Advanced photo editing was once limited to desktop computers with clunky bags full of photography equipment. Now, thanks to impressive improvements in mobile devices, not only can you capture high-quality photos on your phone, but you can also edit them directly on the same device with about as much control as on a computer.
For anyone still hesitating to admit it, check out Luisa Dörr’s work shooting 12 TIME covers on her iPhone, or yesterday’s announcement of the 2019 Mobile Photography Awards winners.
Regardless of your mobile operating system choice, there is no shortage of photo editing apps to choose from. Here are seven mobile editing apps to try, for photographers at every level.
While Adobe products have grown to become the gold standard for digital producing and editing, due to the simplified interface and syncing features, Adobe Lightroom is not limited to professionals. For anyone familiar with Photoshop, Lightroom takes many of its complicated features and puts them in an easy-to-find panel. You can use it to import, organize, manage and edit your photos — all for free.
However, if you want to sync your photos across devices and use premium features, Adobe’s Photography Creative Cloud plan costs US$10 per month, giving you access to Photoshop and Lightroom Classic on a desktop and all mobile devices.
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Afterlight has all the basic photo editing tools, as well as built-in frames, local adjustments, and filters. It also allows you to create your own filters to give your photos a distinct look. The app includes unique options like overlays for film light leaks, double exposure tools, options to add graphics and more. Afterlight is a one-time purchase of US$3, which gives access to all of its features.
From fine-tuning levels to adjusting the white balance, Snapseed is a 100% free app with a professional agenda. What makes this tool particularly unique is its "Selective Adjust" tool. It allows you to pinpoint an area in a photo and adjust the brightness, contrast, and saturation of that single point. You can also stack effects on photos — similar to in Photoshop — which makes it easy to produce a brand-new result each time you edit a photo.
VSCO is a photo app that allows you to capture photos and edit them with preset filters and editing tools. In addition to free filters, VSCO also lets you purchase packs of presets, each with their own aesthetic for particular types of images.
VSCO also offers a built-in community that includes both professional and amateur artists, as well as photographers who share their work in a narrowly-focused environment — think Instagram but all artists. The app is free to download with limited tools and filters available, but there’s also a VSCO membership subscription for US$19.99 per year.
For those interested in re-mixing photos, PicsArt offers a tool simpler than Photoshop, but more professional than Paint. You can use the app to edit with filters, brush tools, text and more. With PicsArt, you can also cut an object out of one photo and layer it on top of another, similar to photoshopping a background behind a person.
While the app is free to download with basic features, unlocking everything costs US$47.88 per year or US$8 per month.
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For anyone interested in creating graphics more than simply editing photos, Over is a great option. The app lets you overlay text and graphics onto your photos and videos, and it’s packed with stock photos, fonts, graphics, layout templates and more. The app is free with limited graphics and fonts, but in order to unlock Pro features — including custom fonts — pricing is US$49.99 per year or US$9.99 per month.
While targeted specifically towards Instagram users, Preview offers an easy-to-use design, as well as tools such as blemish smoother, color enhancement, overlays, splash colors, filters and more.
Once you’ve finished editing, you can set the order of the photos for Instagram. Preview also lets the user write a caption, schedule the post and save hashtag combinations. Just like VSCO, Preview has premade filter sets designed to maintain a certain aesthetic — some free and others paid. The app is a free download with pricing starting at US$6.67 per month for Pro or US$12.50 per month for Premium.