12 crazy good iOS photography apps

photo apps

An Apple iPhone ad that aired in April claimed "Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera" and I can believe it. Not only are there are a boatload of iPhones in the wild, there are a huge number of apps that enhance and improve on Apple's default camera app making photography more accessible, more creative, and more social. This is a collection of some of the best and most interesting apps available.

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Filmic Pro

Filmic Pro ($4.99) is one of the most ambitious video camera apps available. It's got all the features you need to shoot pro-quality video including HD modes; zoom, focus, white balance, and exposure controls; selectable frame rates; motion effects; audio meters; aspect ratio overlays; external audio monitoring; even Chroma Key! It's consequently rather complicated and making it even more sophisticated there's a companion iOS app called Filmic Remote ($3.99) that allows you to connect to another iOS device running Filmic and control everything remotely. The low user ratings reflect the complexity and previous bugginess but I've not seen any major problems.

Customer rating: 3 out of 5 (548 ratings). Gearhead rating 4.5 out of 5.

BeFunky Photo Editor

BeFunky Photo Editor (free) is great for adding effects and editing photos and includes social sharing to the BeFunky Gallery, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr. You can rotate, sharpen, vignette photos as well as alter hue, exposure, saturation and so on. The free effects include Vintage, Pop Art, Grunge, Viewfinder, DuoTone, Toy Camera, Sketch, tilt-shift, Instant, Old Photo, Cross Process, Cyanotype, Gritty HDR, Pinhole, and Orton styles and you can add photo frames, text, and backgrounds. Six add-on effect packs and two frame packs are available as In-app purchases for $0.99 each.

Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 (30,102 ratings). Gearhead rating: 4.5 out of 5.

True HDR

True HDR ($0.99) produces High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. These are often stunning as they capturing a much wider range of exposure to produce images that often have a surreal quality. If you use a DSLR to produce HDR images you'll need to make multiple exposures and then export them to specialized software that will align the images, analyze them, and then merge them to produce a final image. True HDR can do all of the process for you painlessly. If you get ambitious you can also take control of any of the steps and tweak the settings to create exactly the image you want.

Customer rating: 3.5 out of 5 (1,409 ratings). Gearhead rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Photosynth (free) from Microsoft "stiches" together multiple photos in realtime to create interactive panoramas. While it's simple to use I've found that making really good panoramas with Photosynth is a bit hit-or-miss as the app doesn't handle brightness changes well and oftens make mistakes in blending the images.

Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4,847 ratings). Gearhead rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wood Camera

Wood Camera ($3.99) is focused (pun intended) on producing vintage looking photos. The app provides "lenses" that change images by emphasizing or changing various attributes such as focus, exposure, brightness, hue, etc. You can also add effects such as tilt-shift, textures, and vignettes. All lenses and effects are non-destructively layered so you can tweak to your heart's content without modifying the original photo then, when you're happy, either save the final result locally or share it using the built-in social network support.

Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 (2,985 ratings). Gearhead rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Stilla ($1.99) is a completely unusual photo app which the developers describe as a "gyroscopic 3D camera." The app notes the iPhone or iPad orientation as you take photos and layers them into a sort of merged collection. Again, the developers explain: "For every image you take, Stilla will remember the direction you were looking at. The result is interactive and resembles a crystal, a 3D object made of facets blending into each other as you turn it around." The results can be very interesting but the presentation is a little too novel to be something you'll use often.

Customer rating: 3.5 out of 5 (12 ratings). Gearhead rating: 1 out of 5.

YouTube Capture

If you're working your social channels YouTube Capture (free) makes posting videos of your kids in the ball pit or your puppies or even your puppies in the ball pit really easy. You can title your masterpiece, make color corrections, stabilize the video, and trim the length as well as add music to the soundtrack. Downsides: You can't post videos recorded by other apps and you can't pause video recording. YouTube Capture does its job simply and effectively but please, no more puppies.

Customer rating: 3.5 out of 5 (2,351 ratings). Gearhead rating:  2 out of 5.

Lens Flare

Lens Flare ($1.99) does what you might guess, it adds lens flare and related optical effects to photos. The app provides 50 effects including Hollywood style anamorphic flares, sci-fi effects, glints, and sun rays and flare parameters can be adjusted and moved within the image. This tool can improve a dull photo when used judiciously but it seems to tempt many users into overdoing the effects. Use with care.

Customer rating: 4 out of 5 (200 ratings). Gearhead rating:  4 out of 5.

Trigger hardware

Smart Trigger (free) remotely triggers DSLRs from your iPhone or other iOS device that supports Bluetooth Low Energy (LE). It requires the Satechi Smart Trigger hardware ($44.99) which supports a range of cameras from Canon and Pentax. The app allows you to take a regular photo, a long exposure (bulb mode), or capture a time lapse sequence (you'll need another app such as the free GoPro CineForm Studio to stitch the individual exposures into a video). The Smart Trigger system works fine in regular mode but for the other modes it might be inconvenient to stay within 30 feet of the hardware and keep the app running.

Customer rating: 3.5 out of 5 (6 ratings). Gearhead rating: 3 out of 5.

DMD Panorama

DMD Panorama ($1.99) is perhaps the best panorama app I've found so far. When shooting you just rotate the iOS device until the yin and yang symbol halves match and DMD takes a picture and seamlessly stitches it to the previous picture. DMD supports the Motrr Galileo motorized pan and tilt system so it can automatically revolve and take photos which makes shooting panoramas incredibly easy. There's also an in-app purchase ($1.99) available to upgrade to HD.

Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 (2,808 ratings). Gearhead rating:  5 out of 5.


Timelapse (free and $2.99) turns your iOS device into a sophisticated system that produces really excellent timelapse videos with a good user interface, full control of camera focus, exposure, white balance and flash. The app provides automatic recovery from interruptions (i.e. phone calls), GPS tagging, saving the individual photos, uploading and sharing via Cinemagram and when combined with the Motrr Galileo motorized pan and tilt system it produces remarkably sophisticated results.

Customer rating: 3 out of 5 (442 ratings). Gearhead rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Cortex Camera

Cortex Camera ($2.99) is remarkable. You how an iOS picture shot in low light can look terrible, all grainy and speckled? Cortex Camera takes multiple pictures and using some clever algorithms "cleans up" low light images. The higher quality of Cortex Camera photos is obvious on all iOS devices and even on the iPhone 5 with its improved camera the improvement is significant.

Customer rating: 4 out of 5 (140 ratings). Gearhead rating:  4.5 out of 5.