11 Photo Editing Apps Instagrammers Use But Don't Want You To Know About

Every once in a while I will scroll across Instagram or Tumblr (yes, I still use Tumblr) and really love the way the photo is edited. I'll check the comments to see if someone has asked what the person used and 9.5/10 times their question goes unanswered. Now, maybe some people just don't see those asks but I have a feeling that they like to keep their go-to editing tools a secret — and listen, I get it but isn't sharing...caring? At the end of the day, no one can fully replicate what you did because it's you and not them. 

Since I've done my fair share of research, I thought I would let you in on the most popular and frequently used editing apps I know content creators are using — well, at leas the people that I follow and pop up on my feed. I understand that people probably use multiple techniques, apps, create their own presets, etc. but I also know a lot of other people don't have time for that.

I'll be using one photo and showing you what it looks like edited across the platforms I mention and I will only spend <1 minute on it. The original photo will always be on the left, or on top if you're viewing it on mobile (it was not edited at all, shot as-is, no brightening, sharpening, NADA). My edits for this post aren't meant to be perfect, they're only to show you some of the effects of the applications I'm calling out in this post. With some finesse, there could be greatness. But I'm just here to show you the chopped and screwed version of them, alright.

Hopefully you leave this post finding at least one new app to download!

1. VSCO

Now, this one may be very obvious to most but it really is a gem. There's a reason it has 4.6/5 stars and has 11.3K reviews on the Apple App Store. The sheer volume of customization available right at your fingertips is incredible. One person's VSCO settings is wildly different to the next person. Trust me when I say that I almost always use this — both on my IG account and photos I post to this blog.

What I use it for: Preset filters, sharpening, grain, tones, and shadow coloring.

Original photo
VSCO editing app

2. RNI Films

You know that effortlessly "scratched" and "dusty" layer you see on some posts? Yup, this one is it. It honestly looks like what used to happen when I was in high school and didn't clean my 35mm film properly. I solely use the Dust feature from this app but it does have a lot more to give. Truthfully, I am a creature of habit and can't be bothered to really learn everything RNI Films has to offer but I'm sure you could do a lot. 

What I use it for: Dust effect.

Original photo
RNI Film photo app

3. HUJI

I don't understand why everyone kept this so hush-hush?! At one point in time it felt like everyone and their mom was using this app to edit their photos but they never wanted to let it be known. This one's fun because you really don't have much control with how your photo(s) will be edited. You will only be able to choose if you want the time stamp and if you want a light leak or not.

Tip: If you ever run into the issue of wanting to know what app is suddenly trending, go into your app store and scroll down to the Top Paid and Top Free sections and you will probably find it there. 

What I use it for: Brainless edit.

Original photo
HUJI editing app

4. AFTERLIGHT

If you like to layer on filters, light leaks, textures, etc. then this is the one for you. It's honestly one of the easiest ones to use, in my opinion. If you think your photo is missing something/is flat, give this a whirl like I did here

What I use it for: Mostly light leaks, and once in a blue moon I will use the Instant Film border(s). 

Original photo
Afterlight editing app

5. FACETUNE

Another one that most people know about and it's pretty controversial. You can honestly make yourself look like a different person by warping your features and putting on a whole face of makeup with a few simple swipes. I find that this one is really good to edit out annoying things like smudges on a mirror without having to use something like Photoshop. Beauty lovers and gurus use this to enhance their makeup looks/allow their colors to pop. People who love an #aesthetic clean theme will use it to make their photos blindingly white. Then there are those who smooth their face to the point of no return. To each their own.

What I use it for: Whiten tool to brighten up darker floors/walls, the patch tool for distracting messes, and the smooth tool for the occasional hair frizz or pimple.

Original photo
Facetune editing app

6. ENLIGHT

I actually first heard about this from Desi Perkins when she described how she blends two photos into one when wanting to show off multiple outfits/angles. This was definitely before IG made the swipe feature to showcase your gallery of pics. I still have a hard time navigating this one but think it's a dope app if you give it time. I used it to edit this photo of me and my mom and loved how it turned out.

What I use it for: When I'm feeling creative and still don't want to turn to Photoshop.

Original photo
Enlight editing app

7. SNAPSEED

This is one hell of a program! There's not much to say other than you have to play with this one to see what I mean.

What I use it for: Selective highlights/shadows/brightening.

Original photo
Snapseed editing app

8. GLITCHÉ

Here we have another app that suddenly everyone was using but pretended not to "remember what it was." PFFT. It adds effects like its name suggests: glitches, inverting, pixelation, old school VHS, and the list goes on and on. Any photo with a slight (or major) 3D effect going on is probably the result of using this. One thing to note is that you will have to pay to unlock features like saving your image as a larger file size (hence the shitty quality of the edit you're about to see.)

What I use it for: To see how trippy I can make my pictures. Haven't posted any of my creations yet. 

Original photo
Glitche editing app

9. CAMERABAG 2

The oh-so-retro and too-cool-for-school INFINICAM 50 border is in this app. It's literally an app for film-style borders.

What I use it for: The borders, duh! I personally like the 35mm Bleed border.

Original photos
Camerabag 2 editing app

10. UNFOLD

I couldn't figure out how everyone was doing super interesting and beautiful IG stories that allowed both video and photos on one screen. It always looks so clean and put together. I used my dear friend Google after a couple of key words and BAM, UNFOLD popped up and it's one of my favorites but least used apps at the moment because there is so much you can do with it that it overwhelms me.

What I use it for: Multimedia IG stories when I get into the swing of it.

Original photo
Unfold editing app

11. R4VE

This screams soft goth Tumblr vibes/vaporwave BS and I'm not mad at it. I can't really put into words how fun this one is — and it's how I made this fun shoes post. 

What I use it for: To see how much of a hot mess I can make my photos.

Original photo
R4VE editing app