“The iPad doesn’t have a camera, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a useful device for shutterbugs.” – This is how my colleague Bakari introduced a collection of editing tools for the iPad only 3.5 years ago. Boy, things have sure changed.
The iPad is no longer the bulky, camera-less device it used to be back in 2010. These days even your iPhone photos push straight to your tablet via the wonders of Photostream, and with a much larger screen the iPad is a far more enjoyable photo editor to use.
The following apps will help you get the most out of your photos on your tablet, without spending a small fortune.
Snapseed is a well-known photo editor, especially so since Google purchased it in 2012. Despite the acquisition, Snapseed continues to exist as a standalone app (though its name appears as “Google+ Snapseed” when you download it), and offers a good number of editing options for free — minus hidden costs.
Snapseed includes a suite of editing tools, from basic adjustments, filters and frames, to more advanced tweaks, cropping, and more. The thing that makes Snapseed stand out — aside from the fact that it’s free — is its gesture-based adjustments. These include sliding your finger up and down to select an option, and sliding it left and right to adjust. Sometimes other gestures are involved too. This makes even the most advanced options intuitive for beginners.
Unlike many other apps, which only offer photo filters as-is, Snapseed lets you fine-tune filters until they’re perfect. This is also done using the app’s finger gestures. When you’re done, saving the result locally takes one tap. It’s also easy to share the photo, open it using other apps, copy it or print it.
If you want to make your photos look better, there’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish with Snapseed. And if you can’t stand pesky in-app purchases or ads, you’re going to love its clean, commercial-free nature. Check out our full Snapseed review for more details. Snapseed for Android is also available.
Aviary (Free, Offers In-App Purchases)
Aviary might be better known for its photo-editing SDK used by other apps, but it also exists as a standalone photo-editing app, and a pretty good one at that.
Choosing a photo is as quick as flicking through your Camera Roll. Below your chosen photo, you’ll find a row of options ranging from basic enhancements and adjustments, to more advanced tools such as redeye reduction, teeth whitening and color splashing. You can also use Aviary to draw on your photo, add text, add stickers, or even turn it into a meme.
As powerful and easy-to-use as it is, Aviary does have some annoyances. First and foremost are the in-app purchases. When looking at filters, frames, and stickers, you’ll find that you need to pay in order to use most of them. A basic package is always available, but if you want more, you’ll have to pay $1.99 per package.
There are discounted bundles available, but there’s no way to buy everything, and unless you can really settle on just one package or just one bundle, things can get expensive quickly.
It’s also not so easy to save your final result locally. There’s no save option, but you can email the photo to yourself or open it using Dropbox or other apps. If you can ignore the in-app purchases (or if you have no problem buying some of them), Aviary is a powerful editing tool you’ll enjoy. It’s also available for Android.
Pixlr Express (Free)
Pixlr is a photo editor by Autodesk that comes in several versions. I already told you about the awesome Pixlr-O-Matic in a previous post about iPad photo-editing tools, but this is Pixlr Express — the simpler, non-hipster version of the app.
Launching Pixlr Express, two things jump out immediately: its obvious power and its not-so-appealing looks. To be blunt, Pixlr Express is a bit ugly, but that doesn’t hinder it one bit when it comes to photo editing.
All of the app’s tools are gathered under six categories: adjustments, effects, overlay, borders, type and stickers. Tapping a category, you’ll find an almost overwhelming number of options hiding under each, all of them free. The editing interface is very straightforward, and while it doesn’t give you as much control as Snapseed, it does make the editing process a simple affair for beginners.
Pixlr Express includes many different packages of effects, overlays, borders and stickers. Since there are so many of them, you can download the ones you’re interested in and leave the rest off your device. Don’t worry, though, there are no hidden in-app purchases here. Everything you want to download is free.
The app’s numerous options make it perfect for playful users who want to create a new version of the image, as well as for light adjustments. The interface is so simple, even a child can use Pixlr Express easily.
If the above apps seem too basic for your needs, $0.99 will get you something better. It’s called Luminance.
Luminance offers powerful editing tools, browsable via the four top buttons: effects, adjustments, cropping and history. The effects department offers 25 different filters, and the cropping section lets you choose from several different presets, or freeform your crop.
The real power lies under the adjustments button, and here things can get confusing for the beginners or the less patient. Unlike Snapseed which presents its powerful tools with a more intuitive interface, Luminance is the real, hardcore deal. Using sliders, it lets you control every little aspect of your photo. All you have to do is explore all the options and change things around until you get the perfect result.
Like what you see? Don’t worry, you won’t have to replicate it for your next photo. Luminance lets you copy your edits, and then paste them into a new image to get the same results. This can save you lots of time if you’ve hit just the right adjustments. You can also use the history tab to see every change you’ve made to your photo, and revert to that exact point in time.
No stickers or frames here: with Luminance, you get a powerful yet serious editor for a mere dollar, with no additional purchases in sight.
Photogene is the most expensive app of the bunch, but considering what you get for your $2.99, it’s extremely affordable.
Photogene is not an easy app to figure out. If all you want are some minor adjustments and filters, you’ll be very happy with one of the free apps above. With Photogene, you can really go all the way.
There are so many different tools here, I can’t even attempt to cover them all. From basic things such as filters and frames all the way to custom retouches you can create yourself, Photogene is a goldmine for photo buffs. If you’re lazy, the app also comes with various presets you can choose from, and if you’ve worked hard to edit your photo, you can save your own preset to use again on a different photo.
Photogene is one of the best photo editors out there. If you’re not sure why yet, read the our full review.
The App Store is full of photo editors to download, try or buy. If you’re looking for other options, here are 3 more apps worth checking out. For anything else don’t forget to try out the famous Photoshop Express, and let us know which photo editor you prefer below.
Don’t see your favorite in any of our lists? Make sure to hit the comments and tell us what it is!