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Top Mobile Photo Editing Apps: How to Get Started

It’s incredible when you stop to think about it, but almost every mobile phone these days has a built-in camera and almost everyone has a mobile phone. 

That means more people have the capacity to take photographs than ever before in human history.

Not only that but most modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras  have built-in Wi-fi that means you can quickly transfer shots between cameras and mobile devices.

This supercharged workflow means that modern photographers are able to capture images with a variety of different devices and upload them directly to social media sites like Instagram, Facebook or even send direct to clients on the way home from the shoot.

But what if you want to boost the shadows a little, add a watermark to stop image theft, or get creative with your images before you share them with the world?

Luckily, the processing power of our mobile phones and tablets has skyrocketed over the years. Our trusty pocket devices can now help us do advanced photo editing on-the-fly.

Features like spot removal, image overlay, curve adjustments as well as HDR-style rendering that previously was reserved for desktop applications have made their way into mobile image editing apps.

So where do you start if you want to learn how to edit your images on your portable device?

We’ve compiled a list of the most popular and powerful photo editing applications for your mobile device to point you in the right direction.


Available for: Android, iOS
Cost: Free

Snapseed is a well-thought-out editing app with some easy to use functions as well as some more advanced photo editing features like a handy lens blur effect, that lets you choose a circular or a star shaped aperture for a customisable bokeh. It also includes a curves adjustment panel with a histogram as well as a set of brushes that can be used to dodge, burn, change the temperature and saturation of particular sections of your shots.

The app also has advanced pixel cloning software that works in a similar way to Photoshop’s content-aware fill mode. It’s not perfect but when your image has a consistent background you can use it to radically change the perspective of image or to recreate missing pixel information.

The "Perspective" feature allows you to change the angle of your shot.
The“Expand” feature can be used to help centre a shot if it was framed incorrectly.

Snapseed also boasts sophisticated selfie software that gives you the power to “re-pose” your face after you’ve taken the shot. If used in moderation it can make a subtle change to a portrait but try and restrain yourself from over-using it.

Here’s is a hot tip regarding Snapseed’s “Re-Pose” function. 
Moderation is key, overuse can create truly horrific results.


Available for: Android, iOS
Cost: Free but VSCO X costs 19.99 USD a year.

VSCO is more than just hard to pronounce word (most people say it like VIS-CO), it is also a highly-regarded photo editing app born from the founding members love for analogue film. Terrified that film stock was disappearing they decided to try and immortalise the qualities of different films by creating preset filters to emulate the warmth and character of film.

Originally designed for desktop applications it wasn’t long before they decided to bring their celebration of classic film looks to an easy-to-use mobile platform and it’s only got more popular from there.

Although VSCO is free to use and allows users to edit settings like exposure, saturation, highlights and shadows as well as being able to add film filters, to really get the most out of VSCO it is recommended to upgrade to the paid VSCO X plan. This gives you access to over 100 classic mobile presets, and exclusive Film X presets that are modelled on popular films like Kodak Portra, Ektar, Ilford HP5 Plus, Fuji Pro and many more, carefully designed to create an authentic film look and feel to your shots.

An example of some of the camera stock filters that are included with a VSCO X membership plan.

Images edited with VSCO are often shared with the tag #VSCO or #VSCOCAM and the app tends to attract users with a healthy respect for film and dark room processing.

It is a generally a hub for creatives to share their work and a lot of professional photographers prefer the simple design and layout of the platform.


Available for: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

Pixlr is an easy-to-use mobile app with impressive photo editing features. The “double exposure” mode gives you the ability to blend two images together with control over the scale, rotation, opacity, and blending mode of the second image.

The best part of the double exposure function is that the eraser tool operates like a layer mask in Photoshop. You can set the size and feather of the eraser to remove what you don’t want in the shot but if you do accidentally erase something you need, you can easily switch tools and paint the pixels back in.

The“Double Exposure” mode in Pixlr gives you the ability to control how two images are merged together.


Available for: Android, iOS
Cost: Free
Instagram is one of the world’s most popular social networks. As of April 2017, Instagram has a whopping 700 million active users. Australia is estimated to have a population of 24.6 million so to put it in perspective, Instagram has about 28 times the entire population of Australia as active users.

It’s safe to say Instagram is THE mobile app for sharing images as well as videos. It offers a simple editing interface that lets you add filters, and tweak settings like brightness and contrast, warmth, saturation, as well as more advanced settings like highlight and shadow adjustments.

You can sharpen images, add a dark vignette or even process your images with a tilt-shift-style focus blur as well as tinting either the shadows or highlights with a colour.

A post shared by Digital Camera Warehouse (@dcwarehouse) on

Instagram’s main strength is its massive community and the fact that once you post an image other people can love it, send it to their friends, and comment on the image.

The comment and like function is hands down the most popular part of Instagram because it puts photographers in direct contact with their fans and followers and this makes Instagram the social media platform with the absolute highest level of engagement.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Available for: Android, iOS, Windows Phone
Cost: Free but some features are limited without an Adobe creative cloud membership.

The photo editing juggernaut that is Photoshop is no longer limited to desktops, Adobe has released an express version that is designed for mobile devices like mobiles and tablets.

The app has more than 60 filters, a defog tool, noise reduction slider, and can even edit some RAW camera files too. With adjustments for clarity, sharpening, contrast, highlights and shadows, as well as vibrancy, saturation and temperature controls the app delivers comprehensive imaging control.

Photoshop express also has a setting that allows you to add a watermark on your final image. This can be text, or an image like a signature and you can choose from 10 different locations for your watermark as well as control the level of opacity so it doesn't ruin your shot.

Photoshop Express provides several different options for adding watermarks to your images.

Photoshop Express also comes with a red-eye removal tool and a retouch function that performs in much the same way as the heal brush in the desktop version of Photoshop.

The "Retouch" function can be used to clean up images with sensor dust spots.

So hopefully that gives you an idea about some of the things your phone or tablet is capable of, it's amazing what these little pocket computers can do in a pinch.

Mobile apps are fantastic for the quick sharing and fast delivery of content for social media use and can be a fantastic way of whetting the appetite of your clients after a particularly photogenic shoot. Just remember 

Ultimately, impressive as modern mobile apps and portable devices are, I would still recommend a desktop setup and a nicely calibrated high resolution monitor to give your images the attention they deserve, but it's nice to know we now have the option to do on-the-fly editing with a mobile device.


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