Your iPhone takes beautiful photos, but the right apps can make them even better. Most photographers accept post-production as part of their workflow, but often our smartphone images miss this important step.
There’s no shortage of solid photo editors for iPhone, and plenty of free options. Today we round up our favorites including basic customization apps, quick troubleshooters, full-image manipulators, and more.
Best for: Quick edits, JPEGs and sharing.
Your iPhone already comes with an impressive image editor, built right into the Photos app. Launch it, find the photo, and tap Edit in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Here you can crop and rotate your image, apply filters, and adjust various parameters. Save highlights and shadows, adjust lighting and contrast, or convert them to black and white.
However, photos have limitations. While it can handle RAW files, it only serves JPEGs which fall out for other applications. That means you can’t edit in Photos and export your RAW to another app without duplicating it first.
Best for: Versatile RAW and JPEG Editing.
Google Snapseed is a photo editing powerhouse on iOS and Android. In 2016 the app was updated to support RAW editing, which makes it probably the best free image editor on the platform.
In addition to a few filters, which Snapseed refers to as Looks, there’s a variety of editing tools to choose from. These range from the basics to perspective shifting, selective coloring, instant HDR, and extensive monochrome filters and options.
This application also controls well. Just drag left and right to adjust parameter strength, or drag up and down to change parameter.
Best for: Instagram users, tilt-shift effect.
You need an Instagram account to use this app, but you don’t need to post anything. If you just want to use social media apps for editing tools and preset filters, you can!
Enable Airplane Mode on iPhone you before tapping Share, then wait for the upload to fail. Tap the X to cancel the upload, and you’ll find your picture in your device’s Camera Roll.
Instagram tools are familiar and efficient. Since it’s the app that starts the filter, the presets included are pretty good. It’s also one of the fastest ways to apply tilt-shift or vignetting to an image. Having said that, there are plenty of reasons to use other photo editing apps over Instagram filters.
Adobe Photoshop Fix
Best for: Certain quick fixes.
The Adobe iOS lineup is largely crippled by a reliance on Creative Cloud and there is no “decent” version of the app like Photoshop for iPad Pro. Lightroom has a great set of editing tools, but if you want to use them for real, you’ll have to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription.
Photoshop Fix doesn’t try to be a full-fledged photo editor, but it does some of the work it does. Two standout features are the melt tool, which allows you to blend and stretch the image for fine or odd adjustments, and the blur mask, which is perfect for faking depth of field in your shots.
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There’s a healthy range of the usual exposure, contrast, and saturation adjustment sliders, plus spot healing and red-eye removal. However, it lacks support for RAW editing.
Best for: A strange and extraordinary transformation.
Prisma is an app like no other here. When you load an image in Prisma, it is sent to a server where it is converted to a specific art style. These styles are modeled on great artists like Picasso and Matisse, but also venture into comic book and futuristic territory.
You can adjust the strength of the filters, which is lucky because the app produces an impressive mix of images that are slightly off. Multiple filters produce images that actually look like computer-generated works of art; others turn the image into something strange and beautiful.
Prisma has several features that are locked behind a premium subscription. If you want more styles, unlimited HD rendering, and an ad-free experience, you need to cough up $3 per month.
Best for: Fake weather effects and retro lenses.
This app is all about mimicking the look of fancy glass, weather effects and lighting. It also includes some basic photo editing tools, and uses layers to blend various effects together.
In addition to lens distortion, such as blur and flare, the app includes bokeh balls, fog, rain, snow, and sparkle effects. You can adjust the intensity, position and scale of the effect to your liking. It’s a huge step towards achieving that vintage photography feel in any image you already have on your iPhone.
To unlock even more effects and filters, you can subscribe for $1 per month. You can also expand the various categories by purchasing the direct plan if you prefer to pay one time and keep it forever.
Best for: Capture and edit RAW, Filtering.
You’ll love or hate VSCO’s abstract and minimalistic interface. To its credit, the app has improved over the years with better labels on its editing tools and an easier approach to editing images.
It is also the only app on this list capable of capturing RAW images. Tap on the camera and then change the image format to RAW to capture four times as much data each time you press the shutter button (if the 12MB RAW file size is what it takes).
This app brings Instagram’s level of complexity to RAW editing, with a number of filters included and more available with a VSCO X subscription ($20 per year).
If you are serious about your photography, you should shoot in RAW format. Support for the format, which captures and retains more detail than JPEG is missing, means you can push your images further in post-production.
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