Phone Photography: Specialty Apps

Have you scrolled through Instagram and come across a really cool photo that looks like a watercolor or oil painting. Or maybe it’s a composite (2 photos overlayed) that makes you not only want to love it, but sit there at look at it for a little while. I love following people who’s work pushes the boundary of photography. One of my favorite artists I follow on Instagram, Melissa Vincent (misvincent), does some fantastic artwork with only her phone and the apps on it. A lot of her work is composites, while other pieces use textures and beautiful processing.

To get the same effects from artists like this, there are many apps to choose from. I love the look you get from these apps and they make a photo stand out. The trick is to learn several apps and use them in conjunction to produce your vision. There are a lot of specialty apps out there and I have several and stay my hand from purchasing more (cringe). Whatever apps you use, have fun with them, test them out and play! You never have to publish a photo. I have a lot that I’ve never shown but I spent too much time on in some of these apps.

Phone Photography Specialty App-1

There are a variety of apps on all phones whether you use Windows, Android, iPhone, or whatever else is out there. Below are the three I use most often on my iPhone (but I know you can find them also on a Droid). There are other apps I’m not covering that I also love, like Waterlogued (makes your photos look like watercolor), Tangled FX turns your photos into line drawings, the Rainy Daze app creates yep, you called it, a rainy day. Rays is also a great app for creating rays of light. Seriously, you can get lost looking at all the options!

Distressed FX

This is a fun app to add texture and different lighting filters. Many times I use only the texture or only the filter; here, I decided to use both so you could see all the aspects of the app.

I started with this photo (I did use Snapseed and VSCO on it before bringing it into Distressed FX – you can see how I use those here.)

A fall road

When you open the app you get their home screen and the first thing you need to do is tap on the camera in the top left of the screen.


Then you get the option to choose from your library!

Choosing from the camera library

After that it’s really simple. You only need to start playing with the different filters and textures. You’ll get to know them the more you open the app and use it.

homescreen of distressed fx

Once you choose your filter or texture you can change them up a little by tapping the icon of sliders in the bottom right corner of the photo.

Distressed FX

The left sunshine slider controls brightness, the right circle controls contrast and the bottom slider with a palette controls saturation. I will warn that these are not small increments when you move them. To me its frustrating so I rarely touch them. What I do use however is the bottom two sliders over the filters and textures. These control the amount the filter is used. So like in VSCO you can decrease the strength of the filter.

With Distressed FX you can also add some awesome black birds to your photo too – it’s in the filters section near the end. Tap it then it pops up with the type of birds you can choose from. Boom! Instant birds in your sky.

After you have the photo you want then save to your camera roll, or go ahead and share.

Distressed FX


Glaze works by turning your photo into an oil painting. I’m a little apprehensive about using this app because it is more heavy handed than I like but using it as an overlay in Instant Blend with the saved photo from Distressed FX really helps tone it down. Here’s how it works!

Open up glaze and click on the bottom left picture icon to add a photo. I chose my original, not the one from Distressed FX because I want to use that to blend with the result I get here.


When your photo opens, choose the glaze you want. You can easily try them out by tapping on each glaze style until you see one you like. There is no dialing down the effect though (as far as I know). Once you are done hit the big arrow pointing right at the bottom of the screen and save to your gallery.

Specialty apps for phone photography

Instant Blend

I use this app, but there is also Superimpose which might be a little less cumbersome to use (not so many ads), and its in both the Apple store and Google Play Store. When you open the app it asks for one of your photos.

Phone Photography specialty apps

Choose it then it asks for another.

Specialty apps for phone photography

Instant blend does a great job prompting you through how to get the photos blended. When you choose each photo it will prompt you to move each photo and scale it. When I brought in the glazed photo I had to make sure the car lights were overlaying the car lights in the distressed photo.

Phone Photography specialty apps

Phone Photography specialty apps

You can see already how they are blending together. The next step takes you to the blend modes. They are all different but I chose Linear here – go ahead and try each one out and learn their effects. You can also play with the opacity of the top layer, so I dialed the glazed photo down a little. You can swap the photos too, where the one on top would become the one on the bottom.

Phone Photography specialty apps

And that’s it! Once you are done and get through their ads (unless you have the non-free version) it saves to your gallery.

Phone Photography specialty apps


This app keeps my 3:2 crop on a photo and adds a white border when I send it to Instagram. I love the look of white space between photos in my feed. Every now and then I use their filters, and their black and white ones have great contrast.

Open up Pic-tap-go and tap the photo you want to open.


It automatically takes you to their filter screen. You can choose a filter or press Go in the top right corner.

Phone Photography specialty apps

The last step, you choose where you are sending it – here is where I choose Instagram, Full with a Float. And, done! That easy. I love this app.

Phone Photography specialty apps

Those are three specialty apps I know well, but I’m ready to add some more to my phone so what are your favorite specialty apps for your phone photography?