Making your photos more awesome with apps and actions

I will freely admit that I’m not the best photographer in the world. In a perfect world, all of our pics would be taken in great lighting with DSLR cameras in Manual setting to get beautiful images every time. I don’t know about you, but that pretty much never happens for me. So I depend heavily on photo actions, either on my phone or in PSE. Here are a few of my favorites right now.

For the phone- Pic Tap Go, A Beautiful Mess, and Instagram

Pic Tap Go is my go-to for basic editing. I’ve tried many others apps, but this is the one that’s stuck. I love the cropping options that let you save a rectangular photo to Instagram. The sliders make it so easy to make more subtle adjustments and you can pile filters on top of each other. If you find a combination you like, save it to Recipes and use that combo on other photos. One caveat is that the app is pretty buggy right now. It crashes on me every two days or so.


My newest obsession is the A Beautiful Mess App. You can use filters to make your photos prettier, but my favorite parts are the doodles and text options. You can buy add on packs with more doodles and fonts, but the ones that come with the app are pretty great to play around with.


And of course there’s Instagram. Every photo that I edit with the first two apps eventually gets shared through Instagram. The filters are great, but don’t add as much versatility as many other apps since you can’t adjust their strength or use more than one at a time. For me, the best part of Instagram is the social media aspect. I think I have more conversations on Instagram than I do on Facebook or Twitter. I’m also excited to start playing around with the video feature on Instagram.


For the computer- CoffeeShop, Pioneer Woman, and RadLab

Some of the first photoshop actions I’ve ever used were from the Coffee Shop Blog. Rita offers a ton of PS and PSE actions- all for free! (You can also save time and support her blog by buying them all in a bundle. Just make sure you download the correct actions for the program you’re using, either PS or PSE, or they won’t work.


I’m also a big fan of the Pioneer Woman’s photoshop actions, which are also free. I almost always use her Boost and Flatten actions on my photos for the blog. If you haven’t visited her blog before, you definitely should. She has lots of photography tips, plus tasty recipes.


If you’re looking to spend a few dollars, I recommend RadLab. I got the free trial a few days ago, and I’m Loving it! You can get actions for PS and PSE, or presets for Lightroom. The RadLab people are the same ones behind Pic Tap Go, and just like the app, you can pile filters on top of each other and save your favorites to recipes.


So now that you’ve seen some of my vacation photos, (like how I snuck those in?). let’s see how these apps can take an older photo from eh to awesome!

Here is the original. Pretty bad photo taken with Jason’s old Palm Pilot from 2006. But it’s just so sweet!


Now here’s the same photo, edited with some of my favorite apps and actions. Please note that these pictures are teeny and low res. I had to blow them up a bit just to get them big enough to post. Also, I’m not doing anything to try and correct the graininess or anything like that in PSE. This is just showing the apps and actions alone, with a little cropping.

Pic Tap Go


A Beautiful Mess






Pioneer Woman


RadLab. This is the one I ultimately decided to go with in Jason’s Father’s Day book.


There are a lot of options for even the worst photo, depending on what kind of layout you’re going for. Have fun and play around, you might find your new favorite photo effect with one of these apps or actions.


2 thoughts on “Making your photos more awesome with apps and actions

  1. Great post! I recently started using PicTapGo and A Beautiful Mess apps myself and I love them! I like the final B&W result from RadLab that you chose for J’s book.. such an adorable pix of him and LM! Unfortunately, I can’t justify the cost of PS or PSE right now, but I’m getting great results (and what I need) from the free OpenSource program, Gimp ( BTW, what are photoshop actions? I’m intrigued…

    • Thanks! I’ve heard great things about Gimp. PS and PSE actions are basically when someone “records” a series of steps and you’re able to “play” them with one click instead of doing all the steps individually. There are all kinds of actions, from photo editing and adding layers to saving files. Anything you can think of, there’s probably an action for it. I’m not sure if there’s anything comparable in Gimp.
      I usually get my PSE through Costco around the holidays at a discounted price. But if you’re getting what you need from Gimp, that’s awesome!

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