The iPhone's camera remains one of the best smartphone shooters, but its native camera app will only get you so far. Thankfully, there is a wide array of apps that extend the iPhone camera's native capabilities, ranging from manual controls to animations and other effects. Here are our favorite iOS camera apps.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Camera+ ($2.99, camera.plus) lets you take photos using pro-like tools. For instance, you can control focus and exposure separately, tapping to select the area of the camera frame that you want to use for each. Or, you can use manual controls — a slider for your focus; and variable shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation to change your exposure. White balance uses presets relevant to the ambient lighting (such as fluorescent or tungsten), or you can dial in a specific color temperature. Other controls include macro (close-up); the ability to save as TIFF, RAW or JPEG files; and a Lightbox to review and quickly edit your pictures.
SKRWT ($1.99, skrwt.com) corrects lens and perspective distortions, such as the converging vertical lines in photos of skyscrapers that make their rooftops look smaller and farther away than their street-level floors. You simply tap and drag to use the various tools for vertical, horizontal, rotation and other corrections, and variable reference grids help align the edges of your image. Novices should take it slow, one tool at a time, to train their eyes to understand the complex visual optics. For an additional 99 cents each, you can add 4PNTS for manual controls over the corrections and MRRW, which duplicates your photo in tiled mirror images, like a kaleidoscope.
PicsArt Photo Studio (free, picsart.com) is a consumer-level photo editor that earned our Editors' Choice honors because it's lots of fun and doesn't stint on power or creativity. Its built-in camera offers a nice selection of pre-capture filters, including attractive collections of color lighting effects, bokeh, borders, textures and striking artistic overlays (such as hearts, light streaks and stars). Other camera special effects (light cross, pastel, watercolor and several others) can be adjusted with sliders relative to the effect (such as for saturation, brightness, fade, contrast and so forth). The pre-capture stickers are limited, but they support gesture editing and opacity sliders. The app is great for editing photos post-capture, too.
More: PicsArt Photo Studio: Best All-in-One Photo App for Consumers
TouchRetouch ($1.99, http://adva-soft.com/products/touch-retouch) removes unwanted objects from your photos. To delete a straight line (such as electrical wires), all you need to do is paint over a small section of it, and the app will find the rest. More irregular or larger objects require that you paint over the entire area, but you don't have to be very precise for the app to understand what you want. TouchRetouch can be installed as an extension to the iPhone's Photos app.
Snapchat (free, snapchat.com) stands apart from other photo apps as the one that popularized photo messaging. Its greatest success has been among teens, who enjoy its playful spontaneity. Take selfies or pictures and videos of the world around you, and add silly hats, stickers, special effects, text and even Pokémon-Go-like 3D animated cartoons. Then, share them with specific friends or the world at large for up to 24 hours. After a day, the files self-destruct, providing a sense of privacy and of being an insider in what is perceived as a private club. New stickers, filters and features are added periodically, to the delight of Snapchatters.
Instagram (free, instagram.com) has earned its market-leading status for photo sharing by delivering easy and fun instant gratification and supporting a large active online community. The app's entire focus is on getting your pictures uploaded as quickly as possible. To that end, photo editing involves only simple, single-click tweaks. In addition to the effects within the app, a healthy third-party market offers add-on editing options for Instagram. The app no longer requires that your photos be cropped to a square. Other changes include the ability to convert Snapchat-like collections of your images into short-lived personal Stories, as well as Periscope-like streaming of live video.
Facetune 2 ($20/year, facetune2.com) is pricey, but it's our favorite portrait retouching app and is greatly improved over the original Facetune (which is still available). The new version uses intelligent algorithms and 3D modeling to enable natural-looking results while helping you perfect headshots and selfies. Its camera module has a nice range of pre-capture tools for things such as smoothing your skin, whitening your teeth and reshaping your nose. The camera also has a collection of varied and effective filters that can subtly or dramatically alter your portrait's tonality. Using sliders, you can adjust the strength of these camera tools. A free version of the app is available, but it doesn't include some of the best filters and other bonus tools.