Often in photography, the image that you capture isn’t quite as exciting as what you had in mind. Beyond the subtle tone or cropping changes you can make in Preview or iPhoto, try adding a more unusual effect to give an image a whole new look.

These three applications offer inexpensive ways to give bland photos the wow factor.

The Tilt-Shift-Focus application allows you to selectively keep an area of your photo in focus, while blurring the rest. Depending on the size of the focus area and the degree of blur you add, this effect can subtly draw attention to part of the photo, dramatically alter the entire image’s look, or even give the subjects a miniature, toy-like quality. The Tilt-Shift-Focus application can also add vignetting, tweak contrast, and convert a colour image to black and white ($15 [£9] dev.LUX, www.dev-lux.com).

Have you ever taken a photo outdoors, only to discover afterwards that the dark or bright areas don’t show all the detail you expected? Maybe a blue sky dotted with clouds appears a washed-out white. Digital photos with a wide dynamic range – a combination of bright and dark areas – are prone to this problem. Ohanaware’s free HDRtist software combines multiple exposures to create a single image that shows a wider range of detail. HDRtist also has a Pseudo HDR mode that will allow you to replicate an HDR look from a single image  (free; Ohanaware, www.ohanaware.com).

With Apparent Software’s ImageFramer you can add a realistic-looking frame to a special photo. To use ImageFramer, drag your image to the main window and choose the frame, mat, and colours you like. You’ll find more than 100 styles, and you can customise every detail – width, colour, mats, shadows and more. When you create a combination you like, you can save it as a preset. ImageFramer also allows you to add your own personal watermark for a final personalised touch ($30 [£19; there’s also a free trial version with watermarks]; Apparent Software, www.apparentsoft.com).