Now that Instagram is moving toward a Facebook-like algorithmic feed, creating photos that stand out just became a lot more important. And as great as the app’s built-in filters and editing features are (there are 40 now!) they aren’t nearly as powerful as the ones you can get from third-party apps.
Third-party apps for creating and editing photos and videos usually offer more tools and precision over the look of your posts, which, in turn, can bring in more likes.
To help your posts stand out (and hopefully gain a bunch of new followers and likes), we’ve cherry-picked our 16 favorite apps that can take your Insta-game to the next level. Most of them are free, too!
For black-and-white pics: BLACK and Camera Noir
Instagram used to have an amazing black-and-white filter called Gotham, and it was perfect for creating noir-style photos. Then Instagram ditched Gotham for no good reason and replaced with Inkwell. Moon, originally a video-only filter, is the other built-in black-and-white filter.
We’ve been searching for a good black-and-white photo app for years, and BLACK, an iOS-only app, is a solid one that tries to emulate black and white film with filters. There are presets for film like the Kodak TRI-x 400, Fuji Neopan 400 and Ilford HPS, to name a few.
The app is intuitive to use — swipe left and right to apply different B&W filters — and it lets you tweak shadows with a fade tool, control tones and contrast with a curves tool, and customize and apply vignettes. You will have to pay $0.99 to access these advanced editing features, though.
For selfies: Facetune and Perfect365
On some Android smartphones, the camera app comes with built-in “beauty” modes to help smooth out your skin, resize your eyes and distort your face. The results can be terrifying if used to the extreme. The iPhone’s camera app has no such beauty feature.
Perfect365 (free on iOS and Android) is also a feature-rich app to tweak your selfies. According to US Weekly, Kim Kardashian and her sisters use the app to edit their selfies before posting them to Instagram. So, there’s that.
For time-lapses: Hyperlapse and Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile
Hyperlapse (iOS-only) is hands-down the best app for creating time-lapses. The app’s appeal isn’t just that it lets you speed up and slow down video from 1x to 12x the normal speed, but its fantastic use of software image-stabilization is also a standout. In place of expensive gimbals and other hardware stabilizers, Hyperlapse uses data from your iPhone’s gyroscope to measure and remove frames that are shaky and create a video that’s smooth.
What you get is cinematic-like video that often looks like it’s been captured with more expensive gear:
Android users are out of luck with the official Instagram Hyperlapse app, but there are alternatives like Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile.
For short looping videos: Phhhoto and Boomerang
There are tons of apps that you can use to create short animations and videos that loop. Phhhoto (iOS and Android) is one of the originals, and unlike other apps, intentionally creates lo-fi “moving pictures.” Here’s one in action:
For silly and weird posts: Giphy Cam and Enlight
Who says Instagram is all sunsets, symmetrical buildings and selfies? It can also be a place to be silly…if you want it to be. Giphy Cam, an “incubator of all your worst (and best) GIF nightmares” as Mashable chief correspondent Lance Ulanoff called it, is the perfect app to create goofy video posts.
The app generates GIFs, but you can import them directly into Instagram as videos and edit them further.
Enlight ($3.99, iOS-only) is made by the guys behind Facetune and was named as “the best all-in-one photo editor” by Apple in 2015. While it’s a feature-packed photo-editng app that might as well be called “Photoshop for iPhone,” the app’s Mixer, Painting, Urban, Sketch and Effects tools really make it outstanding, turning photos into creative pieces of art.
For powerful editing: Snapseed and VSCO
Google’s Snapseed is one of the best free photo-editing apps available for both iOS and Android. It comes with a huge selection of editing tools that are more powerful than Instagram’s built-in ones and the filters — especially the High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing — are exceptionally great.
For adding text and doodles: Typic and SnapPen
While it’s generally frowned upon to “ruin” your Instagram pics with text and doodles, sometimes they can help express emotion in a photo. Though there are free apps out there, we like Typic($2.99, iOS-only) for adding text and stamps, and SnapPen ($0.99, iOS-only) for adding quick doodles. They’re both simple and straightforward to use.
For collages: Layout and PicStitch
Nobody likes to open up their Instagram feed and see a friend drop a dozen photos in a few minutes — chill out! — like the app’s shutting down tomorrow. Instead of posting two pics of your food, a selfie and a pic of the restaurant you’re in as four separate posts, consider consolidating them into a single post using a collaging app.