We often think of photography as an artform that starts when you pick up a camera, and ends when you hit the shutter button. But the truth is, the creative process extends far beyond this fleeting moment. Whether you are shooting holiday snaps or trying to capture products for ecommerce, editing can make or break a picture.
If you mainly shoot on your phone, it’s a good idea to base your workflow around one or two photo editing apps. But which ones are worth adding to your toolkit?
In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the biggest names and reveal which editing tools you should be downloading right now.
From simple light enhancement to completely replacing large parts of a scene, modern photo editing apps provide a wealth of creative options.
At the basic level, most editing apps today will allow you to adjust the exposure and color of your images. You can also change the contrast in the scene, and crop the composition to include only what you want. Some apps use AI technology to assist you when making such adjustments.
Many apps pair these features with creative tools, like filters and overlays. Others focus on professional-type controls, such as white balance, sharpness, and distortion reduction.
You may also come across selective tools. These allow you to adjust or change specific parts of your photos, such as cutting away the background or lifting areas of deep shadow.
If you regularly take photos and want to make them look great, it might be worth investing in premium tools.
There are plenty of great free photo editors around nowadays. However, most come with a catch — whether that is limited tools, endless ads, or even a watermark on any photos you export.
Upgrading to a premium editor usually only costs a few dollars a month, and it can provide unlimited access to a full range of tools and creative presets.
If you want to make your photos shine, which app should you turn to? Here’s a closer look at the best photo editing apps on the planet right now, both on iPhone and Android:
If you want to improve your photos without spending hours glued to your phone, Pixelcut is definitely an app to try.
Rated at 4.8/5 on the App Store and 4.6/5 on Google Play, this mobile-optimized photo editor uses AI technology to speed up the editing process.
The stand-out feature here is the background editing tool. With a single swipe, you can remove background distractions from any image — ideal for product photos. You can then insert another photo as the background, select a color for the backdrop, or choose from thousands of stock photos.
For anything else that shouldn’t be in the frame, the erase tool works wonders.
But Pixelcut isn’t just about removing stuff. The app offers an array of useful light and color adjustments, along with creative tools like stickers and text. You can even create photo collages, digital flyers, and social media banners with a few taps.
Once you’re finished with your image, you can use the built-in presets to export the file at the perfect size for any site — from Instagram to eBay.
Overall, the app is fast and super easy to use, and the results are impressive. Plus, it’s more affordable than other premium apps.
Pricing: Free to try, upgrade to Pro for $59.99/yr for unlimited editing including batch edits.
Released all the way back in 2011, Snapseed was one of the very first photo editors made specifically for smartphone users. Thanks to some major upgrades over the years, it’s still one of the best.
Owned by Google, Snapseed is a completely free app that you can download on iOS and Android. It is absolutely stacked with editing options, from basic adjustments to high-end creative tools. Whether you want to add a vignette or straighten up converging verticals, this editor has you covered.
The downside here is usability. While the individual tools are relatively easy to use, you need to spend some time playing around with them before you truly understand what they are capable of.
Snapseed also has some presets and filters, although most of them look a little 2015. If you want to add a contemporary or vintage twist to your shots, it’s probably better to look elsewhere.
But considering that this is a very capable free app with no ads, downloading Snapseed is a no-brainer.
Photoshop is a brand name that is so closely associated with image editing that it has an entry in the dictionary. Although this version of the iconic software is a heavily simplified take on the desktop app, Photoshop Express still offers a long list of editing features.
Along with all the usual exposure and color adjustments, Express lets you select specific areas of your image for tweaks like saturation, color balance, contrast, and more. Enthusiasts will appreciate the curves adjustments, too.
Retouching is another strength of this app, with tools that allow you to adapt facial expressions, change the angle of someone’s head, and scrub away unwanted blemishes.
On a creative level, Express provides a selection of filters, a collage maker, plenty of borders, and a text tool with a variety of fonts.
Ironically, Express isn't the fastest app around — but you get a very complete toolkit for editing photos.
Pricing: Most features require a Premium subscription at $4.99/mo or $34.99/yr.
Another app from the same stable is Adobe Lightroom. This one is actually a companion to the desktop Creative Cloud software, aimed at enthusiasts and professional photographers.
As such, you get all the same tools you would get on desktop — just tweaked for mobile user experience.
That includes Lightroom’s cataloging feature, which lets you store your photo library (incl. edits) in the cloud. You also get plenty of pro-level sliders to play with, and even selective adjustments.
Compared with the other apps on this list, Lightroom is definitely the serious option for creative professionals.
Pricing: From $1.99/mo or $29.99/yr for 40GB of cloud storage; subscriptions go upwards from there as you increase your storage space.
Canva is best known as a web-based design tool. However, this brand also offers an app for mobile devices that allows you to craft designs and perform basic photo edits.
The main strength of Canva is graphic design. The app provides thousands of templates for print and digital projects, along with plenty of stock photos and graphics to work with. It’s pretty easy to use overall, although the mobile experience isn’t quite as polished as the desktop one.
Your actual photo editing options here are relatively simple; Canva can change lighting and color, and it allows you to crop your shots.
But given the relatively high price of Canva Pro, you should download this app only if you want to use your photos within a design.
Pricing: Free to try with restrictions; Canva Pro from $12.99/mo or $119.99/yr.
In the early days, the folks at Visual Supply Company made digital emulations of vintage films for photographers using desktop devices. But as we all moved to smartphones, so did this tiny startup.
The result was VSCO, a very stylish app that combines high-quality filters and editing tools.
Filters are definitely the main event here. VSCO makes some of the best around, if you like vintage film looks. Some are free, but you will need to upgrade to unlock the majority.
While the user interface is minimal, the app also offers an impressive array of adjustment tools. That stripped-back interface makes them very easy to use, and you can edit videos if you want. In recent times, that app has even added a collage maker.
Pricing: Free to download, full features require $7.99/mo or $29.99/yr subscription.
Ever wished you could turn your photos into paintings? That’s what Prisma is for.
This specialized photo editor has over 500 digital art styles to choose from, from the bright and the bold to black and white charcoal effects. Most of them are pretty realistic, and you can adjust how each preset style is applied.
If you prefer to keep your photos looking more like photos, Prisma also offers some colorful filters and background editing features.
Pricing: Free to try; full resolution requires Premium subscription at $7.99/mo or $39.99/yr.
Much like VSCO, the folks behind Afterlight have an appreciation for the vintage film look. However, this app takes the retro aspect further, with a range of fun photo effects.
For example, you can play around with light leaks, add a little grain, throw on some dust spots, insert your own text, and slap on a border. Afterlight also rivals VSCO for sheer choice when it comes to film emulation filters — and you can even combine multiple filters for a completely unique look.
While Afterlight is mainly about style, the app also has some basic editing tools for making adjustments to color and light.
Pricing: Free to try, full access from $2.99/mo or $17.99. Lifetime membership is also available.
Aimed primarily at business owners, GoDaddy Studio is an app that lets you drop your images into templates to create eye-catching social media posts.
The type of content we’re talking about here is based around a combination of photos, stickers, and text. And GoDaddy particularly excels when it comes to the written word.
No matter whether you want to offer up a witty caption or highlight a special offer, the text options in this app are truly excellent. Just don’t expect any pro-level image adjustments!
Pricing: Free version with limited features; unlimited access with Pro for $14.99/mo or $99.99/yr.
Of course, we don’t only take photos using the back camera. Facetune is one of a new breed of photo editor apps that are designed to help us fine-tune our selfies — although you can use it on regular photos of people, as well.
As the name implies, Facetune lets you smooth out skin, remove those double chins, and essentially give yourself an entire photo graphic facelift. It can get to work on your teeth and hair, as well.
If you prefer keeping it real, you can add digital make-up or just use the tools to remove pimples. Similarly, Facetune lets you remove unwanted objects in the background.
Pricing: Free with limited features; Unlimited plan is $4.99/mo or $59.99/yr.
As this list has proven, photo editing tools come in many different forms. Some provide professional-like adjustments for exposure and color correction, while others mainly focus on the creative side.
When you come to choose apps for your workflow, it’s worth focusing on two key criteria:
Question one will guide you towards the right type of app. For example, Canva and GoDaddy are great for creating social media content, but they won’t help you to produce award-winning images. Similarly, VSCO and Afterlight will deliver a film-look, while Lightroom and Photoshop keep things more contemporary.
If you want to make great looking images with little effort and time input, Pixelcut is going to be a better option.
For question two, think about how often you are likely to be editing and how much you care about the result. If you only edit the occasional family photo, Snapseed’s free editing tools and photo filters will do just fine.
If you’re likely to be capturing hundreds of photos a year for social media or your online store, investing in a premium photo editor is definitely worthwhile.
All of the apps mentioned in this article have merit. But if you’re looking for that one app that does it all, you should try Pixelcut.
Download the app today to take it for a spin and discover why 10 million small business owners already use our editor!