Faking The 35mm Look: 5 Fantastic Film Simulation Apps

Posted on 4 min read

What are the best apps to edit your digital photos with so that they look like they were taken on a 35mm film camera?

While I love shooting on film, it’s not always feasible to do so. There are some occasions where you’d like a photo ready to upload to your blog or social media accounts instantly, and this is where film simulation apps come in handy! Here are five of my favourites: 

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RNI Films

This is an app that not many people are familiar with. It’s a bit like VSCO, but all of the filters are based on film stocks. You do have to purchase the packs, but they’re quite reasonable at a couple of pounds each. I really love the dust effect that RNI Films give you too.

It’s a completely underrated app. So if you’re currently fed up with whichever one you’re already using to edit your photos with, I’d definitely recommend giving the RNI Films app a try!

App Store // Not available for Android, but Filterloop might be a good Android-only alternative!

RNI Flashback

RNI Flashback is from the same guys who made RNI Films, obviously, but it is slightly different. While it’s an app that you have to purchase, it is really fun to play around with. Basically, you load a photo into the app and then press a button and it adds a completely unique filmic look to that particular picture.

If you keep pressing, it takes you through various different film looks, and when you’ve found one you like, you can save it!

As I said, you do have to purchase the app. It’s £3.99, and sadly, it’s only available on iOS.

Find it on the App Store


I’ve been a huge fan of the free version of VSCO for years now. Last year, they brought out a subscription-based service called VSCO X. You pay around £19 a year for extra filters that are based on film stocks. (If you didn’t already know, VSCO has made some great Lightroom Presets and Photoshop Actions based on film stocks for years too! I have a pack of their LR presets, but they’ve recently been discontinued as VSCO are focussing – no pun intended – on mobile editing only.)

There are an array of filmic filters on VSCO X, from Kodak Portra to Ilford HP5. There’s also a handy feature where you can edit the strength and character of the filters too.

VSCO X also gives you the ability to edit video with any of the filters on the app. (I personally love doing that for my Instagram Story videos, to give them a bit of extra character, and to make them match the photos on my feed a little more.)

App Store // Google Play


Afterlight is a great app for adding filmic character to your digital snaps. From light leaks to both black and white grain, and even dust too – it’s got it all. (You can see an example of just some of what the app offers at the bottom of this post.) I’ll be honest, I don’t use it all that often, but when I do, I am impressed by the extensive features it has.

There are two versions of this app: 1 and 2. 1 is now obsolete, but if you’re still using that, 2 has a few more options on there for getting a 35mm feel. So, you should definitely download the new version! There are also some filters on Afterlight as well, but I tend to prefer VSCO filters. Afterlight required a purchase, but Afterlight 2 is a free app.

App Store // Google Play


This is a bit of a cult app that I downloaded a while ago. It’s free, but it is probably the most basic on this list of film apps. It’s purely a set of grain, light leak and dust filters for your photos. Again, I don’t use it all that often, but there are several great options on there to give your phone photos a touch of 35mm about them. (You can see an example of what Nebi offers on the photos for this blog post. I first edited them with a filmic filter in VSCO X before topping it off with a Nebi-Film grain effect.)

App Store // Google Play

A Little Example:

This is a little example of what you can do with a couple of these film apps, using the photo at the top of this blog post. Firstly, I edited it with VSCO to desaturate it and added the M5 filter on top. I then saved it and put it through Afterlight, where I added a slight grain and a gentle layer of white dust. Done!

I generally like to keep it quite subtle when adding grain, light leaks and dust, as it can look a bit too over-the-top if you add them in at full-strength.

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What are your favourite photo editing apps?

Enjoyed this post? You might also like: 35mm Diaries: My First Foray Into Film Photography, An Afternoon in York, or maybe you’d like to hop over to my Instagram to have a nosy at some more of my photos!

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Faking The 35mm Look: 5 Fantastic Film Simulation Apps