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Most Popular Free Photography Apps on iOS: Taking Smartphone Photography to a new Level

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Photography is one of the most involving activities a person can get into. It is a passionate indulgence and, when done right, extremely rewarding and satisfying. Yet, it is challenging even as a hobby if one wishes to master the art of capturing life into a lens.

Before the arrival of digital cameras and their eventual popularity, serious photography had been quite challenging because of the way it works – each and every aspect of shooting a picture involves manual functionality and thereby understanding how everything works – from adjusting the focus to finding the right light.

But for many years, digital cameras have made things much simpler, however, it is the mobile phones that have to be credited to literally bring the ‘art’ of photography into the hands of who-is-anybody. And while that happened, in came the smartphones that have eventually made cameras one of their strongest selling points.

Fast forward to the present day, we are witnessing a radical change in smartphone photography. The introduction of dual cameras has opened new possibilities for the phone manufacturers and developers alike. Cameras on smartphones, today, are like an alternative to manual DSLR cameras for people who cannot afford dedicated equipment or who simply do not wish to invest in one probably because they look at it as nothing more than a casual hobby. (We would like to make it clear that no camera phone in existence can replace a DSLR camera (or even a good digital camera). We haven’t arrived at that technological breakthrough yet).

For app developers, it is a fantastic opportunity to create photography apps and softwares with new features that can utilize the latest advancements in smartphone photography hardware. Both go hand-in-hand and especially in the world of handsets, none can advance much without the other.

Shooting in RAW

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While Android has had it for some time, iOS became capable of shooting in RAW only recently with iOS 10 (and from iPhone 6S onwards). For people who may not know, RAW is a type of image which contains zero to minimal processing from the lens while an image is shot. Basically, it is mostly an unprocessed picture (hence appropriately named RAW) and allows a photographer to process it completely as per his liking. Also, it contains much more details and for this reason, occupies more space than a conventional JPEG.

Unfortunately, while Apple has made the latest iOS RAW friendly, its native camera app still does not allow shooting in RAW.

Photography Apps

Which brings us to the three latest photography apps on iOS that can produce some of the best looking photographs among all smartphones today. These are – VSCO, Snapseed and Camera+ and available free on the App Store. Of course, these apps support RAW which is one of the biggest reasons of their rising popularity.

VSCO

VSCO is considered one of the best apps on iOS especially because of its inbuilt filters that are supposedly the best currently. This app takes pictures only in RAW and provides preset filters as well as manual settings to fine-tune or edit the photos.

iPhone photography
VSCO – Studio screen

 

When the app is launched, it arrives on the ‘Studio’ screen (this can be changed in Settings) while the ‘Photo’ window hovers around the top screen. It has to be pulled down in order to click a picture. The ‘Photo’ screen is quite clean with some basic manual controls for ISO, White Balance, Brightness, Flash and Focus.

iPhone photography
VSCO – Photo window

 

Once the photo is taken it is stored in the ‘Studio’ from where it can be edited and finally saved to the Camera Roll as well. Perhaps the biggest reason VSCO is top rated is because of the various filters it offers. They are carefully programmed to deliver some interesting modifications to the lighting in the pictures without messing up the Exposure.

iPhone photography
VSCO – Filters as well as manual editing options

 

Secondly, VSCO has a community of its own and it allows people to share the pictures they’ve clicked or edited through the app. It is a good way to expose oneself to various other photographers and members. Furthermore, VSCO offers an even wider variety of features (read filters) that are paid. These features can be acquired by becoming a member of VSCO X for USD $ 19 for a year. The membership renews automatically for each year unless cancelled.

CAMERA+

Camera+ is another free app on iOS which is a preferred choice for people who like to have control over various parameters while clicking pictures. The app allows clicking pictures in lighter, conventional formats like JPEG. Also, an image is not directly captured in RAW, instead, the RAW version is derived during post editing. After an image is captured, it gets stored in the ‘Lightbox’ screen which offers two photo editing options – ‘Edit’ and ‘RAW Adjust’ – where the ‘Edit’ is a typical editing window while the ‘RAW Adjust’ offers more sophisticated lineup of options.

iPhone photography
Camera+ – manual controls as well as digital zoom (vertical slider on the right)

 

Once a picture has been edited through the ‘RAW Adjust’, the user can finally tap on the ‘Develop’ option to derive the RAW version of the image. Eventually, the image can be saved to the Camera Roll. On the other hand, the ‘Edit’ option provides various filters, frames and scenes to incorporate different effects into the captured image while also allowing for manual editing.

iPhone photography
Camera+ – Two editing options one each for normal and to derive the RAW image

 

(One particular feature which is the highlight under the ‘Edit’ section is the ‘Clarity’. It works through a slider and its algorithm intelligently auto adjusts various parameters to generate an overall sharper image).

Also, the manual controls in this app have a wider range than the ones in VSCO – for instance, the shutter speed in Camera+ can be lowered up to 30 seconds (and the ISO can be adjusted accordingly to manage the light).

SNAPSEED

Snapseed is the oldest of the three apps we have presented here and it has been available on iOS much before it supported RAW. Among the features this app offers, there are four HDR filters that give an interesting outcome to the images.

iPhone photography
Snapseed – majorly a photo editing tool. This is the first screen after the app is launched

 

It must be noted that the Snapseed is mostly a photo editing tool, however, people can also shoot images through it. But there are no manual controls on offer other than the choice of operating the flash. There is a wide array of features which is extremely effective in developing some of the most likeable pictures through a smartphone.

iPhone photography
Snapseed – a wide array of editing options

 

The manual editing options create some very neat images and their implementation is generally subtle without getting too heavy. Compared particularly to the Camera+, the editing options feel a bit more refined in application but that depends on individual taste as well.

iPhone photography
Snapseed – three different Save options

 

At their core, all three apps offer more or less similar features to capture and edit photos. Depending on the individual skill level and exposure to a particular app, a person can prefer one over the other two or use all three.

Suffice it to say that these are some of the most remarkable photo editing softwares that are available on iOS without a price. So if you happen to own a latest iPhone, let us know in the comments section if you are using any of these apps and how has your experience been.

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