Post-processing is an important part of photography, and it becomes even more important with smartphone photos that may lack depth of color and and dynamic range. With the advent of Instagram and its imitators, filters have come to rule the day for most casual photogs, but many of us demand more control. Here are five great tools for making your photos sing to your very own tune.
Many photographers experimenting with smartphone editing have realized that it's almost impossible to find one single app that does everything you want. Instead, it is more effective to rely on a workflow of multiple apps, selectively using specific tools from each. Be careful though. Too many re-saves and an image can lose quality as it is compressed over and over. Try not to save the image more than twice over if you can help it.
A truly under-appreciated app, Afterlight combines a great user interface with a really well-rounded set of features. Tons of manual adjustments modes combined with many presets make this probably the app I would choose on this list if I only could use one. I love how you can make a photo square for Instagram by adding white letterboxing. That way you don't have to crop your perfectly composed picture. [iTunes, $1]
Snapseed has a decent all-around adjustments toolbox, but the HDR Scape tool is extra fun. Ok, HDR is way overused and often makes perfectly fine photos look disgusting. But it can be fun simply for effect, and if you just TONE IT DOWN A BIT, it can yield some decent results. Snapseed's HDR Scape tool seems to do it the best, and most exaggerated, if you want that look. My other favorite tool on Snapseed is the Details adjustment. This tool is a particularly well-implemented sharpening algorithm that will give your photos just a bit of extra pop. Other features in the app are useful, if heavy-handed on the fake-film artifacts. Please use carefully. [iTunes / Google Play, Free]
When I import a photo into VSCO Cam, it's usually because I want to keep it tasteful. They have a great many film-like presets (which cost money), but they are generally much more subtle than Instagram's filters. You can make adjustments as well, though their tool-set isn't quite as robust as Afterlight. [iTunes / Google Play, Free]
You can't really control shutter speed with the iOS camera app, but Slow Shutter Cam pretty much fakes it for you. Use it to capture light trails for a timelapse effect in night scenes, or just get zany with its various settings. It's not an app you'll use every day but it's great to mix things up with. [iTunes, $1]