The Best Camera Apps for Android

Take better photos, capture perfect selfies, and find the best filter

Three friends taking self portrait with smartphone
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

All smartphones have built-in cameras these days, but you're not limited to the one you've got. A variety of camera apps is available that offer features beyond your out of the box shooter—some practical (photo editing, manual and advanced features), some zany (GIFs and wacky effects). You may already use Instagram and Snapchat, but there are so many other less well-known Android apps that help you take your best shot and show your creativity.

Filters baby! I've also included a handful of apps with editing features. Love taking selfies? I've got apps for you too. It's amazing what's out there. Let's dig in.

Take a better photo

Smartphones can take pretty nice pictures in the best of conditions, but you can improve image quality by tweaking settings, such as exposure, shutter speed, and ISO. Features such as image stabilization help you deal with moving subjects. ProShot by Rise Up Games ($5 premium version; free demo version) includes manual controls and a handy grid overlay that helps you set up shots. Camera FV-5 by FGAE ($3.95) offers comparable features at a cheaper price in addition to a free lite version. While many camera apps offer filters that you can apply after you take a photo, Camera 360 Ultimate by PinGuo Inc. (free with in-app purchases) includes lens filters that you can use while taking a photo, which is cool. DSLR users will like that Manual Camera by Geeky Devs Studio ($2.99) allows you to shoot in RAW mode, which yields an uncompressed image file that you can easily edit.

Finally, if you like the look of photos with blurry backgrounds, AfterFocus by MotionOne (free; $1.99 pro version) lets you do just that by selecting a focus area. It also offers a selection of filters you can use after the fact.

I cover a handful of free camera apps with manual features including A Better Camera, Google Camera, and Open Camera in a separate article.

Each has unique features, including HDR functionality, editing options, and image stabilization.

Show your Artistic Side

Mobile photos are a great way to showcase your creativity. You've probably noticed a lot of Prisma photos in your social feeds. This app, by Prisma Labs Inc. (free), takes your photos and turns them into works of art. You can choose filters based on famous artists like Picasso and Van Gogh. Prisma uses artificial intelligence to transform your photos, which is a big step forward. If you're into Japanese comic books and graphic novels, the Otaku Camera by Tokyo Otaku Mode Inc. (free) can "mangatize" your photos, with over 100 filters. Retrica by Retrica Inc. (free) offers several ways to customize your photos and videos, including a GIF generator, collage creator, and 125 filters. Go vintage with the Retro Camera by AppsForIG (free), which lets you preview your shots before you snap, and apply 40-plus effects to photos you've already taken. It includes a timer and makes it easy to share to your favorite social media accounts. Little Photo by Moment (free) also offers film-like effects. For a huge number of filters and editing tools, try VSCO by VSCO (free with in-app purchases).

It also includes community features, so you can connect and share your images with other members.

Perfect Your Selfies

Selfies have taken over social media, but it's not easy to take a good one. Kim Kardashian may have perfected it, but she definitely doesn't do it alone. She has help, so why shouldn't you? It's not easy to take a flattering selfie. You have to get your arms in the right place, make sure everyone's looking at the camera, and get the right angle and lighting. Not to mention that close-up photos can be unforgiving. That's where Perfect365: One-Tap Makeover by ArcSoft Inc. (free with in-app purchases) comes in, with beauty and makeup tools, touch-up tools, as well as tips and tutorials from YouTube artists.

You can even try different makeup styles and colors using the app. Similarly, Facetune by Lightricks Ltd. lets you touch-up photos, hide dark circles, and even whiten teeth. Frontback by Frontback (free) helps you make your pictures more interesting by snapping a photo of what you're looking at in addition to your face and combining each shot. This way your friends can see that you're at a concert, hiking the grand canyon, or celebrating a friend's wedding.

And as to whether you should use a selfie stick? They're not completely necessary if you use the right apps, but they have their place. Just be careful in crowds (I almost got whacked with one in Times Square) and be aware of your surroundings. Selfies can be dangerous--seriously. Be careful in traffic, near trains, cliffs, bodies of water, and the like.

Edit with Ease

Sometimes your shots just don't turn out the way you want them too, but that doesn't mean you have to start over. There are lots of image editing tools for Android; your device may even have in-camera editing tool built-in. Beauty Camera-Pip Camera by AppUniversal (free) includes tools for adjusting brightness and saturation, blur and sharpen tools, and the ability to add text, frames, and even create your own memes. It also had red-eye correction and a teeth whitener. The Cymera – Selfie & Photo Editor by SK Communications (free with in-app purchases) includes filters, collages, skin correction tools, stickers, and a range of editing tools. You can also edit photos from other apps including Camera360 and VSCO. There are similar offerings from Photo Editor by Aviary (free with in-app purchases) including cosmetic tools, stickers, and common photo editing tools. Line Camera: Animated Stickers by Line Corporation (free with in-app purchases) includes filters, stamps, collages, brushes, timer, sharing options, and more.

Camera App Tips

Choosing the right camera app is overwhelming, to say the least. The options I've outlined only touch the surface. Before you download, be sure the app is valid so you can avoid malware. I've included the developers in the descriptions so you can match them up in the Google Play Store. One exception: the Otaku app is available only in the Amazon App Store. While you're at it, read the user reviews, which usually reflect long periods of usage. Expert reviews are also helpful since they often include comparisons, and are written by reviewers who have used a lot of related apps.

Most of the paid apps have a demo or lite version that you can try out before plunking down cash. Try out a few apps before you choose your favorite. Some apps offer discounts from time to time, so be on the lookout for that. Also be aware, that many free apps offer premium features in the form of in-app purchases, which can get pricey. Check for compatibility with other photo apps, such as Instagram, and how easy it is to share pictures on your social accounts

Once you choose your favorite camera app, be sure to set it as your default app for taking photos. This can be done by going into the application manager under settings. There, you can set and clear default apps for all sorts of actions. This process may vary by device; check out my guide to setting up default apps. If you choose more than one app, you can easily switch between defaults.

Take the time to explore the camera settings. Practice using features you're not familiar with; don't be intimidated. Take multiple photos of the same subject until you get it right; some apps even offer burst modes or a feature that lets you choose the best shot out of a series, or even combines a series of shots to create a better output. Camera MX by Appic Labs Corp. (free with in-app purchases), which I covered in the aforementioned story, has a cool "shoot the past" feature that you can use to take a series of shots if you're working with a moving subject or tricky lighting. A handful of these apps offer panorama mode, which can be handy for capturing landscapes or city skylines. Have fun - that's what it's really all about. 

Be sure to back up your device regularly so you don't lose important photos and data. Google Photos makes it easy to save your photos to the cloud. You've got no excuse! This will also make it easier to transfer everything when you get a new device and is important to do before you update your Android OS. If your phone accepts one, it may be worth it to invest in a memory card or two so you don't have to worry about running out of space.

Of course, it's worth noting that your built-in camera may have enough features to satisfy you. Most smartphones let you adjust flash and brightness, add filters, tag location, and set timers. Some also let you edit your photos including cropping, red-eye correction, and other enhancements. As photo apps become more and more popular, hardware manufacturers have to up their camera game.