Here is the definitive guide to the best photo apps around, covering iOS (that's iPhone and iPad) and Android apps. Some you won't have heard of, others you'll be more familiar with.
None are going to replace a great DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera (see our guide to the best cameras for creatives) and a couple of hours with a photo editor such as Photoshop CC, but they're all great at what they do.
Let's start off with apps to transform your current photo collection: photo editing apps. You'll also find apps for taking photos and artistic photo apps on the other pages of this article, so click through to those if that's what you're after.
01. Affinity Photo
- Platform: iOS
- Developer: Serif
- Price: £19.99 (iPad) /£48.99 (desktop)
Affinity Photo is the gold standard of photo editors. Fast, efficient, top-end features and a fully customisable interface, Affinity Photo is a professional-level tool without the high-end price tag.
Digital painting, raw editing, professional retouching and multi-layered compositions are among Affinity Photos impressive toolset. Features also include advanced lens corrections and best-in-class noise reduction, allowing full control and quality over every image.
Affinity Photo is also available as a dedicated iPad app. The first professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet, it took home the title of Apple App of the year 2017.
Serif also has a graphic design package, Affinity Designer, which shares the same file format as Affinity Photo, so your all your design tool needs are fully covered.
02. 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.
03. 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 fulfils 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.
04. 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.
05. 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.
06. Photo Editor by Aviary
Aviary is a pleasantly designed app that strikes the perfect balance between serious photo editing and playful photo decoration functions, without looking bland or childish. Since it was first launched, the number of tools has exploded from 20 to 1500, giving you plenty of room to play.
The 'Strato' filter creates one of the most convincing vintage effects from all the apps tested.
07. 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; head this way for some great tips on how to get the best out of it.
Boasting over two million combinations of effects, overlays and filters, Pixlr contains enough tools to keep you busy for hours. You can also layer your images, add text captions, and it is also an excellent collage maker. Plus you'll also find an eraser to auto fix the colour and automatically adjust contrast. Not bad for a free app.
Looking for a flexible photo editing app that's easy to pick up and produces quality results? Fotor delivers all of this, and best of all you can download it for free. This versatile app enables you to edit, collage and share images, plus you can discover masterpieces snapped by other users.
Fotor also offers a focus feature, enabling you to control depth of field and clarity to simulate DSLR effects. Simply select a focal point, adjust the emulator to your preference, and create a high definition finish.
Qwik describes itself as 'the fastest and easiest way to make pretty photos,' and with over 50 filters, plus tons of fonts and frames, it's hard to argue with it.
Edit your images in seconds with straightforward hands-on tools, and share them with Qwik's online community. With new filters and features being added every week, Qwik is constantly keeping itself fresh and exciting.
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. Yeah, those – like the silly AI-generated ones we've featured, but better. 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.
12. Handy Photo
The selling point of photo editor Handy Photo is its interface, which uses the corners of the screen to cater for rotating menu options. It's all designed to keep the central area of the screen clear, allowing you to use swipe gestures to tone your effects up or down.
It's a powerful photo editor; the UI isn't for everyone, but this is an amazing price for the effects you get. The 'Move Me' tool enables you to clip out objects and move, resize or flip them.
- Platform: 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.
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.
15. Rakuga Cute
- Platform: 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 which makes it an interesting addition to your photo repertoire.
The 'Mosaic' option lets you selectively pixelate any part of a photo, quite useful for blurring out license-plates, identities or should you feel so inclined, body parts as well.