How to Add Photo Filters to iPhone Photos

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The iPhone is the most widely used camera in the world, which means that tens of millions of people take tens of millions of photos with their iPhones every day. How good those photos look depends on the skill of the photographers, of course, but ​the photo filters built into the Photos app that comes with the iPhone can help improve the look of any photo.

These built-in filters are predefined styles that you can apply to your photos to make them look like they were shot on black and white film, with a Polaroid instant camera, or any number of other cool effects.

These photo filters were added to the iOS Photos and Camera apps in iOS 7, so any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running that version of the iOS or higher has them. You just need to know how to find and use them. In addition to those filters, there are also ​dozens of great photo apps available at the App Store that offer their own filters and even more functionality. Read on to learn about how to use the built-in filters and how to expand your repertoire by getting more.

How to Use the Photo Filters Built Into the iPhone Camera App

The filters pre-loaded on iOS devices are a little basic, and so they probably won't satisfy experienced photographers. But if you're just dipping your toe into adding effects to your photos, they're a great place to start. If you want to take a new photo using one of these filters, just follow these steps: 

  1. Tap the Camera app to open it.​

  2. Tap the three interlocking circles icon in the top corner to reveal the available photo filters.

  3. A bar appears next to the camera button that shows previews of the photo using each filter. ​Swipe side to side to scroll through filters.

  4. ​​When you've got the filter you like selected, take the photo and it will be saved with the filter applied.​ You can view the photo in the iOS Photos app.

How to​ Apply Filters to Old Photos​

Taking a new photo with a filter applied is good, but what about existng photos that you took without filters?​ You can retroactively add filters to them as well. Here's how (these instructions apply to iOS 10 and up):

  1. Tap the Photos app to open it.

  2. Browse through the Photos app to find the photo you want to use. You might find this in your Camera Roll, Photos or Memories, or other Albums.

  3. Tap the photo you want so that it's the only photo displayed on the screen.

  4. Tap Edit.

  5. At the bottom of the screen, tap the ​center icon ​which shows three interlocking circles. This is the Filters menu.

  6. A set of filters appears below the photo, showing previews of the photo with the filter applied to it.Swipe side to side to scroll through filters.

  7. Tap a filter to apply it to the photo.

  8. If you don't like the result, swipe through the menu and tap another filter.

  9. If you've changed your mind about using a filter and don't want to change the photo, tap Cancel in the bottom left corner and then tap Discard Changes.

  10. If you like how the photo looks with the filter applied and want to save it, tap Done.​

How to Remove a Filter From an iPhone Photo

When you apply a filter to a photo and tap Done, the original photo is changed to include the new filter. The original, unmodified file is no longer visible in your Camera Roll. You can, however, undo a filter. That's because filters are applied using "non-destructive editing." This means that the original photo is always available and the filter is like a layer applied over the original. Just remove that layer to reveal the original. Here's how:

  1. Find the photo you want to remove a filter from and tap it.

  2. Tap Edit.

  3. Tap Revert in the bottom right corner. (Alternatively, you can also select a different filter to apply by tapping the filters icon in the center.)

  4. In the pop-up menu, tap Revert to Original.

  5. The filter is removed from the photo and the original re-appears.

How to Use Photo Filters from Third-Party Apps

The iOS's built-in photo filters are nice, but they're also fairly limited—especially in a world where apps like Instagram provide users hundreds of filters to make their photos more appealing. Luckily, if you're running iOS 8 or higher, you can add additional filters to the Photos app.

To do this, you need to install a third-party photo app ​from the App Store on your phone that includes filters and supports app extensions, a feature of iOS 8 and up that lets apps share their features with other apps. Not all photo apps support app extensions, so you'll need to check whether the apps you have offer this feature. If they do, you can add filters from those apps to the built-in Photos app by following these steps:

  1. Tap the Photos app.

  2. Tap the photo you want to add the filter to so that it's the only photo displayed on the screen.

  3. Tap Edit.

  4. If you've got an app installed on your phone that offers app extensions, you'll see a circle with three dots in it next to the Done button on the right. ​Tap it.

  5. From the menu that pops up, tap More.

  6. In the More screen, you'll see all of the third-party apps offering photo extensions. Move the slider to On/green for any app whose extensions you want to enable.

  7. Tap Done.

  8. In the pop up menu that appears when you tap the circle with three dots icon, you'll now see options for the apps you just enabled. Tap the app whose features you want to use to edit the photo.

At this point, you'll be able to edit the photo using the features offered by the app you selected (exactly what features there are will depend on the app you choose). Edit and save the photo as you normally would.

Other Apps With Photo Filters

If you want to get additional photo filters to use on your iPhone (to say nothing of all the other features that these apps can give you), check out these photography apps at the App Store:

  • Afterlight 2: Afterlight 2 is a full-featured photo editing and effects suite for your iPhone. It offers more than a dozen tools to tweak and adjust the look of your photos, over 100 filters and textures to apply effects to photos, frames and cropping tools, and an extension that lets you use all of these tools in the Photos app. $2.99 Purchase at iTunes
  • Camera+: One of the leading third-party photo apps, Camera+ packs a huge number features. Using it, you'll be able to take photos from within the app, get control over focus and exposure and digital zoom, tons of effects and editing tools, sharing, and much more.$2.99, with in-app purchases Purchase at iTunes
  • Halftone 2: Do you like comics? Want to make your own but don't know how to draw? Halftone 2 is the solution. This app takes your photos, applies effects and filters to them so that they look like comics art, and then lets you compile them into multi-panel pages. You can even add sound effects and word balloons and captions. $2.99, with in-app purchases Purchase at iTunes
  • Litely: Another app brimming with filters, visual adjustments, and multiple levels of undo, Litely is designed to make it easy to apply subtle changes that dramatically improve photos. A before and after view on the same screen makes it easy to understand the impact of your changes, while its extension brings the app's features into the iOS Photos app. Free, with in-app purchases Download at iTunes
  • Quick: Unlike other apps on this list which focus on making adjustments to the look of photos, Quick focuses on adding text to photos to create a unique finished product. With a choice of fonts, text styles, colors, and effects, Quick makes it easy to add an extra message to your pictures. Free, with in-app purchases Download at iTunes