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Phone Photography Apps

At the end of every traveling day my kids are exhausted and mellow. And when they go to sleep, I have something I rarely have: time to think.

Sometimes I use this time to read, sometimes I use this time to sleep, but often I want to get crafty. Problem? Have you seem how much the average family with two young kids has to pack when they go on vacation? The one time I have time to play with paper and glue, I don’t have space to pack paper and glue. Fortunately, I always have my phone with me: the indispensable tool that also houses my book collection, recipes, travel plans, and camera. (It’s rumored I can dial numbers and talk to other people with it, too, but I wouldn’t know about that!)

When I started using my phone’s camera, I wanted to stay as true to the original photograph as possible. Eventually, I started playing with Instagram’s filters and wanted more. Then, I discovered the phone camera apps.

I was hooked. While Instagram’s native filters are fun for a quick fix, there are other apps that give you more creative freedom. Then you get to tweak the photo as you want.

Here are my favorite Phone Photography Apps:

Photography Planning

Magic Hour

Any decent photography book, course, or resource will tell you how important light is. The best light happens in what is known as the golden hour. It’s the time right around sunrise and right around sunset. As a traveler, we might not always know when that is going to happen when we’re away from home. As a mom, we might not always want to try to figure it out. Enter Magic Hour app. It lets you know when the magic hour will start and end each day depending on the city you are in. You can plan your day accordingly if you need to. Price: FREE

If you read my last post, you’ll know why this is a great app to have. Paul from A Luxury Travel Blogs encourages parents to go outside while the kids are still sleeping to capture the sites. Instead of trying to guess when you should wake up to catch the right light, this app let’s you know. Sleep in until the last possible minute, please!

Screen shots from iTunes store

Photography App

Magic Hour iTunes App


Editing Photos


This is a free and easy app that not only gives you access to some filters, but controls how strongly you can apply the filter. Most of the time any photos only needs a slight tweak, but Instagram’s filters make you commit completely. VSCO Cam lets you change it just a bit if you want, or a lot if you prefer. You can then export the photo to Instagram. I have one gripe. When exporting, VSCO Cam will automatically crop the photo. If it doesn’t crop the way you want it to there’s still a fix. Just save the updated photo to your camera roll and open in Instagram as normal. Price: FREE

Here’s an Instagram I edited with VSCO Cam:

Please note: Unless you’re a professional, don’t over filter your photos! Just enhance them. Practice as much as you want, but only publish the best!

Adding Details

Rhonna Designs

This app has some filters, but what I really like about it are the other things you can add. There are different designs, sayings, and fonts for you to put on top of your image. You can resize them, change the color, turn them on their side. It’s a lot of fun. The best part is that the app includes a ton of images and fonts. Unlike similar apps, you can do a lot with what’s included without having to buy more upgrades. Price: $1.99 with an extra pack available for $0.99

Here’s an image I recently added on Instagram using Rhonna Designs. There are a a whole section of travel related sayings included.

and here’s a more subtle image where I just added the little doodles in the corner.

and here’s a less subtly edited photo that I did when I first got the app. I tend to keep these types of photos on my phone instead of publishing on Instagram, but you can see where it can be fun if you like this type of stuff – which I do!

Printing Them Out


I don’t use this because I’m not in the US, however, I may try it the next time I go. Every month you can select up to 100 photos taken on your phone (not just Instagram photos) and Groovebook will print them out into a little book and ship it to you. The pages are perforated for easy sharing. You can order extras to send to family and friends. Love this idea. Price: FREE to download. The subscription service is $2.99 a month for processing and handling. You can cancel at anytime.

Other Photo Apps

i haven’t tried these, but I wanted to include more options for you:

Halftone It’s all about the kids. Turn your pictures into a comic strip. Enough said. Price: $0.99

InstaFood This is one of the apps I want to try for the wrong reasons. I laugh at the idea that I have enough time to take a photo of my food while I’m at a restaurant. I laugh at the idea of going to a restaurant. Street food is where it’s at for us most of our trips (which is fine since I love street food, so don’t feel bad for me). One day, though, I will go out on a date with my husband while on vacation, take a photo of our food, and use this app to add the restaurant and the meal. Then I will look at that photo later to remind myself that I do enjoy eating out. I feel like I’m going on a tangent. Price: FREE

InstaPlace Puts the location directly on the photo. They can even put the altitude on the photo. Wish I had this when I was in Switzerland earlier this month! Price: FREE

InstaWeather Puts the temperature and place on the photo. If I use this the next time I take a photo in Florida, will it subconsciously help me feel warmer when I’m back in Germany in the winter? I’ll let you know! Price: FREE

Lumie Get the “bookah” effect on your photos. Nice effect for those romantic Paris trips, or looking at holiday lights. Price: $1.99

ShakeIt Photo App Take a photo, watch the photo appear like a polaroid pictures. You can even shake the camera to help the picture develop fast. Yes, you can shake it like a polaroid picture! Price: $1.99

Wood Camera This app was developed by professional photographers who wanted more control over editing their phone photography. Price: $3.99

Whew! That’s a lot. Do you have any favorite camera apps that I should look at the next time I have some down time (which will be September 2 at the earliest 🙂 )

This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

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