Excellent iOS photo editor Enlight is now free with optional subscription

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Enlight is one of the best options for editing photos on iOS — it’s not quite as advanced as pro-focused apps like Affinity for iPad, but it’s powerful and versatile enough for everyday use. Today developer Lightricks is unveiling version 2 of the app, now known as Enlight Photofox, and it’s free.

Enlight cost $3.99 before, so Lightricks hopes to make money through a new subscription option — an increasingly popular approach on iOS since Apple expanded the possibilities for developers last year. This hasn’t quite overhauled the App Store from a user perspective yet, but apps like Bear, a neatly designed note-taking and writing tool, are finding success by charging for yearly access to premium features rather than with a single purchase upfront.

Enlight Photofox is taking a similar approach. The base app is free, and there’s more than enough in there to make it worth a download if you’ve never used it before. Its design can be a little overwrought at times, and you’ll need to have the patience to sit through tutorials for a lot of its features, and for some reason you can’t use it in landscape mode any more. But once you’re used to Enlight’s way of doing things, it’s a very capable piece of software for the kind of tasks you’d want to do on your phone. All of this is also true of the new free version.

If you stump up $3.99 a month, $19.99 a year, or $39.99 for a one-off purchase, however, you’ll get full access to Enlight Photofox’s major new features. Photoshop-style layers are a big part of the version 2 update, for example, but you’ll need to subscribe in order to use more than two at once. There’s also a whole subscription-only mode called Darkroom, which gives you a simple way to control various tonal parameters, along with some new film filters that I frankly found a little too heavy-handed (although you can dive in and edit the presets yourself). If you want to make more dramatic alterations, the Enlight Photofox subscription also includes a bunch of graphic elements that you can weave into your images.

Enlight Photofox should prove to be an interesting test case for the viability of subscriptions in the App Store. Enlight was already a good app, but it’s never been harder to get smartphone users to stump up a few dollars to download this kind of thing; with Photofox, the bet is that putting the app’s core features in front of a wider audience will convince more people to pay a significant amount for advanced capabilities. That middle ground, however, has proven extremely difficult to capture in the past.

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