Best Mac apps for fun photo effects

Photoshop Elements has a very strong set of filters and effects, but if you don't want to spend £60 just to get a few extra filters then there are several great apps that provide powerful and attractive photographic filters at very competitive prices. Fun photo filters aren't only the domain of the iPhone...

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  • CameraBag CameraBag 2
  • Photoshop Elements Photoshop Elements
  • Pixelmator Pixelmator 3.3
  • Pixlr Autodesk Pixlr
  • Tonality Tonality
  • More stories
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CameraBag 2

CameraBag is all about filters. In fact, its editing tools are almost non-existent, consisting of just a few basic options like cropping and straightening images. 

However, it does include precise controls for adjusting contrast, exposure, saturation and other settings, along with more than 150 predefined filter effects that you can apply with a quick click of your mouse. Some of these effects are designed to recreate the style of specific types of cameras, such as the washed-out look of the old plastic Holga cameras. Other filters aim to reproduce particular period styles, such as the nostalgic, faded ‘1958 Camera’, or a harsher, more modern style that it calls ‘Skater Camera’.

You can get an instant preview of each filter just by hovering your mouse over its name in the list that runs down the right-hand side of the screen. Clicking on an effect automatically applies it to your photo, and displays additional controls that allow you to fine-tune the effect. You can also and share your custom filters with other users via the CameraBag web site. 

You might need a bit of photographic know-how to make the most of CameraBag, but there’s a trial version available so you can see if you like it before buying the full version.

Price: £20.99

Next »

Next Prev CameraBag

CameraBag is all about filters. In fact, its editing tools are almost non-existent, consisting of just a few basic options like cropping and straightening images. 

However, it does include precise controls for adjusting contrast, exposure, saturation and other settings, along with more than 150 predefined filter effects that you can apply with a quick click of your mouse. Some of these effects are designed to recreate the style of specific types of cameras, such as the washed-out look of the old plastic Holga cameras. Other filters aim to reproduce particular period styles, such as the nostalgic, faded ‘1958 Camera’, or a harsher, more modern style that it calls ‘Skater Camera’.

You can get an instant preview of each filter just by hovering your mouse over its name in the list that runs down the right-hand side of the screen. Clicking on an effect automatically applies it to your photo, and displays additional controls that allow you to fine-tune the effect. You can also and share your custom filters with other users via the CameraBag web site. 

You might need a bit of photographic know-how to make the most of CameraBag, but there’s a trial version available so you can see if you like it before buying the full version.

Price: £20.99

 

Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements is one of the more expensive hobbyist-level apps currently available for the Mac, but its massive armoury of photo-editing tools also includes a really wide selection of filters and effects that you can apply to your photos.

Beginners can start in the program’s ‘Quick’ mode, which displays a simple set of basic filters in a panel that runs down the right-hand side of the screen. This panel displays five previews for each effect, showing how different settings will affect your photos. Step into ‘Expert’ mode and you see a more extensive collection of filters and effect, with options such as vintage photos and a variety of artistic effects and textures. If you’re feeling brave you can delve into the Filter menu in the main toolbar, which includes dozens of powerful – and often complex – filter effects. You can also view these effects in the program’s Filter Gallery, which provides a more detailed preview of your photos, along with additional tools for modifying each effect.

Some of these tools can get a bit complicated, but Photoshop Elements provides some extra help for less experienced users with a series of ‘guided edits’ that provide step-by-step instructions for using some key photographic techniques, such as the hazy Orton Effect or the saturated Lomo Effect.

Price: £63.29

Read: iPhoto versus Photoshop Elements 13 comparison

 

Pixelmator 3.3

Pixelmator has mopped up several ‘best app’ awards in recent years for both its Mac and iPad versions.

It provides a good set of basic editing features, with crop and selection tools, red-eye removal, layers, text and some simple drawing tools. The program also includes an Effects browser that contains dozens of filters and effects that you can apply to your photos. 

These effects are organized into categories such as colour adjustments that you can use to improve images or add a dramatic colour tint, as well as more exotic stylistic effects, blurs and sharpening filters. The Light Leak tool added in the latest version is a lot of fun, as it allows you to splash colour around your images with great freedom, and it’s easy to experiment with these effects by dragging a control button around the screen in order to quickly adjust the direction and strength of Light Leak and other effects. 

Pixelmator can’t quite match the editing power and the range of filters found in rivals such as Photoshop Elements, but it’s a lot cheaper than Elements at just £20.99, and makes a good upgrade for people who have outgrown the simple editing tools and effects found in iPhoto. There’s also a 30-day demo available on the developer’s web site.

Price: £20.99

Read: Best cameras for 2015

 

Autodesk Pixlr

Autodesk is best known for its range of professional 3D graphics and animation software, but it recently launched this fun little program for applying effects to your photos.

The basic Pixlr program is free to download and includes over 100 effects, along with some simple editing tools, and options for adding borders, text and graphics to your photos. The program is nice and easy to use, with a toolbar that organizes the various effects into categories such as ‘creative’ or ‘grunge’. Just click on any category in the toolbar and you’ll see a strip of preview images that runs down the side of the screen to illustrate how the various effects look. You can also modify each effect, using simple slider controls to adjust lighting, colour and other settings.

It’s easy to use, and fun to experiment with, and if you register for a free account you can download some additional effects, including a ‘double exposure’ tool that merges images together. There’s also a Pro option, which is available as an in-app purchase. This costs £1.49 a month, or £10.49 a year, and provides more powerful masking and blending tools that allow you to apply effects to specific areas, rather than just to the entire photo.

Price: free – with IAP

Read: 14 photo-sharing tips for Mac OS X

 

Tonality

Tonality is a fairly specialised piece of software that focuses specifically on black-and-white filter effects. However, the results that you can achieve with Tonality are pretty impressive, and it’s a great tool for anyone that wants to experiment with monochrome photography.

The standard version of Tonality is available from the Mac App Store for £13.99, and this includes manual controls that allow you to adjust settings such as exposure and contrast, along with more powerful controls such as tone curves and colour filters. Those tools will appeal to more advanced users, but Tonality also includes more than 100 presets that allow new users to quickly and easily experiment with different settings and effects. The presets are organised into categories such as portraits, dramatic effects or vintage film stocks, and there’s a handy preview option that lets you view the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of your photos to see how different effects will look.

There’s also a Pro version of Tonality available from the developer’s web site that includes a number of additional tools. Tonality Pro works as a standalone editing program, but can also be used as a plug-in  that works in conjunction with other editing programs such as Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom. The Pro version costs £41.99, but there’s a demo available that you can try before deciding which version to buy. 

Price: Tonality - £13.99; Tonality Pro - £41.99

Read:

How to use iCloud Photo sharing and iCloud Photo Library

Best Mac photo editing software

Tips for setting up and using Photos for Mac

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Photos for Mac review

Tips for photo editing in Preview

Best free Mac Apps

How to set up Photos for OS X, tips for using Photos for Mac

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