We've come a long way since the dark, grainy photos we used to take with our flip phones. It feels good to get shots that don't look like they were smuggled out of a classified CIA file.

But there are still some limitations to what our smartphone cameras can do, on iPhones and Androids alike. Whether you're an amateur photographer or an experienced pro, there are a handful of paid apps out there to help you harness your camera's full potential and get better control of your images. And to ensure you don't waste any (more) money at the app store, we've pulled the best ones that are actually worth paying for.

Google Play/Almalence (Edited)

A Better Camera Unlocked

Who it’s for: Android users who want an all-around better camera
iOS: Unavailable
Android: $3.99

The purpose of this app is self-evident in its name. If you're an amateur photographer looking to learn some new tricks, this is an affordable jumping-off point without getting too fancy or intimidating. A Better Camera offers HDR, ISO and white-balance options, night shooting, panorama, and plenty of other tools for Android fans to play with. Manual controls are also available for Nexus 5 and 6, and LG Flex 2 owners.

iTunes/Cocologics (Edited)

ProCamera 8

Who it’s for: iPhone photogs who want to shoot in low light conditions
iOS: $4.99
Android: Unavailable

It's a little pricier than the other apps here, but ProCamera 8 is worth the cash. The main draw of this app are the doors it opens in regards to where, when, and what you can shoot. With video capability, exposure control, HDR, and manual focus, you can shoot at night, in low light -- wherever you want. The extensive set of filters is pretty sweet, too.

iTunes/Lightricks, Ltd. (Edited)

Facetune

Who it’s for: People who want to take better selfies
iOS: $3.99
Android: $3.99

We can't all be Photoshop wizards, but if you're really that dedicated to upping your selfie game, or just want to look semi-decent in your various social media profiles, Facetune is a strong user-friendly option. It lets you touch up your photos to hide scars and blemishes, and adjusts your coloring so you can look your best. Sadly, it's too late if you're still doing duck lips.

Google Play/androidslide (Edited)

Camera ZOOM FX Premium

Who it’s for: Android photographers who want more options with a user-friendly interface
iOS: Unavailable
Android: $2.99

Android people, are your Apple-obsessed friends ever going to shut up about the iPhone camera's superiority? In a word, no. But Camera ZOOM FX Premium might fool them into thinking you switched sides. Its shooting features -- grid lines, horizon level, and many more -- ensure you get the pic you envisioned, with plenty of editing features and fun graphic downloads to experiment with afterwards. The key, though, is ease-of-use; like the iPhone camera, it offers quality without the confusion.

iTunes/Afterlight Collective Inc (Edited)

Afterlight

Who it’s for: Filter fanatics
iOS: $0.99
Android: $0.99

Experimenting with artsy filters is half the fun of smartphone photography. If you're not satisfied with the limited options available via Instagram, Afterlight will be a welcome addition to your app library. Boasting 74 filters, as well as numerous cropping and adjustment tools, textures, and frames, it's got everything you need to make that blurry shot you took at the bar look profound.

iTunes/Little Pixels (Edited)

Manual

Who it’s for: iPhone pros who want more control of exposure values
iOS: $1.99
Android: Unavailable

If you have more than a minor interest in photography, you know that one of the key weaknesses of the iPhone's native camera is its limited exposure control. Manual exists solely to fix this problem. Made with passionate pros in mind, this app expands the power you have over white balance, focus, shutter, ISO, and all the other variables that go into getting the desired exposure out of your shots.

iTunes/Over (Edited)

Over

Who it’s for: Creatives who wants to add text to their photos
iOS: $3.99
Android: $3.99

In our age of memes, blogs, and cat posters, many digital photographers want to enhance their pics with high-quality overlays. Over is the best app for the job, offering a tremendous catalog of fonts, as well as an easy-to-use interface for natural editing. It's perfect for slapping on a famous (probably inaccurate) quote, or creating low-cost branded images for your business.

iTunes/tap tap tap (Edited)

Camera+

Who it’s for: iPhoneographers who want the best all-around camera app
iOS: $2.99
Android: Unavailable

Camera+ consistently earns rave reviews from users, and it's easy to see why. First of all, it's about as user-friendly as its native iPhone counterpart -- if you can figure out the Camera app, you can figure out Camera+.

More importantly, it's designed to capture stunning shots. While shooting, you can set focus and exposure separately -- a critical feature the native app lacks -- and choose from a selection of shooting modes based on your subject. It also offers grid lines to help frame your composition, plus a wide array of filters and effects. For newbies, it's an easy way to explore the potential and principles of iPhone photography. For seasoned pros, it delivers a smooth experience for exceptional shooting and editing.


Joe Oliveto is a staff writer for Supercompressor, and has been having too much fun with these. Follow him on Twitter.

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