These Four iPhone Photo Apps Have Great Filters

In my last article I said I'd talk about lenses in this article. Well, I lied. It's not entirely my fault, I had hoped to have another set of iPhone lenses to play with by now, but they haven't shown up up yet. Not to worry, I will be talking about lenses soon, so stay tuned.

Today I will focus on filters you can use when taking photos with your iPhone.

Some people (yours truly included among them) are filter snobs. These folks shy away from anything that adds or takes away from the photo. They want the photo to stand on its own merits, just as the shooter saw it.

Then there are those who love to jazz up a shot, add a bit of some extra something to personalize a pic, make it more than it was.

While I'm not in that latter camp I have seen some really great interpretations where judicious filtering really made the photo much better. I'll admit to a bit of extra tweaking on some of my shots. The truth is, some shots needs that tweak while some are perfect with not so much as a brightness adjustment.

Take the this shot of a rundown section of the now defunct Eastern State Penitentiary, taken with an iPhone 4, no flash (and no tripod unfortunately), and no filters. It's a good shot as it is.

Rough prison life (all photos by Vern Seward)

The second shot is the same photo, but with some cropping and filtering applied through Snapseed [24.4 MB, all IOS devices capable of running iOS 6.1 or later]. The filtering is not overdone (in my opinion at least), but it forces attention to the cot thereby implying a story, even if there was none intended.

Snapseed enhancement with filters

This sort of filtering is common and Snapseed does a great job. If you want something a bit more exotic the app has a filter set called Grunge which randomly applies different filter settings to come up with a photo that can look like a fortunate accident. If you don't care for the results you can teak it or roll the dice again and see what Grunge comes up with. It's an interesting concept and kinda fun.

Brian in Snapseed Grunge filter

Another app that I use on occasion is Photogene [24.6 MB, all IOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later]. This app has an interesting user interface that may take a bit of getting use to, but I believe it is worth the effort because there some useful filters available that give some very nice results.

Photogene filters can be interesting

Photogene lets you control just how much filtering you want to apply. In the shot of a comic above I used the center focused filter to get this photo. It was super easy to adjust the radius and intensity of the filter, but I would have liked to be able to shape the focus area, elongate it for instance, something that you can do in SnapSeed.

Some folks like the filtering simplicity apps like Instagram offers, but want more options. For those of you in that camp, take a look at ECP Photo [41 MB, all IOS devices capable of running iOS 7.0 or later].

ECP Photo does a great filtering job with a simple tap!

This app is fast becoming one of my favorites because of of the way its presented. If you just want to do some quick filtering just pop open the app, find the filter effect you like, tap, and BAM! It's done. No muss or fuss. However, if you're like me and want more control, this app offers that as well.

For instance in the above shot, I could have applied the black and white filter to a specific area using the brush, and adjusted the parameters of that filtered area however I like. Very cool.

Even if you don't care about getting your filtering hands dirty, the amount of filtering options ECP Photo offers is staggering, and if what's built in isn't enough you can get more brush and filtering options through in-app purchase.

I highly recommend trying ECP Photo out.

One final app I want to mention isn't a filtering app, but you'll wind up using it almost as much.

Touch Retouch [22.4 MB, all IOS devices capable of running iOS 4.3 or later] is my go-to app whenever I need to remove something from a photo. Just paint the area or object in the photo you want to remove and hit the "Play" button. Like magic the offending object is replaced by a background similar to what's immediately surrounding the object.

The red areas will disappear

The app is fairly intelligent in how it builds the replacement, but you can get weird results, especially if the surrounding area is busy. I find that it's best to use as small a brush as possible and zoom in on the object.

Regardless of what filter app you choose, I think you'l want Touch Retouch in your virtual toolkit as well.

Ok, that's a wrap for this installment. I hope to talk about lenses next time. Stay tuned.