The default iOS Photos app has tons of photo editing options. Fortunately if you like tweaking your photos further, there are many more free and paid apps to get the job done, turn them into artwork, and make you looking stunning.
Keep in mind that not even the best photo editing app can salvage a badly-taken photo. It’s therefore worth spending a few minutes brushing up on how you can quickly improve your photos and absorbing our simple tricks to boosting your smartphone photography.
After analyzing over 20 iOS photo editing apps, we’ve selected the best apps for 11 different purposes.
Best Free Editing App: Snapseed
If you like tweaking your photos and don’t want to spend a dime, then Google’s Snapseed might be the only app you’ll ever need. It contains nine editing tools (including Crop, Transform, Rotate, Tune Image, and Vignette) and 12 filters (including Lens Blur, Grunge, Noir, and Black & White). You can even add a lens blur effect by selectively focusing on a given area of your photograph, while gently blurring the rest.
With such a wide palette of features, the app does take some getting used to, but I found myself using it intuitively after a week. Snapseed has useful tutorials to tell you what each effect does and how you can use it to breathe life into even your dullest photos.
Best Paid Editing App: Enlight ($3.99)
Enlight costs $3.99, but it’s worth paying for if you want to ensure your photos get the treatment they deserve. Launch the app to see the eight tools on the right. Selecting one tool reveals further sub-tools below it. Selecting one these sub-tools reveals a slider of options at the bottom. Again, you can swipe right or left to modify the intensity of the effect you choose, so there really is a lot to explore.
For example, select Image, then Clarity, where you’ll see 10 filters at the bottom that let you tweak the photo’s brightness, saturation, and sharpening. Unlike Snapseed, this app also lets you turn your photos into artwork, add text boxes, borders, frames, and even create a multiple photo collage.
Best App for Presets: Photoshop Express (free)
Adobe Photoshop has been the undisputed PC photo editing champion since forever, so it’s a wonder it took Adobe so long to perfect the mobile app. That said, the app now feels like an Adobe product with all the tools you’ll need to edit your photos. Even though some effects require an Adobe subscription, you won’t need them if you’re just looking for basic edits.
An Adobe PC staple that’s well implemented in the mobile apps is the ability to add your own ‘custom looks and presets’ – something designers rely a lot on in the PC version. So, for example, you can add your own effects, filter, and frame, then apply the same formatting to multiple photos in one go. You will need to sign in with an Adobe ID to use this, but it’s completely free.
Best App for Perspective Correction: SKRWT ($1.99)
Most editing apps offer the same features – cropping, adjusting various parameters like contrast and brightness, removing red eye, and so on. SKRWT is a breath of fresh air in this regard because it only lets you correct the perspective of your photo. Choose a relevant alignment tool at the bottom, then swipe right or left to tweak your alignment.
You can change your photo’s length, breadth, and even its diagonal perspective. SKRWT also has tools to stretch or compress your photo, though you probably won’t need them. Features you may need after alignment are its useful rotate, crop, and lens blur tools. It costs a few dollars, but if you’re looking for an interesting take on the usual iOS photo editing apps this is it.
Best for Memes: Aviary Photo Editor (free, in-app purchases)
Apart from the usual array of editing options, Aviary’s free app also lets you add text and draw on your photos. This can be useful if you want to create a birthday card or a quick invitations. It even has a Meme mode, which lets you add text at the top and bottom of your photo. Read a brief overview of what makes a good meme and how to create your own. The app also lets you purchase more effect packs and stickers for 99 cents each (a few of these come free).
Best For Focus Adjustment: After Focus ($0.99)
Great photographers master the art of getting the right object in focus, while gently blurring out the rest of the image (read about how autofocus works). Even though mobile phones let you tap to select your area of focus, the rest of the image doesn’t get blurred out completely. There’s no way to adjust aperture in most photo apps, so this effect can be difficult to achieve in all but low light.
After Focus is an iPhone app that lets you select the area you want to focus on (by drawing around it), after which it automatically blurs out the rest of your image. With the amount of granular control After Focus gives you, it’s another great app that does one thing but does it well.
Best for Beautification: Facetune ($3.99)
Most of us are not blessed with flawless skin and stunning pearly whites. Thankfully, this app can transform anyone’s appearance to rival that of a supermodel. Select your facial editing feature at the bottom (Whiten, Smooth, Erase – for blemishes) then swipe across to apply that effect to your photograph. You can make your smile wider, eyes more radiant, and even cover your bald patches with hair. It’s a brilliant app if you belong to the selfie-obsessed category – like me.
Best Free App for Filters: Instagram
Instagram needs no introduction. It lets you add a range of filters to your photos, tweak the intensity of the filter, and add subtle lens blur effects. The Facebook-owned app also has a vibrant community of users who use the app for various purposes – mainly to give the rest of us opulence, food, and travel envy.
Some users have soared to popularity purely on the basis of their Instagram photos. That said, it’s a great app because it can enhance otherwise dull photos in just a few taps. Read about these 10 useful Instagram tricks that you probably don’t know.
Best Paid App for Filters: Afterlight ($0.99)
If you thought Instagram had the most filters, think again. After Light has far more filters and it even lets you merge two filters to create a completely new effect.
You can modify the effects of each filter, as well as turn your photos into shapes or alphabets – useful if you’re printing birthday cards or posters.
Best for Creating Instant Artwork: Prisma (free)
If your Facebook News Feed resembles endless Van Gogh paintings, don’t panic. It’s all thanks to Prisma – the new app that been making headlines ever since it launched a few weeks ago. There are (too) many effects to choose from, and you can modify the intensity of each effect by swiping across the photo. It sounds relatively simple, but sometimes that’s precisely what works.
Best for Creating Unique Artwork: Repix (free)
We’ve written about the best free apps to turn your photos into artwork, but Repix didn’t make that list. If you want to instantly turn your photos into artwork, stick to Prisma. If you prefer having more granular control over how you turn your photos into artwork, then install Repix.
Simply select a brush at the bottom, then tap or swipe over your photo to turn it into a painting or artwork. It’s a doddle to add raindrops or selectively blur out certain parts of your photo. Don’t worry if you get carried away adding too many effects because the Undoer brush lets you quickly remove any mistakes. While the app took a toll on my wrists, the end results were well worth it.
What’s Your Favorite Photo Editing App?
As you can clearly see, there’s no dearth of photo editing apps on the App Store. Ultimately, the decision comes down to which app makes your life easier, both in terms of features and ease of use. Like us, you may also use a combination of free and paid apps to serve different purposes.
Which is your favorite iOS photo editor and why? Let us know by posting your thoughts in the Comments section below.