It seems we write a lot about apps that provide filters for iPhone photographers — partly because there are so many of these photo editing apps. The other reason, at least speaking personally, is I am fascinated at how many new ideas and quality apps provide worthwhile approaches.

Formulas ($1.99) is a case in point. This app creates well thought out unique looking photo effects that simply don’t look pasted on or out of place. Most of the filters do multiple adjustments, including soft focus at the edges of the frames, selective noise, grain and dust, and tonal changes that seem to make sense.

The app also has a large collection of frames, and again, the selections are realistic, never garish, and gives you control over various elements of the frame. It also features a one-click option to auto tune any filter.

Formulas also provides an extension to let you interact with Formulas from within your camera roll or other apps that support extensions.

Using Formulas

Once you give the app access to your camera roll or your camera, you’re ready to go. First thing up is the aspect ration. You can preserve it as is, or make adjustments, like 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9.


From there you see your photo at the top part of your screen, with an array of filter options below. You scroll and select. If you have a ‘look’ you like, you can still tune it with a slider that goes from 0-100. 100 is the full filter effect. As you back off, more of your original photo bleeds through. It gives you almost infinite control.

Frames are next, and there are a large variety of frames, from linen to metallic. Once the frame is selected that same slider lets you adjust the thickness of the frame. It’s all very logical.

I experimented with some photos I took at an old mining town. The subject seemed well suited for some of the filters that aged the photo, and I was very pleased with the results. I especially liked the ability to fine tune the amount of the filter. The app saved my photos in their original resolution, and there are options to upload directly to the major social services, and of course, email.

Room for improvement

While the app is universal, it only runs in portrait mode. I see this in a few of the apps I review, and I just think it’s a mistake. Many, if not most of our photos are in landscape mode. I’d really like to edit that way, taking maximum advantage of the smallish iPhone screen.

The adjustment control is a bit counterintuitive. At first, I tried sliding the button but it didn’t work. Actually, you are supposed to slide the markings to either side of the button. That seems like it is needlessly complex and not what a user would expect. The button should be the control.


I should also note that the app provides no tools for cropping, and I think that tool should be there. Some might complain about not having tools for saturation or curves, but I would argue that the app filters take care of these adjustments. You can always start in another editor and adjust to taste, then open your photo in Formulas for finishing touches.

The Bottom Line

With so many apps doing filters, I have to say Formulas has a professional look to it that I really found pleasing with the photos I loaded into it. It’s reasonably priced, and unlike many other apps it doesn’t hit you with in-app purchases. For $1.99 it’s all here, and ready to go. The only major missing feature is landscape-oriented editing, but any other quibbles are just quibbles. Formulas is now my go-to app when I need to apply compelling filters to photos that I think benefit from them. I highly recommend Formulas and hope the developers will continue to upgrade it.

Formulas requires iOS 7, and it’s optimized for the latest iPhone screen resolutions. It was pretty well behaved under iOS 9 beta 5 but I had one crash on saving to the camera roll. I’m sure when iOS 9 rolls out officially all will be well.

Download Formulas

iphoneography, iphone photo, mobile photo, photo app, free download

App Store link: Formulas – Photo Lab Effects and Custom Frames – Samer Azzam



Formulas 2.0

Effects Quality
Resolution and Image Quality
User Interface

Formulas creates well thought out unique looking photo effects that simply don't look pasted on or out of place. It's reasonably priced, and unlike many other apps it doesn't hit you with in-app purchases. The only major missing feature is landscape oriented editing, but any other quibbles are just quibbles.

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