The lines between mobile and desktop image editing are becoming increasingly blurred, with mobile apps becoming increasingly powerful and adding features such as the ability to edit raw files.
We may not be ready to ditch our computers just yet, but much of the editing we’d traditionally do on desktops and laptops can now be done on our phones and tablets. The only problem is that with so many image-editing apps out there it can be difficult to know which one to go for.
Here we’ve picked eight of the best mobile photo-editing apps you should be looking at. There are some familiar names on the list, along with a few you may not have come across before. Our advice would be to find an app that not only has all the features you’re looking for, but has an interface you’re comfortable with.
1. Adobe Lightroom Mobile
The king of image editing on your smartphone
Platform: iOS (iPad and iPhone version) and Android (Note: Android version is a generation behind the current iOS versions) | Price: Free (but requires a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan at £8.57/$9.99 per month)
Impressive amount of controls
Can sync with Lightroom CC
Not for beginners
At the top of our list, not surprisingly, is Adobe Lightroom Mobile. The pinnacle of mobile image editing, Lightroom Mobile has the vast majority of the Develop tools found in the full version of Lightroom CC. These features include all the exposure, white balance, colour, gradient, colour and clarity settings and the crop, localised adjustment and dehaze tools. Images can also be flagged or have star ratings applied. If all of this is too much, then there are a range of presets and automated features than can be applied with a tap of the finger. Oh, and you can now edit raw files from your iPhone now as well.
However, the reason that Lightroom Mobile stands out is its integration with Lightroom CC. If you have a Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscription and Lightroom CC you can seamlessly sync files edited on your computer and on your smart device. Any changes you make on images on your mobile will sync with your desktop, including edits to raw files. And it is all non-destructive; the original image can be recalled at anytime as your edits are only applied to images as they’re exported to your camera roll or to another app.
Lightroom Mobile isn’t the only software that can do most of the above, but if you already use Lightroom CC then the integration, raw image editing, and regular updates adding new features make it a must-have.
Perfect for subtle, natural-looking effects
Platform: iOS (both iPhone and iPad), Android | Price: Free with in-app purchases
Very simple to use
Subtle results are for everyone
Some in-app purchases needed
VSCO is incredibly popular amongst photographers thanks to a good basic selection of preset styles, while there are many more effects that can be found through in-app purchases. Most of the images styles are natural in appearance with the emphasis on subtlety rather than over-the-top HDR-style effects.
If you want to to create a quick and easy edit, simply select your chosen style and adjust its strength. However, there is plenty more that can be done. Exposure, highlights, shadows, white balance, clarity and skin tones are amongst the adjustments, while images can be straightened and have their perspective corrected. Highlights and shadows can be individually tinted to create a really stylised effect. Best of all the app is uncomplicated and very simple to use.
3. Google Snapseed
Still one of the best image editing apps out there
Platform: iOS and Android | Price: Free
Huge range of effects
Good image controls
Dumbed down for some
Can be awkward to use
While Google Snapseed has usual array of colour, brightness and contrast adjustments, there area also a host of more advanced controls at your disposal, including selective color channel adjustment, geometric corrections, selective adjustments and a healing brush. Combine this with a range of filter effects, such as Lens Blur. Glamour Glow, HDR Scape, Grunge, Noir and a selection of frames, and it is easy to see why Snapseed is loved by casual photographers and enthusiasts alike.
The only complaint with Snapseed is the interface, which has changed over the last year to a slightly more dumbed down version for the more casual user. This has actually left it more awkward to use when making multiple adjustments to an image, but thanks to its huge range of effects and excellent image quality, Snapseed is still one of the best mobile editing apps out there.