Photo editing improves the look of your photos by adjusting certain settings such as adjusting brightness, contrast and more. For many years, photo editing was always done on a desktop computer.
When smartphones became commonplace, users wanted a way to edit their photos on the go. Users were no longer patient enough to edit a photo on the desktop and transfer the image to mobile. The process is just tedious for people who want to share their photos instantly on social media.
The rise of smartphones came with powerful product specifications that were able to run powerful operational systems, games, and applications such as photo-editing apps.
Many smartphones have their own pre-installed photo editing tools but, the functions are limited to cropping your photo or adjusting the brightness and contrast. Mobile photo editing tools give users more options beyond adding a filter or blurring your photo.
There are photo editing tools that let you enhance your images for free. Some features may require an extra payment but, the extra payment does not mean the free features are not powerful.
Here are the most popular free photo editing tools to help you create great photos for your social media feed:
1) Snapseed (Free on Android and iOS)
A snippet of Snapseed’s features.
Snapseed is one of the best photo editing tools you can find online because it’s completely free. You don’t have to pay a subscription to access more features of the app.
We can describe Snapseed as a completely free version of Adobe’s Photoshop apps. You can access features you would not normally find in a free tool such as portrait enhancement, healing brushes and more.
Photo editing apps such as Photoshop require a subscription to access tools such as the healing brush. Snapseed does not make you pay for any feature so you can edit photos the way you want without wasting a single dime on an in-app purchase. The common features of many photo editing apps can be found on Snapseed such as sliders that let you adjust the effects of a photo.
If you need help with photo editing and retouching, you can read up on blogs and tutorials by creative agencies that do high-end photo retouching services all the time such as Paper Boat Creative. The agency has numerous tutorials on photo editing and retouching which you can apply to your photos as well. Do take note that many of the lessons are instructed from a desktop perspective but, the features are the same features used on mobile.
2) Photoshop Express (Free on Android and iOS)
Some of the features you’ll find on Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular photo editing tools on the desktop and the tool has extended its reach to mobile with the Photoshop Express application. Photoshop Express allows mobile users to edit photos using the best features of Photoshop on desktop.
Most advanced features of photo editing tools work better on desktop but, Photoshop Express serves the same features while being functional on your mobile screen.
Here are some of the things you can do in Photoshop Express that you can’t do with your phone’s pre-installed photo editing tool:
- Fix Perspective or the Point of View: You can transform the perspective of your image by selecting the crop tool, clicking on the transform category and use the slider or auto option to change the perspective of your photo.
- Smart Filters: The majority of photo editing tools include a filter that adds a special effect on your photos but, Photoshop Express’ filters function differently. The filters on Express automatically correct issues such as color temperature and exposure problems.
- Resize Your Photos: Your phone’s pre-installed photo editing tool won’t let you change the size of your photos. Photoshop Express lets you resize your photos up to 4000 pixels on iOS and 1536×1285 on Android.
For you to start using Photoshop Express, you need to create an Adobe Creative Cloud Account. Contrary to popular belief, Adobe Creative Cloud is not exclusively a paid plan. There is a free creative cloud membership that gives users access to all of Adobe’s free mobile apps such as Photoshop Express.
The only negative of Photoshop Express would be that many functions are available on iOS only. Some of these functions include:
- Replacing eyes
- Correct Lens Issues
- Applying different kinds of blurs
- Sending files to Photoshop as PSD files.
For more functions, you’re better off looking for alternatives that have all features available to both Android and iOS.
3) VSCO (Free on Android and iOS)
VSCO Features. (Features such as Video Editing requires Subscription)
VSCO was founded in 2011 and is one of the original mobile photo editing tools that started the trend of photo editing on mobile devices.
A before and after comparison of photos with and without VSCO applied. (Jungalow)
As a photo editing tool, you can enhance your photo using presets which are exclusive to VSCO, adjust the contrast, saturation, and grain of your images.
VSCO’s filters let you change the overall look of your image with a quick drag of your slider. You can make your image look like it was taken with a vintage camera and not a smartphone with a simple slide of your finger on your mobile screen.
VSCO has a lot of shared features on Android and iOS. However, some features are exclusive to iOS which means you will need to look elsewhere for features such as Clarity. The clarity feature of VSCO lets iOS users sharpen details of an image such as rocks underwater.
Here are some of the free features you can use to enhance your photos with VSCO on Android and iOS:
- Filters: Simply slide your fingers with a slider to apply a filter that best fits your social media needs.
- X-Skew: Use this feature to change the angle of your photo. Moving the x-skew left and right will make your subject look closer. Move the x-skew to the left and the left side of your picture will look closer. Move the x-skew to the right and the right side of your image will look closer.
- Y-Skew: The Y-skew serves a similar purpose to the x-skew. Sliding the cursor to the right will make the top of the image look closer. Sliding the cursor to the left will make the bottom of the image look closer.
VSCO also has a social networking function similar to Instagram. Users can share their photos on a feed but, they can’t like or comment on the photos.
The lack of likes and comments frees up the users from the distractions that usually appear in social media networks such as Instagram. The only feature users would find similar to Instagram is the chat function.
However, many of the more sophisticated features of the app require an annual membership that costs $19.99 per year.
4) Photoshop Lightroom (Free on Android and iOS)
Lightroom on mobile is an instant solution for many of your photography needs. Want to remove someone from an image? Lightroom can easily do it for you.
These are some of the free features you will find on Photoshop Lightroom mobile:
- Preset Filters: Make huge changes on your photos with a one-touch photo editor
- Curves: Change the color, exposure, and contrast
- Pro-Level Camera: Push your camera to its fullest potential by unlocking features such as exposure, time, instant presets and many more features.
However, for a more in-depth edit, you need to pay for the premium version of Lightroom. You will be able to unlock a plethora of features to edit your photos:
- Healing Brush: Remove almost anything from your image such as a passerby.
- Geometry: Make your images align by changing the perspective of your photo.
- Selective Adjustments: Edit specific parts of your image with your finger or a stylus
Lightroom Mobile Premium costs $9.99 USD per month plus local state taxes.
5) Prisma (Free on Android and iOS)
Image without edits by Prisma
Prisma is a popular photo editing tool launched in 2016. The app transforms your images into paintings using filters inspired by famous artists such as Van Gogh.
After changing the look of your photo, you can enhance your photo by adjusting the brightness, exposure, sharpness, contrast and other features of your photo. When you’re done, you can share your image to social networks such as Instagram.
Image edited with Prisma
Most photo editing tools let you edit your image from your phone but Prisma edits images differently. Users upload an image to Prisma’s Servers and the server will recreate the image based on the chosen filter. Prisma has a feature that is becoming commonplace in photo editing apps and that is the ability to interact with fellow users via chat.
The app is free but, getting high-resolution photos and more filters require a subscription that costs $4.99 a month or $19.99 USD for one year.
Set for Your Social Media Feed
There is a ton of free photo editing tools you can choose from. Some tools require payment to gain access to everything while others don’t need any payment at all.
Snapseed is the free, overall package that can do almost everything a paid service can do. Photoshop Express gives you the freedom to change the perspective of your photos. VSCO can make your images look like they were taken by a vintage camera. Lightroom lets users edit an image with one tap while others require several taps to do so. Prisma recreates an image to convert the photo into an art piece inspired by legendary artists.
Many tools are paid for because those companies offer features that are rarely seen in free apps. No matter what tool you choose, you will find the app to match your photo editing and social media needs.
Rebecca Van Ommen is the Executive Creative Director of Paper Boat Creative, a creative agency that specializes in high-end photo retouching, photo editing, and more. She was one of the youngest Art Directors for Getty Images in London. Her work has been published through some of the world’s largest advertising agencies including Mother, AKQA and BBDO London. Rebecca loves to exercise in her spare time. She also enjoys bringing her daughter to photo shoots for inspiration