Brightness/Contrast or Temperature, as well as a series of filters with names like Lens Blur, Glamour, or HDR. It’s a solid app but it lacks the ‘network’ functionality of VSCO Cam. There are a series of tutorials here for helping you to get the most out of the app! The one advantage of Snapseed over the other apps is the fact you can also use it to correct vertical and horizontal perspective problems. It also allows you to target specific parts of the image for adjustments, meaning you can just fix problem areas.
Here are examples using what’s on offer.
This app is available for both iPhone and Android. I had this app a while ago and ditched it because it wasn’t brilliant, but I decided to give it another go. Now you can sign into it using your Adobe ID (if you have one) and as with the other apps, you can edit your images, apply filters, crop and so on. It’s a powerful app and offers way more filters than the others, but then you do risk your photos look TOO edited if you only ever throw filters at them.
Here are examples using what’s on offer.
Which app you use will pretty much depend on what you want to use it for, but as these are all free you can download them all, try them out and see which ones suit your requirements the best. Just remember – no amount of filters will disguise a bad photo, so make sure you take the best photos you can in the first place!