Running Ronin

iPhone Photo Apps Review

This post was largely (99% pretty much) created by iPhone photo Jedi Master @olearydj. The photo above is also one of his.

I follow his awesome work on and have asked him for his advice on what tools he uses on his iPhone 4 to create the wonders he posts. His wisdom is now laid out for your (on top of my) benefit below:


  • The stock camera app is pretty good for most users, but there are much better options.
  • qbro - the go-to camera app. Loads quickly, shows a square (good for instagram) rule of thirds frame that outlines the actual sensor boundaries of the phone, buffers shots in memory so you don't have to wait for one to save before you take the next... only downside is that if you close it before it finishes saving it won't finish in the background, you have to go back and save it again, also has a built in photo service that just gets in the way.
  • photo synth - amazing automatic pano taker / stitcher.
  • bracketmode - quickly analyzes a scene and snaps a high and low exposure frame for creating HDRs later (requires another app); much faster and better than the HDR programs for this specific task.
  • truehdr - great for combining exposures already captured with bracketmode; be sure to turn on enhanced mode in prefs - much better blending than the current competition
  • quickpix - optimized for max shutter speed and min start up time, claims 4 fps on iphone4 IIRC, but it feels more like 2... Simple, uncluttered and fast.
  • Note: Both quickpix and qbro (along with most other 3rd party camera apps like Camera+) allow you to set focus and exposure points separately. Quickpix also lets you take movies and grab still frames while you are filming.

Image Prep:

  • photoClip - The best app out there for fixing horizon lines and clipping your images. A one trick pony but it's so good at this essential task.
  • diptic - not the greatest app, but the best at what it does, creating 2-4 image compositions with a simple frame
  • labelbox - add label printer style text to your images
  • tweegram - type a message in, get an image out with a variety of cute backgrounds
  • touch retouch - context aware fill from PS in iphone form, quickly and easily remove distractions (sign, power line, etc.) from your image; works so well it feels like magic, possibly better than the photoshop equivalent

Additional Toys:

  • Kooleido - make kaleidoscope images, I am fascinated by this app
  • wordfoto - image + word set = cool pop art
  • halftone - create a comic panel from your image
  • percolator - another pop art tool, this time with "bubbles"
  • colorsplash / colorblast - create selective color images (black and white except where color is desired) with ease
  • noir - create monotone images with dramatic vignette effects, poorly designed app but good for its purpose
  • rays - add cool light rays to your photo for dramatic effect (use sparingly!)
  • colorsplash - cool one-trick-pony app that greys out so you can then add color back in to a specific area

These are the heavy lifting filter tools:

  • photoforge2 - does all the basic color correction, etc. well, not as strong in creative filters
  • snapspeed - by Nik, excellent results, great interface, $5
  • pixlromatic - lots of great creative filtering and framing capabilities, simple but limited controls
  • phototoaster - great creative filter presets plus all the knobs if you want them, along with great framing options... if you want just one filtering tool, this is a good one to try
  • magichour - another great filtering tool with lots of presets plus an online "filter market" where you can share / download presets that others have shared, allows good control of curves, exposure / brightness / contrast, vignetting, texture overlays and framing
  • dynamic light - add HDR type effects to your images, along with effects
  • others to consider: filter storm, picfx, king camera, psexpress, photofx, pictureshow


  • Instagallery - iOS client for browsing instagram, universal app, great for surfing IG on an iPad!
  • MyInstaAlbum - downloads your IG catalog for offline viewing, cross posting to FB/twitter/email/dropbox etc. Also allows you to browse by date, tag, filter and location


  • postagram - pic a photo from your IG account, camera roll or Facebook, add a caption and mail a high quality postcard of the result to anyone (can pull in the address from contacts) for $0.99 - print and mail it for a buck!

Web Stuff:

  • - check out all kinds of cool stats about your IG posts

Follow @olearydj's photos on - or just click below to see his latest photos.


Dan O said...

Check this out:

Pava said...

Rocco! I'm obsessed with iphoneographizing. Great list.

Check out my photo blog:

To your photo app list I would add:

>> Camera+ <<
- My photo taking app of choice
- Easier to use than the default camera
- Faster zoom and with fast or timed modes
- Fast built in filters and photo optimization

- Honestly my fave photo app (Thanks Jason Covey)
- Lets you quickly turn your photos into marketing style posters with a bunch of fun templates

>> Marron <<
- One of the only half decent 'photo sticker' apps I've found so far.

>> Dynamic Light <<
- Really good HDR and 'other' filters.
- A bit 'advanced' for my taste but super fast and cool

>> Pixlromatic <<
- A bunch of quickie stylized filters

>> Photopod <<
- Sort of flawed, but one touch upload to multiple places including Tumblr, Facebook, or your blog

I've tried a bunch of others, but these and some of the ones you mention in the article (snapseed) are my go-tos.

R* said...

Hey Pava! Great list - will start downloading them asap :) thanks!