Would you like to take better selfies in low light conditions? Do you want to be more creative with your camera phone? Are you ready to replace your DSLR with an Android device?
Whatever you’re looking to do, there’s an app to help. Here’s our pick of the best apps that will add new features to your phone’s camera.
1. Open Camera
Good for: Shooting in RAW.
If you’re serious about smartphone photography, you should be shooting in RAW. This uncompressed, unprocessed format ensures you get the absolute best quality images from your camera so you can process them in any way you like.
Most modern Android phones support shooting in RAW, but very few pre-installed camera apps do. That means you need to get a third-party app to take advantage of it.
Open Camera is one of the best for this. It’s free, easy to use, and packed with enough features that you can use it as your default camera app for all your shooting. You’ll need an image editor like Snapseed to process your RAW images.
Download: Open Camera (Free)
2. A Better Camera
Good for: Shooting HDR.
HDR, or high dynamic range, photography is the perfect way to overcome your camera phone’s limitations. In layman’s terms, HDR brightens the shadows and darkens the highlights to create a much more balanced exposure.
It overcomes the problems you often see in very contrasty scenes especially, where the brighter areas are rendered as a block of white, or the shadows as black, with no detail in either.
The HDR mode in A Better Camera produces fantastic high dynamic range images. It doesn’t require any configuration, it just snaps three images at different exposure settings and blends them together. Just make sure to keep the camera steady while shooting.
Download: A Better Camera (Free)
3. Motion Stills
Good for: Making GIFs from your videos.
Given how ubiquitous GIFs are across the web, creating your own can be a surprisingly challenging task. Motion Stills, from Google Research, takes all the pain out of the process.
You can use the app to shoot short videos of up to three seconds, then convert and share them instantly as GIFs. You can save and share the videos, too, if you prefer.
Alternatively, you can shoot longer, Instagram-style hyperlapse videos. These are clips that are condensed into a much shortened form, and which are also fully stabilized, making them ideal for action videos.
Download: Motion Stills (Free)
Good for: Using an old phone as a security camera.
There are lots of great ways you can put an old Android phone or tablet to good use. One of the most practical is to turn it into a security camera.
Just install the app on your old phone, connect it to your Wi-Fi, and position it wherever you want to keep track of whats going on. Then install the same app on your current phone to keep an eye on the action. You can log in via a web viewer as well, if you prefer.
Alfred has countless uses. The motion detection feature, which sends you alerts whenever it identifies anything, is perfect for making sure your home is secure while you’re away. But the remote chat feature also means the app can be used to keep an eye on an elderly relative.
Download: Alfred (Free)
5. Selfie Master
Good for: Low-light selfies.
Everyone loves a good selfie, but taking a good one isn’t always as easy as it might be. The front-facing camera on most smartphones is still some way behind the quality of the main camera. With a smaller aperture and no flash, shooting in low light conditions is almost impossible.
Some manufacturers have tried to solve the problem by building into their camera apps a “selfie flash.” If yours doesn’t have one, you can add it with the Selfie Master app. The principle is simple: hitting the shutter button turns the screen a bright white, helping to illuminate your face and get clearer shots. There are filters and other addons to explore as well.
Download: Selfie Master (Free)
Good for: Creating timelapse videos.
Few types of video have a greater “wow” factor than timelapse videos. Shoot a single frame at a set interval of every few seconds or minutes, then combine them together into a video and the results can be spectacular.
It’s a long-winded process unless you have an automated tool to take care of it for you. This is where Framelapse comes in.
Set up your camera, select a shot interval and how long you want to record for, then leave it to do its business. The app is a solid introduction to the more creative possibilities of smartphone photography.
Download: Framelapse (Free)
7. Panorama 360 Camera
Good for: Shooting 360 degree panoramas.
Most phones build support for panoramas into their camera apps, but not many allow you to shoot the full 360 degrees.
It works like other panorama shooters: hold your camera steady, then pan slowly in a straight line to capture more of your surroundings. The shots are then stitched together in a (hopefully) seamless way. When done, you can view the image on screen — swiping around to see the whole picture — and share them easily.
Better yet, pop your phone into a Cardboard viewer for a fully homemade VR experience.
Download: Panorama 360 Camera (Free)
8. Bacon Camera
Good for: Full manual controls.
If you’re a more serious photographer who often shoots in manual mode on a dedicated camera, chances are you’d be more at home with those same manual controls on your smartphone.
Bacon Camera gives you them. You can set the shutter speed, ISO, and white balance, and focus manually, too. All within an intuitive interface that replicates the kind of layout you’ll be familiar with from your DSLR.
The only downside is that the features are only available where they’re supported on the device itself, so not all phones will be equally capable. The app should work on all modern phones with a Snapdragon processor.
Download: Bacon Camera (Free)
Good for: Adding a bokeh effect.
Dual camera setups are becoming a popular feature in flagship Android phones. They have numerous functions, including the ability to fake a “bokeh” effect where the background part of an image is out of focus. You used to have to spend money on serious cameras and fast lenses to get that effect.
If your phone doesn’t have two rear cameras, don’t worry. AfterFocus does a similar job. Just take your photo, then draw a line around the part of the image that should be in focus, and the rest will automatically become blurred.
It takes a little practice to get the results spot-on, but they can be very effective.
Download: AfterFocus (Free)
Your Top Android Camera Apps?
There’s no single camera app that does everything. And with smartphone cameras continuing to improve all the time, the kinds of things we use them for will continue to grow. Each time something new comes along, there’ll be an app to help you do it.
What camera apps do you use most? Do you have favorites, or are there are features you love that we haven’t listed here? Join us in the comments to tell us all about it.