At Zion & Zion, we use photo editing apps to add creativity and flair to lower-resolution images for projects like social media posts. With that said, there are so many photo editing apps in the marketplace these days. Deciding on the best one for your needs can be a daunting task.
After researching and testing dozens of the most popular apps, I’ve narrowed down that list to my top five. I based my decisions mostly on two criteria: 1) ease of use, and 2) advanced editing and creative filtering options.
Snapseed is a very popular, all-purpose photo editor developed by Google. It’s easy to use and has 11 filter presets called Looks, as well as 28 pro-level editing tools.
Each Look contains a preset combination of editing tools that can be applied to your photo with one tap. For example, the Morning preset utilizes the white balance, details, and curves tools to give your photo a warm atmospheric feel, while the Silhouette preset converts your image to a high contrast black and white image with no grey tones.
The Tools in Snapseed include a healing brush for removing unwanted elements in your photos, which can be handy. There are also vintage colors, grunge overlays, perspective adjustments, and grainy film effects, all adjustable by swiping your finger over the image left to right, while each Tool sub-menu appears when you swipe up and down. You can also create a miniature scene effect using the Lens Blur tool. You can selectively mask any or all the tool effects used on your photo with a brush you control with the touch of your finger. Snapseed allows you to undo and redo your edits, and fine tune them with precision. You can also add text and frames to complete your masterpiece.
This app allows you to use images in jpeg or dng (RAW) format, and then export the edited version. Snapseed is a free app, available on both iOS and Android platforms.
VSCO is a free app that offers ten presets you can apply to the photos you import, or the ones you take with its integrated camera. You can use these one-tap presets or create your own recipes. You can also upgrade to the Full VSCO X Experience which gives you access to 130+ presets, plus additional editing tools.
VSCO has numerous editing tools that come standard with the free version, ranging from the usual cropping tool, to brightness and contrast, to popular effects like retro-style tints, and more.
This app also lets you organize your filters, add imported or newly taken pictures to a gallery for easy access, and share your images with a community of over 30 million active users.
VSCO is a free app, but also comes with the option to upgrade to the Full VSCO X Experience for $19.99 per month, with a seven-day free trail. VSCO is available on both iOS and Android platforms.
Prisma is a very creative and fun photo editing app that offers a wide range of artistic filters, using cloud computing to turn your photos into works of art. Prisma comes with 50 free styles, with an additional 275+ that can be purchased through their Premium Membership upgrade.
The Prima Classic collection of artistic styles include titles like Dreams, Mosaic, and Gothic, while the Special Collection offers styles like Portrait, Friends, and Gelato. You can adjust the opacity of these effects on your image by swiping the image from left to right, from 0 to 100%. You can also isolate the subject in your image and apply the style to just the subject, or just the background around the subject. Prisma allows you to view your work in a split-screen so you can see the difference between the original image and your artistic creation as you edit.
Prisma lets you import photos or use the in-app camera to take pictures for editing. You’re also able to share your creations on any social media app or send them via messaging or email.
Prisma is a free app, but comes with the option to upgrade to their Premium Membership for $4.99 for one month or $19.99 for 12 months, both with a three-day free trial. Prisma is available on both iOS and Android platforms.
4. Afterlight 2
Afterlight 2 is an app that offers an enormous variety of filter options. These variations are presented in categories including dust, light leaks, light prisms, color shifts for a 3D effect, and double exposures that includes almost 100 variations. You can adjust the opacity of the filters, and vary the placement of some effects by using your fingers to swipe, pinch, expand, or rotate. There are also several presets you can choose from, including one named Zion, which combine a multitude of effects to your image with one touch. Afterlight 2 also has your standard adjustment tools like crop, rotate, and skew.
You can add text, artwork like quotes, stickers, or botanicals, and frames to your photos, and edit them in separate layers. Save your work of art and post on your favorite social media app or message to a friend.
Afterlight 2 is a free app that’s available in both iOS and Android platforms.
5. Lens Distortions
Lens Distortions uses photos for its many filters. For example, the Light Hits collection uses images taken from actual sunlight, giving you lens flares that have an authentic look. Filter categories include subjects like Fog, Rain, Snow, and Shimmer, all using actual photographic elements as overlays.
This app is fun and very easy to use. You can adjust the effects by using your fingers to swipe, pinch, expand, or rotate. You can also add multiple filters as layers and edit them independently.
Lens Distortions is a free app with a basic collection of lens effects. You can upgrade to LD Unlimited to get access to an expanded array of filters for $0.99 a month. This app is available on both iOS and Android platforms.
Download one or all of these great apps to make the most of your photo editing. The apps offer tutorials so you can master your skills, and there are videos on YouTube where you can learn a wide range of tips and tricks and take your smartphone camera creativity to the next level.