Cropped Image Of Silhouette Person Holding Cell Phone Against Sky At Dusk

These must-have photo apps help you snap, edit and organize your vacation photos on the fly. (Getty Images)

It takes more than an Instagram filter and a tap on your touch screen to get a winning photo. A good travel photo has to tell a story and capture the essence of the place. It also has to look aesthetically pleasing. Luckily, there's an app for that – there are plenty, actually. From editing like the pros to clearing up space on your phone for more pictures, these five tools will help you shoot, edit and organize your photos in a better way.


Ever wonder how people get those amazing landscape shots where everything looks bright and colorful? Often that's the result of HDR, or high dynamic range photography, and you can apply it to your own photos easily. Snapseed, a free app offers a wide range of gizmos, like HDR and red-eye reduction. Actually, there are so many different settings and variables to adjust, it can take some time to tap around and find the tools you need. But once you get into a Snapseed groove, you can swipe and slide your photos into great shape quickly. Plus, all edits made on the app are "non-destructive," meaning you won't be overwriting your original photo and you can retreat backwards through all your edits any time. You can also opt to "Save As" to create a new modified version of the picture while keeping your old one.

Ideal for: Boosting color and detail
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android; Phone (iOS 8 or later required)


VSCO is more than an editing app. It's a community-focused educational tool as well. The company makes plug-ins for Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. In other words, the tool is for serious photographers. The editing interface is simple and clean; you can choose from 10 free pre-set filters (more are available to buy) and make custom tweaks on top of them. Like Instagram, you can browse other VSCO users' photos in the "Explore" section. Unlike Instagram, the photos here show you which filters and settings the photographer used, so you can pick up techniques and ideas. Want more ways to learn? The new VSCO Academy just launched in February, offering a "place for photographers of all levels to learn, be inspired and engage in the art of photography."

Ideal for: Learning new styles and techniques
Price: Free; includes in-app purchases
Compatibility: Android; iPhone (iOS 8 or later required)

Slow Shutter Cam

Ever wonder how people take those misty waterfall pics or those nighttime streetscapes where traffic lines zigzag across the screen? Shots such as these require a slow shutter speed, and as great as smartphone cameras have become, most do not feature manual controls. That's where the Slow Shutter Cam app comes in. With three different modes to capture pictures in dark settings (night shots), blurred motion (waterfalls) and light trails (traffic), the app lets you control your phone camera enough to get DSLR-style scenes. Plus, if you're an advanced photographer, you can also geek out with the metadata – you can pick your file type, resolution, geotagging and more.

Ideal for: Night photography and capturing motion
Price: $1.99
Compatibility: iPhone (iOS 7 or later required)

360 Panorama

Sometimes a panoramic shot just doesn't capture the full scene. The 360 Panorama app takes panoramas to a new level, creating interactive scenes that you can pan and scroll to look around and see what lies beyond the photo frame. Getting the panoramic shot is easy; just stand in one spot and scan your phone up and down and all around until you've snapped your entire surroundings. You can then share a link to the interactive view, embed it online or can flatten it to print or share it on social media. For a different view, you can also switch to "stenographic" mode, which morphs your shot into a globe-like scene, where you're at the center and your surroundings pop out around you.

Ideal for: Capturing your surroundings
Price: $1.99
Compatibility: Android; iPhone (iOS 7 or later required)

Google Photos

It doesn't matter how great a photo is if you don't have room on your phone to save it. And if you're on a long trip, the last thing you want is to delete earlier photos to make space for the new ones. There are many apps that save your images for long-term storage (think: iCloud, Dropbox, Amazon Photos, etc.), but Google Photos tops them all because of its ability to sort and categorize your photos. You can set up the app so that every photo snapped on your phone is automatically synced to your Google Photos account. This makes your photos accessible from any device, computer or Google Drive and also means you don't have to keep the image stored on your phone. And when it comes time to find an old picture to add to an email or a social media post, you can browse your Google Photos library by date, location or even the subject featured in the picture (just search for terms like “mountains” or “food”).

Ideal for: Backing up and categorizing your photos
Price: Free
Compatibility: Android; iPhone (iOS 8.1 or later required) 

Tags: travel, technology, iPhone

Jess Moss has covered travel for the better part of a decade. She has worked as an editor at Fodor's Travel, AOL Travel and MapQuest, and has done email and content marketing for Marriott Rewards. Her work has also appeared in major publications including Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and (of course) U.S. News. Jess writes about a range of topics, primarily focusing on practical tips and ideas for everyday travelers (read: folks who have limited vacation time or money). She's also an avid photographer; you can find her on Instagram @jmoss5.

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