Afterlight offers a quick and easy way to create beautiful and unique iPhone photo edits. This app has a great set of image adjustment tools, a beautiful collection of filters, customizable textures and light leaks, a blending tool for creating double-exposure photos, as well as a unique set of frames and borders. In this tutorial you’ll discover how to use the Afterlight app to perform basic and creative edits on your iPhone photos.
Afterlight can be downloaded from the App Store for $0.99. It comes with a complete set of image adjustment tools, as well as a wide range of filters, textures and frames to get you started. Extra filters and effects can be downloaded as additional in-app purchases.
Whether you want to perform basic exposure and color adjustments, or create your own unique look by combining multiple effects, Afterlight provides a great set of tools within a very user-friendly interface.
1. Import Or Shoot An Image
When you open the Afterlight app, you’ll see two options at the bottom of the screen: Camera and Albums. These allow you to either take a photo with the in-app camera, or import an image from your photo library albums.
There are also three small icons across the middle of the screen which give you access to app information and settings, as well as the Afterlight Instagram page where you can see inspirational photos that have been edited with the app.
To open a photo that you’ve already taken, tap on Albums, select an album from the list, then tap on the image you want to edit.
On the next screen, tap Use to confirm that you want to open this photo. If you want to go back to the main home screen to open a different image, tap Back at the top left.
As already mentioned, Afterlight has a built-in camera app which you can use to take photos. Simply tap the Camera option at the bottom of the app’s home screen.
Afterlight’s camera includes manual settings such as white balance, ISO and shutter speed. It also has a self-timer and a handy grid option which includes a spirit level for getting your horizons perfectly straight.
2. Afterlight’s Editing Tools
Once you’ve taken a picture or opened one from an album, you can start editing your image using the tools at the bottom of the screen.
There are six icons along the the bottom of the screen, as shown in the screenshot above. From left to right these icons are:
Revert Image – undo all edits to revert the image to its original state:
Adjustment Tools – use sliders to adjust exposure, color, sharpness, vignette and grain:
Filters – Change the look and feel of your image with one-tap adjustable filters:
Textures & Light Leaks – Apply dusty and scratchy filters, light leaks, and other analog film effects:
Crop & Transform – Crop, rotate, flip and straighten your photos, or create unique double-exposures by blending two images together:
Frames – Add unique frames and borders to your photo, including shapes, cut-out letters and polaroid-style frames:
In the rest of this tutorial, you’ll discover how to use these tools to edit and enhance your iPhone photos.
3. Adjustment Tools
Adjustment tools are used to tweak exposure, color, sharpness, grain and vignette.
To access the adjustment tools in Afterlight, tap the icon with three stacked sliders at the bottom of the screen. The adjustment tool icons will appear beneath your photo – swipe across to see more icons.
The tool icons don’t have labels, but when you tap on an icon you’ll see a slider with a label telling you what this tool is. If you don’t want to use that tool, simply tap the X to exit that tool.
To use a tool, simply drag the slider left or right to decrease or increase the setting, then tap the checkmark when you’re done.
From left to right, the adjustment tool icons are:
- Clarify: bring out detail in your photo
- Brightness: make the entire image brighter or darker
- Contrast: change the difference between lights and darks
- Saturation: adjust the intensity of color
- Exposure: brighten or darken the image
- Highlights: adjust brightness of the highlights (light areas)
- Shadows: adjust brightness of the shadows (dark areas)
- Fade: fade the colors
- Highlight Tone: add a red, blue or green color tint to the highlights
- Mid Tone: add a red, blue or green tint to the mid-tones (medium tones between highlights and shadows)
- Shadow Tone: add a red, blue or green tint to the shadows
- Temperature: make the colors warmer (more orange) or cooler (more blue)
- Vignette: add a white or black vignette around the edges of the image
- Grain: add grain to create an old fashioned film or vintage look
- Sharpening: sharpen the fine detail
You can use the adjustment tools in Afterlight to improve exposure/brightness, tweak the color to create different moods, sharpen up the detail, add drama, or create soft faded edits.
While Afterlight has a great selection of adjustment tools, the app is best known for its beautiful preset filters. Filters allow you to quickly change the look and feel of your photo by applying different colored overlays.
Afterlight comes with a good selection of filters, but you can also purchase additional filter packs from within the app if you wish.
To access the filters in Afterlight, tap the colored circle icon at the bottom of the screen. The different collections of filters will appear beneath your photo, e.g. Original, Guest, Seasons, etc.
Tap on one one of the collections to view the filters within that category, then tap on a filter to apply it to your image.
In general, Afterlight’s filters are very mild so they’re a great tool for subtle photo editing. However, if you find that a filter is too strong, simply drag the slider to the left to reduce its intensity. Tap the checkmark when you’re happy with the result.
When using filters, keep in mind how different kinds of filters will affect the mood of your image.
For example, warm colored filters with orange tones tend to make images seem more welcoming, giving them a happy, energetic or summery vibe. Filters with blue tones can make an image seem colder, with a sense of tranquility, loneliness or even sadness.
Yellowy and faded filters can add a vintage look to your photos, while black and white is great for creating a classic, timeless feel.
Afterlight allows you to apply multiple filters to your image, which is perfect for creating your own unique style. Once you’ve applied a filter and tapped the checkmark, you can simply repeat the process with more filters until you’re happy with the final look.
Another great feature of Afterlight’s filters is that you can create your own presets based on any combination of filters. To use this feature, simply tap the Fusion category in the list of filter collections, then tap the plus icon (+).
The app will now start recording the actions that you make. Tap OK on the message shown below to start recording the filters that you apply.
Now apply any combination of filters that you like. At the bottom right corner of the screen you’ll see how many actions/filters you’ve applied. When you’ve finished applying filters, tap Done at the top of the screen, then tap Finish.
Next, you need to save your unique fusion of filters so that you can use it again on other photos. Type a name for the filter, then tap Save. Alternatively, you can save the fusion without a name.
Now whenever you want to apply that same combination of filters to another image, simply tap the Filters icon, select Fusion, then tap on the filter that you created.
5. Textures & Light Leaks
In addition to the preset filters, Afterlight has a range of texture overlays for applying scratchy and dusty film textures, as well as natural light leaks that have been created with 35mm film and instant film.
You can access the textures and light leaks by tapping the film icon at the bottom of the screen. There are four categories (Dusty, Light Leaks, Instant Film and Wander) that contain a range of different effects.
Tap on one of the numbered effects to apply it to your image, then use the slider to adjust its intensity if necessary. You can also use the four icons at the bottom of the photo to rotate, flip, or change the color of the overlay.
These effects can be used subtly to add a just a hint of texture or light to your image, or with more intensity to create a heavily stylized effect.
There’s no limit to the number of textures and light leaks that you can use on a photo, so experiment with combining different effects to create your own unique look.
Keep in mind that the Dusty and Light Leak collections come free with the app, but the Instant Film and Wander collections are only available as additional in-app purchases. So if you want the maximum number of creative options, you’ll probably want to invest in these extra packs.
6. Crop & Transform
The second icon from the bottom left gives you access to six different Crop and Transform tools. From left to right these tools are: Crop, Rotate 90 Degrees, Flip Horizontal, Flip Vertical, Straighten, and Double-Exposure.
The Straighten tool is perfect for leveling the horizon in landscape photos, or ensuring lines are straight in architecture photos. Simply drag the slider left or right to tilt the photo, using the grid to help you get the lines straight.
The Crop tool lets you easily crop away the edges of the photo. Select the aspect ratio you want to use, e.g. Original, Square, 4:3, 7:5, etc. – or select the Free option which allows you to crop the image without being restricted to any particular aspect ratio.
Now just drag the corner handles to a new position, and tap the checkmark when you’re done. The two numbers at the bottom of the crop screen show the width and height of the image in pixels.
In addition to the standard crop and rotate tools that you find in most other editing apps, Afterlight includes a Double-Exposure tool for blending two images together. Creating double-exposures is a fun and interesting way to produce truly unique images.
To blend two images together, start by opening your first photo, then tap the Double-Exposure tool on the far right of the Crop & Transform icons. Now select the second image that you’d like to superimpose over the first photo, tap Use, then tap the checkmark.
You’ll now see a range of different blending modes, e.g. Screen, Lighten, Darken, etc. together with a slider along the bottom of the screen.
Experiment with the different blending modes to see how they create different kinds of double-exposure images. Use the slider to adjust the intensity of the blend. When you’re happy with the result, tap the checkmark to complete the process.
The final tool in Afterlight is the Frames option. As the name suggests, it allows you to add a frame or border to your photo, however it also has some more unique framing options too.
If you want a standard polaroid-style frame or mat for your photo, you’ll need to purchase the Instant Film pack (you may have already bought this to get access to more textures and light leaks).
The other framing options all come free with the app, and these include a wide range of framing shapes and letters.
For example, you could use a circular frame to give your photo an old-fashioned scrapbook feel. Or choose from a collection of other shapes such as hearts, stars, silhouettes, and more.
You can even change the background using the three icons and the slider at the top of the screen. Use these tools to apply a solid color, a faded version of the image, or even a patterned wallpaper around the edges of your frame or shape.
The Frame tool in Afterlight also allows you to select a letter or number, turning your photo into a sort of stencil.
While you probably won’t want to use frames on all of your photos, then can be a lot of fun and they’re great for creative projects such as creating cards, posters and scrapbook pages.
8. Save Your Edited Photo
When you’ve finished editing your photo you’ll need to save it to your iPhone’s photo library. Tap Done at the top right of the screen, then tap the Save option. Ensure the size is set to Max to ensure the photo is saved at full resolution.
Note that you can also use this screen to share your photos to Instagram, Facebook, etc.
When you’ve saved your edited photo, tap anywhere outside of the saving options box to return to the main editing screen. To start working on another photo, tap Back at the top left to return to the app’s home page.
Afterlight App: Conclusion
The Afterlight app can be used for basic image enhancement as well as more creative photo editing. Its main features include:
- Camera with manual controls
- Good selection of editing tools for adjusting exposure, color, sharpness, vignette and grain
- Beautiful one-tap filters for changing the look and feel of your photos
- Textures, light leaks and analog film effects
- Crop, rotate, flip and straighten options
- Blending tool for creating double-exposure images
- Unique collection of frames including shapes, cut-out letters and polaroid-style borders
While this is a great collection of tools, Afterlight is missing a few features that you can find in some other editing apps. These include masking tools and brushes for selective editing, a tilt-shift feature for blurring out portions of an image, and refined adjustment tools for customizing filters, overlays and painting options.