There are a plethora of photo editing apps out there. It can be confusing and overwhelming when you are looking for something quick and easy to use. Many have the same functionality and some are certainly easier to use than others. I admit I don’t use everything that one app may offer but rather pick each for a very specific need. So where do you start?

Most of my images have only very basic editing. I apply a filter that brightens and makes colours pop and some extra manual brightening. I try to do as much as a can when I take the photo to eliminate distractions and get a good composition. Sometimes though, I need to do more than just the basics. Here I’ll show you what photo editing apps I use for both; the basics and going beyond the basics.

1. Instagram 

Of course, Instagram has to be at the top of my list. I use it every single day. I think its functionality is great and it has a couple of inbuilt tools that help you go beyond the basics too. As I mentioned in my post last week 3 reasons you need to edit your images I adjust the exposure on every image I post. After I have used any other app to edit my image I usually find I have to brighten it just a bit more in Instagram so this is definitely my most used feature. Other tools I use in Instagram are Warmth, (either increase or decrease if my image is too yellow or too blue) Sharpen, and Fade or Saturate (depending on how my colours look and the effect I am trying to achieve). This is all highly personal though and I don’t suggest you do this on every image you edit/post. It really is up to you to find a look that suits your brand.

One thing I do want to draw your attention to is Adjust. This tool is fantastic and so easy to use. You can use Adjust to do basic cropping and straightening but you can also use it to fix the perspective of your photo. If you weren’t square on to your subject and you have lines that aren’t parallel Adjust is perfect!

The lines of the doorway on the left aren’t parallel and it makes the image a little uncomfortable to look at. A quick straightening (and brightening) and it becomes less of a distraction. You’re left to focus on the actual subject. I try to get this as close as I can when I am taking the shot but it isn’t always possible to get perfect (I’ll give you some other things to watch out for when you’re composing your image in an upcoming post).

Note: I rarely use the filters in Instagram. I find them to be a bit too severe. One I do love is Clarendon. It applies a blue-green filter which makes leaves and trees pop, makes the ocean a lovely turquoise and the sky a brilliant blue. When I do use it I generally scale it back to 30-50%. My favourite black and white filter is Moon.

Instagram is free in the App Store and Google Play.

2. SnapSeed

One draw back with Instagram is you have to post your photos to your feed to save them. (There are ways you can get around it… let me know if you want me to go through them). So if the image I am editing is not part of my IG plan then I use SnapSeed. SnapSeed it’s absolutely packed with features that it can seem a little overwhelming. It really is a one-stop shop. I start with Tune Image, which is your basic Brightness, Contrast, Saturation etc. You can edit perspective like you can in Instagram, add text, use a healing brush, blend two photos, add filters etc. What I love it for (besides basic edits) is the ability to edit only part of an image with the Selection tool. So if you are trying to increase brightness on the whole image and a section becomes too bright then use the selection tool to dial that part back down. 

In the images below I have used the Selection tool to decrease the brightness only on the houses. There’s no way I wanted to touch that sky (there’s no filter on that at all! So amazing). By making them almost a silhouette and removing the detail they aren’t competing with that dramatic sky for your attention.

SnapSeed is free in the App Store and Google Play.

3. Retouch

Have you ever taken a shot and then realised that there was some rubbish on the floor or you really wished a power line wasn’t in the way? Well, Retouch is here so that those photos can still be awesome! It is the app equivalent of Photoshop’s Content Aware tool. It is super simple to use and generates some really good results. I use it to remove parts of an image that are distracting and that I overlooked taking the shot (rubbish) or remove things that I can’t shoot around. You’ll notice in the images of my daughter in her dressing gown above, that the door handle is missing in the right-hand example. I removed it in Retouch. If you look really closely you can still see some minor artefacts but it’s definitely not as distracting as the door handle was.

In the shot below I used Retouch to remove the light at the bottom of the image (and used the Clarendon filter at 20% in Instagram). Once again, removing these small distractions cleans up our images and draws focus to our subject.

Retouch is $2.59 in the App Store and Google Play.

4. Layout

Instagram’s Layout is by far my favourite collage app. I think its attraction for me is its basic functionality. You can’t change the thickness of the borders (you can only turn them on or off) or the colour of the background. It leaves it clean and simple. I’ve noticed a theme whilst I’ve been putting this post together. I like my images to be free of distraction. I want my subject to stand out and be the sole focus of my images. This is probably why I love Layout. It leaves the images to shine, not competing with funky shapes or crazy backgrounds.

Now that you can load multiple images for the one post in Instagram and Facebook creates collages for you I don’t use Layout much. Sometimes though, it can help you tell a story like in the image below. I think this layout is more powerful than if the photos were loaded separately and you had to scroll through them. You get the whole story in one glance (she does love her babycinos!).

Layout is free in the App Store and Google Play

5. Little Moments / A Colour Story

I use the Little Moments app every single day for two reasons. One, it contains the prompts that I use for the Photo-A-Day challenge I participate in and two, it contains my favourite filter, Candy. Candy lightens and brightens without adding colour casts or being too dramatic and I’d say 90% of my photos on Instagram have it applied. Unfortunately, Little Moments isn’t available on Android. So for non-iPhone users, I recommend A Color Story. Their Pop filter has a similar effect and there are also some extra ones along the same lines. Both apps are free for the basic version with options to pay to have extra filters unlocked.

This image of Tahnee Kelland’s mural in Mandurah has Little Moments Candy filter applied and the second one of our ever growing collection of horses has A Color Story’s Pop filter (plus some additional brightening when posting to Instagram on both).

Little Moments also has options for text overlays and creating non-photo based images with built in stickers and sayings. Some are included in the free version with the option to buy additional packs that have been created by individual designers. It’s an easy option to inject some personality into your photos or create unique quotes that may align with your brand.

Little Moments is free in the App Store. A Color Story is free in the App Store and Google Play.

These are my favourite photo editing apps and ones I find to be the most useful. I hope they help you to take your photos from good to great and get you thinking about being consistent and how to best tell your story with your images. There are a million other apps out there and if you have a favourite please comment below and let me know! I love to discover new things.

If you want to learn more about using your phone to create great content the Photography and Social Media workshop is coming up. Pre-register to be the first to know when tickets go on sale. Spots are limited.

And a question for you… Would it be helpful to see how I use the tools in each of these apps in a video tutorial? Please let me know below. I really want to make it as easy as possible for you get the most out of your images!