When it comes to photo-editing, there is no shortage of apps for mobile devices. But if you want to move beyond Instagram filters, it can be overwhelming. Never fear, as always, we’ve got some recommendations for you. Before I dive into this list, I do want to point out that the Photo app on iOS got a huge upgrade with iOS 11. Which works well for things like adjusting exposure, cropping and applying a filter, but if you want to do much more than that, you’re going to run into some difficulty. The same can be said for Google Photos if you’re using an Android. Again, these stock apps are fine if you’re looking to treat your smartphone like a camera. But for the purposes of this list, we plan to focus on some deeper editing tools.
For a while, Adobe spent all its energy updating Lightroom on mobile, much to the chagrin of longtime desktop customers. While frustrating for everyone else, that diligence paid off in spades for the Android and iOS users. Lightroom CC on mobile boasts state-of-the-art AI photo processing with a one-touch auto-adjustment mode, in addition to capturing and editing RAW files. There’s also HDR photo capture and a slew of presets and tweaks that should feel familiar to desktop users. More than that, everything you take on your phone will sync with Lightroom CC on your computer or tablet, meaning you can start an edit on one device and finish it on another.
Of all the apps on this list, Google’s Snapseed might strike the best balance between capabilities and overall user-friendliness. The free photo-editing app leans on AI to detect faces and has a number of handy presets that can take your photos from flat to dramatic with the press of a button (“portrait” is especially versatile). Snapseed also has perspective-correction tools for when you aren’t able to get a shot lined up just right. Features like double exposure and head posing are a little gimmicky, but things like manually adjustable curves for color channels, contrast, and saturation help make up for those. Maybe best of all, you can overwrite an original photo upon export rather than creating a copy. It’s a small step toward reducing clutter on your device or cloud storage library, but it makes a big difference.
If you constantly find yourself cursing Instagram’s algorithm, maybe VSCO is the app for you. In addition to its editing tools and photo presets, the app is also a full-fledged social network with private messaging and a feed of pictures from the community, VSCO itself and people you’re following. The app also offers how-tos, GIF editing, video editing and support for RAW capture and editing. And, of course, there are myriad presets (free and paid) if you need to post something in a hurry but don’t want to sacrifice style.
Prisma went out of style shortly after coming out. But that doesn’t mean that this cloud-powered photo editing tool is any less impressive. The app’s distinctive, artistic filters truly stand out from what’s available elsewhere. You can make your own painterly looks as well, and can even apply it or a premade style to video too. Taking a photo or video and making it look like a work of fine art is dead-simple (one press does it all), which makes Prisma an attractive proposition for both newcomers and the more experienced among us.
For when you need some extra muscle for your mobile edits, there’s Photoshop Express. In addition to a smattering of filters and presets, Express also features powerful local adjustments for things like red-eye and blemish removal. There are also features for making collages and adding professional-looking text overlays to photos. Another unique feature is its selection of crop settings. You can trim a picture to fit different social-media needs, be it a Facebook cover photo, YouTube thumbnail or even a LinkedIn background.