Instagram is a hit on mobile platforms, and for good reason. There’s no better way to make your selfie pop than a little artistic touch, even if that touch comes from a standardized filter. The only problem with Instagram is the fact its app only works on Android and iOS. What if you want to filter your photos later, on your PC, and upload them directly to Facebook or some other network? You have a few options.
Exeone’s Vintager is a purpose-built tool for adding filters to photos on your desktop. It exists for no other reason and is entirely free to download and use. The developer’s other (paid) apps are unrelated to this one; it seems a side project.
Even so, the app does what you’d expect, and does it very well. A solid selection of filters are included alongside basic crop, rotate, resize and contrast adjustments. You can also choose from seven different “frames” (i.e. borders), as well as an optional depth of field effect.
Though it performs a similar task, Camerabag 2 is otherwise the direct opposite of Vintager. The latter is simple, but also fairly limited. Camerabag 2 is more complex, but offers a huge volume of options.
Most of these options come from the ridiculous variety of filters available here. You’re spoiled for choice, and at least some of the filters are arranged in a unique way; by year. In other words, you can select a filter based on the vintage you’d like to apply to your photo, with preset choices ranging from 1937 to 1985. But don’t worry; you can add all the usual named filters you’d normally expect, and a lot more besides.
The filters are joined by a wide range of more precise adjustments. You can crop, change color temperature, alter exposure, move the RGB curve and far, far more. We’re talking Photoshop-level detail adjustment. Oh, and borders? You’ll find plenty of those, too.
What’s the catch? You have to pay $20 after a free 15 day trial. Also, the program crashed at launch when I first downloaded it. Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2013 is required, but oddly was not installed alongside the software.
Pixlr is known for its online photo editor, Pixlr Editor, which is basically a stripped-down Photoshop that’s available for free through your web browser. The organization also provides Pixlr-o-matic, however, which is very basic filter app for the PC.
There’s not a ton to say about this app. The selection of filters is excellent (better than Vintager, in fact), and joined by some very basic editing tools, like aspect ratio adjustment. Other basic tools are missing, though; there’s no crop, no exposure adjustment, no color balance.
But hey, it’s free and it’s online, so you can use it at any moment on any computer with an Internet connection. You can also use if offline, if you’d like, by downloading the app’s tiny executable.
Most people, most of the time, only need to add a single filter to a single photo at a time. But what if you’re the exception and you want to add a ton of filters at once? Then you need BatchPhoto from Bits & Coffee.
This tool isn’t built for adding filters specifically, but filters are a significant part of its feature set. There are about 36 filters in total, and they’re joined by image color adjustments and the ability to add watermarks. You build a job by deciding what filters you want to use and then apply them to all the photos in the batch in one go. With all of this said, not all the filters are great for providing a vintage look, and you may need to get creative to produce the results desired.
Another solid choice for batch editing, Fotor is a multiple-purpose app for the PC that offers Photoshop-style image editing, collaging and batch editing with filters and other effects, like borders. Since we’re talking about Instagram from your desktop we’ll just focus on the batch features.
There is a very wide varity of options here. Detailed image adjustments are less than what you’ll find with BatchPhoto or CamreaBag 2, but there are almost as many filters as the latter. You can also batch edit photo names, add borders and throw in some additional “scene” effects like sunset and clouds.
Surprisingly, Fotor is free. The app does include advertising for additional software from the developer, EverImaging, and frequently prompts users to review the software. This pop-up asks users to post reviews on Chrome’s Web Store even when using the desktop version, which is arguably deceptive.
Normally, I like to round up an article with some best-of recommendations, but that’s hard to do here. All of these apps will let you mimic the photo filtering capabilities of Instagram, but do so in different ways. Some users will like the detail of CameraBag 2, others will demand the batch capabilities of BatchPhoto, and still others will prefer the simplicity of Pixlr-O-Matic. Each app defines itself in some way.