Photo apps can make a good picture great. There's more to taking a great photo on your smartphone than simply tapping the capture button. And chances are you've looked at other people's glamorous pictures and asked yourself how they caught them. That's where photo editing apps come in.
If you want to get the best out of your photos, you need a great photo app on your smartphone, plus photo editing software on your tablet or computer that enables you to express your creativity.
We've put together this definitive guide to the best photo apps – covering iOS and Android apps – and also listed the finest photo-editing software for desktop, tablet, or browser, so that your snaps can stand up there with the best of them. If you want to edit video, then see our post on the best video editing apps.
Let's start with photo apps. We've divided them up into three subsections: image manipulation apps, camera apps for taking photos on your device, and artistic photo apps. You can navigate between them quickly using the links above.
Meanwhile, on page two, we reveal the finest photo-editing software available for desktop, browser, tablet – and some have smartphone versions, too. Every price point and ability level is covered, so you're bound to find the right applications for you.
If you're more concerned with your Insta feed than anything else, then you may want to check out our best VSCO filters for Instagram.
Image manipulation apps
- Download: iPhone
- Developer: Prisma Labs
- Price: Free
Pitching itself the 'best selfie editor', Lensa is photo app that goes beyond conventional filters and editing tools. Powered by AI, this app promises simple ways to improve anything you might dislike about your portrait shot. You can smooth skin and remove blemishes, remove eye bags, thicken your eyebrows, plump your lips, make you eyes sparkle... and pretty much anything else. There are also tools to blur out the back ground and add depth, to ensure nothing detracts from your perfect selfie.
02. Afterlight 2
- Download: iOS
- Developer: Afterlight Collective Inc
- Price: $2.99
From basic functions such as colour editing, all the way through to more complex functions including curves and selective colours, Afterlight 2 provides an easy way for users to fine-tune their photos. Supplied with a set of of basic filters from the word go, this budget friendly photo editing app can also be topped up with more collections for free.
There's fun to be had for typographers too, as lettering can be overlaid onto your snaps. Topping off the release is a double-exposure tool that can give your photos some truly unique blends.
After a powerful Google tool that rivals even desktop editors? Look no further. This impressive app comes armed with 29 tools and filters, the ability to open JPG and RAW files, as well as letting users save personal settings and apply them directly to future works.
What puts Snapseed in a league of its own though, is its precision masking tool. Perfect for photographers looking to blur backgrounds and give their pictures depth, this control is sure to transform your snaps for the better.
04. Photoshop Lightroom CC for mobile
Adobe makes a number of photo apps but if you’re serious about photo editing on your device, you only need one: Photoshop Lightroom CC for mobile. It's a free app that gives you a powerful yet simple solution for capturing, editing and sharing your photos.
You can shoot raw photos (on compatible phones), or transfer from your camera onto your device, and easily organise and tweak them, then automatically upload them to the cloud so they don’t take up space on your device. It has presets to keep your edits quick and simple, but you can also go deeper and fine-tune images to perfection.
Signing up to a Creative Cloud account – including the Lightroom CC plan, adds the ability to work across phone, tablet and desktop with instant synchronisation.
05. Photoshop Express
As you would expect from Adobe, the interface and user experience of the Photoshop Express photo app for Apple and Android devices is faultless. It fulfills all the functions you need for picture editing and will probably be the one you turn to for sheer convenience. Straighten and Flip are two useful functions not included in many other apps.
However, none of the filters really jump out, and some are surprisingly naff for an app that comes from the developer for designers. Ultimately, if you are looking for a more professional tool, look towards Lightroom CC for mobile, but the cut-down feel and familiarity of PS Express will suit some.
06. Photoshop Mix
Photoshop Mix is an app that caters more for those looking to make big statements than those making subtle adjustments, and it’s none the worse for it. PS Mix enables you to cut out and combine elements from different images, blend layers and make adjustments to your creations on your device, and it majors in ease-of-use.
Usefully, it live-syncs with Photoshop CC, meaning that when you make a change on your phone, it’ll show up instantly on your desktop – and you can take advantage of Creative Cloud benefits with an Adobe Photography Plan, which saves a fair bit of cash over a full subscription.
07. Photoshop Fix
With Photoshop Fix, you can make the most common image adjustments very easily, right on your smart device, without having to transfer your photos to a desktop computer and use expensive photo editing software. At your fingertips are the tools to liquify, heal, lighten, colour and adjust your images to perfection, plus you can experiment with painting tools and vignettes, control exposure, contrast, saturation and focus.
As with all Adobe mobile apps, having a Creative Cloud account opens up the ability to instantly share your work with other CC apps on desktop or mobile, but Photoshop Fix is probably best Adobe app for those just looking to make their smartphone photos better without requiring deep knowledge of editing tools.
- Download: iOS
- Developer: MuseWorks Inc
- Price: Free
Massively popular on the App Store (and with a 4.6 star rating, to boot), MuseCam is a fantastic all-round photo app. It gives you the all-important manual camera control (with compatible iPhones): custom exposure with independent control of shutter, ISO, white balance and focus.
The built-in photo editor lets you take even more control of your images, and with film-inspired presets plus professional grade tools, it's a great tool to help you move from novice snapping to great photography. The app is free to download but there are various packs to purchase in-app for the photo editor.
09. Google PhotoScan
It's all very well being able edit photos on your phone or computer, but what about those old pre-digital prints you have lying around? If putting them all through a scanner's too much for you, there's an app that makes digitising your ancient snaps much easier. Google's PhotoScan enables you to scan photos with your phone in seconds, without unsightly glare and shadows.
PicLab is a nifty app for creating those inspiring images that you get all over the internet these days. You know, the ones featuring a photo – probably with at least one retro filter applied – with a helpful aphorism layered over the top in an attractive, friendly typeface. PicLab HD makes them an absolute doddle to create, enabling you to either snap a photo or grab one from your photo library, then go to town on it.
As well as adding typography – lots of fonts and full control over size, positioning, opacity, rotation, and colour – you can also layer illustrations, ornamentation and other design elements on top of your image.
PicLab features full layer-based editing and also packs plenty of tools for making your original photo look its best, with loads of lighting and film effects to choose from as well as preset photo filters and adjustment tools for fine-tuning the brightness, contrast, exposure, saturation, and the blur level of your photos.
- Download: iPhone, iPad, Android
- Developer: Lightricks
- Price: $3.99/£3.99 (iPhone), $5.99/£5.99 (iPad), $5.99/£3.99 (Android)
Embarrassed about your laughter lines? Feeling blue about those blemishes? Fear not, Facetune is here! Grab a photo from your Camera Roll and start your makeover; you can remove unwanted freckles, blemished skin or hide bags under the eyes with Smooth; reshape that wonky nose or misshapen jawline with, er, Reshape; and make subtle tweaks of colour using Tone.
The results of this photo editor are truly impressive. You can share results over Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr – if you dare.
An excellent user interface makes Photo Wonder one of the speediest smartphone photo apps to use. It also has a good collage feature with multiple layouts and photo booth effects. The filter selection isn’t huge, but many are so well-designed that you’ll find them far more valuable than sheer quantity from a lesser app. The Vintage filter works magic on photos of buildings or scenery. Combine with Sweety for a dreamy retro effect.
13. Rakuga Cute
- Download: iOS
- Developer: Tatsumi Electronics
- Price: Free
At first glance this iPhone photo app seems aimed at Japanese schoolgirls rather than discerning designers, but Rakuga Cute actually contains some unusual editing functions that make it an interesting addition to your photo repertoire.
The Mosaic option lets you selectively pixelate any part of a photo, which is quite useful for blurring out license-plates, identities or should you feel so inclined, body parts.
Best camera apps
14. ProCam 6
ProCam 6 is another app for the iPhone that gives you full manual control over your camera, enabling DSLR-like camera functionality and full-featured photo and video editing capabilities. Worried that this will mean an impenetrable user interface? Not so – ProCam 6's UI has pleasingly intuitive gestures and menus, so there is little to scare off the newcomer.
The best feature has to be the overexposure warning that comes up on the screen when shooting still or video – very handy – as well as a fast and reliable tracking focus, and the all-important portrait mode, which is arguably more subtle that Apple's own and just as adjustable.
- Download: iOS
- Developer: Chroma Noir
- Price: £5.99/$5.99
If you love the convenience of mobile photography but miss the control you get with a full-on SLR, Halide is well worth snapping up. It'll work as a simple point and shoot, but with a swipe you can open up a whole load of lovely manual options, giving you tactile control over focus, ISO and shutter speed, as well as a live histogram to help you get the right exposure.
You can review your photos Tinder-style, with a right swipe to add them to your favourites, and a left swipe to trash them, and Halide can even export as RAW to give you more flexibility when you edit your shots.
16. Camera MX
- Download: Android
- Developer: Magix
- Price: Free
The Android-exclusive photo app Camera MX combines powerful enhancement tools with a beautifully simple user interface. Thanks to intelligent image processing you can take visibly sharper snaps, as well as cutting and trimming them to perfection in the edit.
In the latest version, you can create dynamic photos with the Live Shot feature. By saving the last seconds before you actually take the photo, this app lets users capture moving snaps that can be relived and shared.
17. Camera+ Legacy
- Download: iOS
- Developer: LateNite Apps
- Price: $2.99/£2.99
The Camera app that comes on the iPhone by default is not brilliant: yes, you can use it to take some decent shots, but it doesn't offer you much creative control. This is where Camera+ excels. The app has two parts: a camera and a photo editor, and it truly excels at the latter, with a huge range of advanced features.
Camera+ doesn't just limit you to editing new pics – you can quickly import your existing photos into the Lightbox so that you can breathe new life into them.
Camera360 is a remarkable smartphone photo app. It's perfectly self-contained with a huge range of functions, no ads and no insistence in promoting paid content.
Touching the photo after applying a filter produces a nifty quick comparison of the 'before' and 'after' versions. One drawback is that the process of importing photos is slightly tedious, with one too many clicks involved. Tip: go to Enhancement > Night for a great filter to correct slightly dark or underexposed photos.
19. LINE Camera
Sleek and easy-to-use, LINE Camera comes with a solid range of filters, borders, icons and stamps. You can also add text to your pictures in over 100 fonts and 20 colours, making this free smartphone photo app one of the best for typography. Check out Stamp > Heart Symbol > Shine for a nice selection of kitschy sparkle brushes.
Save and organise pictures of your children growing up with Lifecake. In a timeline free from the adverts and noise that clutter most social media channels, you can easily look back over fond memories and share them with family and friends.
Touted as 'a time machine of your child's life', you can skip to select stages and compare different dates. You decide who can see your images, and because Lifecake is now a Canon company you can order a printed album of your precious photos.
21. VSCO Cam
Connect with amazing photographers from around the world, and create your own stunning photography with VSCO Cam. Create your own VSCO Journal to join in with the community and find inspiration form other users. Unlike other social platforms, your followers and clout are not displayed, giving everyone an equal creative playing field.
VSCO Cam comes packed with top performance features, including high resolution imports, and before and after comparisons to show how you built up your edit. Introduce yourself to the community by downloading it for free.
Read more: The best VSCO Instagram filters to enhance your feed
Artistic photo apps
22. Enlight Photofox
- Download: iOS
- Developer: Lightricks Ltd
- Price: $3.99
This powerful all-in-one photo editor has proved its worth by scooping an Apple Design Award. Offering users the ability to control tone, colour and details, Enlight Photofox can also convert your photos into an artistic masterpiece. This is thanks to a range of painterly effects, including the ability to convert your picture into street art or a realistic looking sketch.
Better than any filter-based photo app, Prisma can transform your photos into masterpieces in the style of famous artists such as Van Gogh, Munch, Mondrian and Picasso. It uses an AI technique called style transfer to do its artistic magic, and it's no longer restricted to still images; it now works on video as well.
Even if you're new to the world of photo apps, chances are you've heard of Instagram. Capable of turning the most everyday photo into something glamorous thanks to its range of custom-designed filters and editing tools, Instagram has won over billions of fans and dedicated users.
There is a reason Instagram is so popular. It's powerful, versatile, and best of all it's free. A wide range of filters and features allow you to create unique images, Stories and videos, a thanks in part to its ownership by Facebook, Instagram has also become a social media platform in itself. Instagram Stories let you communicate a diary of images or videos to your followers, and Instagram TV now focuses on longer videos.
- Download: iOS
- Developer: Sktchy LLC
- Price: Free
Sktchy offers artists a new way to connecting with other around the world. You choose from a selection of photographs, uploaded by the Sktchy community, and create a portrait from that image. Sktchy co-founder Jordan Melnick says: "Our community of artists is growing every day because Sktchy is the perfect place for them to find inspiration and share their art with the world, in part because of the neat way we layer portraits over the photos that inspired them."
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