With its tools that allow anyone to manipulate a photo’s lighting and basic compositions, Adobe Lightroom is perhaps the most prominent photo editing tool on mobile today. The results of photos processed on Lightroom are next to perfection. However, some budding influencers turn to cheaper or free Lightroom alternative apps to achieve the so-called influencer-esque photos. All for the sake of just achieving an Instagram-worthy post.
What is Adobe Lightroom?
Lightroom is a photo importing, editing, and organizing software by Adobe Systems and is part of the Creative Cloud family. The app does less extensive manipulation like removing unwanted compositions and elements on the photo — a job perfectly accomplished by Photoshop.
You can use Lightroom mobile to manipulate the color composition and adjust the depth and overall aesthetics of an image. These manipulations range from manually adjusting the usual suspects – brightness, contrast, colors, color gradients, shadows, and the likes. Another option is to use a preset, a pre-composed filter applied on images using Lightroom.
But here’s the catch: aside from getting extra storage capacity to store all your images, getting the premium version of the mobile app also allows you access to tools shy from the free version. All come with a cost, of course. The premium version subscription of Lightroom ranges from $1.99 per month to $49.99 yearly.
The price tag may prove hard to justify for small and budding influencers or photographers out there. Luckily, there are cost-friendly and free Lightroom alternative apps available to help you achieve what others can achieve when using Lightroom.
Free Lightroom Alternative Apps
Below are some of the notable free Lightroom alternative apps that will give you the same results when using Lightroom.
1. VSCO: Photo & Video Editor
If you want to get an image that can reap over 1000 likes on Instagram, VSCO Cam would be the best alternative to get. VSCO can get intimidating and confusing to use with its features but with a few tutorials, it should get easy.
Like Lightroom, the ability to import, edit, and organize a photo library is what VSCO is known for. It allows users to concoct their filters based on their liking and idea of aesthetics. At the same time, the app has in-app filters you can try. It’s a good app for a cohesive Instagram feed that has a warm palette and shades-of-coffee aesthetics. The app’s filters work well with studio shots with plain backgrounds perfectly as well.
VSCO offers a premium version which gives anyone access to its library of premium filters and tools. Still, getting the subscription is optional, especially with Youtube and Pinterest tutorials providing guidance in achieving your own presets, with just a tap.
2. A Color Story
Demand for photo editing tools significantly rose, along with the advent of visual content on social media. Indeed, the majority of visual content these days is not just about feature-enhanced, but aesthetics-enhanced as well.
Insert A Color Story — an app that uses robust tools that makes a photo stand out in the sea of visual content. The app offers tools that would make a photo taken in a room with poor lighting pop-out by adding filters and effects, such as color fog and light flares. You can also tweak your photo in terms of brightness, contrast, saturation, and other visual elements using the app’s handful of tools.
3. Afterlight – Photo Editor
Afterlight is a top free Lightroom alternative especially if you are fond of putting effects on your photos other than a filter. Its tools include the ability to add light leaks and double exposures, which are useful to achieve a retro effect on digital photos.
Speaking of retro effects, Polaroids and analog-taken photo effects have risen to prominence in 2014. Remember when Taylor Swift released her 1989 album that comes with faded Polaroid photos in it? These photos are characterized as shots with light leaks, exposures, and sometimes grainy. These elements give character to a photograph.
Luckily, Afterlight has the tools to give a digital photo aesthetics of the retro days. As the photographer, all you have to do is get your composition right and process the photo on Afterlight.
4. PREQUEL: Aesthetic Editor
PREQUEL is the perfect companion to create aesthetically dynamic photos or videos fit for your Instagram stories. Its filters and effects give a high-quality finish to videos and images. In addition, the filters and effects are completely different in style and color schemes, compared to other free Lightroom alternative apps. When we say aesthetically dynamic, we mean aesthetics like glitch effects, origami, mirror, topical, instant camera, and VHS among others.
Perhaps the only downside of the app is the effects and filters aren’t separate from one another. That means to say, it would be difficult to layer one effect on top of another. Also, the app is only available for Apple devices as of this writing.
Social media gave people a new way to tell the world stories through flicks and series of snapshots. Much like perfectly curated and processed photos on our newsfeeds, stories also require to be visually dynamic. This is the selling point of FILMM.
This app features film textures, light effects, and VHS glitch effects to a clip or snap. On top of this, you can also choose music from its library to accompany the flick once uploaded on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The effects may constantly vary but there is no shortage of light leaks, dust, grain, and other film-like effects to give your flicks the aesthetics they need.
6. Foodie – Camera for life
If you are one of those people whose meal routines often include snapping away whatever is on top of their plates, then this app is for you. Foodie is a camera app designed for food photography.
The app comes with 30 professional quality live filters designed for food photographs. It also comes with a great smart-guide that enables a user to snap a photo from top-down using a so-called “grid” view. Once the screen shows the yellow frame around the photo, that means you’re in the perfect position and angle to snap the photo.
Snapseed is another photo editing app that comes close to Lightroom in terms of the palette of tools it offers. Snapseed also comes with filters that come in handy to achieve an Instagram-worthy photo.
It’s safe to say this app requires a bit of knowledge in photo editing with the range of tools it has but Snapseed tutorials should help. This app is also notable because of the healing tool, which really comes in handy when you want to make retouches before mixing the lighting and effect compositions.
8. Dazz Cam
If you do not have a warm, shades-of-coffee, or minimalist feed on Instagram, you would probably have a retro or vintage aesthetic curated feed. While some of the previously mentioned free Lightroom alternative apps can help you produce the effect, no other app does it better than Dazz Cam.
Dazz Cam’s claim to popularity is centered on its use of vintage mirrors and lens to produce 80s vintage and retro images without needing post-editing sessions. With a click of your chosen camera on the app, you are able to get an analog or Polaroid shot instantly. The app is also perfect for Instagram stories as it also supports video capturing using the same cameras and lenses.
9. Gudak Cam
One of the most effective vintage film mobile app is Gudak. For one, it does give you a close-to-perfect experience in taking photographs using a reusable film camera. The app only allows you to shoot 24 photographs per digital roll and takes three days before the images are available. Unlike Dazz Cam, this camera app does not have a number of cameras or lenses in it and the app chooses where to place the light leaks.
This is an old-school photo-shooting we are talking about wherein all you have to do is tap the capture button and hope the photo will be a good take.
10. Darkr – Vintage Film Filter
So far, we have provided you free Lightroom alternative apps to achieve warm, minimalist, foodie-friendly, and retro/vintage shots. But another aesthetically dynamic theme social media influencers go for is the ever enigmatic black and white curated feed.
This visually captivating filter is easily done using other apps but no app does it better than Darkr. With just one click, you would be able to create a stunning black and white photo without the use of a darkroom. Similar to Gudak, it gives you the experience of shooting using large-format cameras where the image is upside-down and there is no zoom button.
Pixrl is a photo editor and has a 100% online base, which makes it a good application for those who are not so keen on downloading apps into their devices. While Pixlr’s tools and library are not as advanced as Lightroom’s, it offers a great deal for people who like minimal photo adjustments and storage. It does make it to our list of free Lightroom alternative apps because it offers light composition editing such as HDR, glamour glow, and vignetting to improve an image’s composition.
One downside of this app is it requires a constant connection to the internet since it is 100% online.
Many photo editing apps nowadays are complicated and would require knowledge of editing. Luckily, there are apps offering an easy way to edit photos and still achieve an end result similar to Lightroom. One of these apps is Polarr.
Polarr offers a dozen pre-composed filters to choose from and is adjustable to achieve the right amount of aesthetic one needs. However, unlike Lightroom, Polarr’s tools are limited, as well as their functionality. It also does not have a photo library.
Aside from being the social media for visual content, Instagram offers in-app tools, effects, and filters to make our photos pop-out among the rest. In retrospect, before the advent of any of these apps we have listed, Instagram has already been at the forefront of photo composition manipulation, we just didn’t know the power those tools had before.
Without going too far, Instagram is a powerful tool in delivering posts that are washed out, with high contrast, film-grade, black and white, and even the ever-loved warm in colors. The catch: all free of charge.
Using Lightroom and Canva to make social media campaign posts might be a bit cumbersome. PicMonkey infuses these two apps in one platform and offers all necessary tools like photo editing, storage, and organization. And to make this app more appealing, it comes with basic color correction tool when you need to adjust the composition to make the colors pop.
15. Samsung and Apple Native Cameras
Both Samsung and Apple have come a long way when it comes to mobile photography. Both tech giant’s cameras have gone through changes over the last decade to deliver a phone equipped with state-of-the-art cameras to capture the best moments of our lives. Samsung and Apple have incorporated their best updates yet on their latest flagship devices, Samsung Galaxy S20 and iPhone 12 respectively.
Both cameras now come with post-production editing tools that allow anyone to make adjustments on usual suspects. In addition, filters have also been added to the composition-making, which can be added while taking the photo or after taking the photo. This, in itself, makes both company’s native cameras powerful than any other apps in their application stores.
The chances that you have or are already using one or two of these apps is high. These free Lightroom alternative apps are quite common on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Lightroom does offer the best tools to ensure our newsfeeds have the best visual content in the sea of visual content. But the fact is, in the long run, it might not be sustainable to maintain a premium subscription. Since we are just trying to live a good life, it would not hurt to give these alternatives a try. At the end of the day, the app or apps do not get to define our content; it is the composition that defines them before adding the filters and effects.