These days, tablets and phones are capable of taking stunning photos and, with a little bit of enhancement from one of the specialized best photo editing apps, they can become works of art.
You can rest easy though, as we’ve gathered together the very best photo editing apps for both mobile operating systems and put them to the test. Whether you're looking for an app that's the mobile equivalent of Photoshop to carry around in your pocket, or you just want a simple tool to augment selfies before sharing them on Facebook or Instagram, we've found the best photo editing apps, no matter what your specific needs are.
The best photo editing apps for Android
1. Google Snapseed (free)
Google Snapseed is a wonderful app that packs in more features than many desktop photo editors.
On top of the usual cropping and rotation tools, it also includes settings that allow you to adjust depth of field, perspective (ideal for compensating for distortion created by your phone camera’s fixed lens), brightness and curves.
One of Snapseed's most noteworthy options is Expand, which extrapolates what the area surrounding the subject might look like and uses this data to make the canvas larger – kind of similar to Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill. It works best on images shot against a mostly plain or abstract background.
Snapseed is also useful for selfies and other portrait photos. It has a handy tool that recognizes faces in pictures and enables you to subtly change the direction they're facing. The app can also identify and brighten faces automatically.
But, that’s not all, Snapseed also comes with a great selection of filters, each of which is fully customizable. If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, don't worry – Snapseed also offers video lessons to help you master certain filters and tools.
All these options combine to make Snapseed the best photo editor for Android devices, and we hope to see a version for Windows desktops.
Download here: Google Snapseed for Android
2. Adobe Photoshop Express (free)
Adobe Photoshop Express contains a selection of Adobe's best photo editing tools together in a streamlined app that's easy to navigate even on a tiny touchscreen.
Before you can get started, however, you'll need to sign up for a free Adobe ID using an email address, Google account or Facebook account. You can use this ID to access other Adobe products and services later. Or, if you already have an Adobe ID, of course, you can just use that here.
Once that's done, you can choose a photo to edit from your mobile device, take a new photo with its camera or even select an image from the Adobe Creative Cloud. This is a particularly handy way to manage your workflow and makes all your pictures available on any device.
The app, of course, includes all the basic editing tools you'd expect, including crop, rotate, brightness adjustment and red-eye correction. What sets it apart from the pack however, is its selection of smart filters designed to correct common issues, including color temperature, fogging and exposure problems. There's also a wide selection of borders and artistic effects, all of which can be adjusted using simple sliders.
Once you’re done, you can save the finished image to your device, upload it to Adobe Creative Cloud or share it using any social media app you have installed.
Download here: Adobe Photoshop Express for Android
3. Facetune (£3.99/US$ 5.99/AU$ 5.99)
If you’re a selfie addict and you don’t have any reservations about bending the truth a little bit, Facetune is your new best friend.
This sneaky photo editing app lets you blur imperfections, adjust colors, whiten teeth and even completely reshape faces and bodies with a few taps and pushes. Just select the tool you want to use, swipe through the tutorial (or dismiss it altogether with the back arrow), then apply the effect directly to the photo using your finger.
It’s best used moderately – tap and hold the blue button on the bottom right to toggle between the original photo and the edited one and make sure you haven’t seriously gone overboard, and watch out for things like patterned backgrounds that might be distorted by less judicious use of the warp tools.
Once you've finished tweaking your photo, you can add a filter and then either share it on social media or save it to your device.
Download here: Facetune for Android
4. Prisma (free)
You may be understandably skeptical about apps that claim to replicate artistic styles, and it makes sense – the ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ filters included in many photo editors are downright terrible. Prisma is the exception though and, once you’ve tried it, we think you’ll be convinced.
Although additional filters are available as in-app purchases, there’s a very generous selection included free of charge.
You can share your creations on a special Prisma feed, which works in a similar way to Instagram, save it to your device, send it via messaging or email, or share it on any social media app.
Even if you decide to keep the results to yourself, Prisma is great fun to play around with, and the results are very impressive.
Download here: Prisma for Android
5. VSCO (free)
VSCO is kind of like a more advanced version of Instagram, it has a community feature that lets you follow other VSCO photographers. You can search for contacts and Facebook friends to follow, but since it’s a relatively niche app, you might not know many other users.
VSCO offers all of the tools that you’d expect from a high quality Android photo editing app, including exposure, contrast and temperature correction, as well as a very useful alignment tool for straightening horizons. There are also fade settings, and tools for skewing your image and adjusting tints.
The selection of ambient filters isn’t huge, but the ones provided are very atmospheric and are adjustable via a simple slider.
Once you’re done, you can share your image with VSCO’s community, send it straight to Facebook, or share it via any social networking or messaging app.
The only disadvantage is that you can’t simply save it to your device; instead, you have to email it to yourself or save it to a cloud storage service.
The first time you use VSCO, you’ll also be offered a seven-day trial of VSCO X, which includes various presets and tools that are normally only available for a subscription fee. Bear in mind that you'll be asked to enter payment details before starting the trial and you'll be charged automatically if you don't cancel before the period is up, so you might prefer to skip this and go straight to the free version.
Download here: VSCO for Android
iOS devices have cameras that are capable of taking phenomenal photos, and the built-in Photos app includes some handy features for rotating, cropping and filtering pictures. But while it’s fine for most people, it lacks some of the powerful tools you’ll find in third-party apps.
If you haven’t used any of our favorite photo editors, you’re missing out on a ton of fun and a lot of features that can take good photos and transform them into something sublime.
In this roundup we’re going to focus on actual editing apps instead of filtering tools. The App Store is crammed full with apps like Prisma, but while those tools use photos as their a base to work off of they’re really special effects apps rather than full-fledged photo editors.
The apps we’ve listed here may include filters – as does Apple’s own Photos – but they’re focused on enhancing, editing and optimising photos rather than making them resemble old camera film or Renaissance paintings.
The best photo editing apps for iOS
1. Serif Affinity Photo (£19.99/US$ 19.99/AU$ 30.99)
On MacOS, Serif Affinity Photo is fantastic – a legitimate Photoshop killer. On an iPad Pro, it’s simply unbelievable. It’s hard to believe that this is all possible on a tablet.
You don’t need a Pro to use this photo editor, but it particularly excels on Apple’s flagship tablets – even more so if you have an Apple Pencil, which you can use for very precise retouching.
While the underlying app is essentially the Mac version, Serif has redesigned every tool, panel and palette for the iPad, and they take advantage of Apple’s Metal graphics engine to optimize performance.
Serif Affinity Photo isn't perfect – it won’t work on legacy iPads, it does occasionally crash and it’s overkill for fixing trivial problems like red-eye – but it’s pretty close. It’s ideal for photographers who want almost all the power of the desktop app when they’re on a shoot or on the move, and it doesn’t require a subscription either. It’s hands down the best photo editing app for iOS.
Download here: Serif Affinity Photo for iPad
2. Google Snapseed (free)
Google Snapseed is an excellent app in its own right, but what’s particularly attractive is its price tag – or lack thereof. Unlike some editors that require you to subscribe or buy in-app purchases to access all their features, Google gives you everything for free.
And 'everything' includes a lot: RAW image editing, lens blur, HDR effects, selective enhancement, colour and white balance adjustment, geometric fixes and both manual and automatic fine-tuning of image parameters.
The interface is a little unfriendly compared to some, but it’s worth braving: whether you’re just dabbling or a photography pro, Snapseed is a superb photo editing app to have on your phone or iPad.
Download here: Google Snapseed for iPhone and iPad
3. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (free)
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom shares DNA with the desktop app of the same name, and it’s an extraordinarily powerful tool for importing, editing and sharing images.
However, while the app itself is free, its more powerful features are only available if you have a Creative Cloud subscription: without it you can’t use the headline features of RAW image import / editing and local adjustments, which apply to selected areas rather than the entire image. Subscriptions start at $ 9.99 per month for the photography plan, which also gives you Lightroom and Photoshop on your Mac or PC. That’s not much money for serious photographers, but it does make Lightroom rather pricey for a mobile app.
Download here: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for iPad
4. Adobe Photoshop Fix (free)
Here’s another Adobe app, but while this one also connects to Creative Cloud, you don’t need a subscription to get the most out of it.
The Adobe Photoshop Fix app is a spin-off from the legendary desktop photo editor, and as the name suggests, it concentrates on features to fix common problems with photos. The most astonishing feature is the Face-Aware Liquify, which can actually change facial features. Used sparingly it can slim cheeks or widen a smile.
Adobe Photoshop Fix is particularly good for fixing little blemishes like spots and other imperfections, and if you don’t have access to an iPhone with Portrait mode you’ll like the Defocus feature, which achieves similar results by blurring the background.
Download here: Adobe Photoshop Fix for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
5. VSCO (free)
VSCO – it rhymes with disco – is an App Store veteran. It’s been available in various flavors for over five years, and during that period it’s built a great community of like-minded snappers who share their shots and support one another.
The app’s interface is a little too minimal for our tastes, but it provides easy access to some really useful features including a whole bunch of one-tap presets and adjustable filters. It’s easy to adjust image colour, exposure and other parameters, to set the focal point and exposure before you shoot or to get into the advanced settings of your camera.
VSCO isn't going to replace Apple's own Photos app altogether (it can’t shoot in burst mode, HDR or Live Photos), but it provides a more DSR-like experience for photographers who like to do things manually.
Download here: VSCO for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch