Create surreal photos with RNI Aero

Tea plantation in northern Thailand

The RNI Aero app is a photo filter app that lets you emulate Kodak Aerochrome film on your photos. In short, the filter turns green hues into vibrant magentas and deep reds. This results in some pretty spectacular images, sometimes with an otherworldly vibe.

RNI AERO: an unusual smartphone photo filter app

Although the RNI Aero app came out earlier this year (or maybe even last year?), it’s only in the past few weeks that I’ve been experimenting with it. It’s really fun to edit your photos in a different way than one would normally do. Personally, I tend to limit the use of filters to a minimum and try to stick to the subtle usage of film emulators on my photos. But this app is the total opposite of that.

With one tap on the filter button, otherwise boring photos turn into otherworldly pictures. Like there was a glitch in the matrix and your photo belongs to another Earth from a parallel universe where the grass is pink, not green.

However, you can also keep edits more subtle. The app allows you to adjust the strength of the filter. This can come in handy if, for example, you have some autumn shots where the leaves are turning but not all of the trees are quite there yet. With these filters, you could tweak those remaining green trees to red. Or you can use it to give pinks and reds in your photos extra punch, see for example a recent edit I shared of cherry blossoms on my Instagram.

How to use the app

The app itself is free to download (Apple and Android) and comes with 5 free filters. You can pay for more “Pro” filters but I personally find the free filters sufficient. You can edit the filter strength and the usual stuff like exposure, shadows, highlights etc on each filter. Plus there’s also an option to add dust particles to give it that true retro film vibe. 

Like with most ‘free’ apps these days, there is a watermark that you can pay to remove. The watermark looks like those old-school time stamps you’d get on old film photos, which I actually find rather aesthetically pleasing.

Lightroom / Photoshop and Capture one pack

RNI does have an emulation pack for those who want to simulate Aerochrome for professional purposes. This pack is of course not free but considering Really Nice Images is one of the most popular film emulsion creators, I bet it’s worth the money.

What is Kodak Aerochrome and why did Kodak create such a weird film?

Kodak Aerochrome was a commercialised version of an infrared film type created for military surveillance purposes. The US military needed a way to detect camouflaged adversaries and Kodak made them a type of film that would turn vegetation red or pink but not camouflage cloth. This is of course a very TLDR; explanation. 

If you’re really interested in the subject, Todd Dominey explains it much better in this visually very pleasing video.

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