4 of the Best Photo-Editing Apps for iOS

Even in iOS 11, Apple’s built-in photo-editing tools are fairly anemic. Considering the power of the iPhone’s camera, the device calls out for a more capable image editor. Here are four of the best photo-editing apps for iOS.

Affinity Photo by Serif Labs is the iOS companion to macOS’s powerful Affinity Photo, a true Photoshop killer if there ever was one. While this app only runs on newer iPads (the iPad Pro, Air 2 and 2017 iPad), it’s massively more powerful than anything else on the platform. It takes full advantage of the additional computing power available on modern iPads, with desktop-class photo-editing tools at your fingertips. While a touch interface limits the brute force power of the app, the selection tools are well adapted for touch and provide a multitude of creative possibilities. You’ll pay for that privilege, with the app running $20 in the App Store.

Google’s Snapseed app is an impressive photo editor, especially when you consider the price tag. It won’t cost you a cent, and it’s the only app we found in the App Store that offered direct curves adjustments without additional fees. If you’re not familiar with curves, they’re a staple of every serious photo-editing app and an especially intuitive tool for editing images by touch. Their inclusion in the Snapseed app makes it worth recommending on its own, but the broad collection of photo-editing tools alongside curves are commendable as well. While a recent redesign has made the app a little more disorganized than it used to be, the touch-first controls make complicated edits easy to apply and adjust. And once you have a look you like, you can save it as a personal filter for use again and again or share that filter with other Snapseed users.

Depending on the type of photo editing you want to do on your phone, VSCO (like “Crisco”) might be the perfect app for your needs. It takes the light-touch approach of the Instagram photo editor and expands on it dramatically, allowing for a broad range of easily-controllable editing options. These options are mostly collected around stylistic tweaks, allowing for modern touches like tinted shadows and highlights as well as more basic brightness and contrast adjustments. VSCO also offers a truly attractive gallery of appealing photo filters, with some free options in the app and other filter packs available for purchase. If you want a modern, trendy look for your snaps, these can save you the trouble of editing your images for that particular effect. Photos can be saved to your library or pushed to social sharing platforms.

Like Affinity Photo, Pixelmator is the iOS version of a well-regarded photo editor from macOS. It follows a similar model, bringing desktop-style editing tools to a touch-centric workflow. The application isn’t as awesomely powerful as Affinity, but it still boasts a powerful set of tools that image editors will love. It also includes a fully-featured painting application that’s compatible with the iPad and iPhone. The app has just been updated for iOS 11 and includes support for drag-and-drop as well as Apple’s newly-supported HEIF image codec.

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The best editor for most users is Google’s Snapseed. Users seeking greater power will be satisfied with Affinity Photo if they own a new model iPad, and other users can get similar power from Pixelmator.