Best Photo Editing Apps 2018: 10 apps to improve your snaps

Take your smartphone photography to the next level with our guide to the best photo editing apps…

These days, we all own a smartphone and carry it around with us as if our lives depended on it. The great thing about this, from a photographic perspective at least, is that whenever we happen to come across an interesting subject or a special moment, we nearly always have something on hand to capture it.

Best editing appsIf you want to get involved and show off your skills then you’ll need to familiarise yourself with a wide range of photo editing apps that can help you to get the best out of your cameraphone snaps. These might be apps that you use to control your camera at the point of capture (as opposed to using the vanilla camera app with which your phone came pre-installed), or they might be apps that you use afterwards as a post-processing tool.

Related: Best cameras

Best photo editing apps – The different options

The range of apps available to mobile photographers is diverse, encompassing everything from apps that turn high-contrast scenes into HDR images, to those that stitch multiple images together to create ultra wide-angle panoramic images. In-between you’ll find portrait-specific apps, landscape-specific apps, time-lapse apps, geotagging apps, library and cataloguing apps, and even apps that can turn people into zombies.

Best editing apps

In this roundup you’ll discover a selection of the best photo editing apps for general image capture and adjustment, as well as some more advanced options for those who really want to go to town with their mobile images.

Related: Best smartphones

Instagram

1 of 10

Key features:

  • More than 40 filter effects
  • Selective focus tool
  • Available for Android and iOS
  • Free to download 

If there’s one app that needs no introduction, it has to be Instagram. It quickly grew in popularity thanks to its one-click photo filters and the ability to share photos and follow others. 

Today, while the functionality of image editing has been extended far beyond filters, Instagram’s greatest attraction is still the ability to follow and be followed. This social element of the app has made it the premier image-based social network for individuals, professionals and companies.

Getting back to editing, many professional and enthusiast photographers process their images on their computers using Lightroom and Photoshop before sending them to their phone to then upload to the app. If you have an image taken on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this makes a lot of sense, and you can of course still use the filters and editing tools within the app to apply effects.

If, however, you’re uploading shots taken on your phone, the editing tools and filters are conveniently placed within the interface, providing a seamless workflow from capture to upload. As well as applying filters at varying strengths, you can crop and rotate, and change brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, colour, fade, shadows and highlights, vignette, and add a tilt-shift effect.

There are other editing apps available that provide a great deal more control over your images. While you can achieve fantastic results within Instagram, competitors such as Snapseed definitely have the edge. But, where these apps fail is in the social element – Instagram has this covered better than anyone else right now. So, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to share images online and view the work of photographers, share stories and videos, with the ability to edit images as and when needed, then Instagram is the app for you.

www.instagram.com

Google Snapseed

2 of 10

Key features:

  • Localised adjustment tools
  • Frames and text options
  • Free
  • Available for Android and iOS

Where many apps have tried and failed to emulate Instagram, Snapseed – originally launched in 2011 – has taken a more in-depth approach to editing alone. It was originally launched by Nik Software, but after Google took it over, the app was continued with a host of new and improved features and functionality in later updates.

Functionality has been improved so much that the app can handle both JPEGs and DNGs, which is great if you shoot raw on your phone. With the latter you can, as you’d hope, edit images non-destructively and export them as a JPEG. The controls are simply too numerous to list here, but here are a few that stand out.

There are 29 filters and tools, including colour effects and grunge overlays, which have always been one of the most popular aspects of Snapseed. These are textures and effects that can be overlaid on any image too.

Other advanced processing tools include healing, local adjustments, structure, HDR, filter brush and perspective control. The localised adjustment with the Brush is incredibly easy to apply, and the option to toggle the visibility of the mask makes it possible to produce ultra-precise adjustments to brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature, and dodge and burn. 

Editing is based on touch, and within an editing area you swipe left or right to increase or decrease an effect, or up and down to scroll through sub-editing options within it. Layout is great, and it’s easy and intuitive to use. There’s no gallery or image organiser built-in as there is with Lightroom Mobile, so you import images individually, work on them, then export the edited version. This is an essential app for all mobile workflows.

support.google.com/snapseed

Adobe Photoshop Express /Lightroom

3 of 10

Key features:

  • Selection of digital filter effects
  • Compatible with Adobe .DNG raw files
  • Available for Android and iOS
  • Free to download 

Adobe currently offers two mobile photography apps: Photoshop Express and Photoshop Lightroom, both of which are very good in their own right.

The main difference between the two is that the former is more of a one-stop fix for mobile photographers, allowing you to import, edit and then share images within the app. The Lightroom mobile app, on the other hand, requires you to own the desktop version of Lightroom to get the full range of functionality from it.

Which one is right for you will depend on your requirements. For many users, the more self-contained Photoshop Express is likely to be the more convenient and useful of the two, while for others the ability to sync their mobile images with their desktop version of Lightroom will prove invaluable.

Either way, both apps offer a wide range of adjustments, along with a good selection of digital filter effects. As you might expect, both apps are also fully compatible with Adobe .DNG raw files created by smartphones too.

www.adobe.com

VSCO

4 of 10

Key features:

  • Emulates classic films 
  • VSCO community 
  • Free/In-app purchases available
  • Available for Android, iOS

Unlike the other apps here, VSCO filters are also available as Lightroom Presets and ACR Presets for Photoshop CS6 and CC. These filters can be purchased from the VSCO website, and seek to emulate a wide range of classic colour and black & white films, plus there are themed packs available aimed at specific types of photography or based around an editing style.

The app itself is available for free and offers 20 presets that can be applied to images that you load into the app, or take using the app’s camera function. Once images have been imported or shot using the app, they remain in the gallery/organiser, where they can be accessed quickly.

There are also controls for editing photos, and these can be used exclusively or to personalise one of the presets. They allow you to do all the things you’d expect, such as crop, and control brightness and contrast, but following the overall aesthetic created by the presets. Other controls are aimed at creating retro-style film effects. A great feature is that you can change the order of these manual controls to speed up your workflow.

Just like the Adobe-compatible presets that are available to purchase, you can also buy additional presets through the app. These range from free to £3.49, and are aimed at specific genres of photography such as portraiture and landscape, or based around an editing style. The fact that there are quite a few options available that cost just a few pounds helps to make them a compelling purchase.

There is also a community, but it lacks the finesse of Instagram. You can create a profile, follow other photographers and be followed yourself. The platform isn’t as popular, but still boasts over 30 million active users. The strength of the app is the stylish retro effects it allows you to apply. Unlike the other editing apps, this is one that makes its money through selling features and functionality to users in the form of preset packs and VSCO X – a $19.99 per year subscription service that provides enhanced tools and community content.

www.vsco.co

EyeEm

5 of 10

Key features:

  • 24 digital filters
  • Opportunity to sell images
  • Available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone
  • Free to download 

Launched in 2011, EyeEm was one of the original online cameraphone communities that allowed mobile photography enthusiasts to share their work and browse the work of others, and it currently has more than 13 million members.

While the community aspect is still a big part of the draw, EyeEm has since diversified into stock photography and offers contributors 50% off all the images it sells.

If you like the idea of being able to sell your images then all you need to do is sign up, enter your details and start uploading your mobile images.

The app has no built-in camera of its own, but you can open other camera apps from within it. Alternatively, you can also browse your phone’s image library for any images you want to edit and upload.

EyeEm provides 24 individual digital filters, along with a fairly standard range of image-wide enhancement tools. As with Instagram the tagging system is quite advanced, enabling you to target who is likely to view – and hopefully buy – your photos.

www.eyeem.com

Pixlr

6 of 10

Key features:

  • Supports localised adjustments
  • ‘Auto Fix’ feature
  • Free (£1.61 to remove adverts)
  • Available for Android and iOS

Pixlr makes a range of good image-editing apps for mobile and desktop users, along with a couple of browser-based editing tools. While the app is free to download, it does come with adverts. To rid yourself
of these you’ll need to pay £1.61 from within the app.

While Pixlr can be used to control your camera, the controls are extremely limited, so you’ll want to use either your phone’s built-in camera app or a third-party alternative.

Where Pixlr really excels is as an image editor for mobile devices. The user interface is intuitively laid out, making it easy to use. It offers a wide range of editing tools along with brush tools for more localised fixes (including selective focus).

Pixlr also provides a useful one-touch ‘Auto Fix’ feature, plus a variety of digital filter effects that can be stacked to create a unique look. Rounding things off are tools for adding picture frames, stickers and text. You can also make collages of similarly themed photos.

www.pixlr.com

Camera+

7 of 10

Key features:

  • Provides manual control of key settings
  • Slow shutter mode
  • Free/£2.29
  • Available for Apple iPhones running iOS 8.0 and higher

Exclusive to Apple iPhone users running iOS 8.0 or higher, Camera+ has long been considered the go-to third-party camera app.

The main reason for this is the way in which it effortlessly combines good levels of control over key camera settings – including manual focus, exposure, shutter speed, ISO and white balance – with advanced image-processing and sharing abilities.

The latest version also offers an image stabiliser to help sharpness, and a ‘Clarity’ tool that acts as a kind of auto-enhance at the point of capture.

Finally, there’s also a slow-shutter mode that can be used to facilitate long-exposure photography on an iPhone.

As well as its extensive image-capture tools, you can also use Camera+ to process your shots using a range of advanced editing tools or one-click digital filters. You can even use the app to sync your images to iCloud – enabling you to view your images on any other connected devices, including iPads.

Camera.plus

Camera FV-5

8 of 10

Key features:

  • Supports raw capture
  • Create time-lapse exposures
  • Free/£2.49
  • Available for Android only

Designed specifically for photography enthusiasts, Camera FV-5 aims to provide as much manual control over key camera settings as possible.

However, the amount to which it can do so varies between individual Android phones, and the app’s two main headline features – manual shutter speed control and Raw capture – are only compatible with a number of top-end devices. You’ll find a compatibility checklist on the developer’s website.

Once installed, the FV-5 user interface is fairly straightforward to use, and even if you’re unable to take advantage of the headline features, FV-5 still provides direct control over white balance, sensitivity, metering mode – and enables you to take bracketed and time-lapse exposures as well.

You can even use it to re-assign your phone’s volume button to a camera-specific function – for example, lowering/raising the ISO.

While the full version will set you back £2.49, there’s a Lite version available for free, albeit with a vastly reduced maximum resolution.

www.camerafv5.com

Fotor

9 of 10

Key features:

  • Tilt-shift effects
  • 13 Scene modes
  • Free
  • Available for Android and iOS

This advanced image-editing app comes with a range of tools that aren’t commonly found on more basic photo apps, including curves adjustments, RGB (Red, Green, Blue) controls, tilt-shift effects and 13 ‘Scene’ modes that will automatically adjust your image to get the best out of it.

You’ll also find a generous range of basic adjustment tools and a huge range of stackable filter effects. You can add frames, text and stickers to your images, or create collages of multiple images.

While Fotor comes with a built-in camera, sadly, manual controls are lacking – although there is the option to employ a stabiliser for sharper images, along with support for burst shooting. More experienced users will probably want to use either their smartphone’s built-in camera app or a more advanced third-party option.

Image sharing to the likes of Facebook and Twitter is provided, with further options to email images also available. Fotor is neatly laid out, making it easy to navigate and operate.

www.fotor.com

PicsArt Photo Studio

10 of 10

Key features:

  • Create collages
  • Curve adjustments
  • Free
  • Available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone

This popular all-in-one app allows you to take photos, process images, apply effects, create collages and share your finished creations.

Admittedly, the in-app camera is a bit basic, with no manual controls, but the image processing and effects module is one of the most comprehensive on the market, with advanced features such as curves adjustments, cloning and perspective tools available, alongside all the standard adjustments.

There’s a huge array of digital filter effects, backed up by a generous selection of frames, stickers, masking effects, clip art and more. As with many of the better photography apps, there’s a strong community element to it, too, which allows you to share your images with other PicsArt users, as well as enter competitions.

If you’d prefer to upload your images to social media, then you’ll find sharing links to all the big-name players. The only slight issue we have with PicsArt is that since it tries to do so much, it can take a little time getting used to the layout.

picsart.com