My Top 3 Must Have Photo Editing Apps

I love taking photos with my cellphone. I equally love taking photos with my “big” camera, but sometimes my phone is the easier one to grab. Point at me and call it shameful, and I will shrug and say “eh, such is life.” 90% of the time I will double fist my phone and my camera. I love getting shots with both. I love to edit, so waiting until I can get to my computer, transfer my photos, then cull and edit, is like waiting for Christmas morning. This is where my photo apps step in.

I can’t help but notice the quality of cellphone photos has gotten extraordinarily better since the days of the Razr, or the first Blackberry. And with that, the amount of photo apps is overwhelming. Which is why I like to keep it simple, and have narrowed my photo apps down to 3.

I never post any of my photos to social media without some sort of edit. Even cell phone photos posted to my personal page always have an edit. I want my photos to look their best. Call it a quirk, call it the curse of the first-born. Perfectionism is in my blood, so sue me. lol. (please don’t sue me :) )

I’ve put together a quick review for each of my favorite FREE(I’m cheap) photo apps I use for my mobile editing. These are purely my apps of choice, and what works best for me! None of these reviews have been paid. I’m just in love with these apps!
*Click photos to view larger.*


So, let’s start with the app that everyone needs!

1. VCSO Cam. The best of the best for all your detailed editing! This is no lie. With all the photo editing apps I’ve gone through over the years, this one has everything I need within ONE app. With options like adjusting shadows, highlights, exposure, tint, temp, crop, rotate and more, you can pretty much fix any photo. Not to mention, enough customizable filters to make your photos look their best. Once you have this app, everything else is icing.

Here’s a shot of my niece I edited with VSCO. I was able to bring enough light back into her eyes on the B&W edit just by lightening the shadows.

Here’s a before and after shot of my neighbors kitty when we were babysitting. The intense back lighting was no match for the VSCO editing capabilities! With control over the highlights, I didn’t entirely lose the background when I lightened the image. I’m obsessed.
ranger I love this app so much. It can really make your mobile photos look like a million bucks if you tweak them just right.


2. White Balancer. Simplest app ever. Select your photo, and use the bar at the bottom to adjust your white balance. Done. A lot of my photos end up too warm when taken inside at night because of the lighting and surroundings in my home. This is the perfect app for getting the correct WB before putting your photo into your main editing app.

Here’s a shot of Ruby I took the other night. She is brown, my carpet and the dog bed are beige, and the energy efficient light bulbs we use cast a warm hue. Nightmare.
ruby I’m still amazed at how easy it is. 


3. Studio Design. For those who love to add beautiful text or shape overlays to photos, this is the app for you. Think of Instagram, but BETTER. It has your filters, and your square crop, and your ability to share to social media. But let’s dream bigger for a second. Add on the ability to add shapes, custom text, pre-made overlays, lines, borders, and you’ve got yourself a party! You can also “remix” other users photos by being able to take their overlays and apply them to your photos, and visa versa. danae I added my own text and slight filter to the first shot. I changed the second photo to B&W in app, and added a pre-made overlay. Oh, how I love simple.
Photography + Design = Love.


I realize Instagram isn’t on this list. Instagram is just not my thing. But I do love these above apps, and they’re the only ones I currently use. They do the trick for my perfectionist eye.

A few paid apps I’ve been eyeing… the pictapgo photo app from Totally Rad, which looks awesome! But I haven’t made that $1.99 commitment yet. Same with Afterlight. I’ve heard nothing but good things about these photo apps.

Share your favorite photo apps with me! Maybe I’m missing out on some greats?! I’m always up for new things.

The Stars at Night, Are Big & Bright..

..*clap clap clap clap* Deep in the heart of Texas!

I thought that was 100% appropriate.

And you can’t say(sing in your head) the first part without saying(singing) the rest of it.

Ask anyone.



August 11th was the night!

We sat out, cranked our necks, listened to music, and oo’d and ah’d

I sat out from 11pm until 4:30am. The hubs stayed out until about 5:30-6 like the trooper he is.

It definitely didn’t peak at 3am though, and that was a little bit of a let down.

According to some photos I’ve seen, it really got good closer to 6am.

But, we did get TWO shots. They were small meteors, and the only ones we were lucky enough to capture.

I need a wide angle lens.


Please click the photos to view larger.. you wont be able to see the meteors unless you do. :P

Baby Meteor #1


Baby Meteor #2

We sort of had to “get lucky” when snapping photos of the meteors. They were just so random, we had to just aim for the sky and cross our fingers.

I’m less than satisfied, but still glad to have SOMETHING after sitting outside for 6 hours!

Ah well, there’s always next year!
Maybe I’ll have a new wide angle lens by then.

This shot is pretty neat though…

The moon is lined up with Venus and Jupiter! Very cool to see.

Well, I hope you all got to see some meteors, or as the child in me likes to refer to them as… shooting stars.


Well, I’m off to start my Christmas List!

1. Wide Angle Lens
2. $$ for wide angle lens

Meteor Shower Watch

[please click any photo to view larger]

Last night Pete and I ventured out to scope out a spot to watch the meteor shower that’s taking place tonight. We went to 4 different spots.

This is how it went.

Spot #1 (Signal Hill- furthest away from the house): This is the perfect spot! We’ll come here, and it’s only 5 minutes from the house if we have to run back.

Spot #2 (Down on the San Gabriel River- second furthest from the house): Oh, I like this spot much better. It’s a lot darker than the last, and only 3 minutes from the house!

Spot #3: (Open grassy area in our community): Well this spot isn’t bad either. It’s as dark as the rest of the spots, and just down the street from the house!

Spot #4: (Our backyard): Pete: I’m just gonna check out the backyard quick and see how bad it is. (10 seconds later) Andrea, come out there. It’s not bad! And we don’t have to leave home!

This proves you don’t ever have to leave home. For any reason. Ever.

Ah, well, the night wasn’t wasted. It was still a fun trip.

But, I was really missing the gorgeous night skies of Minnesota last night. With the nearest “big city” being 35 minutes away (from my home town) across a vast flat land, there is virtually no light pollution. In fact, I can recall a bunch of times driving with my dad at night, and the only “light pollution” was the moon. Sometimes it was so bright you could drive without your headlights on. Of course, totally illegal (do not try this at home, and only trust your dad to do the driving), but what happens in the country… really doesn’t matter. We’d be so lucky to watch the shower there!

But, we do with what we can, and it actually wasn’t too bad last night.

We sat on Signal Hill with our friends, the deer, for a good 2+ hours. Staring into the sky, being stared at by our “friends” while staring into the sky, cramping our necks, arguing over camera settings and having a great time.

Sorry, sarcasm.

After having a “doh” moment, we finally figured out that the image stabilization was turned on on the lens and it was the source of our streaked stars.

We were finally ready to relax.

We set up the lawn chairs, grabbed the cooler, sat back and stared into the abyss.. uh, sky (wishing we would have brought neck pillows).

I never got a shot of the little set up on the hill, but Pete grabbed one before we left.

And it wasn’t complete until we had a NASA bag full of rocks helping to weight down the tripod.

How appropriate.


Okay, so getting back to the reason we were sitting on a hill at 2:30 in the morning hanging out with some deer..

The meteors!

The Perseid Meteor shower is going to be at it’s peak tonight at around 3AM. Although you could still see some meteors last night, and probably will be seeing some for a few days following, tonight is the night to watch if you are planning to see anything!

Take it from me. I took 118 photos with 30 second exposure over the period of a few hours, and we saw only about 6 meteors (out of frame, damn).

I read somewhere that we could see up to 100 meteors per hour, or 1-2 per minute tonight. How awesome!

Now, it will probably be a little less than that because of our light pollution. Being about 20 minutes out of Austin still gives us quite a bit of light pollution. :(

But, we’re hoping for the best!

Now, even though I didn’t get a shot of any meteors last night, I did get some good star pictures, and an awesome shot of the red moon rising.

So, tonight is the night. Cross your fingers I get some great meteor shots! I will be posting back here with more pictures.

DIY Moroccan Wall Stencil (*squeal!)

I’m so excited to write about this, I’m about ready to explode!

This started with an idea I found on Pinterest(of course). That’s where all ideas come from now, don’t you know?

It also came out of desperation.

I had a pinning fit of wall stencils.

And what I had pinned as inspiration for my house, was also something I ended up not being able to let go of.

I kept thinking and dreaming of stencils and was desperate to find one to paint.

Some bold and dramatic, others subdued and barely there but adding so much visual texture it changes the whole space.

Yes, I do believe I fell in love with stencils. We are very happy together.

These are not your ordinary grandma ivy border stencils. Love you Grandma.

These are blow your skirt up, total wall stencils that, if done right, can look like expensive wallpaper.

Wallpaper is back in btw. I already have 37 styles picked out that I want to put in my 5 houses and cottage by the sea.

And stencils are the new paint.

I’m totally with it. Can you tell?


Let me give you an example of a “blow your skirt up” stencil.

Click to go to the inspiration page.

Hello gorgeous.

Seriously, how stunning is that. (<<no question, because there’s no question.)

This was the inspiration room where I fell in love with stencils.

It’s also where I found the free printable for the moroccan shape!

You can find the download at the end of her post.


I also really love this shape.

Click here to print it off.

But, alas, I could only pick one. Maybe next time, pretty stencil.
I know, they’re quite similar, but they look totally different on the wall.


I actually ended up doing a mix between the two.
When I printed off my stencil shape, here, I enlarged it significantly. I printed it on 4 pages and taped them together. Reason being, I felt the smaller version may make my space look a little too busy.

I would have traced the shape onto some cardboard like the tutorial, but sadly, all my exacto knife blades were dull/broken, and there was no fandangling a scissors to cut out the curved lines on the cardboard. So, I stuck with regular copy paper, and it worked just fine. I actually got quite fast at tracing!

Total trace time was about 2 hours. And I’m being generous.

You see how my stencils don’t completely line up?
That’s okay! I lined up the stencil as best I could on the left side, and then traced out the right side, and just kept going. I really only used it as a guideline, and blended the lines together when I brushed over it with paint.

See, it wasn’t perfect. And that’s okay! Once I got going, I realized it didn’t have to be perfect. I would be painting over it later, and smoothing out the lines.

Although, don’t drink too much coffee while attempting to trace and paint a stencil. You’ll at least need a semi-steady hand.

Even those who are less artistically inclined, you can do it! It’s stupid easy.

Just remember, back off the coffee, Becky. Fer real.


Let’s paint!

I bought regular old craft paint, white, and metallic gold, which was on sale for .29 cents at Michael’s!

My wall color is a light, sandy, cream color, and I felt stark white was going to be a bit harsh. So I mixed in a few drops of metallic gold to tone it down. You can’t even see the gold in it, but it probably adds some dimention. I say “probably”, because I like to think the few drops actually make a difference. Who knows. It does soften the white a little though by giving it just a tad bit of a cream tone.

I also picked up a cheap, $3.99, 1/2 inch flat shader brush.
Pretty sure the hardest part of this whole process was picking the size of the brush! Every tutorial I found just said to use a “small” brush.

To me, the brush is one of the most important parts!

I recommend a 1/2 inch wide, folks.

The one I have is 1/2 wide and has about 3/4 length bristles. The shorter the better. It gives you more control. But don’t get it so short that you have no play. You want some flexibility. And, when the bristles are longer, there is too much flexibility so when you go to brush on the wall, the brush spreads out too much and you get a thicker line.

When I pressed the brush on the wall, with about as much force as I would need to apply paint..

..Barely any fanning!


Okay, one more of the brush, and I swear I’ll move on.

I promise my walls aren’t bright turquoise.

Okay, so of course once I started tracing the stencil, I couldnt get very far before I had to try out painting and see what it’d be like.

Piece of cake! It was really fun.

I’m going to need to find another stencil to paint somewhere else (like my bedroom!) because it was so much fun.

Paint inside the lines (as much as you can).

Sometimes when I was correcting some lines, the paint was more over the center of the line than inside. But once again, it doesn’t matter! It will all look symetrical once finished. Just make sure you start out level, and it’ll all fall into place.

I just eyeballed it until it was too late to go back and check if it was level (oops!), and mine turned out really good!

The less you try to make it perfect, the better it will look. So take that pressure off yourself, take a deep breath, relax, and I’d say have a cup of coffee… well.. you know.

But, if you want that jagged look, then by all means, drink up ya coffeholic.

Take it from me.
By day 3 of no coffee to kick start my day, I was about ready for a cup, and was probably shaking anyways.
So, I had a cup. A big cup. It was iced, and strong, and delicious, and by 7pm when I decided to paint some, I was still feeling the coffee.
I had to concentrate really hard.
There was wet paper towels on hand to fix the “whoops”, and they were used.
It was worth it. But it definitely didn’t speed up the process.

I had some company.

Here’s a better picture of the tracing.

Okay, so to clarify more on which lines to paint inside of.. check out this picture..

Hope this helps.

Sorry for the sloppy depiction..

The green shaded area is where you want to paint inside the lines.
The red area is where you would “skip” painting inside the lines and just move on to the next “line” or “row” of the pattern.
Can you see the difference between the two?
You couldn’t actually paint inside all the lines without it turning out weird, but I just wanted to try clarify how it works.

The hubs really liked it. I actually debated on stopping at just the one wall, but I’m so glad I didn’t!

Now, who’s ready for some drastic before & afters?!


Here’s a photo of my dining room from our first year we were in this house.

It’s actually a different color than the rest of the living room… well, no it’s not, it just has a metallic coat over the top. And I thought that would be enough of a difference to visually separate the spaces.

After a year or so of that, I was sick of it. I wanted to paint all the way down the hallway and carry it through the dining room because it felt so cut off where the blue metallic paint stopped. It needed to be lightened up and have some more definition.

Here’s the space after I painted the hallway through the dining room.

Sort of blah. I loved how it lightened up the space so much (sorry this photo was taken at night), and helped you know where the dining room started and ended. Also ignore the placement of the table, I had already moved it over to start tracing.

But, just the paint alone wasn’t doing it for me. It felt too sterile. Too beige. (I want to get a new dining set, don’t tell Pete)

NOW, the big reveal.

I’m in love. It makes me want to sit there all day.

Ruby… always a blur in any photo. Her whole body shakes when you say her name.

Chloe loved that her table was back in it’s place so she could take a nap.

Let’s recap…


Maybe we’ll actually use it more now!

Now I know I’m sort of late for the Pinterest Challenge everyone has been doing, but I still consider this mine!

Since Pinterest came along, I’ve never cooked more new recipes, done more crafts and changed up my decor more! I don’t think I’m one of those that pin it and forget it. I’m pretty crafty, and love doing artsy fartsy stuff. :)

Speaking of… I should probably blog about my Christmas wreath I made last year… not that it’s late or anything.

Now if I can only find some fabric to recover that pink chair…..

The meaning behind the name

Recent events have caused me to really think about the name, Life’s Joy Photography, and why I picked it.

No I didn’t just pull it out of thin air.

I didn’t pick it because it sounded pretty.


I didn’t pull it from a hat,
I didn’t ask my neighbors cat.


A few years ago when I was trying to come up with a name for my business, my main focus was the word Joy.

I wanted a business name that was a part of me, without using my real name. I wasn’t opposed to using my full name + photography, I just felt like that was taking the easy way out, and I had an opportunity to be creative.

I also didn’t want to go overboard. I’ve heard some doozies. Anything over 3 words before the word photography is just about pushing it, in my opinion.

Anything too wordy doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. It also sounds less professional.

So, since Joy is my middle name, I figured I’d start there.


I actually thought about it for a lot longer than I wanted. A few months went by before I committed 100% to a name.

And if I still had that list of potentials, I’d definitely share it.

I had to finally just push aside the thoughts of “what will everyone like?” and pick something that I liked. Because, really, as long as it makes you happy, there is no wrong.

So, I knew photography made me happy.

I knew Joy was a happy word.

And I knew my mom would love me even if I named my business Say Cheeseburger! Photography, because that’s what moms do.
Although I hope she would have stopped me and gave me that “are you serious?” look, if I was serious.

Moms do that too.


Bottom line is photography is my Life’s Joy.


Photography brings me joy, it makes me joyful, and the hills are alive with the sound of joyful music!

Too much?



I’m just lucky enough to have a middle name like Joy to play off of. It sort of made it just a little bit easier.

And that’s all she wrote..

End of story.

Thank you for listening, reading, suffering through my lame jokes and sticking around anyways.