6 photo apps with flattering filters that blow Instagram out of the water

Megan Willett edited photoMegan Willett/Tech InsiderI had way too much fun editing my pictures.

Instagram may be known for its dreamy filters, but it turns out the cool kids may not even be using them anymore.

While some of the app’s 300 million users still rely on Rise and Valencia to take their selfies, others have graduated to more refined photo editing apps that make their pictures look professional thanks to retouching tools, selective editing functions, and amazing lens effects.

Plus if you’re filter-obsessed, the new apps have those, too — and they’re way cooler than the same old ones you’d find on Instagram.

And just because you’re filtering your pictures in another app doesn’t mean you need to miss out on Instagram’s thriving community. Once you’re done editing, simply download your finished masterpiece to your photo library and upload it to the photo-sharing app of your choice and watch the “likes” pour in.

Keep reading to see the six best photo-editing apps that will make your pictures look amazing before you even upload to Instagram.

Faded is for the Instagram addict who wants more editing options.

Within Faded's filter option, there are numerous variations. I also love the Leaks option, which adds a sunbeam effect to your pictures.

Price: $US0.99

Available in iOS

Faded has 10 preset filter categories with names like Clean, Film, and Portraits that then house four to eight different filters. After you choose which version best suits your image, you can then intensify or fade the effect for your best selfie.

If you want to get a little more creative than just your average filter, Faded lets you overlap other pictures or colours, and add cool lens touches like dust and scratches, different frames, or my personal favourite feature: Leaks.

Leaks has 20 different sunbeam effects to make it look as though a beam of flattering light has 'accidentally' fallen across your frame -- perfect for those outdoors-y shots.

And if there are a bunch of pictures you want to edit in the same way, Faded has a batch edit option. Edit one image until it's perfect, then go into your library, select every picture you also want to have that similar effect, and hit apply.

VSCO Cam is for anyone looking for the 'next' Instagram.

VSCO Cam could be the next Instagram since you can browse other users' pictures in the explore button. It also has a variety of filters and cool effects.

Price: Free

Available in iOS and Google Play

VSCO Cam comes with a standard set of 10 filters -- which you can fade if the effect is too intense -- plus other sets of filters that you can buy like an 'Alchemy Collection' which says it's best for lifestyle photography or the 'Minimalist Collection' that claims to make still lives or architecture look amazing.

The editing features include the standard crop, saturate, contrast, and sharpen options as well as unfamiliar tools like 'Skin Tone' that increases or decreases your skin's saturation or 'Shadows Tint' and 'Highlights Ting' that adds a colourful haze to your picture.

And once your picture looks the way you want, it goes into your 'Library' with all of your other edited pictures. This feature is super helpful for anyone obsessed with curating their Instagram feed so they will know how it complements their existing pictures before posting.

Plus, you can browse other people's shots on VSCO Cam too, which is why some have wondered if it will one day eclipse Instagram altogether.

Snapseed will make your brunch shots look amazing.

Snapseed's filters are cool, but what's even better is that you can paint on the filter where you want it. I painted my picture half and half in noir to give you an example.

Price: Free

Available in iOS and Google Play

Snapseed is another app with its own set of filters. There are 12 in all, including Vintage, Noir, Lens Blur, and one called Glamour Glow. After you choose your filter, there are then 5-14 different versions of the filter that vary in contrast, exposure, and colour.

And if you want to get really specific, there's a tool option that lets you 'brush' the filter onto specific parts of the image with your finger.

The app also has some cool features like being able to selectively brighten certain parts of your picture. Say you snap a picture of your gorgeous brunch, but half the table is in shadow. Using the 'Selective' option, you can brighten that area of the table only without making the entire picture look too exposed.

My only criticism of Snapseed is that it's hard to get the hang of at first. You need to tap and hold the picture to get more drop down options and hold and swipe to either side to increase or decrease your effect. But once you get used to it, Snapseed is fantastic.

Pixelmator is for the serious photo editor.

Pixelmator has a ton of cool editing features like light spots in addition to all the standard Photoshop editing tools. I loved layering images, too.

Price: $US4.99

Available on iOS

The most expensive photo editing app on the list is also one of the most intense. Pixelmator was designed for the serious photo editor. It has a variety of effects you can add to the photo and it allows you to retouch easily, adjust the levels, add images, write text, and so, so much more.

Essentially, anything you can do in Photoshop you can easily do in Pixelmator, too. If you're at a loss for where to start, the website has some truly mesmerising examples of what you can do with tools like repair (wipe an entire car out of the image), distort (warp only one aspect of the picture, like someone's skirt), and clone details (like bubbles or flowers).

Perhaps the only problem with the app is that unlike Faded, Snapseed, and VSCO Cam, you can't toggle between your before and after pictures to see your progress. Otherwise, all serious photo editors should have Pixelmator on their phone.

Afterlight is for the filter-obsessed.

Afterlight had more filters than any other app I tried -- over 60 free ones! You could also layer filters as well as highlight different colours in the photo.

Price: $US0.99

Available on iOS and Google Play

If you're one of those people who wish Instagram had way more filters, welcome to Afterlight. This app has over 60 preset filters that you can choose and adjust to fit your mood. And those are just the free filters -- there are plenty more you can buy.

Plus, if you still can't find the perfect filter, you can layer different filters on top of one another within the app, which means that you have endless options to try.

Apart from the amazing selection of filters, Afterlight has all the standard editing features like sharpen, crop, and contrast, plus a few extras like highlighting certain tones in the image and adding a grain to your picture to make it look more vintage.

Camera + is for the budding photographer.

Camera + lets you edit your picture before you even take it. If you're still not satisfied, there are more filters and effects to try.

Price: $US2.99

Available on iOS

Why edit photos after you take them when you can make them look perfect while you set up the shot? That's exactly what Camera + allows you to do.

Some of this app's best features include continuous flash so you'll know what your pictures will look like with the flash on, touch exposure to highlight a specific area in the shot, and advanced shooting modes like burst -- which takes multiple images in a row -- and a timer.

Basically, Camera + makes your phone like a high-quality camera lens that you can manually edit and which far outstrips the options available on your phone's regular camera.

And if you'd rather take your pictures and then edit, the app has a full editing section with standard tools like crop and saturation, over 30 different filters to choose from, and a variety of settings like 'shade' and 'beach' that will tweak the image based on the scenery of the picture.

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