“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” - Don McCullin

Nowadays, almost every smartphone is also a great camera that you can use to take some great snaps anywhere, any time.

As amateur photography increases, brands have started paying more attention to white balance, luminosity, and even filters. Now they’re almost considered an essential part of every smartphone camera app and are a quick and easy way to improve your photos.

So which are the best filters? How can you go from taking photos to taking great photos?

Let’s have a quick look at the most common filters.

Black and White Filter

“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.” - Scott Lorenzo

When it comes to taking photos of high contrast areas like mountains or a friend's face, there are few methods better than black and white. Sometimes, the colours can cause adverse effects.

Which are the best smartphone filters?
Filters are easy to apply to photos. (Source: nastya_gepp)

Without needing photo editing software, you can use a black and white filter on your digital photos taken with a smartphone. Almost everyone knows this filter, which is why most smartphones offer it as standard.

This will change your colour photo into black and white, which can bring the whole thing together. Blurred or oversaturated areas can be reduced and corrected with a black and white filter. It’s like going back to basics. The advantage of the black and white filter is that it simplifies everything and can increase the depth and contrast of photos.

Think about it.

Who’s never used the black and white filter on their smartphone?

Whether it’s for portraits or landscapes, it’s a useful filter. It’s surprising how much this one little filter can improve a photograph.

Sepia Filter

This is far from complex photo editing in Photoshop. This filter can be applied directly to your photograph without too much effort. Similarly, it comes as standard with most modern smartphones.

To give your photo a vintage feel, the sepia filter is ideal. It’ll take all the colours and flatten them into a sepia tone reminiscent of the first every photographs. This amber-coloured effect works similarly to the black and white filter and can reduce certain imperfections. You don’t need Lightroom for this!

Of course, you can’t use the sepia filter to change the depth of field, for example, but it can give your photo an old-timey feel.

Warm Filter

Most modern smartphones will also include warm filters which can go by several names depending on the make and model. Generally, they’ll augment warm colours such as reds, oranges, and yellows.

What is a warm filter?
Warm filters will immediately make every photo look sunnier. (Source: laura6)

Thus, your entire photo feels warmer or more autumnal. The use of this is down to the user and the impression they want their photo to give.
Rather than reduce imperfections, this type of filter can change the mood of a picture. While this used to be something done in a dark room, you can now do it all on your phone.

Cold Filter

Much like warm filters, you can find cold filters on most modern smartphones. In this case, colder colours like blues and greens are augmented. This will give your photos a more wintery and distant feel.

What is a cold filter?
A cold filter will increase the cold colours in your photos. (Source: kbk8196)

You can change the whole feel of your images in just one click in most cases. What better way to improve your smartphone photography.

Learn more about the different photo modes on smartphones.

Vintage Filter

There isn’t one particular vintage filter but rather a whole plethora of them. While some work similarly to the sepia filter, others can add graininess and imperfections to make your photo look like it was taken on an older film camera.

Many of these filters and presets can provide results that could take a good amount of time on photo editing software. Whether you’re taking close-ups or photos of landscapes, these filters can provide some interesting results.

What are vintage filters?
Instagram was created with vintage filters in mind. (Source: Wokandapix)

High Contrast Filter

Much like with vintage filters, there isn’t a single high contrast filter. In this case, we’re talking about filters that boost colours to make them more vibrant.

These can be used to focus on certain aspects of the image and can be done across the whole spectrum or just on a single colour. After all, not every device deals with colours in the same way. It’s interesting what you can do with these filters.

Both amateurs and professionals can get a lot out of these filters if used correctly and they won’t need to use software like Photoshop. This is a great way to quickly improve photos on your smartphone.

Check out these great tips for better smartphone photography.

Colour Filter

Thanks to smartphones, almost anything is possible when it comes to your photos. Many of them include a colour filter which, as its name suggests, allows to you apply a single colour over your entire image.

While limited in terms of uses, artistically, colour filters can add an interesting aspect to your photography. Most smartphones will provide you with preset colours or the option to apply a custom colour to your whole photo.

Be it green, blue, yellow, or brown, you can use these colour filters alongside or in addition to the numerous other filters we’ve discussed. Similarly, you can also alter the intensity of the colour filter.

After all, some photos will look really odd with a single colour filter applied to them. That said, a subtle colour filter can enhance certain areas of photos. You can use them, much like the warm and cold filters, to change the mood and feel of your photography.

Whether you’re taking selfies, portraits, or pictures of nature, the filters on your smartphones can make your photos even better than they probably already are. There’s a plethora of them and some smartphones even allow you to download extra ones.

What better way to get started?

While good photos start at the moment you take them, filters can be used in the event something doesn’t go to plan or your photos are lacking a certain something. The filters can make colours pop, heighten important details, or just improve the overall quality of your photography.

Of course, the better your photos are when you take them, the less image editing you'll have to do afterwards. While the best photo editing apps and software are powerful tools for retouching photos, removing the odd blemish, or even just altering the brightness, cropping out unwanted elements, or adding effects like tilt-shift, a second of careful thought when taking a picture can save you hours of editing afterwards.

Professional photo editing tools can be expensive, too, so unless you're a professional photographer editing photos all the time, you might want to just use overlays like filters to give your photos that wow factor.

While the best photo editing software is costly, look for free photo editing software or an online photo editor that you can use for resizing, cropping, or just adding some basic photo effects. Once you get the hang of these, then you can consider investing in a professional-grade photo editor like the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Photoshop Express, Photoshop CC, or Photoshop Lightroom.

If you'd like more help with photography, there are many talented and experienced tutors on Superprof who'd be willing to help you. There are three main types of tutorial and you can choose the one which best suits your preferred learning style and your budget.

Group tutorials tend to be the cheapest and best for those on a budget as all the students in the tutorial are sharing the cost of the tutor's time and expertise. However, this does mean you'll get less one-on-one time with your tutor and the lessons won't be tailored to just you and what you want to learn.

Online tutorials tend to be slightly more expensive than group tutorials but are just between you and your tutor. This means you can benefit from tailored lessons and learning programmes as well as enjoying the tutor's undivided attention throughout your tutorials. However, without the tutor physically being there with you, it can make certain hands-on aspects of learning a little bit more difficult.

Finally, face-to-face tutorials have the benefits of the previous two types of tutorials without the drawbacks of the tutor not being there or there being other students in the tutorial vying for your tutor's attention. If you want to learn with these types of tutorials, however, you will have to pay more than the other two types as you'll be paying for your tutor's expertise, travel costs, and all the time they put in outside of your tutorials to ensure that they're tailored to you and exactly what you want to learn about.

Think carefully about which type is best for you and discuss all this with any potential tutors before hiring them!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.