I love Photography. It is just about one the of the greatest things out there, but sometimes it can be the most frustrating thing in the world. Not because I don’t consider myself creative, or a lover of all things visual, but because photography has a propensity to be a very finicky and time-consuming habit. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, saturation, depth of field, focal length… And if you don’t feel that way, you’re probably not doing it right. Thankfully, for you (and often for myself when I still haven’t worked out all of the little kinks), people out there in the great world wide web have figured out a way to make our creative lives that much easier and slightly prettier.

8. PicFX

“With PicFX you can take a regular photo and apply 36 effects and frames + 13 styles to create a fantastic, unique looking picture. You may also reload the modified photo to apply another texture and style to achieve something truly beautiful. Once you have your desired result you can save it to your photo album or share it via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr or Email.” While this is similar to some other apps out there, this one costs money and can be a bit over-the-top. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. But, sometimes too great of effects can be overkill. Less is more, right?

7. Grungetastic

Again: very cool way to spice up your images with drastic changes and unusually high contrast. There’s no way anyone can look at these images and not know that they’re heavily edited. But with a description like this: “Grungetastic cranks your photos to 11 with three hot and heavy looks: Classic Grunge, Bleached Grunge, and Pop Grunge. These three fun and aggressive Grungetastic styles let you get down and dirty with your photos, just like they like it. Faster than you can say “filthy,” these styles and Grungetastic’s easy, hands-on interface will have you smushing delightfully unwell textures and tones, deeply satisfying contrasts, and explosively pleasurable pops”, who can resist? Another costly app though.

6. Dynamic Light

Ever taken a photo and been severely disappointed with the lighting? For example, your best friend is having a great hair day and the sun just happens to be setting with the strangest yet most beautiful light you’ve ever seen right behind her head? Then the image is either blown out in the background or your bestie’s nose is nowhere to be seen? That’s where HDR comes in. Most smartphones offer HDR settings these days, but Dynamic Light is the piece de resistance when it comes to equaling out your foreground and background exposures. Though costly and occasionally heavily-edited, this app may be the only thing that saves you from missing a perfect moment.

5. Magic Shutter

As previously mentioned, a lot of photography is all about control. Magic shutter allows you to decide the length of time your shutter will be open. This allows for some awesome photos (which you would never normally get from a smartphone or most point and shoot cameras these days) but can also create problems. Any time the shutter is open for a longer period of time, you risk blur. Serious blur. The key to this app would be to use it when you’re photographing a situation in which you have control. Example? If you are photographing a scene, like the Manhattan skyline, and you have a steady place on which to rest your device, this is great. Otherwise you might be looking at some undesired movement.

4. PerfectPhoto

This is like a simple yet effective version of Photoshop on your phone or tablet. You can control exposure, levels, brightness, contrast, saturation, and more while also rotating, cropping, changing temperature, and doing spot healing. Plus, this app has a ton of effects for you to edit your image, similar to the filters found in Photoshop. Not as fancy or creative as some of the other apps, but gets the job done! And like some of the other apps listed thus far, this one is free, free, free.

3. PhotoSynth

A personal favorite. This amazing app allows you to create nearly flawless panoramas, up to 360 degrees. It is simple, fast, effective and free. I have seen this app used on California coastlines and as advertisements for a bar’s popularity and it never ceases to amaze. PhotoSynth also allows for a certain 3D je ne sei pas. It wouldn’t be fair to say it captures a true three dimensional photo, but it’s pretty dang close. Did I mention it’s free?

2. Diptic

I remember one of my college professors throwing this and the term triptych around like wildfire during my third year and I ended up mindlessly nodding away. What are they and why are they effective? It wasn’t until I saw the work of Ed Kashi (and there are other artists out there using this subtle but powerful practice) that I began to appreciate it. Whether you’re using three closely related images or two totally obscure photos together, they’re bound to emit a reaction. And this app allows you to create or force together whatever you think fits. The height of creativity and originality in my opinion; what fits together to me may not be quite right for you, but this app allows you to share it.

1. Instagram

Oh, Instagram! Many try to replicate or compete, but none can come close. It is one of the most downloaded apps ever and can be seen smattering the walls of Facebook the world over. This application not only replicated the ever and always popular medium format print (square as opposed to your 5×7 or 4×6) but also has effects which give proud and prominent love to the print quality of yesteryear. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia in every Instagram, even when the photo is brand new and the photographer is too young too remember the yellow and orange quality of pictures from the 70’s and 80’s. Instagram also offers a depth of field feature which allows the user to create a certain flattering and ethereal blur to each image. If you have’t tried it yet, do it, be amazed, and be as rich as you were before you had this awesome free app.

I think the greatest joy I have found in this world of new photography technology is the ode to the old. Funky colors, odd contrast and vintage looks have taken over our visual world as we know it. And if it makes people love photography more, who am I to complain?