Imagine you are a carpenter and have been hired to build a table. You spend weeks crafting the design, sourcing the wood, measuring cuts, and finally building it. But then you figure that the final sanding will take too much time and that your customer won’t notice if you skip that step. But they will.
There’s a huge difference between an unfinished table and a carefully crafted and polished piece of furniture. It’s the difference between a raw image and an edited, well-thought out Instagram post.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than an unedited Instagram post might as well be a jumbled alphabet. Whether you’re a carpenter, a writer, or a banker, it’s always a good idea to give your work that final touch before presenting it to your audience. Editing and/or adding a filter to your Instagram photos can increase the number of views by 21 percent, and comments and engagement by 45 percent. There was a time when giving your work that kind of polish would have required thousands of dollars worth of equipment and hours of time. But these days you have the following apps to take your Instagram content to the next level, for $3 or less.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
The best apps for Instagram
1. VSCO Cam
This is the go-to app for many photographers and social creatives, myself included. VSCO Cam is an easy-to-use, minimalist editing app that allows you to not only take photos with a built-in, high-quality camera (and adjust focus, brightness, and clarity as you go), but also edit your masterpieces with filters and editing tools. Like the Instagram app itself, you can choose the intensity of your filter. Go for a hint of an effect or an over-edited, gaudy production.
If your regular Instagram content is feeling stale, it might be time to try something new. With the resurgence of GIFs in recent years, adding a custom one or two to your content calendar is a no-brainer. Adding GIFs to your strategy is shown to increase conversion rates by 103 percent and total revenue by 109 percent, making the GIF train one you probably want to hop aboard. Creating a GIF might seem intimidating, but the DSCO app (by VSCO) makes doing so quick and easy. You can capture, edit, and share your GIF directly to Instagram through the app. You can also add it to Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.
With 74 filters, 78 natural textures, 128 frames, and countless editing possibilities, Afterlight is an app of choice for many social media managers. Andrew Kunesh of the iDownloadBlog says that Afterlight “is one of the best value apps on the App Store, especially for photography,” citing that the shooting capabilities are excellent, along with the above average number of filters, frames, effects, and editing options.
Another one of my favorites, Priime is outfitted with filters created and tested by top photographers around the world. I find that my photos usually come out best when put through a Priime editing process, and highly recommend treating yourself to the additional filters available as in-app purchases. Another feature that sets Priime apart from other photo-editing apps is the filter recommendation, which will quickly help you pick a filter style based on “subject, color palette, exposure, and more.”
5. Pic Collage
A collage is a great way to tell a story using multiple photos within one Instagram post. To create one as easily and seamlessly as possible, join the 100 million people who use Pic Collage. The app allows you to create a square or portrait layout, offering more than 1500 stickers, 80 backgrounds, and 60 templates to take your story to the next level.
Being able to take photos with the tap of a screen is pretty great, but there are a few features from the classic DSLR camera that I miss. Thankfully the Slow Shutter Cam app has brought back—yes, you guessed it—the slow shutter speed effect. The app has three modes (motion blur, light trail, and low light) so you can capture unique images that your smartphone camera could never have taken on its own.
Android alternative: Camera FV-5 Lite
Named the best new app by none other than Apple, A Color Story has over 100 filters, 40 movable effects, and over 20 tools. It also allows you to save custom filters from your previous editing steps. With colorful, beautiful photos always in style, the A Color Story filters focus on “bright whites, rich color, and clean adjustments.” If you edit your photo using the app, use the #acolorstory hashtag for the opportunity to be featured on their stunning feed.
8. Font Candy
As a social media manager, there are probably times where you want to convey something on Instagram that can’t be portrayed with an image alone. This is where text overlays come in, and as the first app to offer such a feature, Font Candy is a leader in the field. Through the app you can add captions and text to your photos, with a selection of fonts, symbols, and color washes.
Android alternative: Font Studio
The choice app of many lifestyle, fashion, and home bloggers, A Beautiful Mess will help make your photos stand out in any feed. The app allows you to add custom filters, fonts, and hand drawn doodles—all drawn and/or chosen by the creators of award-winning blog, A Beautiful Mess—to your images.
Video is a growing focus of social media marketing, so it’s a good idea to make sure that the videos you share on Instagram are the best they can be. Cinefy allows you to edit your video clips, add sound and music, and apply special effects. If you need inspiration, their website has a number of example videos showcasing the app’s extensive list of features.
Android alternative: Magisto Video Editor and Maker
Hyperlapse is a great tool by Instagram for creating professional looking time lapse videos. Not only will the app stabilize your shaky videos, it can increase their speed by up to 12 times. If your company recently hosted an event, it’s a great way to package highlights in an Instagram video post. If you’re interested in seeing what Hyperlapse can do, Instagram shared a video that showcases the stabilizing feature.
Android alternative: Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile
If you’re looking for the most straightforward approach to editing your videos for Instagram, this app is billed as “the simplest video editor in the world.” But this doesn’t mean that it lacks power. With Clips, you can add music, dissolving transitions, speed up or slow down your video, add text slides, add voiceovers, split clips, edit for square or landscape export, and share to Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and text message.
You might be feeling that every possible concept and image has been shared on Instagram, but the Fused app allows you to really exercise your creativity and go beyond a simple photo or video clip. The app allows you to blend photos, videos—or both together—to create one of a kind visuals to add to your Instagram profile. You can choose from different blend modes, as well as colors, and even use images from the app’s artist collection to blend with your own images.
Android alternative: Image Blender Fusion Free
Called “the missing link in high-end smartphone photography,” SKRWT provides numerous features that make it an app included in the roster of many professionals. If you’ve ever taken a photo where the perspective was off or the horizon looks slanted, SKRWT can fix this with one easy swipe. Photos that you thought were unusable instantly become beautiful. In addition to this standout feature, SKRWT also includes lens correction (for photos taken with smartphones, wide-angle adapters, DSLRs, or a GoPro), an EXIF reader (so that you can see all of your image’s information at a glance), a gallery sorting function, and full auto-cropping to provide you with the best suggested view.
Engage your audience on Instagram by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, monitor mentions, run contests, and more.