Photo editing is one of the most effective ways to give your photos a refined, professional look, but desktop editors can be frustratingly inconvenient for photographers (and expensive, too!).
Fortunately, smartphones and tablets now offer access to an impressive range of outstanding editing apps. Many of these tools are powerful, easy for beginners to grasp, and free to download. The best photo-editing apps are wildly convenient, too; you can use them to dramatically improve your shots while riding the bus, flying on a plane, or lounging in front of the couch.
The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, however – and that’s where we come in. Below, introduce you to our 15 favorite editing apps, including options for beginners, advanced users, and everyone in between. We also break down the process of choosing the perfect app for your photo-editing needs.
Ready to enhance your photos with a top-notch editing app? Let’s dive right in!
The best photo-editing apps for general editing
In this section, you’ll discover the best photo-editing apps for general adjustments. With the apps on this list, you can adjust exposure, enhance colors, crop, sharpen, and more.
Snapseed is one of the most popular photo-editing apps on the market – and for good reason. It’s very intuitive and easy to use, which makes it perfect for beginners. At the same time, Snapseed offers a lot of control for more skilled users thanks to features such as selective editing, curves, perspective correction, and much more.
You don’t need to pay any fees for using Snapseed, nor are there in-app upgrades; it’s completely free. So if you’re after a beginner-friendly photo editor that can do pretty much anything, Snapseed is a great choice.
- Our award: Best paid photo-editing app
- Cost: Free limited version; paid version requires an Adobe subscription ($9.99)
- Availability: iOS and Android
Most photographers have heard of Adobe Lightroom, one of the most popular editing programs in the world. But Adobe also offers Lightroom Mobile, which is a mostly full-featured mobile version of the powerful desktop editor – and as you might expect, it packs quite a punch.
You don’t need to pay to download the app, and the limited free version does allow you to do most basic editing tasks, so if you’re just looking for a basic editor, you may never want – or need – to upgrade.
For more folks hoping to really dive into photo editing, however, we do recommend upgrading to a paid plan. There are several options, all of which offer access to the Lightroom Mobile app, one or more Adobe desktop apps – such as Lightroom or Photoshop – and cloud storage so you can seamlessly edit on several devices.
The paid plan offers a wide variety of additional features, including a healing brush, selective adjustments, geometry tools, batch editing, RAW editing, and perspective corrections. (Note: If you want to use Lightroom Mobile to speed up your workflow, check out this article.)
3. Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing. Its mobile version is divided into three smaller and specialized apps; the basic editor is Photoshop Express.
Photoshop Express offers one-touch solutions such as an auto-fix option and filters. It also allows you to edit and retouch with total control. And it’s packed with many fun features such as stickers and collages.
You can crop to most platforms’ formats and share directly from the app. While you don’t need an Adobe subscription to use Photoshop Express, you will need a free account.
Pixlr is a well-rounded editing app, offering all the post-processing essentials plus tons of presets and features to unleash your creativity.
There’s no need to create an account and you can download Pixlr for free, though you’ll be offered in-app purchases for overlays and stickers.
Pixlr also offers two great browser versions that you can use for free – or you can get a subscription for full access to both browser versions and other useful assets.
Best photo-editing apps for fun and filters
In this section, I’ll share the best photo-editing apps for filters and effects.
(In most cases, these apps also include a camera and some basic adjustment tools.)
- Our Award: Best filter app
- Cost: Free limited version; $19.99/year for the full version
- Availability: iOS and Android
VSCO works as a general photo editor, but it belongs in the fun and filter category thanks to its artsy, social-media-focused features.
To use VSCO, you will need to create a (free) account. After that, you can continue to use VSCO for free, but most of the filters are sold separately.
Alternatively, you can grab a yearly subscription for $19.99 that includes 200 filters (and you have a 7-day trial to make sure it’s worth it).
Your creations can then be shared with the community, which is like- and comments-free. In other words, the VSCO community is more about the quality of the work. You can also share VSCO creations directly from the app to other social networks such as Instagram or Snapchat.
6. Prisma Photo Editor
- Our Award: Best artistic editing app
- Cost: Free limited version or free 3-day trial. Full version is $29.99/year.
- Availability: iOS and Android
Prisma is designed for art lovers. It’s more than just filters; Prisma uses artificial intelligence to turn your photos into artworks inspired by the greatest artists in history. And unlike other apps, Prisma adds new filters every day.
General editing is also possible (as it is with most filter apps). Though I do miss the rotation tool to correct the horizon if needed.
7. PicsArt Photo Editor
- Our Award: Best all-around editing app
- Cost: 7-day free trial, then $34.99/year.
- Availability: iOS and Android
PicsArt Photo Editor is one of the most versatile editing apps on the market. You have a powerful in-app camera, plus tools and presets to no end. You can do anything with PicsArt, from professional applications like time-lapse photography to fun stickers and drawings.
PicsArt Photo Editor also has social media integration, as well as thematic contests that will spark your creativity.
8. A Color Story
A Color Story is the perfect app to manage your Instagram account. You can do some basic editing and apply filters to your images and videos.
New filter collections based on current trends are added often, although most do need to be purchased separately.
You can even plan your Instagram feed with the Grid feature. In fact, you can use this just to see how the feed looks after each picture you add, or you can connect it to your Instagram account for scheduling posts. That’s why A Color Story is great for maintaining a unified Instagram feed – whether you are a photographer, influencer, or community manager.
9. Afterlight Photo Editor
Afterlight boasts 59 filters, 66 textures, and 77 frames for you to transform your images in a single click. Some of these tools are offered for a small fee, but there is also a wide variety of free, high-quality effects to choose from.
Afterlight can also handle basic editing tasks; the app has 15 tools to make most of the adjustments you’ll need.
The Crop tool is also quite versatile; it allows you to straighten, flip, and crop freehand and to many standard ratios.
10. Photo Lab Picture Editor
- Our Award: Best editing effects app
- Cost: 3-day free trial, then $9.99/year or $4.99/month.
- Availability: iOS and Android
Photo Lab is full of filters and effects; you can have fun or do some professional-looking work. You can even turn your photos into cartoons, and you can swap faces and make collages.
Photo Lab is an app designed to give free rein to your creativity. It’s also a social app with a big community of followers that’ll help you stay inspired.
Best apps for specialized editing
If you’re looking for the best photo-editing apps with dedicated features, this is the list for you:
Although it has all the standard photo-editing tools, Foodie is designed primarily for food photography.
You can use Foodie’s in-app camera to take pictures (and you’ll get a live view of your selected filter). There are plenty of food filter series, including Fresh, BBQ, Yum, and more.
Once you’ve chosen a filter, you can compose your image using the smart grid. For flat lays, you’ll get a yellow band across the edges of the screen when the camera is perfectly level.
Foodie is only missing one key editing feature, but it’s a big one: a crop tool. You’ll either need to compose well from the beginning or have another photo editor on hand to deal with any cropping.
If you like photographing architecture, real estate, or urban scenes, then you’re going to love SKRWT.
It’s a dedicated distortion-correction app, plus it has a powerful auto-cropping feature to ensure you get the best results.
And it corrects lens distortion regardless of whether the image was taken with an interchangeable lens camera, a GoPro, or your smartphone.
Removing unwanted objects from a photo is something we all have to deal with, no matter the genre of photography.
With TouchRetouch, you can use brush and lasso tools to select an object for removal. And if you’re removing a line (e.g., telephone wires in the background), you just need to tap; it will automatically be selected and removed.
TouchRetouch also has a clone tool, plus a feature called Quick Fix to remove blemishes. Many apps offer some kind of healing brush, but as a specialized app, TouchRetouch will get you the best results.
- Our Award: Best cinemagraph app
- Cost: Free limited version, or one of three paid choices: $3.50/month, $18/year, or a one-time purchase of $55.
- Availability: iOS and Android
Have you seen pictures where everything is motionless – except for the water running or the coffee steam coming out of a cup? They’re called cinemagraphs, and Motionleap lets you create that effect with just a few taps and swipes.
You can also add filters, do some basic adjustments, and apply overlays. Keep in mind that the free version won’t let you export your projects and you won’t have all the tools available, so it’s worth considering a paid subscription.
If you use your photography for marketing purposes, then Canva is the app for you. It offers enough graphic design templates to fit your every need.
From creating an eye-catching Facebook post to designing an entire menu, Canva is intuitive and easy to use.
Many templates are free, though others must be purchased separately. Canva also has a browser version so you can access your projects on your computer, too.
How to pick the perfect app for editing photos
Editing apps can vary a lot in their tools and features, so before you go downloading or purchasing an editor, make sure that it suits your needs. When choosing an app for post-processing, there are five key factors we recommend you consider:
Ease of use and interface
Photography should be fun, right? That goes for editing, too. It’s crucial that the app you choose has a user-friendly and intuitive interface. If you’re a beginner, this is especially important. There are many simple and enjoyable apps out there, but others can be complicated and convoluted.
Therefore, if you’re not tech-savvy or don’t have experience with photo editors, we really recommend you pick a simple app that offers a basic design. Some come with helpful tutorial sections or walkthroughs; these are great for beginners as they’ll help you navigate the app and use the tools effectively.
If you’re an experienced photo editor, a confusing interface might not be such a hindrance, so you may want to focus less on the app interface and more on its advanced features. But remember: Every app is unique. It’s often worth your time to test out different ones.
Fortunately, most of the apps in this list are free. And even the ones that aren’t free do tend to offer trials or demo versions. So go ahead and get your hands on a few. Take them for a spin. See how comfortable they feel before you make a commitment.
Every photo editor is different; each comes with its unique set of features, and it’s important to find one that can do what you want it to.
Are you a hobbyist or a beginner? Then you might be looking for an app that provides basic editing features, such as cropping, rotating, adjusting brightness, contrast, and saturation. Don’t forget filters, either, which can be great fun to experiment with (and can dramatically increase your editing speed).
On the flip side, maybe you’re more of an enthusiast or a pro. In that case, you might want more advanced editing features. You’ll want to look for things like layering, text addition, object removal, and masking.
Also, if you’re looking for an easy-to-use app that’ll speed up your workflow, consider an editing app with AI tools. These apps are designed to automate the editing process and can be a lifesaver if you’re dealing with a lot of photos.
One more thing: If your main goal is to accomplish one form of precision editing, consider a specialist editing app. Several of the apps on our list focus on specific types of edits, such as perspective correction or object removal – and while they can only make one adjustment, they do an excellent job.
The core purpose of an editing app is, well, editing. But you shouldn’t forget about the extras. These are the features that go beyond editing but can be useful for photographers and photo editors.
Some editing apps, for instance, come with built-in cameras. You can use these to shoot and edit all in one place.
And then there’s image organization. It’s not the most exciting part of photography, but it’s important. Some apps let you organize your image library with tools such as folders, ratings, and keywords.
Cloud-storage integration can also be a game-changer, especially if you like to edit on multiple devices. This feature ensures that you can do your main editing on your desktop, then switch to your phone or tablet for editing on the go, then to your laptop for editing on the job, and so on.
And last but not least, let’s discuss exporting and sharing. Some apps let you export in certain handy file formats and share directly to social media platforms, which can be a massive time-saver.
So when you’re choosing your editing app, remember to consider these additional features. They might not be essential, but they just make your life a lot easier.
Compatibility and performance
Most of the best apps for photo editing are available for both iOS and Android devices, but a few are tailored for one type of device. It’s critical to pick an app that’s a match for your smartphone or tablet.
Before you get too excited about a specific app, take a good look at the versions available. And even if the app does have Android and iPhone versions available, keep in mind the features can differ across platforms. So if you’re checking out reviews, be sure they’re for the version you’re planning to download.
Lastly, let’s talk about performance. Some apps can be quite demanding, and whether your smartphone or tablet can run it effectively depends on a variety of factors. Checking out the system requirements beforehand will save you from any unexpected crashes and frustration.
Photo-editing apps range from absolutely free to relatively expensive, and their pricing models vary, too. Some can be purchased with a one-time payment. Others require a subscription.
Generally, more expensive apps come with a wider range of features. But don’t think pricier is always better. Some of the apps listed in this article offer top-notch features and cost nothing at all.
Before making a big purchase, ask yourself if you’re really going to use those advanced features. Maybe a free or less expensive app will do just fine. And don’t forget to check for free trials. It’s always a good idea to test out a paid app before committing to it.
The best photo-editing apps: final words
In the end, the ideal photo-editing app should be a perfect fit for you. It should feel comfortable to use and have everything you need to achieve your vision. Above all, it should take your photos to the next level!
So when picking the best app to edit photos, don’t rush. Explore different apps. Take advantage of those free trials. Experiment with various tools. And if you can’t decide, remember that you don’t need to pick just one; you can use two apps, three apps, or more to improve your editing workflow.
Now over to you:
Do you like any other photo-editing apps? Are there apps that should be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
The best image-editing apps FAQ
The best paid editing apps do sometimes offer more features than the best free editing apps, but there are excellent free choices such as Snapseed and Photoshop Express.
That depends on your needs. In our experience, it is useful to have different apps for different tasks.
If you don’t like editing on your phone, you need to use an app that allows you to easily transfer pictures between your phone and your computer. You can use Lightroom for this (with an Adobe subscription). Another choice is to use a cloud service such as Dropbox.
We’re big fans of Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile. That said, there isn’t one app that tops all the others; it’s about which one is best for you. That will depend on your phone, your budget, and your editing needs – plus your personal preference.