Advanced photo editing, from tone curves to working with multiple layers, was once limited to desktop computers. Now, thanks to impressive performance improvements in mobile devices and apps that take advantage of that power, you can not only capture high-resolution (and RAW) photos on your phone, but also edit them directly on your mobile device with much of the control you’d find on a computer.
On both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Store, there is no shortage of photo editing apps to choose from. While we have specific guides for the best photo apps for both Android and iOS, here we’ve wrapped up the best photo editing tools available on both platforms. Regardless of your choice of platform, the apps below will work for you.
Adobe Lightroom (Free, $10/month subscription option)
Adobe Lightroom has become the gold standard for digital photo management and editing amongst professionals. Thankfully, due to the simplified interface and wonderful syncing features, it doesn’t take a pro to manage or edit photos in the cloud-based version, Lightroom CC. Available on both Android and iOS, Adobe Lightroom CC is a full-featured photo manager and editor, complete with RAW photo support, presets, exposure adjustments, watermarking, and so much more. It’s free to download and edit photos in, but if you want the ability to sync your photos across devices and use the premium features, you’ll need to shell out for Adobe’s Photography Creative Cloud plan, which costs $10 per month and also gives you access to Photoshop and Lightroom Classic on the desktop.
And while Lightroom CC makes the list for photo edits, the app also has a built-in camera that can do more than your native camera app with options like long exposures and more advanced tools.
Photoshop Express (Free)
Speaking of professional-grade photography tools, there’s perhaps no tool that is more synonymous with photo editing than Adobe Photoshop. Adobe released an Express version a while back, which, while not as powerful as its desktop counterpart, still lets you crop photos, adjust exposures, and carry out a variety of tasks. You can even create your own presets, which can be a huge time saver when editing photos on your phone or tablet. Photoshop Express also has a healing tool (like you’d use to remove acne in a portrait), blur options, and collage templates. If you want to work with layers within an Adobe app, however, Photoshop Mix is the app you’re looking for.
A full version of Photoshop for the iPad is also in the works, but isn’t yet available.
Snapseed is a professional-grade photo editing app designed by Google. It features a massive amount of editing options to help even the most mundane photos jump to life. Snapseed gives you control over your images by including a host of sliders capable of altering a photo’s vignette, blur, temperature, and other attributes, including grainy overlays, 1960s-style film reel effects, or its unique Retrolux filter. You can even stack effects on photos, similar to Layers in Photoshop, making it easy to produce a brand-new result each time you edit a photo. More advanced options, like perspective crops, a healing brush, curves, and local adjustments are included as well, making it a solid option for users who don’t want to download multiple apps to edit photos.
VSCO (Free with optional in-app purchases)
VSCO — pronounced viz-co — is a photo editing app designed around the idea of making your smartphone photos look more like film. In addition to a set of included filters, VSCO also lets you purchase packs of presets, each of which has their own aesthetic for particular types of images. VSCO also features a built-in community that includes both professional and amateur artists and photographers who share their work in a more narrowly-focused environment than the likes of Instagram. With professional-grade tools and advanced camera controls, VSCO is a great app for novices and professionals alike. Mobile photographers can download it for free, but there’s also a VSCO X subscription with the most tools and filters available as well.
Afterlight 2 ($3)
Its developers call it “the most powerful, full-featured photo editing experience on mobile.” While that might be a bit hyperbolic, it’s not that far from the truth. Afterlight has all of the basic photo editing tools you’ll need, as well as built-in filters, frames, local adjustments, and RAW support on both Android and iOS. Like other apps, you can even create your own filters to give your photos a distinct look time and time again. Afterlight 2 also builds in some more unique options, like overlays that mimic film light leaks and double exposures. The best part is, it’s a one-time purchase — no need to spend more on in-app purchases to unlock more features.
Lens Distortions (Free with an optional in-app subscription purchase)
Known for its impressive plugins and apps for desktop devices, Lens Distortions has also created a mobile app for both Android and iOS that brings its distinct editing suite to your mobile devices. Whether it’s a color filter you’re looking for or an overlay effect such as a light leak or flare, Lens Distortion has a slew of realistic effects you can add to your photos. Lens Distortions is free to download on both Android and iOS and includes five free filters in each section with the free version. If you want access to all the features, you’ll have to shell out between $1 and $5.
If you’d rather re-mix photos than simple touchups and filters, PicsArt may be more your style. Think of PicsArt as a mix between Photoshop and Paint — you can edit your photos, but then you can also use an assortment of brush tools to add to your images, adding some sparkle, decorating with text, adjusting a color, or creating whatever re-mix you can dream up. With PicsArt, you can also cut an object out of one photo and layer it on top of another. WhilePicsArt’s stand-out feature is the remix (and the community for finding re-mix inspiration), you may not even need a separate app with tools for cloning and cropping.
Who knew that you needed at least seven apps to make your photos look good? Well, okay, maybe you don’t need all of them. But it is a good idea to experiment with different apps and find the one that works best for your style. With any of these in your holster, you’ll be on your way to racking up the likes and comments you need in order to be a champion of Instagram. Go ahead, download them and achieve some social media immortality — or at least a ‘like’ from your grandmother.