When I got my first cell phone in 2004 (RIP Nokia block phone) everyone couldn’t stop oohing and aahing over the fact that rather than the slightly green tinted black and white of most other models available at the time, its screen was in glorious color. Today, our phone screens are not only in color, but have clear and vibrant resolutions that surpass the quality of many of the digital cameras that were available at the time. With these advances in mobile image technology, there’s simply no excuse for bad photos in this day and age. As your social media presence is only as good as the images you are sharing, it’s worth the extra bit of effort and time to make them the best they can be. From adding filters to changing brightness, saturation, and colors, the possibilities for enhancing the look of your pictures are endless with all of the editing programs available today.
With the overwhelming amount of both free and paid apps and programs available, we asked our visually-savvy Twitter followers to share their favorite photo editing app and they answered the call. Whether you use the camera on your phone or a standalone camera, the image editors picked by our followers are sure to take any photo from terrible to shareable—no darkroom required.
What's your favorite photo editing app? pic.twitter.com/y6xV8Fevxl
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) October 19, 2015
The two most popular responses we received were for the extremely popular apps VSCO Cam and Snapseed. This is unsurprising, as sites such as “The Digital Camera” claim they are “the two applications that all photographic smartphones should have.” Both very user-friendly tools, Snapseed and VSCO Cam definitely have their own unique strengths.
VSCO Cam (Free for iOS and Android)
— TheCantineCo (@TheCantineCo) October 19, 2015
If you are at all interested in phone photography, you have most likely heard of VSCO Cam (free in the App Store and Google Play), or have seen the hashtag #VSCOcam on countless Instagram photos. When downloaded, VSCO Cam will adjust its settings according to the model of phone you are using, and provide the tools and filters to grant you the best results. Once in the app, you can either use the built-in camera to take the photo (recommended, as you can adjust exposure, focus, etc.) or upload a photo from your phone’s regular photo library and then use VSCO Cam’s editing tools to perfect your vision. As far as editing goes, the filters provided for free in the app are in a league of their own in their exquisite simplicity, and won’t give your photo that cringeworthy over-edited look that many other editing app filters do. Along with applying filters, you can adjust the photo’s elements including brightness, contrast, temperature, fade, and sharpness, among many other features.
— Raquel (@Quelalex) October 19, 2015
To help you get the most out of the app, here are some tips for using VSCO Cam provided by photographers around the web:
“To find the filters you use regularly fast every time you open VSCOcam, simply go to settings>preset preferences and drag your favourite filters to the top. That way, you can conveniently access your most-liked filters without having to scroll.” – Amanda Mabel
“Layer multiple filters to obtain interesting effects – about 2 filters per photo are my standard. Do ensure that you don’t use so many filters that the photo ends up destroyed!” – Amanda Mabel
If editing a photo shot with a digital camera, use the tint tool and try adding a bit of magenta as many digital cameras tend to “pull green” – Erin Paris
— Rachel Harris (@_rachelharris) October 20, 2015
Snapseed (Free for iOS and Android)
— Joe Iker Maalouf (@Jomaalouf) October 19, 2015
Snapseed is another favorite amongst both professional and casual mobile photographers alike. The app’s features and interface are easy enough for the everyday beginner to quickly prepare their photos for Instagram, but offer a depth that more advanced photographers will appreciate. The developer behind Snapseed is a little company you may have heard of called Google, and they recently released Version 2.0 which introduced a new, even easier to use interface and a wider offering of features and tools. With this, you can still apply the tune image, details, selective focus, and more by sliding your finger up and down or left and right, which gives you more control over the edits. There are now brush, spot repair, and transform tools which can bring your images as close to perfection as possible.
— BIG (@OscarMedia) October 19, 2015
To help you get the most out of this essential app, here are some basic tips for using Snapseed:
If you forget what each of the icons mean, you can simply click the question mark icon and a very helpful overlay will appear, labeling each of the features
Use the stacks feature to go back and see your photo before any number of previous edits, without having to redo the entire thing
Use the pinch zoom feature to see a close up of an edit you have made for the most detailed view of your image
Thanks to Instagram’s mammoth popularity, countless apps and programs have been introduced specifically for the app. Some brought up by those who responded to our Twitter question include:
InstaSize (Free for iOS and Android)
— ????2 DAYS LATER???? (@hustlernature) October 19, 2015
InstaSize takes your regular sized photos and adjusts them so that they will fit to Instagram’s sizing guidelines. In doing this, your image resolution isn’t lost like with other automatic sizing apps. It also offers filters and basic editing tools.
Instabox/Insta Pic Square (Free for iOS and Android)
@hootsuite Instabox is great!
— Matti Perkkiö (@mattiperkkio) October 20, 2015
Instabox (iOS) or Insta Pic Square (Android) will resize images without reducing their quality in order to fit into Instagram’s ideal guidelines. It also offers over 100 collage templates and frames for if you’re feeling fancy.
Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet to quickly find the best image sizes for every social network and learn how you can use Hootsuite to easily add them to any post.
Mobile and desktop
Sometimes you want to have the option of editing photos on both your phone and your desktop for the cross-device convenience this provides. While editing photos on the run is easy, being able to view and edit on a larger screen is unmatched for precision and quality. Numerous responses to our Twitter question suggested programs that have both mobile and desktop versions, including the following.
Pixlr (Free for desktop, iOS, Android)
@hootsuite pixlr is my favourite app
— Rivelino Rigters (@blackrockstar78) October 19, 2015
Pixlr is a photo-editing program that offers not only a downloadable desktop version but a web-based one along with a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices. The downloadable desktop version offers the most features, but the popular Pixlr web app offers two options: “Pixlr Editor,” which works in layers and “Pixlr Express,” which offers quick fixes and overlays for photos. The mobile app, “Autodesk Pixlr,” allows you to “quickly crop, rotate, and fine-tune any image.” The app alone boasts over two million photo possibilities available, allowing for extra-personalized images.
— One Canvas One Soul (@1canvas1soul) October 20, 2015
@hootsuite photoshop of course
— Elsie Whitelock (@GoBeyondLines) October 19, 2015
We didn’t expect that a question about photo-editing programs would forget about Adobe Photoshop. The desktop version is the most powerful image-editing software available and is widely considered the industry standard for professional photographers. It’s safe to say that most of the professional images you see on a daily basis have been edited with Photoshop. If you want to do something to a photo, chances are that you can do it with Photoshop. Everything from creating 3D imaging to removing blemishes, morphing two photos together, and switching colors around, are possible with the program.
However, this unparalleled range of features comes at a price, making the desktop, full version of Photoshop an investment, especially if you are simply a casual everyday mobile phone photographer. Recognizing the desire for a more accessible version of Photoshop on the go, Adobe introduced the Adobe Photoshop Express app (Free for iOS and Android). The app offers basics such as cropping, straightening, rotating, and red-eye solutions, as well as more advanced features like blemish removal, corrections, “auto-fix”, “looks” (their version of filters), and many more customizable options.
@hootsuite iPhoto for quick edits and Photoshop for serious work.
— Justin Beausoleil (@viralbee) October 20, 2015
Along with the most popular mentioned above, these are some other photo editing apps and programs mentioned as your favorites:
Canva (Free, online and for iPad)
— Social Network Diva (@prism4) October 20, 2015
Both a web-based program and an iPad app, Canva features an easy-to-use drag and drop feature for creating professional-looking graphics and design. According to their website, Canva’s main purpose is to help you “design presentations, social media graphics, and more with thousands of beautiful layouts.”
Pablo (Free, online)
— Troy Muir (@Troy_Muir) October 20, 2015
The stunning web-based program Pablo allows anyone to easily create social media-ready images, and as of October 2015, over 500,000 images have been created this way. According to Entrepreneur, Pablo allows users to “choose from stock images or upload their own photos, which they can then overlay with icons, (like a company logo,) or text. Images are created in under 30 seconds and are ideal for entrepreneurs looking to stand out in a cluttered social world.”
— Navicore Solutions (@navicorePR) October 19, 2015
The A Beautiful Mess app is an extension of the popular lifestyle blogging website of the same name. The free app allows users to add filters, fonts, hand drawn doodles, and other fun add-ons that follow the bright and colorful aesthetic of the brand. Users can also instantly share to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter easily, and through the popular hashtag #ABeautifulMess, join the community of creators.