Best photo-editing apps 2018: 11 apps to improve your snaps

best overall mirrorless camera

Sony A7R III

The Sony A7R III is our pick of the best overall mirrorless camera because it combines a high resolution 42.4MP sensor with seriously high speed 10fps continuous shooting. The A7R III is as versatile as a professional mirrorless camera can get.

£2,790.00
We’re constantly downloading and testing new photo-editing apps on a rolling basis.

As it stands, Affinity Photo is the best overall photo-editing app, even though it’s available only for the iPad. Our favourite free photo-editing app is Snapseed, which is available for both Android and iOS.

If you’re ready to upgrade to a standalone camera, check out our more specific roundups:

How we test photo-editing apps

We put every app through a series of rigorous tests to see how they perform. This includes importing some test snaps, subjecting them to each app’s full range of tools and exporting them to examine their performance.

We’ve downloaded hundreds of apps for Android, iOS and iPad to bring you this list of our favourites. If you’re also looking for the best camera phone to pair them with, check out our buying guide for those too.

Snapseed

  • Best free photo editor

Snapseed

Load a photo into Snapseed and it first resembles any me-too one-click filter tool, with you prodding a thumbnail to update the look of your pic. And even if that’s all you download it for, it’s a good choice, because the presets are pretty great.

As an editor, Snapseed excels. The range of tools is wide, covering the basics (tune, crop, rotate, heal and vignette), adding pro-level stuff (curves, DNG support, precision masking, perspective), and enabling you to be properly creative (double exposure, frames, text and grunge overlays).

Working with tools is wonderfully tactile, with you dragging up and down to select a property and then left or right to adjust an effect’s strength. Best of all, you can visit your edit stack and amend any of your previous steps at any point – everything you do in Snapseed is non-destructive.

And those filters? You can make your own, simply by saving an edit to the Looks tab. For a fiver, this app would be a bargain; for free, it’s an essential part of any mobile photographer’s toolkit.

Get Snapseed for Android (free)

Get Snapseed for iOS (free)

Affinity Photo

  • Best desktop-quality editor

Affinity Photo

Apple argues that the iPad has what it takes for properly advanced creative fare, yet detractors claim you need a PC or Mac. Affinity Photo puts a mark squarely in Apple’s win column.

In short, it’s more or less Photoshop on your iPad. More specifically, it’s desktop Photoshop rival Affinity Photo as reimagined for the iPad, in the sense you get all of the desktop version’s tools, but in an interface you can zip about with using an Apple Pencil – or your fingers.

Given that this is desktop-quality pro-level editing, you shouldn’t expect immediacy. Affinity Photo may baffle at first, as you get lost in its many palettes and options. But once mastered, you’ll have by far the most powerful photo-editing solution on mobile.

There are too many features to list, but highlights include unlimited layers (adjustment layers and masks are both supported), live filters, task-orientated workspaces, RAW support, lens correction, panorama stitching, retouching and correction tools, an advanced brush engine, and the means to export to PSD so you can continue working in Adobe’s powerhouse if you wish – although, given what Affinity Photo offers, chances are you mostly won’t need to.

Get Affinity Photo for iPad (£19.99)

Pixelmator

  • Best pro editor for iPhone

Prior to Affinity Photo’s arrival, Pixelmator was the closest you could get to Photoshop on an iOS device. Even now, there are good reasons to recommend the app over its rival.

In a sense, Pixelmator feels like pro-level editing for the rest of us. Its interface is friendlier and simpler than Affinity Photo’s – and, although the app is less capable, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features.

If you’re starting with a blank canvas, Pixelmator offers a range of templates. When working on collages, there are powerful layer and brush systems. And when fine-tuning a single photo, you can wipe away blemishes, make subtle adjustments, or totally obliterate your image with lens flares and warp distortions.

Another key reason Pixelmator is worth grabbing is that it works on an iPhone. A lack of RAW support is a black mark, but the app does support HEIF in and PSD out. So for those occasions where you want to do more than Snapseed can cope with – concocting a multi-layered photographic masterpiece on the move – Pixelmator is an affordable, powerful, usable choice.

Get Pixelmator for iOS (£4.99)

Adobe Photoshop Fix

  • Best for adjusting portraits

Adobe Photoshop Fix

We’ve mentioned Photoshop a couple of times already, but Adobe made the decision to not (yet) produce a full-fat version of its hugely popular image editor for mobile. Instead, it appears content to carve off bits of Photoshop and shove those slices on to app stores as focused, streamlined, self-contained products.

Adobe Photoshop Fix, as its name suggests, is designed for fixing images. Powerful healing tools remove unwanted components, and you can rapidly adjust shadows and highlights, or add a dash of colour with a brush.

Perhaps the best bit, though, is the Liquify section. This enables you to warp, swell and twirl images in various creative ways. And if you load a portrait, the app intelligently figures out where the subject’s features are, so you can make subtle adjustments (or not-so-subtle ones, if you always fancied giving someone a really big nose).

Desktop Creative Cloud users get an added bonus, too: share what you’re working on to Photoshop, and moments later it will pop up on your Mac or PC, all your edits included as individual layers for further tweaking.

Get Adobe Photoshop Fix for Android (free)

Get Adobe Photoshop Fix for iOS (free)

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

  • Best for quick pro adjustments

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Our second Adobe app is to some extent included because many photographers are wedded to Lightroom on the desktop. It’s easy to see why: that app enables you to quickly and efficiently catalogue, find, and edit a huge collection of photographs. Having similar features while on the go is seductive.

For the Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, then, you get a smart, serious app with selective edits, some rather lovely presets, and a slew of sliders to adjust light, colour, detail, grain, and distortion. It works with RAW, makes it simple to organise, rate and manage photos, and even enables you to quickly find the ideal pic by utilising Adobe Sensei – an AI that auto-tags imagery based on content.

But even if you’re not currently paying for any Adobe products, Lightroom is worth a look. For free, you won’t get Adobe Sensei, web galleries and selective editing. But you’ll still get a decent set of high-quality tools for making adjustments, and an app with a superb sense of focus, rather than throwing as many tools at the wall as possible to see what sticks.

Get Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC for Android (free)

Get Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC for iPhone (free)

Instagram

  • Best for getting a photographic following

Instagram

Instagram is a giant in the social-networking space, and it’s that ability to follow and be followed (in the non-creepy sense) that’s at the heart of the app. Whatever you upload can easily be shared with thousands of people, and you can keep an eye on other photographers whose work you like. For individuals and companies alike, Instagram is a key social network pillar, alongside Facebook and Twitter.

When it comes to shooting and editing, the app offers plenty of options, even if it occasionally lacks coherence. Using the built-in camera, you can overlay live effects, slap on stickers and text, and scribble all over the end result. If you fancy being a touch more measured, you can load an existing photo, and work with Instagram’s built-in editing tools.

These include a range of popular filters, adjustments, and smart vignette and tilt-shift effects. Edits are non-destructive while you’re in the app, but committed forever once you’re done. Like the instant cameras Instagram was influenced by, this one is best thought of as an editing tool for photographers keen on speed, immediacy and being in the moment.

Get Instagram for Android (free)

Get Instagram for iPhone (free)

EyeEm

  • Best for selling your snaps

EyeEm

To some extent, EyeEm resembles a straight-laced Instagram. Much like that social network for photographers, EyeEm initially appears to be focused on building a community of like-minded snappers – but it adds the lure of helping you make a buck from your creative endeavours.

Sign up and you can take pictures using the built-in camera, or load existing ones. EyeEm includes built-in editing functionality: a handful of filters; adjustment tools; cropping. There’s nothing here to threaten the Snapseeds of this world, but enough for fine-tuning a photo before you share it with all and sundry.

As noted, though, the big draw is the potential to sell your photographs. Naturally, you’re in ‘needle in a haystack’ territory – it’s a lottery whether you’ll make it big. But if you amass a following and the right person spots you, who knows?

When you do sell something, EyeEm splits the proceeds with you 50/50; and in the meantime, you can delve into ‘missions’ that encourage you to shoot specific themes, awarding prizes to the best entries.

Get EyeEm for Android (free)

Get EyeEm for iOS (free)

VSCO

  • Best for film emulation

VSCO

Like Instagram, VSCO mixes up an online community, a camera, and editing – but the biggest draw is its filters, which emulate a wide range of classic films. They’re also available for desktop, but you get a selection for free within the mobile app, and any one can be applied to a photo with a single tap.

Of course, VSCO offers more than filter application: on taking a snap with the camera or loading a photo, you can perform all kinds of edits. VSCO’s tools are straightforward, but ideal for quick adjustments, crops and skews, and you can quickly amend skin tones, add grain, and experiment with vignettes. It’s possible to adjust the order of tools, too, providing faster access to those you use frequently. Edits can later be further refined by opening the image in question from VSCO’s Studio tab.

The community side of things lacks the finesse of Instagram, but you can still follow and be followed. Unusually, there’s also a paid membership tier, VSCO X. For $19.99 per year, you’ll get pro tips, additional tools (borders; saving adjustment combinations as recipes), and more filters. And if you’re made of money, you can grab yet more pack presets, some of which are handily aimed at specific genres of photography such as portraiture and landscape.

Get VSCO for Android (free)

Get VSCO for iOS (free)

Camera+ 2

  • Best all-in-one camera/editor

There’s a lot going on in Camera+ 2, although the app cleverly avoids becoming an airplane dashboard (unlike some of its more button-heavy rivals) – in part by ‘hiding’ its many options until you need them.

When launching the app, you get a strip of buttons across the top of the screen for accessing different camera types. A zoom slider sits within the viewfinder, but tap elsewhere and you bring up manual controls. Initially, you can adjust exposure, but more taps get you to focus and white-balance options.

Further controls lurk in the button next to the shutter, enabling you to toggle a grid and spirit level, location capturing, and RAW, along with switching camera modes. Timer, stabiliser, slow shutter (for long exposures), and smile options are all included too.

Although fiddlier than Obscura 2 for manual controls, Camera+ 2 does a good job of balancing accessibility and power. But it also makes a play for the editing space with a wide range of filters, cropping options and adjustment tools. Short of you being wedded to specific filters, there’s nothing here to threaten Snapseed. But if you prefer an all-in-one solution to standalone apps, Camera+ 2 is an excellent combined camera and editor for iOS.

Get Camera+ 2 for iOS (£2.99)

Camera FV-5

  • Best manual Android camera

Camera FV5

Designed specifically for photography enthusiasts, Camera FV-5 is about giving you as much manual control as possible over key camera settings.

The user interface is straightforward, making good use of gestures. You adjust manual focus with a vertical drag, and can pinch to zoom. You also get direct control over white balance, and can assign a range of functions to volume keys, such as ISO or EV adjustments.

The app also includes a number of shooting utilities. There’s a burst mode and self timer, and an option for tapping anywhere on the display to take a photo. Bracketed and time-lapse exposures are available as well, along with RAW capture – although the diversity in the Android ecosystem means that some features aren’t supported on all devices.

Still, Camera FV-5 is worth a look, and you can always use Google Play’s refund system if your phone doesn’t play nicely with the app. Alternatively, if you just want to find out whether the app is a good fit for you, check out the free lite version, which limits output resolution and disables RAW support.

Get Camera FV-5 for Android (£2.49)

Obscura 2

  • Best manual iPhone camera

Obscura 2

Whereas Camera+ 2 attempts to be all things to all people, Obscura 2 is a more opinionated take on a manual camera for iPhone. It marries old and new – swish, streamlined minimalism meets a dial-based interface that echoes controls found on classic real-world cameras.

This isn’t just a nod to nostalgia, though. Using a dial to do everything from pick a new tool to finely adjust the likes of focus and exposure proves extremely pleasing in use. You can quickly get at all kinds of functionality with a single thumb, and very carefully tweak properties when you want a photo to be just so.

There’s plenty of format support: RAW, HEIC, JPEG, Live Photo and depth. And beyond the timer, flash control, grids and spirit level, you also get a range of great-looking filters, which can be applied to new shots or those already in your library. Beyond that, there’s no editing, but as an alternate snapper to Apple’s stock Camera app, Obscura 2 is an excellent choice.

Get Obscura 2 for iPhone (£4.99)