Stuff's Guide to Photography: The best apps for special effects

Liven up your snaps with these photographic herbs and spices...

Editing photos is a big part of any proper photographer's job, but it doesn't sound half as laborious as compared to dancing around outside with your finger on the shutter button. 

Luckily, we live in an age when ludicrously clever apps crunch what was once hours of painstaking editing into a finger-prod and a few seconds of processing.  

Whether it's a quick fix of a wonky horizon or a particular atmospheric look you're after, these apps are your pocket-based darkroom...

Get a Vintage Look


A subtle alternative to hyper-processed filters, this app (made by an ex-Instagram travel photographer) has a range of presets inspired by cinematic tones. You get 11 themes for free, with themed 'boxes' of extras available for ₹60 each. If it's desktop editing you're after, Litely also offers presets for Lightroom and Photoshop.

Free / iOS

Fix Your Distortion


Wide-angle smartphone lenses can be forgiving in some situations, but they can also introduce a strange warping effect known as perspective distortion. This app lets you tweak your image on its vertical and horizontal planes and fix the horizon, all via a simple dial control. It won't save a badly framed shot, but it can work some real magic on fisheye photos. 

₹120 / iOS

Design a New Wallpaper


If filters are smartphone photography's pale ale, Fragment is its magic mushrooms. Here to turn traditional landscapes into 'prismatic art', it lets you select from a range of frames, shapes and patterns. These then slice your photo up into a kaleidoscopic pattern that ensure it ends up resembling a Tame Impala album cover.

₹120 / Android / iOS

Make a Meme

Aviary Photo Editor

If your photo has the makings of the next confession bear, grumpy cat or hapless hippo (OK, we made that one up), this app provides a quick and dirty way to slap text on top in the classic 'Impact' font. It's also home to other effects such as stickers and overlays, though for 'rage face' stickers check out Rage Comics Photo Editor (Android).

Free / Android / iOS

Tweak Your Tones (By Hand)


This Google-owned app was one of the first to let you edit specific areas of a photo, and it's 'selective adjustment' feature remains an intuitive alternative to using curves or layers. Press on the area you'd like to tweak and you'll be able to change the contrast, saturation and brightness. Its filters aren't the best, but it's a fine companion to Google Photos. 

Free / Android / iOS

Do a Batch Edit


If you've taken a series of photos from the same trip, you'll probably want to give them a uniform style. A recent update to this excellent camera and editing app gives you the ability to apply the same edit to a group of photos in its library view, saving you from going into each one individually and choosing the same filter. 

Free / Android / iOS

Tweak Your Tones (Using Curves)


Curve adjustments allowing you to tweak the colour balance of specific areas of an image are now available to iPhonographers in this elegant app. The in-app purchases let you adjust midtones and highlights across the RGB spectrum, and you can make your own filters. For a similar range of tools, Android fans should try PhotoDirector (free).

Free / iOS

Outsource Your Editing

Google Photos

Editing all those pictures can be a time-consuming palaver. If you'd rather your cloud storage knocked up storybooks and animated GIFs for you, sign up to Google's service. Its 'Photos Assistant' leafs through your snaps and suggests new collages and edits to add to your library. It won't automatically apply Google's old 'auto-awesome feature', but a one-touch editing option can be found beneath the pencil icon. 

Free / Android / iOS

Edit RAW Files

Filterstorm Neue

The closest thing to stuffing full-fat desktop Photoshop in your pocket, this powerful app lets you work on uncompressed RAW files on the train home. Along with the ability to edit full-resolution DSLR snaps, pro snappers will be pleased to discover it includes features such as layers, masks and clone stamping, all via an interface that is surprisingly touch-friendly. It comes bundled with an 'auto-smug' sensation as standard.

₹250 / iOS

Get a Better Face


The old maxim about passport photos (if you look anything like yours, you're too ill to travel) could be applied to most of our selfies. Luckily, this retouching app takes us from haggard to handsome in a few minutes by removing imperfections and even refining jaw lines. Don't go overboard, though, or you'll end up looking like an extra from Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun video. 

₹10 / Android

Embrace photo art

Built-in art filters were always a bit hit-and-miss until Prisma came along and nailed the process of transforming our snaps into instant Lichtensteins and Mondrians.

The app has 34 (and counting) filters, which you can apply to photos new or old from your camera roll. And though it seems simple, there is an art to making good Prismas - read our guide for tips on how to use the app to make Tate-worthy masterpieces

Free / iOS, Android