Retouching has long been a standard practice in professional photography, but you don’t need to learn how to use Photoshop to make your selfies look better.
All you need is the right mobile photo retouching app and a bit of practice. The hardest part of retouching your headshot is knowing when to stop making adjustments.
In an endless sea of iPhone photo retouching apps, only these four are worth your time.
Advice on Using These Apps
You should feel free to edit and share your photos in any way you see fit. At the same time, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use photo retouching apps unless you really want to. Don’t let anyone tell you that your pictures don’t look good enough, or that using an app to edit a photo is inherently bad. It’s not.
With that in mind, some of these apps require a little more restraint to avoid results that can seem overdone. In particular, warping certain features will also affect background objects like straight lines. From a photo editing standpoint, the more natural and true to life your edits appear, the better.
Remember: how you choose to present yourself on social media is up to you, and only you. There’s a huge amount of pressure associated with the image we project on networks like Facebook and Instagram. This pressure has always existed in some form or another.
Though retouching apps emerged alongside this trend, that doesn’t mean they are inherently bad.
1. Best Premium Retouching App: Facetune
It might not have been the first iPhone photo retouching app, but it’s arguably the best. Facetune includes a whole range of tools in one purpose-built package. It’s designed from the ground up to augment your facial features, and it’s yours for a one-off fee.
You won’t find a better assembly of tools for the job. You can whiten your teeth, smooth over your skin, highlight details like eyes, and correct blemishes with patch healing. There’s a liquify effect that allows you to reshape your features, plus skin tone adjustment, selective defocusing, and some built-in filters.
Facetune includes a tutorial for each tool, complete with video showing the effect in action. There are a ton of included pictures to try out, and not a single in-app purchase or subscription in sight. You can undo changes and preview the original image while you work.
Best of all, since Facetune holds your hand while performing edits, you don’t need to show quite as much restraint as you do with the other apps on the list. It’s harder to create a monster, but it’s still fun.
Download: Facetune ($4)
2. Best Free Retouching App: Photoshop Fix
If you like the look of Facetune but aren’t into paying $4 for the privilege, Photoshop Fix is the app for you. This version of Photoshop isn’t quite as straightforward as Facetune is. You’ll need to learn how to use a few of the included tools before you put them to best use.
Adobe includes a good range of retouching tools, and you don’t need a Creative Cloud subscription to use any of them. The Lighten tool is great for teeth whitening, the Smooth tool makes light work of uneven skin, and correcting spots and blemishes is easy with the Healing brush.
The real standout feature is Adobe’s Liquify tool, which allows you to make subtle (and not-so-subtle) adjustments to your features. Use it to widen a smile or tuck your chin, but don’t go too far and keep an eye on any straight lines or objects in the background.
You’ll also get some handy basic photo editing tools, a saturation brush, selective defocusing, vignetting, and a standard paint brush. You’ll need a (free) Adobe account to use this one.
Download: Photshop Fix (Free)
3. Worth Consideration: Pixlr
Pixlr is a web-based photo editor, and this is the iOS version of that web app. It’s completely free, with no in-app purchases or restrictions. Like Photoshop Fix, this isn’t purpose-built face tuning software. You’ll be left to your own devices when applying edits.
There’s a brighten tool for whitening teeth and a darken tool to add contrast or deepen shadows. You can retouch skin with the smoothing tool and fix blemishes with the healing tool. There’s also a blur brush for selective defocusing, and red eye removal if ever you need it.
Since Pixlr is more of a general photo editor, you’ll also get some more standard tools that are great for all kinds of editing. You can add filters, overlays, or stylize your image with the included presets. There’s also a good number of frames and text effects, which might come in handy sometime.
Download: Pixlr (Free)
4. Worth Consideration: Photo Editor by Aviary
Aviary is an ordinary photo editor, but it includes a few tools which make it a perfect selfie-retouching app. The standout feature is a foolproof teeth whitener, but there’s also red eye correction, blemish removal, and selective defocusing too.
You can use the blur tool on skin with decent results, or sharpen eyes and other features to draw attention to them. Additionally, auto-enhance scene modes designed for night and portrait shots might help somewhat.
Unfortunately Aviary lacks a liquify tool, so you can’t make warp adjustments to your image. Combined with the full set of standard photo editing tools, though, Aviary is a great app to keep around.
Download: Aviary (Free) [No Longer Available]
Other iPhone Retouching Apps We Tried
There are a lot of photo retouching apps available on the App Store, but the vast majority aren’t worth your time. Most are free with in-app purchases, others use a credit system to limit free usage, and some even have a subscription model.
You’ll want to skip the freemium Facetune 2 since paying $4 for the standard version is a better deal. Microsoft’s two “enhanced” iOS cameras, Pix and Selfie, are lacking in features. ModiFace Photo Editor has not been optimized for larger iOS devices, so the interface is ugly.
That developer’s other app, Modiface Live, is better but ultimately more of a toy for trying out cosmetics than a serious photo tool. Facetune and Photoshop Fix remain the best options.
And don’t forget these tips for taking a great selfie!