The Most Essential Professional Photography Apps in 2021

For professional photographers, having one tool simply isn’t going to cut it. You need to plan your shoot, edit and touch up your photos, and find the perfect platform to share them. We asked our readers about their must-have photography apps. Here are the results.

Today, there are a seemingly endless amount of apps that can make your life or job easier. For photographers, there are so many to choose from that it can be difficult to filter (pun intended) the good from the bad.

To help you, we’ve polled hundreds of professional photographers, asking them, “What are the two photography apps you can’t live without?” These are their responses.

(And if you lean strongly towards one of these apps, be sure to vote on your favorite at the end!)

Get Greenlight in your inbox.

Join a community of 50,000+ small business owners and get insights and inspo every other week.

Photoshop ExpressPhotoshop Express

What started as an award-winning photo editing software for computers has evolved significantly over the years. The desktop photo editing app is just as indispensable as ever, allowing you to transform, retouch, or reimagine your photos. In addition to receiving regular updates, it has also introduced a fleet of mobile apps, including Photoshop Express.

Photoshop Express might not have all the functionality of its desktop counterpart, but it has some powerful editing tools. You can perform selective editing, adjust color temperature and vibrance, sharpen your photos and more.

Pros:

  • Easy to learn
  • Free to use
  • Plenty of built-in filters to explore
  • Can save images in PNG format

Cons:

  • Lacks a lot of features compared to the desktop version
  • Some features are locked behind Creative Cloud subscription
  • Retouching could use some work

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.8

Adobe LightroomAdobe Lightroom

Although it shares some features with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom has editing capabilities and a range of features that allow you to import, organize, and manage your photo library. It comes with step-by-step tutorials and all the tools you need to curate your best shots. According to Adobe:

“You can think of Lightroom as your starting point for post-processing. Unlike Photoshop, which caters to a variety of creative disciplines, Lightroom is specifically built to efficiently handle a professional photographer’s workflow, from photo management to finishing touches.”

Pros:

  • Includes many useful tutorials
  • Supports RAW image formats
  • Can color correct multiple photos simultaneously
  • Easy to learn

Cons:

  • Requires the latest smartphone model to run smoothly
  • Catalog system could be better
  • Photo export function could be improved

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.8

UnfoldBest for Instagram Stories: Unfold

Unfold is a story editor that comes with 300+ award winning story templates. This allows you to create incredible collage layouts for Instagram and other social media posts in order to market your business. With it, you can easily display your images across all social media platforms. Because of the resounding praise, it has received the iOS app store “Editor’s Choice” designation.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Perfect for Instagram stories
  • Incredible user interface

Cons:

  • Only a handful of free templates
  • Limited font and color options

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.9

 

PixlrInstagram Stories runner-up: Pixlr

Pixlr is a free photo effects, filters and collage app based on the well-known free desktop service. While the desktop version is useful for users who need access to Adobe-like functionality without paying a premium price, the mobile app offers several useful photo editing tools for free. Pixlr is great for users who want to touch up photos before uploading them to Instagram or other social media platforms.

Pros:

  • Several useful free filters and tools
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Multiple collage features
  • Supports multiple layers and transparency

Cons:

  • Not suitable for professional-level photo editing
  • Better effects are locked behind premium pricing
  • Small bugs can cause frustration

Price: Free

App store rating: 3.6

 

Pocket Light Meter

Best for film photographers:
Pocket Light Meter

For those of you who like to do things the old-school way, having a light meter is indispensable to your work. While there are several choices on the app store for mobile light meters, Pocket Light Meter takes the cake with it’s simple interface and ease of use.

Pros:

  • Reflected light measurements
  • Reciprocity calculations
  • Set shutter speed, aperture and ISO

Cons:

  • Simple interface may turn away advanced users
  • Steep price tag
  • Settings don’t automatically adjust

Price: $10.99

App store rating: 4.5

 

PhotoPillsBest for shoot planning: PhotoPills

PhotoPills is a photography planning app that helps you plan your shots ahead of time, so that you’re ready when the moment comes. This is especially useful for timelapses, astrophotography, and landscapes. The astronomical event planner charts the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, helping you select the perfect location and time for your photoshoot.

Pros:

  • Great for night and day photographers
  • Slick design
  • Uses Augmented Reality
  • Packed with features and tools

Cons:

  • Difficult for beginners
  • Quickly drains mobile battery

Price: $9.99

App store rating: 4.7

 

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Shoot planning runner-up:
The Photographer’s Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is another photoshoot planning app. With an emphasis on landscape and urban scenes, TPE calculates the positioning of the Sun, Moon and Milky Way to help you determine the perfect time to snap your photos. Similar to PhotoPills, TPE offers a worthy alternative with standout features such as location cataloging and automatic time zone and elevation detection.

Pros:

  • Beautiful design
  • Huge array of features, from basic to advanced to “geek”
  • Augmented Reality for location scouting

Cons:

  • Huge learning curve
  • App has some crashing issues

Price: $9.99

App store rating: 4.8

 

InstagramBest for marketing your business: Instagram

It should go without saying, but few apps are as important for promoting your small business and building a community as Instagram. The photo sharing social media site is the premier networking and advertising platform, particularly for photographers. Use Instagram stories to showcase your work and give followers a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a professional photographer.

Pros:

  • Huge user base to share photos with
  • Good for brand-building
  • Easy to use
  • Useful engagement metrics

Cons:

  • Lots of competition
  • Can take a lot of time to gain traction
  • Users are bombarded with content
  • Sponsored posts have become much more prevalent

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.7

 

VSCOBest Instagram alternative: VSCO

One of the more popular photography mobile apps in use today, VSCO helps you create photos, discover new artists, and connect with others. It provides hundreds of presets, advanced photo and video editing tools, and tons of filters. While there is some debate as to whether ‘professional’ photographers use VSCO for editing their work, many photographers who primarily shoot on mobile use the VSCO presets and tweak lighting and color.

Pros:

Great minimalist design Handy photo and video editing tools Growing community of photography enthusiasts

Cons:

The best features require a paid account No commenting Does not have a desktop version

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.7

We received quite a few responses about apps that may not be as ubiquitous but are still beloved by professional photographers. They include:

SunCalc

SunCalc is a reliable online application with an interactive map that displays sun movement and phases during the day. This helps you plan ahead to capture the perfect lighting for any photoshoot. Pair this with your go-to weather app and never miss that perfect sunset shot.

Lumos

Another sun and moon tracker, Lumos can accurately predict the position of the sun or moon no matter where you are or what time it is. This can be great for a stunning night shot or positioning your subjects perfectly in the frame.

Shootproof

Shootproof is an online gallery by photographers for photographers to showcase their work and host clients’ memories. With it, you can perform several business-related activities, including schedule social media posts, handle contracts and invoicing, or sell prints of your photos.

Later

Later markets itself as the world’s most popular Instagram marketing platform. It helps you plan social posts to Instagram and Facebook, create automatic publishing schedules, and analyze your performance metrics. Find and share the right content, drive traffic, and track sales.

Easy Release

An iOS- and Android-based application that helps photographers make digital releases from their mobile device. Easy Release is the easiest way to collect all the data and signatures for photo release forms you need while out in the field. Files can be saved as a PDF or JPEG and then automatically uploaded to the cloud.

Calendly

This scheduling app is popular outside the photography industry. With it, you can find the perfect meeting time or allow clients to book consultations. It integrates with your calendar and then allows each party to set their availability, thus eliminating the phone tag merry-go-round.

According to our polls. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom come in tied as the top photography apps for small businesses in 2021. We’d still like to hear from more readers about their favorite apps. Vote below and tell us what your favorite photography app is!

  1. What’s your favorite photography app?

    • Photoshop Express
    • Adobe Lightroom
    • Unfold
    • Other
    • Vote

Get Greenlight in your inbox.

It's not every other newsletter. It's every other week, four minutes long, and just for small businesses.

Quick-thinking insurance for fast-moving businesses.

Get covered in minutes.