There’s an ongoing argument in the technology world about whether tablets and smartphones are more focused on consumption than creativity. As time has gone on, though, the number of apps helping us do more than passively read, watch and listen has grown. Many also fall into a longer heritage of technology that democratises activities like film-making, photography and music-making. Video and photography apps now contain editing features based on those used in professional software, but made accessible enough for anyone to use in a couple of taps, and music-making apps are reducing the barrier to making listenable sounds. In all cases, this isn’t about you suddenly becoming a professional just because an app is holding your hand – instead, it’s about opening up the experience of artistic creation to a wider audience.
Creativity means different things to different people. Apps such as Instagram and Magic Piano do not assume any prior experience in photography and music respectively, but are designed to help novices explore some of the intricacies of both art forms. For example, the grid that Instagram overlays on your photos as you edit them is subtly making you think about the composition of your shots, while its manual controls allow you to apply filters and processes such as vignette or tilt shift, once the preserve of professional photographers.
Other apps, such as Vine, cater to different levels of skill. Shooting a six-second loop and sharing it can be done by anyone, but creative micro-film-makers experimenting with stop-motion and visual trickery are producing genuinely imaginative work with it.
Similarly, music apps such as Figure are pitched at both a casual audience of music-makers who want to enjoy stringing some beats and melodies together, and professional musicians who want to use it as the audio equivalent of a doodle-pad when waiting for inspiration to strike. Meanwhile, apps like Korg Gadget for musicians and Photoshop Touch for designers are proving that smart devices can fit in to professional creatives’ working lives as useful tools, rather than mobile novelties.
Some apps are giving a new digital lease of life to older creative techniques – Dubble with double-exposure photographs, for example, – while others are creating new formats, like Frontback, with its focus on capturing the photographer as well as the scene in front of them.
So, you’re not David Bailey just because Instagram helped you share a nice photo of your cat, and you’re not Aphex Twin because a music app helped you make a nice beat. But you’ve had fun enjoying a little bit of the creative experience that those and other artists have made their work. With that in mind, here are 50 of the apps to unlock your creativity – and that of your children too, from coding to storytelling.