Phone and tablet cameras can take great pictures, and with a little polishing from a specialized photo editing app, they can become amazing.
There's a huge selection of photo editing apps available for both Android and iOS, which means it can be hard to know which one to choose.
That's why we've rounded up the very best photo editors for both operating systems and put them to the test. Whether you're looking for a tool that's the equivalent of Photoshop to carry in your pocket, or you just want a straightforward way to enhance selfies before sharing them on Facebook, we've got the right app for you.
The best photo editing apps for Android
1. Google Snapseed (free)
Google Snapseed is a remarkable app that packs in more features than many desktop photo editors.
In addition to the usual cropping and rotation tools, it also includes settings for adjusting 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 impressive option is Expand, which extrapolates what the area surrounding the subject might look like and uses this data to make the canvas larger – a little like Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill. It works best on images shot against a mostly plain or abstract background.
Snapseed is also great for selfies and other portrait photos. It has a neat 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.
All of this is topped off with a great selection of filters, each of which is fully customizable. If it all sounds a bit intimidating, 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)
Photoshop Express packages a selection of Adobe's best photo editing tools in a streamlined app that's easy to navigate even on a tiny touchscreen.
Before you can get started, 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.
Once that's done, you can select a photo to edit from your mobile device, take a new photo with its camera, or pick an image from Adobe Creative Cloud. This is a particularly handy way to manage your workflow, and makes all your pictures available on any device.
The app includes all the basic editing tools you'd expect, including crop, rotate, brightness adjustment and red-eye correction. What sets it apart from the crowd is its selection of smart filters designed to correct common problems, including color temperature, fogging and exposure issues. There's also a good 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 fan of selfies and don’t have any qualms about bending the truth a little, Facetune is your new best friend.
This sneaky photo editing app lets you blur imperfections, adjust colors, whiten teeth, and even 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 with the back arrow), then apply the effect directly to the photo using your fingertips.
It’s best used sparingly – 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 overdone it, 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 then either share it on social media or save it to your device.
Download here: Facetune for Android
4. Prisma (free)
You might be skeptical about apps that claim to imitate artistic styles, and understandably so – the ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ filters included in many photo editors are terrible. Prisma is the exception, 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 the resulting images 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 experiment with, and the results are very impressive.
Download here: Prisma for Android
5. VSCO (free)
VSCO is like a more advanced version of Instagram, with 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 the tools 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 mood 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 download 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 can take amazing photographs, and the built-in Photos app includes some useful features for cropping, rotating and filtering photos. But while it’s fine for most people, it lacks some of the powerful features you’ll find in third-party apps.
If you haven’t tried any of our favourite photo editors, you’re missing out on a lot of fun and a lot of tools that can make good photos even better.
In this roundup we’re going to concentrate on actual editing apps rather than filtering apps. The App Store is absolutely packed with apps like Prisma, but while those apps use photos as their raw materials they’re really special effects apps rather than image editors.
The apps we’ve chosen here may include filters – as does Apple’s own Photos – but they’re focused on editing, enhancing and optimising photos rather than making them look like 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 a Mac, Serif Affinity Photo is superb – a genuine Photoshop killer. On an iPad Pro, it’s simply astonishing. All of this, on a tablet?
You don’t need a Pro to love this photo editor, but it really shines on Apple’s flagship tablets – especially if you have an Apple Pencil, which you can use for pixel-perfect retouching.
While the underlying app is effectively the Mac version, Serif has re-imagined every tool, panel and palette for tablets, and used Apple’s Metal graphics engine for maximum performance.
Serif Affinity Photo isn't perfect – it’s too much for older iPads, it does crash occasionally and it’s overkill for fixing the odd bit of red-eye – but it’s pretty close. It’s perfect 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. The best photo editor 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