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Darkroom for iOS review: A great photo editor, but missing key features

This new photo editor sets itself apart from the rest with cool new ways to adjust your photos, but it's still missing some important features.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read

Darkroom (iOS) is a free photo editor that focuses on adding customizable effects quickly to images from your library.


Darkroom for iOS

The Good

Darkroom (iOS) is an intuitive and fast app for editing images. The curves features are great for adjusting the tones of colors. You can create your own filters.

The Bad

You can't take photos from within the app. Creating filters is a complicated process. There is no way to zoom in on images.

The Bottom Line

With an intuitive interface, the ability to create filters and the ability to adjust curves, Darkroom is a great download, but it still needs more.

What will appeal to more advanced photographers here is Darkroom's capability to adjust curves with raw access to RGB channels. You'll need to pay $2.99 to unlock these features, but it's not a bad price for a good photography app and you get to test out the rest of the features beforehand.

We've seen tons of photo editors come through the App Store loaded with filters and I already have several favorites like Camera+ , VSCO Cam and KitCamera . But what makes Darkroom stand out is an interface that makes it incredibly easy to quickly browse through and grab photos, and also the optin to create your own photo filters.

Darkroom keeps iOS photo editing simple (pictures)

See all photos

Connects directly to photo library

One thing I've noticed about a lot of photo editors such as the ones listed above is most have light-table interfaces that require you to import photos to a separate photo collection that exists within the app.

What Darkroom does that's unique is let you connect to your entire photo library from the beginning so there's no import process. Upon launch you just need to allow Darkroom access and then you're greeted with your photo library in a grid letting you swipe through photos to find a good shot.

Editing your images

Once you decide on an image, you'll have tools across the bottom for editing. You can crop to several standard aspect ratios, pick from 12 included filters, adjust sliders to fine-tune your image and -- once you pay -- swipe to adjust curves. A particularly great feature in Darkroom is the infinite history that lets you go back through your changes one by one to the beginning.

For cropping, you can drag corners to resize the framing. You also can use a rotate wheel to straighten your image, and pick from multiple aspect ratios: 1:1 (for Instagram, for example), 4:3, 3:4, 2:3 and 3:2.

There are 12 basic filters included and you can create your own filters, but it's a little complicated. You'll need to pick one of the included filters, then switch to the sliders and make some adjustments. Once you do, you can go back to the Filters selection and a Create Filter button will appear. Here you'll be able to name your filter, then adjust sliders to make it to your liking.

To fine-tune the image you can use the sliders I mentioned to adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation and temperature. For that miniaturized effect, there's also a vignette slider.

Adjusting curves

To unlock Curves you'll need to pay $2.99 through in-app purchase. Once unlocked you can adjust the curves for blacks, shadows, midtones, highlights and whites. You also can adjust for RGB or single out colors using buttons on the left for the reds, blues and greens.

The curves feature works great for getting just the right tones for each color, and the interface takes a few swipes to get drastic changes, so you can really be precise about how your image will look.

A great interface, but missing features

What's great about Darkroom is how quickly you can navigate between screens. For example, from the fine-adjustments screen, a swipe down will hide the sliders, and another swipe down brings you back to the library.

Also, once focused on an image, you can swipe left or right to browse images in your library, which is convenient especially when you're trying to choose one shot from many similar shots.

But even with these advantages, some features are inconvenient and others are missing. As I mentioned at the top, there is no included camera, so you'll be taking pictures in another app entirely, and then opening Darkroom to process them. It's not a big deal, but it adds extra steps.

Also as I mentioned, creating filters is cool (description above), but it's kind of a complicated process that's not immediately obvious.

The other big miss is the inability to zoom in on images. There is no double tap (like the iPhone image library) or even pinch to zoom. It also won't let you work in landscape mode, which would make the inability to zoom less of a problem.


Darkroom gets a lot of things right with a direct link to your image library, a great interface that saves time and cool tools for adjusting your photos. I like that you can download the app for free, and that the developers hide the most sought-after feature behind the paywall. It gives you a chance to try it out, then spend a reasonable price for the whole app.

I was a little disappointed that you can't take photos from within the app, there's no zooming and some features aren't obvious. These things are pretty standard in other photo editors so hopefully there will be improvements in future updates.

At least for now, Darkroom's elegant interface and tools set it apart from many other photo editors, and as it's a free download it's easy to recommend you check it out.


Darkroom for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Interface 8Performance 8