As phone cameras become increasingly advanced and platforms like Instagram give ordinary people a huge audience, smartphone photography has become a sought-after skill and the basis for some people’s careers.
However, smartphone cameras are only half of the story. To really make your photos stand out, you need to use the right photo-editing apps. Unlike on PC, finding a quality photo-editing app on Android for free is really easy. In fact, there are so many apps on the market that you might not be sure which one to choose.
So what is the best Android photo-editing app? And what competition does it face in the Play Store? Here is our favorite photo editing app, along with a few notable mentions that excel in their own ways.
The Best Photo Editing App: Snapseed
While some people may expect photo editing veterans like Adobe Photoshop to make the top of the photo editing app list, that accolade belongs to Snapseed. The app is my go-to photo editor. Furthermore, when asking some of my fellow tech journalists what their favorite Android photo-editing app was, the answer was consistently Snapseed.
Snapseed isn’t about just slapping a filter on an image. In fact, the filters are the least impressive aspect of the app. Rather, its strength lies in the ability for users to fine-tune their pictures using brushes and spot editing. This means that you can specify exactly where you want the contrast to be increased or which portion of the image you want to desaturate.
To see how much of a difference Snapseed can make to photos, you simply need to take a look at a picture I edited using the app.
Not only are the tools advanced, but they are easy to figure out and use. With all this going for it, it is also free and ad-free, which just increases its appeal in our books.
There’s a reason Snapseed is on our list of the best Android apps. Other apps have a steep learning curve—or worse, they’re loaded with ads and paywalls. But Snapseed manages to be simple to use, incredibly powerful, and completely free.
Download: Snapseed (Free)
But surely Snapseed can’t be the be-all and end-all of Android photo-editing apps? Well, while it’s the best overall, there are a few apps that stand out in other aspects. This includes filters, quick fixes, and advanced other functionality.
Best Filters: Adobe Photoshop Express
While Adobe Photoshop Express is definitely a contender for the title of best Android photo-editing app, it’s lack of spot-editing and brushes means that it doesn’t have the nuanced editing that many photographers need. However, the app definitely excels when it comes to its photo filters.
While most photo editing apps have filters as a side-thought, rehashing the same filters seen in various other apps, Photoshop Express actually seems to take filters seriously. This is because it not only gives you the tonal presets you usually see in photo editing apps, but it also has a few unique approaches such as Duo Tone filters (converting the image to two color tones) and a plethora of B&W filters.
It also comes with a variety of other features that enhance this aspect of the app. For people who don’t use Snapseed, Photoshop Express can be a good alternative. It also comes with a collage feature that saves you the effort of having to download a separate collage app.
The main downside is that there are several different official Photoshop apps on the Google Play Store, like Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Sketch. This means that certain features come with specific apps, instead of there being one comprehensive app with all the features.
Download: Adobe Photoshop Express (Free)
Best for Experienced Users: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
While Photoshop Express, as the name implies, caters more for users who want a quicker and easier editing experience, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the best option for users with photo-editing experience.
Someone who has only ever used Instagram filters would find the app a bit daunting. But if you are familiar with adjusting tone curve levels, luminance, and other nuanced features—this could be the perfect photo-editing app for you.
Rather than focusing on filters, Lightroom has presets available that emphasize certain aspects of your picture (e.g., high contrast, high clarity, etc). You can also edit the usual settings in your photos, such as saturation and brightness.
However, there are a few extra edits you can use that you don’t often see in other Android photo editing apps. This includes adjusting the luminance for specific colors within your pictures and changing the photo’s white balance.
This gives experienced users the control they desire, while still retaining the ease-of-use that comes with smartphone apps. But for newbie photo editors, this is not the kind of experience you would want to start off with.
Other than the learning curve (which works to its benefit), the main limitation of the app is that certain features, such as selective editing, are locked behind a paywall.
Download: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (Free)
Best For Quick Fixes: Google Photos
Google Photos is a mainstay for Android users for a few reasons: it often comes pre-installed, it automatically backs up your photos to the cloud, and it has some great native editing tools. While Photos isn’t the kind of app you should use if you’re trying to transform a photo from a complete dud to something gorgeous, it’s perfect for quick fixes that make a picture more attractive.
In fact, using the Pop slider can usually give your pictures that extra bit of vitality and boldness. Thanks to Google Photos Assistant, the app also automatically generates stylized photos, collages, and GIFs for you. If you like what the assistant creates, you can save it to your gallery.
In terms of editing, you use more in-depth functionality and adjust a variety of features of your pictures. However, you won’t get the type of pinpoint editing that you see in apps like Snapseed or Photoshop. But when it comes to adjusting pictures quickly and doing the job well, Google Photos can take just a minute to transform your pictures.
Download: Google Photos (Free)
Most Fun: Photo Lab
Rather than focusing on professional-grade photo editing, Photo Lab is for those who want to have fun with their photos. The app can apply artistic filters that go far beyond simply adding a color tint or contrast variation. Rather, these filters can transform an image into a completely different art style. Say hello to your new profile picture.
However, the fun really comes in with the app’s various selfie overlays and filters. With face recognition, the app will aggregate all of the photos in your gallery that include a face. You simply need to select the filter you want to apply based on the stock preview. Then select the photo you want to use.
Rather than just a few dog ears or a pair of whiskers, Photo Lab’s filters go much deeper—which is why it’s so entertaining to use. In a short session with the app, I was able to transform myself into the undead, a Jedi, Daenerys Targaryen, a woman with stars for hair, Pennywise the clown, and a variety of other ridiculous characters.
Despite the amazing level of silliness, Photo Lab also has a more serious side for those who want artistic rather than comical pictures. It has a wide range of photographic effect filters, such as double exposure and thermal imaging.
A major downside of the app is the ads. When you process images, you will usually see an ad pop up. You can avoid these via an in-app purchase. If you are on the free version, the app also adds a watermark to your image. You can remove these watermarks by upgrading or watching an ad.
If you don’t mind the occasional ad, this app proves to be a ton of fun.
Download: Photo Lab (Free with in-app purchases)
We Like Snapseed, But Your Mileage May Vary
All of the apps on this list have their merits, but Snapseed checks all the right boxes for us. At the end of the day, the right app for you will depend on your needs.
Sometimes, using multiple photo-editing apps can pave the way to achieving the perfect picture you desire.
But just because Snapseed is the best photo-editing app for us doesn’t mean it’s the only one worth your time. In fact, there are other Android apps out there which focus on completely different aspects of photo editing—such as beautifying faces.