The best apps for smartphone photography

Today’s post comes from Marketing and Communications summer student Mitch Jackson. 

Smartphone cameras keep getting better and better. No longer do park enthusiasts have to drag clunky DSLR cameras through the wilderness. Taking your smartphone with you will free up room for snacks, sunscreen, a lunch, a water bottle…did we mention more room for snacks?

We’ve seen that smartphones can already act as a field guide and support citizen science. Along with that, many phones also have incredible photo capabilities. Gone are the days of blurry, low-res phone photos. High-quality nature photography can happen right on your mobile device, without the burden of a camera strap.

Add some sparkle to your snapshots with the help of these apps:


Price: Free

Platform: iPhone, Android


If one smartphone photography app could be described as “essential” it would be Instagram (and that’s not just because you can follow Ontario Parks there, although that is a really good reason!).


Along with the great filters and editing features, Instagram also serves as a social media network with a huge community of smartphone photographers, celebrities, friends, and family. This is a great place to share your photos of your trips to our province’s beautiful parks.


Price: Free

Platform: iPhone, Android


VSCO is widely considered to be the premier app for editing photos on mobile. There are many preset filters that can make your photos look dynamic with one tap of the finger. In fact, their filters are largely replications of film stocks that many professional photographers use.

Awenda shoreline

There are also more fine-tuning options that allow you to play around with exposure, temperature and contrast. You can publish your edited photos directly from the app to your social media accounts or download them to your camera roll.

Slow Shutter Cam

Price: $1.99

Platform: iPhone


Not only are smartphones coming close to DSLR-level photo quality, some technical photography tricks and effects are now becoming easy to accomplish. Slow Shutter Cam offers smartphone users a way to add motion blurs, light trails, and low-light effects.

Try using the motion blur feature of Slow Shutter Cam at one of the many waterfalls throughout Ontario Parks.
Try using the motion blur feature of Slow Shutter Cam at one of the many waterfalls throughout Ontario Parks.

The motion blur feature is great for taking photos of moving water, whether your subject is the 40 m high Kakabeka Falls at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Stubb’s Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park, or the rushing water of the Mattawa River at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.

The light trail feature allows you to capture your campfire in ways that make the jaws of your Instagram followers drop. Other features allow you to control exposure, shutter speed and light capturing.


Price: $0.99

Platform: iPhone, Android


AfterFocus allows you to take a DSLR-style background blurred photo by simply selecting the focus area. The background blur effect of AfterFocus can really emphasize your foreground subject — perfect for wildlife photographers.

Forgot to get proper focus on a moose? That's not a problem with AfterFocus. Photo by Andrea Coulter.
Forgot to get proper focus on a moose? That’s not a problem with AfterFocus.

What makes this an essential app for smartphone wildlife photography is the background blur that can be added after you take the photo. So if you get overexcited when you spot that moose on the Mizzy Lake Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park and forget to properly focus your shot, AfterFocus has you covered.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Price: Free

Platform: iPhone, Android


It’s almost hard to believe that this app is available for free. It offers one-tap adjustments for basic photo editing, including colour, brightness, contrast, and great filters.

Family Hiking at Arrowhead

You can also add borders and frames to your final photo to layer some extra creativity onto your social media posts. Photoshop Mix also lets you combine multiple photos into a single image, reduce camera blur, and apply Content-Aware Fill, which can actually remove unwanted objects from your photo (unfortunately, it can’t do anything about those black flies).

So before you come visit us…

…why not load up some photography apps on your phone? Share your photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, and don’t forget to tag us!