14 Photo Apps Recommended by Sergey Sarahanov

At the request of Bird In Flight, “mobile-ography” guru Sergey Sarahanov, who has 159,000 followers on Instagram, prepared a review of really useful mobile apps for photographers.

Sergey Sarahanov, 26

Born in Apatity (Murmanskaya Oblast, Russia), lives in Kiev. He does portrait photography and has an Instagram account with approximately 160,000 followers. He teaches an online course together with photographer Aleksandr Ambalov on mobile phone photography, and gives lectures in Kiev, Moscow and St.Petersburg.


Every time I see another article about the best photography apps for iOS, I become enveloped in deadly boredom. “Unparalleled editing that gives incredible control over your images” proves to be uncomfortable. In this review I tried to put together a list of programs that I use myself, with illustrative examples and honest descriptions of the pros and cons of each one. The compilation includes applications for photo shoots and editors for post-shoot work.



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Prior to the release of iOS 8, this app was absolutely indispensable for shooting in difficult conditions. Now it is a bit simpler: programs with built-in exposure compensation have appeared, which even a standard camera can do. But Camera+ took a step to change the exposure compensation to make it smaller in scale, and it’s possible to fine-tune the illumination in the scene. In addition to that, it has its own algorithm for image stabilization, which gives a good result when shooting with the stabilizer on. There is a separate macro-mode for beginners.
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For more experienced users there are manual settings. You can regulate the focus almost exactly like on a manual lens, and this can be useful in difficult lighting conditions. You can have full control over shutter speed and ISO, and of course, the white balance, both in the form of presets and in kelvins. There is also a setting for image quality and the ability to shoot in TIFF. To be honest, though, it saves so slowly that I choose to shoot in JPEG format for maximal quality.

Its serious disadvantages include the processing module, which is very archaic and difficult to use, in addition to rather boring filtering (except Redscale for photos in autumn and ClarityPro, a gentle version of HDR).


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Many people who see shots taken with the help of this application say, “No way, you’re lying, it was taken with a DSLR.” This program allows you to take photos, simulating a slow shutter speed. Of course, the difference is noticeable from up close, and you have to tinker with the photo for a couple of days. You also need a tripod. But the result that you get with this app is unbelievable, considering how easy it is and that you can shoot at any time of day without being bothered with the ND filters.

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It has an awesome function of displaying images at slow shutter speeds. The picture seems like it appears on a screen, and if the degree of blurring objects is already large enough, the exposure can be stopped at any time. There are no serious disadvantages, but it’s worth digging into the settings to turn on maximum image resolution (the default is only 2 megapixels).


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If you have a lot of experience using slow shutter speed and you want to get something like Slowshutter, but a little cooler, this app is for you. As with the last app, a tripod is highly desirable. The exposure is unlimited for thirty seconds in this program, and if you want to take pictures in the style of Michael Kenna, this is exactly what AvgCamPro is made for. The app can turn the sky into fog and water into milk.
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In addition, there is a cool, built-in noise reduction algorithm. However, it’s not easy to master. Actually, the main disadvantage this program has is a complicated interface. But with AvgCamPro, you need to be patient to take advantage of the unique opportunities it offers.

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This application is designed for shooting in the dark. It has significantly reduced noise and expanded range. As I understand, it works according to the principle of HDR, sticking one picture together from many, but it operates smoothly, simulating a good dynamic range without adding any unnaturally sharp images. Shooting each new images takes between 2 and 7 seconds. There is one more feature: during a shot, the app slightly blurs dynamic objects, so you can simulate medium-long exposure with a little skill without a tripod.
There aren’t any serious disadvantages.

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This is perhaps the most significant editor for post-shoot work. A few years ago while I was editing shots with Camera+, I was looking at the work of foreign mobile photographers and I couldn’t understand why they had such soft and pleasant lighting, and mine was like an acid contrast. A lot has changed since then. I stopped doing post-work the way I did it before. VSCO has evolved: now there are a lot more filters and new tools for post-work. Many other apps took VSCO’s interface and color presets, but I still do 85% of my post-work exclusively with VSCO.

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I think that its success lies in the quality of their color profiles, because the developers have obviously pushed hard with the VSCO Film filters for Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw, and it’s about time that these features were transferred to the most successful mobile version. In addition, the app is free and charges you only for downloading extra sets of presets. Another feature is to synchronize all of your devices. So, if you take pictures on multiple gadgets, then after you upload them in VSCO the shots appear in the app’s library on all of the devices. This is really good for me because I take pictures on my iPhone 6+ and on a Meizu MX4, but do post only on the iPhone. Other people love doing post on their iPad or another tablet. I couldn’t find any serious cons with VSCO, but some complain about its relatively complicated interface, which they say sacrifices comfort for style.




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This is a powerful (and free) editor from Google. I can’t say a lot about the filters because I’m not really in love with them, but Snapspeed has a unique, full-scale correction feature using Quick Mask. It’s convenient and easy to use, but don’t forget to save the contrast and the configurations for general lighting. I consider it to be indispensable when you need to pull something out of the shade, remove local overexposure or correct facial tone for a portrait. There aren’t any serious cons. The functionality is excellent for a free program.


{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/app_touch-retouch.jpg”, “text”: “”}

This is one of the most important apps, in my opinion. It allows you to clean face skin or to remove unwanted elements from the frame in the same way that “care brush” or “stamp” works in Photoshop. I don’t have much else to say, as it works well most of the time. It’s ideal for removing garbage from grass or individual persons from the shot. Although, don’t expect any miracles because there are a lot of things that it can’t do. The cons: it doesn’t always work correctly and it requires some knowledge of how to work with “stamp.”




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Many people like this app for the color gradient filters and textures. But, for me it seems like they aren’t always applicable because I don’t like color correction with gradients; I much more prefer things like Selective Color Saturation or HSL. All the same, Mextures has some pretty decent gradient filters for the sky, similar to Neutral Density. This means that you can align the exposure in a landscape before color correction and the result will be good. There are no serious drawbacks.

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Filterstorm Neue

219 руб.

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This is like having Photoshop in your pocket. If you can’t live without curves, levels and layers, then this app is just for you. The only drawback is that if you don’t use Photoshop, it’ll be tough to figure out how to use this app.


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This is a nice and simple app for correcting perspective distortion and it will make fans of straight lines very happy. The bad: it crashes on devices with small amounts of RAM.
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This is a good app for creating multiple exposure. It supports a variety of masks and blending modes of layers. Most importantly, it comes with good training videos in the reference section. The cons: multi-exposure is inherently difficult on its own, so you’ll have to push through for a couple of days to learn how to shoot and then glue the correct picture.

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This is an app by the same developer of Union. It adds interesting 3D objects with dynamic lighting to the pictures. If you’re just tired of taking pictures, creating a conceptual card has become much easier to create. It may render a small, cryptic video on Instagram either dazzling or unnerving, depending on who’s watching it. There aren’t any disadvantages, but I doubt that it will become a popular app.




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If you really want to upload non-square images with white or other fields to Instagram or somewhere else, then this programs is just what you need.


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This is a convenient app for preparing for photo shoots. It tells you the position of the sun according to your geolocation, and it also has a mode for augmented reality. This app is totally necessary for anyone who shoots with natural light, both with a phone and for more serious equipment.

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P. S.

1. I hope that everyone understands that no application can take a beautiful picture for you. Programs, like a pair of crutches, extend the functionality of a phone.

2. As a person who uses film, digital and telephones for shooting, I can say that the most interesting shots are often taken using a telephone.

3. You should seek to maximize the cleanliness and quality of sources in any kind of photography so that doing post-work will be much easier.

4. Many people think that Instagram has poor photography functionality and literally hate the fact that it exists; they get irritated by terrible selfies, pictures of food and press releases. My opinion is that Instagram, as a photography app, has grown significantly. Now they’ve got modes for opacity and filter adjustment, pretty good sharpness and horizon/perspective filters. However, I don’t use all of these things because what impresses me the most is the social aspect. Just like any other social network, Instagram is a reflection of ourselves and the kind of information we are used to consuming. Cleaning up anyone’s friend list takes about 15-20 minutes, and finding really interesting users takes about the same amount of time.

Only we, ourselves, can decide whether to enjoy or get angry about the latest selfie models in bedsheets, bad photos of dogs, good photos of dogs, or a tasty-looking burger. We have the power to stay positive and make our Instagrams in such a way that, every morning, it gives us some inspiration to see and go places where we’ve never been before. The choice is ours!
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