The 32 best photo apps

We select the best photo apps for iPhone, iPad and Android from cool cameras to photo editor tools.

Here is the definitive guide to the best photo apps around, covering iOS (that's iPhone and iPad) and Android apps. Some you won't have heard of, others you'll be more familiar with.

None are going to replace a DSLR and a couple of hours with a photo editor like Photoshop CC, but they're all great at what they do...

01. Instagram

Best photo apps: Instagram
With a few simple edits, Instagram transforms photos into works of art
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Instagram, Inc
  • Price: Free

Even if you're new to the world of photo apps chances are you've heard of Instagram. Capable of turning the most everyday photo into something glamorous thanks to its range of custom-designed filters and editing tools, Instagram has won over a legion of fans and dedicated users.

In fact its popularity has lead to people pointing out when their well composed photos haven't been polished by the app thanks to the hashtag 'no filter'. When you've inspired a meme, you know your app is on to a winner.

Put simply, there is a reason Instagram is so popular. It's powerful, versatile, and best of all it's free. Thanks to its connection with Twitter and Facebook, Instagram has also become a social media platform in itself. With the latest version allowing users to combine several clips into one video, it appears that this familiar app still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

02. Pixlr

Best photo apps: Pixlr
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Developer: Autodesk Inc
  • Price: Free

Boasting over two million combinations of effects, overlays and filters, Pixlr contains enough tools to keep you busy for hours. Users can also  layer their images, add text captions, and it is also an excellent collage maker. Plus in the new version you'll also find an eraser to autofix and auto contrast, and added labels for better navigation between effects. Not bad for a free app.

03. Fotor

  • Platform: iOS (iPhone), Android
  • Developer: Everimagining Co., Ltd
  • Price: Free

Looking for a flexible photo editing app that's easy to pick up and produces quality results? Fotor delivers all of this, and best of all you can download it for free. This versatile app lets you edit, collage and share images, plus you can discover masterpieces snapped by other users.

The latest version, Fotor 6.3.1, comes with the world's first 'focus' feature. Making the most of new SLR technology, you can now use your phone to create pictures with greater depth and clarity. Simply select a focal point, adjust the emulator to your preference, and create a high definition finish.

04. Lifecake

Save and organise pictures of your children growing up with Lifecake. In a timeline free from the adverts and noise that clutter most social media channels, you can easily look back over fond memories and share them with family and friends.

Touted as 'a time machine of your child's life', you can skip to select stages and compare different dates. You decide who can see your images, and because Lifecake is now a Canon company you can order a printed album of your precious photos.

05. Qwik

Qwik describes itself as 'the fastest and easiest way to make pretty photos,' and with other 600 filers, plus tons of fonts and frames, it's hard to argue with them.

Edit your images in seconds with straightforward hands-on tools, and share them with Qwik's online community. With new filters and features being added every week, Qwik is constantly keeping itself fresh and exciting.

06. VSCO Cam

Connect with amazing photographers from around the world, and create your own stunning photography with VSCO Cam. Create your own VSCO Journal to join in with the community and find inspiration form other users. Unlike other social platforms, your followers and clout are not displayed, giving everyone an equal creative playing field.

VSCO Cam comes packed with top performance features, including high resolution imports, and before and after comparisons to show how you built up your edit. Introduce yourself to the community by downloading it for free.

07. Camera MX

  • Platform: Android
  • Developer: Appic Labs Corp
  • Price: Free

The Android exclusive photo app Camera MX combines powerful enhancement tools with a beautifully simple user interface. Thanks to intelligent image prcoessing you can take visibly sharper snaps, as well as cutting and trimming them to perfection in the edit.

In the latest version you can create dynamic photos with the 'Live Shot' feature. By saving the last seconds before you actually take the photo, this app lets users capture moving snaps that can be relived and shared.

08. Lensical

Lensical makes creating face effects as simple as adding photo filters. Lensical is designed for larger displays and utilises one-handed gesture-based controls making it the perfect complement to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S Plus's cameras.

09. PixelWakker

Best photo apps: PixelWakker
PixelWakker transforms your pics into pointillist art

If you're a fan of pointillism then this is the photo app for you. PixelWakker breaks down your images into their component pixels and that's where the fun begins. You can apply one of four great effects – pixel image, dots, line, or color rain – to your pics and watch in wonder as dot art unfolds before your eyes.

10. PicLab HD

Best photo apps: Piclab
Use the photo editor to quickly create trendy infographic images with this photo app

PicLab HD is a nifty app for creating those inspiring images that you get all over the internet these days. You know, the ones featuring a photo – probably with at least one retro filter applied – with a helpful aphorism layered over the top in an attractive, friendly typeface. Yeah, those. PicLab HD makes them an absolute doddle, enabling you to either snap a photo or grab one from your photo library, then go to town on it.

As well as adding typography – lots of fonts and full control over size, positioning, opacity, rotation, and colour – you can also layer illustrations, ornamentation and other design elements on top of your image. PicLab HD features full layer-based editing and also packs plenty of tools for making your original photo look its best, with loads of lighting and film effects to choose from as well as preset photo filters and adjustment tools for fine tuning the brightness, contrast, exposure, saturation, and the blur level of your photos.

11. Sktchy

Best photo app: sktchy
You'll either love or hate sketch-based community photo editor app Sktchy

Connecting with people around the world in a new way, here you can choose from a selection of photographs, uploaded by the Sktchy community and create a portrait from that image.

Sktchy co-founder Jordan Melnick comments: "Our community of artists is growing every day because Sktchy is the perfect place for them to find inspiration and share their art with the world, in part because of the neat way we layer portraits over the photos that inspired them."

12. Photoristic HD

Best photo apps: Photoristic
Photoristic sits midway between basic native apps and expensive pro applications
  • Platform: iOS (iPad)
  • Developer: Georgii Kharchenko
  • Price: $2.99/£2.29

Photoristic HD is an iPad image app that's just powerful enough to be quite useful without overloading you with features that you don't really want.

It's all about the photo editor – it features standard image adjustment tools (white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, vibrance and saturation), with additional colour controls, a black and white mode, split toning and a hefty collection of presets for Instagram-style quick fixes.

It's fast and easy to use and can handle images up to 20 megapixels, and while they're not exactly giving it away it comes at a fairly reasonable price for its no-nonsense set of genuinely useful photo tools.

13. Photochop

Best photo apps: Photochop
Photochop - Chop Up and Distort Your Photos does exactly what it says on the tin
  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)
  • Developer: Big Bucket Software
  • Price: $0.99/£0.79

We probably like this app for its name (in full: Photochop – Chop Up and Distort Your Photos) as much as for its function. It's a cheap and cheerful little photo editor tool for mucking about with pictures. Simply pick a snap from your iPhone's photo library, chop it up into a set of tiles and then go crazy.

You can either work directly with the tiles, dragging them around, rotating and resizing them to create a collage effect, or there's a warp mode that works in the same way but results in a distorted image rather than a collage. Obviously it's nothing you can't easily do in any image editing app in a couple of minutes and you'll be hard pushed to find a serious application for it, but it's a fun graphical toy to have in your pocket.

14. Handy Photo

The selling point of photo editor Handy Photo is its interface, which uses the corners of the screen to cater for rotating menu options. It's all designed to keep the central area of the screen clear, allowing you to use swipe gestures to tone your effects up or down, much like Luminance.

It's a powerful photo editor; the UI isn't for everyone, but this is an amazing price for the effects you get. The 'Move Me' tool enables you to clip out objects and move, resize or flip them.

15. Path On

Best photo apps: Path on
Add images to your text with Path On

Path On lets you add funky text to photos in unique ways. You draw the path you'd like the words to take, then type in your message – the text then flows along the path. The custom options are the real killer feature here, with you being able to adjust the font, the letter space, and the alignment. Although it's a little fiddly, Path On is probably the best adding-text-to-photos tool around.

16. Camera+

Best photo apps: Camera +
Camera+ is adored by iPad users and has subsequently arrived on iPhone - hooray!
  • Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)
  • Developer: tap tap tap
  • Price: $2.99/£2.29 (iPhone), $4.99/£3.99 (iPad)

The Camera app that comes on the iPhone by default is not brilliant: yes, you can use it to take some decent shots, but it doesn't offer you much creative control. This is where Camera+ excels. The app has two parts: a camera and a photo editor, and it truly excels at the latter, with a huge range of advanced features.

Camera+ doesn't just limit you to editing new pics – you can quickly import your existing photos into the Lightbox so that you can breathe new life into them.

17. Facetune

Best photo apps: Facetune
Hide your blemishes, wrinkles and more with Facetune's photo editor

Embarrassed about your laughter lines? Feeling blue about those blemishes? Fear not, Facetune is here! Grab a photo from your Camera Roll and start your makeover; you can remove unwanted freckles, blemished skin or hide bags under the eyes with Smooth; reshape that wonky nose or misshapen jawline with, er, Reshape; and make subtle tweaks of colour using Tone.

The results of this photo editor are truly impressive. You can share results over Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr – if you dare.

18. Geló

Best photo apps: gelo
Persevere with Geló and the results will speak for themselves

A splash of colour can alter the look of an photo dramatically. Give your iPhone shots some extra oomph with this cool app for the iPhone. Gradients have become a lost art in iPhone photography, but Geló fills that gap in the market well. It needs a little more patience than your average photo app, but persevere and the results are excellent.

Once you've taken or imported an image, you see a carousel of 'gels'. Cycle through to choose a colour, tap it, and then it’s applied to your shot. Using the sliders you can tweak how the filter affects your shot, and you can easily apply specific RGB values though, that might mimic your favourite tints in iPhoto or Photoshop, say.

19. Clone Camera Pro

Best photo apps: Clone Camera Pro
Double up your images with Clone Camera Pro

A smart photo-compositing app that allows you to double up on your images. Clone Camera lets you produce a 'photo' of a scene with the same person in it multiple times. It's simply a case of taking up to four photos of the same person in a different location, and then selecting the areas you want to stitch together into the final photo. The app works best if you have a tripod, or can otherwise keep your device still.

20. Retromatic

best iPhone photo apps: Handy
Retromatic can be frustrating at times but it portrays a great vintage feel

1950s-inspired photo app Retromatic enables you to import your photos, cut them out using an instant alpha tool, and then apply vintage effects to them. It's quick and easy to use, and looks great, although expect frustration if you want to do anything more than the basics. The instant alpha tool works well, but you have to hold down on the screen to make it switch between a brush and pinching to zoom.

21. Camera360

Best photo apps: camera360
Camera360 offers a huge range of functions and no ads

Camera360 is a remarkable smartphone photo app. It's perfectly self-contained with a huge range of functions, no ads and no insistence in promoting paid content.

Touching the photo after applying a filter produces a nifty quick comparison of the 'before' and 'after' versions. One drawback is that the process of importing photos is slightly tedious, with one too many clicks involved. Tip: go to Enhancement>Night for a great filter to correct slightly dark or underexposed photos.

22. PhotoWonder

Best phone apps: Photo Wonder
Phot oWonder has a good collage feature with multiple layouts and photo booth effects
  • Platform: iOS (iPhone), Android
  • Developer: Beijing Baidu Netcom
  • Price: Free

Excellent user interface makes Photo Wonder one of the speediest smartphone photo apps to use. It also has a good collage feature with multiple layouts and photo booth effects. The filter selection isn’t huge, but many are so well-designed that you’ll find them far more valuable than sheer quantity from a lesser app. The 'Vintage' filter works magic on photos of buildings or scenery. Combine with 'Sweety' for a dreamy retro effect.

23. Magic Hour Lite/Free

Best photo apps: Magic Hour Lite
Magic Hour Lite has some brilliant filters and a tilt-shift function

The combination of subtle filters and tilt-shift function allows Magic Hour Lite (called Magic Hour Free on Android) to produce some truly unique results. The filters create effects that are far more sophisticated than some of the tinted, overexposed pre-sets from other apps.

Note that this photo app forces you to crop your image to a square, which can either be a hassle or very convenient if you’re uploading to Instagram. The 'Magic Hour' filter gives everything a lovely, soft luminescence. All filters seem to work best on lighter images, such as those taken in daylight or pre-edited to reduce underexposure.

24. LINE Camera

Best photo apps: LINE camera
You can add text to your pictures in over 100 fonts and 20 colours
  • Platform: iOS (iPhone), Android
  • Developer: Naver Japan
  • Price: Free

Sleek and easy-to-use, LINE Camera comes with a solid range of filters, borders, icons and stamps. You can also add text to your pictures in over 100 fonts and 20 colours, making this free smartphone photo app one of the best for typography. Check out Stamp>Heart Symbol>Shine for a nice selection of kitschy sparkle brushes.

25. Tadaa

Best photo app: TADAA
Tadaa is great for fine-tuning photos

Tadaa lets you adjust the strength of all its filters, which is ideal for people who like fine-tuning their photos with subtle effects. This iPhone photo app tries to get you to use its own social network, but you can still use all features without a login.

Click on the frame icon to access a nice range of photo film borders. Unlike Instagram and Magic Hour, you're not limited to a square and can apply the film border to a photo of any size.

26. Rakuga Cute

Best photo apps: Rakuga cute
Look beyond the cuteness and Rakuga Cute has some interesting features
  • Platform: iOS (iPhone)
  • Developer: Tatsumi Electronics
  • Price: Free

At first glance this iPhone photo app seems aimed at Japanese schoolgirls rather than discerning designers but Rakuga Cute actually contains some unusual editing functions which makes it an interesting addition to your photo repertoire.

The 'Mosaic' option lets you selectively pixelate any part of a photo, quite useful for blurring out license-plates, identities or should you feel so inclined, body parts as well.

27. Camera Awesome

best iPhone photo apps: Handy
Camera Awesome truly is awesome

An extremely slick interface and witty copywriting makes iPhone and iPad photo app Camera Awesome a delight to use. The functions and filters are grown-up and sophisticated, and the 'Awesomize' button lets you brighten and sharpen a picture using one click, but still with the option of fine-tuning details if you wish.

The only inconvenience is that in the process of editing a picture you'll inevitably end up previewing demo versions of paid-for features so there's constant backtracking involved if you want to stick with free content.

28. Photoshop Express

Best photo apps: Photoshop express
Photoshop Express offers the sort of professionalism you'd expect from Adobe

As you would expect from Adobe, the interface and user experience of  the Photoshop Express photo app for Apple and Android devices is faultless. It fulfils all the functions you need for picture editing and will probably be the one you turn to for sheer convenience. 'Straighten' and 'Flip' are two useful functions not included in many other apps.

However none of the filters really jump out, and some are surprisingly naff for an app that comes from the developer for designers.

29. Photo Editor by Aviary

Best photo apps: Photo Editor by Aviary
Aviary strikes a balance between serious and playful

Aviary is a very pleasantly designed app that strikes the perfect balance between serious photo-editing and playful photo-decoration functions without looking bland or childish. Perhaps because it's quite new, the selection of filters and stickers are fairly small, so any future updates would give this app great room for play. 

The 'Strato' filter creates one of the most convincing vintage effects from all the apps tested.

30. Paper Camera

Best photo apps: Paper Camera
Paper Camera's interface is quirky to say the least

Filter effects aren't exactly a new thing, but Paper Camera takes a different approach to the post effects found in the likes of Instagram. What does it do? Well, it displays effects in real time on your camera as you're using it. There are some neat effects on offer - including cartoon, half tone and sketch.

31. 3DSteroid Pro

Want to create stereoscopic 3D images from the camera on your phone? Yes, thought so. Check out 3DSteroid Pro – an app that enables you to do just that, with some excellent tools and a very user-friendly interface. You can even save out a high-res image.

32. Ampergram

Best photo apps: Ambergram
Ambergram is a great way to play with photos and type

Combining typography with popular photo editor Instagram led  Phillip Pastore to create Ambergram, a cool app that enables you to create endless typographic compositions using cool photos of fonts.

You can capture and tag your own letters, or use the app's already stellar offerings generated by the community. Letter results can be filtered by style and the location in which they were spotted.

This is an updated version of a feature which originally appeared on Creative Bloq.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Craig Stewart is managing editor of Creative Bloq. Craig has written about everything from cars and design to football and tech for numerous national newspapers, websites and magazines, including Classic Ford, The Scotsman and T3.