Photo Editing Apps – The Basics

Important General & Preferences Info

We often get asked about what apps are available for editing photos on their iPads and iPhones.  This is particularly hard question to give a simple answer too.   There are so many choices in the App Store, all skill levels are represented there. You’ll find apps for fast and simple edits for making minor corrections, to full out layers and masks photoshop like editing options. And, that is not even considering all the fun photo effects only apps.
Another important consideration is the model of the device you are using and the iOS version running on it.  Some apps will not support older versions of the iOS or devices.  Be sure to look for that information in the description.
So with the different levels of editing kept in mind, we will be breaking the apps up into two sections.  Basic editing and advanced editing.  We will put the fun effects apps in another entry.

Before You Start Editing – Things To Know and Check

You must be aware that not all photo editing apps will save your edited images at the same resolution, file format, or quality  as originally taken. The apps vary greatly, so  be sure to look at the supported resolution before you buy your app.
More often than not if the app supports high resolution images, you will need to go in to the preference to check the default settings. Be sure to select your image quality and size settings if needed before you start importing images.  Not doing so could result in disappointing image quality and very tiny images that will not be in print quality should you wish to print them.
Also check that the app is saving a copy to your camera roll and not over writing the original image. You can run into this on occasion.
If you happen to have an iPhone you’ll find that many of the editing apps will work on your iPad too.  Problems that you might encounter if using them on your iPad is the orientation work space and output size limitations.
Older iPhone and non-Universial apps will open small and in the middle of your of your iPad screen, just click on the 2x button that appears at the bottom right of the screen. The app should expand to fill the screen. You will probably only be able to use it in portrait mode with those types of apps.  Be sure to look at the file size and output quality on these apps.  They may have some limits based on the iPhone’s  image  sizes.
Many of the image editing  apps will allow you to upload your images directly to various social and image sharing services.  These will need to be set up in your individual app’s  preferences.

For Basic Image Editing

These apps are for editing your files, adjusting color, contrast, sharping, repairing areas and redeye, cropping etc. Some might also allow you to add some effects and borders.


This is a super easy, simple to use app made by Apple. It  works with your camera roll, and can be synced with either your desktop version of iPhoto or Aperture. It offers lots of very nice basic editing tools and some advanced features.  Most of your adjustments can be applied across the whole image or brushed on to just specific parts. This is a great app and should be able to meet most peoples everyday editing needs.  iPad version is $5, the desktop version comes free with your Mac and is part of the iLife suite of software. There is nice in app help at a press of an icon and video tutorials at the iPhoto web site.


This app is now owned by Google but originally created by Nik. Nik has a long history of  making great of photo editing tools. Snapseed allows you to place points down on your image, adjust the size of the  selected area and then apply brightness, contrast and saturation to just that selection.  You can add many points to your image for lots of control over how the image is adjusted.  Also included are controls for sharpening, cropping, and also borders and effects.  This is another  quick but powerful image editor and it is free!

PicShop HD – Photo Editor

Is a nice app with many basic editing options and also some advanced features as well.  Some of the most popular effects for today’s social media snapers are included.  App supports images up to 8MP.
There are some auto effects, borders, stickers, a tilt shift and focal options.
It comes in both a free and paid for version.
At this point I could not find the developer of this app’s website.

Pixlr Express+

This is a great creative app.  It is free right now, not sure for how long.
Pixlr Express+ has all the basic everyday editing controls you need to fine tune your image. Additionally they give you over 600 effects that are created with all kinds of overlays and borders and they work on full sized images. There are a number of default effects preloaded but lots more that can to be downloaded. They let you decide which ones you want rather than filling up your device from the start.  These are also free at this point in time. Another great feature is their website, you can edit your images on line through their web interface from your laptop or desktop.
Developers website:


This app has plenty of features for some advanced editing. Most notably missing from the app are selection tools and layers. Any changes made to the image will affect the whole image.  This is why it is with this category of editing apps and not with the ones below.
It does have curves adjustments, some nice brush on editing effects like cloning, healing, dodge, burn, blur, with masks. It also has a handfull of popular effects, but other apps above and below have a few more options. This app offers tons of export to options and supports the RAW image format, a very nice feature.
You can expect to pay 2.99 for this app. There is also and in App 7.99 upgrade to the pro version of the app. It says it will allow you to have customizable local adjustments, define your own IPTC sets, paste GPS data on multiple photos, independently control your RGB curve channels, and control your jpeg output quality.  Of note this app is not universal you will have to buy a separate version if you have an iPhone.
 Developers website has info and training videos:

Advance Editing Apps

This category of apps allows for more complex editing, such as layers, masks and blend modes. Most of the apps listed below are used by professional photographers when editing on their mobile devices. Some will even allow for editing super large files. These apps are more likely than not to have to be paid for. Although sometimes the makers will set as free for some promotional period.  Prices for these full featured apps can run from free -$15.00.

PS Touch

If you are an experienced  Photoshop user you may want to check out PSTouch, it is made by Adobe.  The interface is a bit challenging, but with that you get some selection tools, gradients, cloning, masking, layers and blend modes. There are also some very good tutorials built into the app. This is not to be confused with the free PS Express App. The cost for Photoshop Touch is 9.99.
Photo Forge 2
Photo Forge 2 is a powerful editor which supports most RAW formats and images up to 20 mega pixels. It offers layer, masking, transforming, opacity and blend modes, curves, editing color spaces, exposure, white balance, and copy and paste between layers. You will also get the usual crop and resize options and all the favorite filters and effects as well as customizable filters. It even offers a visual history of your work. The interface is straight forward. There are lots of ways to share your images.  lots more features as well. If you are looking for a serious editing experience this might be the app for you. You can get your copy for  2.99.
Find out more at their website:


Filterstorm offers much the same features as Photo Forge 2.  There is a 5 layer max, if you make a 6th the bottom 2 merge automatically.
File sizes export 7.5 MP for V1 iPads and 22MP for V2 ipads and 4s phones and up. Although at this point in time they recommend that you save out as a flat 17mp to make the saving process faster. It supports most of the RAW file formats that are supported by Apple, but be sure to look at the website for more information to see if your RAW format is among them.
The price is 3.99 for the standard app and 14.99 for the Pro version. The difference is in file organization and batch processing. Also the pro is dedicated to the iPad where the regular version is universal.
Visit the App website:
If you are really into creating and editing image on your mobile device, be sure to check out the Photo Effects  and Photo Utilities Apps pages as well.



One Comment

  1. Really Nice!! I found the best resource about it. Hope it will be helpful for others who search for the best resource like me. Thank you so much.

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