Love it or hate it, there's no denying Instagram is simple to use, allowing users to snap, process, and share photos without the need for a computer. But what happens when you feel like you've hit the Instagram limit and the dozen or so filters available are no longer enough for your smartphone-based photography?
This year, I've probably taken about 5,000 photos with my iPhone. When I first got a DSLR, I took probably 10,000 photos the first year, if not more. Any photographer will tell you the more photos you take, the better you'll get. This is certainly true of smartphones as well, and while there are plenty of GPOYs (Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself) and cat photos, there are a lot of beautifully composed photos taken with phones. If you lack inspiration, you can subscribe to a couple of talented photographers and follow their social networking feeds to check out what you can do. Chantelle from Fatmumslim has got a daily photo challenge that will get you motivated.
It doesn't take long to hit the Instagram limit. You can only have so many photos using the same filters. At some point, they all start to look the same. That's when you need to start using other apps to take it to the next level. There are plenty of photography apps, and I've got about 50 on my iPhone. I got most of these through AppsGoneFree, which highlights free apps daily. A lot of paid apps end up being free for a short time. That's how you can leverage your smartphone and try out as many apps as you want.
The apps that I use the most these days are HDR FX Pro ($1.99) and TiltShiftGen ($0.99). I tend to process HDR photos taken with my iPhone through HDR FX Pro first, which allows me to slightly modify the general image. Then, if I want to, I use TiltShiftGen to add a bit of vignetting and staggered blur to them.
These are only two of the many I use, and I find that using more than one, between 2-4, gets the desired effect. Naturally, you'll have to spend a little more time getting the photo just right and editing it appropriately. These days, I no longer use any Instagram filters. I find that they will blur out details that can be preserved using other apps.