Learn Photo Editor Tutorials

How to Edit Smartphone Photos to Look Like Film

By Isabelle | Photo Editor Tutorials

Smartphones have made the handheld camera obsolete for the average person. Your camera roll is full of high-definition, crystal-clear photos taken with Portrait Mode or one of your phone’s multiple lenses. But what about the charm of capturing moments on film, the blur and grain and light leaks, the softened edges and limited colors? You could buy a film camera, but shooting on film requires time, practice, and plenty of money. So why not put your fancy phone camera to use and edit them to look exactly like they were taken with vintage film? 

There are plenty of apps out there that let you edit photos to look like film, but these are often very limited, with film presets and filters that can make your photos all look the same. The BeFunky mobile app, on the other hand, lets you customize film Effects while also providing a huge range of other professional editing tools like textures, overlays, lens flares, and more. This allows you, if you want, to create a completely unique film aesthetic for each photo!

Film Photos vs. Digital Photos vs. Mobile Photos

Have you ever wondered exactly what makes film photos look so different from modern digital photos? The main difference is the process: A digital camera uses a digital sensor while a film camera uses physical film that reacts to light exposure. Film is more sensitive, meaning it can be more difficult to control exposure and contrast, but at the same time, it captures more nuances of light. The physical nature of film means that things like accidental sun exposure and dust particles can cause light leaks, scratches, and more. Blur and distortion are more common with film as well. Digital cameras can capture color more accurately, but the vibrancy and limited color palettes offered by film are often more aesthetically pleasing. There is also a natural grain to film that isn’t found in digital photos.

mobile film examples

However, film cameras are notoriously difficult to master, and shots have to be set up much more carefully since you have a limited amount of film available. Both film and film processing are expensive, making film photography difficult to get into. Digital cameras, meanwhile, can take photos rapidly and instantaneously, and there are very few continuing costs. Raw digital images also easily lend themselves to digital editing and manipulation, which is how we’re able to make digital photos look like film in the first place!

It’s possible to shoot digital photos that are similar to film with a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) and an expert knowledge of photography. But your average smartphone camera, while outperforming any digital point-and-shoot camera, still has many limitations due to its size and convenience. There aren’t really any built-in camera settings, filters, or light adjustments on your smartphone that can make a mobile photo look like film. Luckily, the BeFunky mobile app can be used to edit your digital smartphone photos on the go and recreate any film look you like!

What Apps Edit Photos to Look Like Film?

There are a few apps out there, like VSCO or Prequel, that can make your mobile photos look like they were taken with a film camera. These are popular, but come with presets that have very limited customization features. With the BeFunky app, our Effects or filters can be applied in one click, but you also have the option to customize each Effect so that your photos turn out differently every time! Not to mention there are Overlays, Textures, and other adjustments you can use to create the exact film look you want. 

intro film after
intro film before



How to Edit Your Mobile Photos to Look Like Film

Ready to get the aesthetic vintage film photos of your dreams? Just open up the Photo Editor on the BeFunky mobile app to get started. 

open image in mobile

Step 1: Upload Your Image

With BeFunky, you can quickly upload any image from your phone’s camera roll or even your Google Drive. 

add image to mobile

As long as it’s not extremely low quality, you’ll be able to make any photograph look like it was taken on a film camera. Even a blurry photo or a photo taken in low light can be adjusted to look good with a film effect! 

Step 2: Apply a Base Effect

BeFunky's Effects work like filters and can be adjusted to suit your editing needs. There are hundreds of variations of Effects available. Here, we’re using a Chromatic Effect as our “base” Effect – this dictates the colors and tone of the photo. Here, we’ve specifically picked Chromatic 9. Other excellent Effects that contribute to a film aesthetic can be found in: Analog Tones, Cinematic, Instant, Old Photo, Lomo Art, and Vintage Colors. You can check out the Inspiration section at the end of this article to see these Effects in action!

effects on mobile

You can easily change how intense this Effect is using the adjustment slider. Chromatic 9 uses just one slider, but many other Effects also allow you to edit the specific level of highlights and shadows, and can even be used to adjust colors.

adjust effect

Step 3: Add Film Imperfections

Film photography differs from digital because physical film is fickle, and any damage, exposure to light, or development mistakes can affect the outcome of the photo. This is what makes many amateur film photos so charming and distinct. With BeFunky, it’s easy to recreate some of the happy accidents that occur with physical film. 

Here, we’ve scrolled to the Texture section of the Photo Editor’s tools and picked a Light Leak to mimic the bright burst of color that occurs when a roll of film is accidentally exposed to light too early.

add film flaws

Another distinct aspect of film photography are distortions and vignettes. These usually occur when using an incorrect lens for the subject you’re shooting. You can use the Anamorphic Effect, found under the larger group of Cinematic Effects, to recreate both “mistakes” at once. The level of distortion, vignette, and blur can be manually adjusted until your photo looks imperfectly perfect.

film grain mobile film

Lastly, film grain or “noise” is an essential part of the classic film aesthetic. This grain is caused by the silver particles used in celluloid and greatly contributes to the texture and warmth of a film photograph. You can use the Film Grain Effect, also found under Cinematic Effects, to recreate this aesthetic perfectly. This noise is randomly generated so that the film grain looks different and natural every time.

film grain mobile film

Step 4: Save Your Mobile Film Image

The last step is to save your image. Just click the little Share icon at the top of the screen to save to your camera roll, your Google Drive or Google Photos, or even straight to your BeFunky account.

save mobile film

And that’s it! Just a few simple steps to make your digital smartphone photo look like it was taken in the ‘80s with an old film camera. The fact that you can combine different Effects, Overlays, and Textures allows you to create a unique film look every time. 

mobile film after
mobile film before



Vintage Film Editing Inspiration

There are innumerable ways to edit your photos to look like film using the BeFunky Photo Editor! Here are just a few examples, and the Effects and Tools we used to get each specific aesthetic. (The Film Grain Effect was added to all of these photos after the rest of the editing was done.)

Washed Out

To make this image look like abandoned sun-soaked vintage film, we used Analog Tones 9, Chromatic Aberration, added a Flash, and used some textured Scratches. The final step was a white Frame!

washed out mobile after
washed out film before




These very specific colors are reminiscent of ‘80s instant film. We used the super-customizable Color Grading Effect and adjusted the shadows to be more purple and pink. 

mobile 80s after
mobile 80s before




This soft and dreamy film look was achieved with just one click, using Instant 3. 

mobile film dreamy after
mobile film dreamy before



Black & White

To mimic the look of old black-and-white film, we used Old Photo 16, reduced the saturation, and then Anamorphic, and Scratches 9 were used together.

mobile film black and white after
mobile film black and white before



Lomo Art 

Lomography was a style of photography developed in the ’90s alongside the rise of cheap, compact cameras. We recreated this unique style with Analog Tones 6 and Lomo Art 3, and added a white border in the Frames section.

mobile film lomo after
mobile film lomo before




To make this photo look like an instant Polaroid, we used Analog Tones 6, Light Leaks 9, and added the Frame Instant 1. A few clicks can go a long way!

mobile film polaroid after
mobile polaroid before



Create the Perfect Film Aesthetic With BeFunky's Mobile App

Whether you’re going for black-and-white glam, blurry grunge, or soft cinematic color, you can count on the BeFunky mobile app to create the perfect film aesthetic every time. You can use your photos to stand out on social media or even create a digital scrapbook to share with your friends. Just download the BeFunky mobile app to get started! 

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