Your iPhone takes beautiful photos, but the right apps can make them even better. Most photographers accept post-production as a part of their workflow, but a lot of the time our smartphone images miss out on this important step.
There’s no shortage of solid photo editors for iPhone, and plenty of the options are free. Here are some of the best free photo editing apps for iPhone.
Your iPhone already comes with an impressive image editor built right into the Photos app. Launch the app, find a photo, and tap Edit in the top-right corner of the screen to access the editor.
Here you can crop and rotate your image, apply filters, and adjust a wide variety of parameters. Rescue the highlights and shadows, adjust exposure and contrast, or convert to black and white.
Photos has its limitations, however. While it can handle RAW files, it only serves up lossy JPEGs to other apps. That means you can’t make edits in Photos and export a RAW to other apps without first duplicating it.
2. Google Snapseed
Google’s Snapseed is a photo editing powerhouse on both iOS and Android. The app support RAW editing, which makes it a candidate for the best free image editor on those platforms.
In addition to several filters, which Snapseed refers to as Looks, there’s a dizzying array of editing tools to choose from. These range from the basics to perspective shifts, selective coloring, instant HDR, and extensive monochrome filters and options.
The app controls well too. Just drag left and right to adjust a parameter’s strength, or drag up and down to change the parameter.
Download: Google Snapseed (Free)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one photo editing app with a host of different tools, it’s hard to go wrong with Afterlight.
You can start editing with advanced tools like curves, grain, overlays/gradients, and more. Then you can add unique touches with filters, textures and overlays, frames and borders, and fonts. The app also supports RAW images.
With a subscription, you can take advantage of the entire library of 130 unique filters, 20 dusty film overlays, and touch tool adjustments to edit a photo with simple on-screen gestures.
Download: Afterlight (Free, subscription available)
The app offers great tools to edit all types of images, including Live Photos, Portrait mode images, and RAW photos. You can even create a custom filter from scratch or use one of the built-in options.
Using a batch processing feature, you can easily apply edits and filters to a number of photos at once.
For access to a color tool, curves tool, additional filters, the ability to protect images with a watermark, and a custom icon, you’ll need to purchase a subscription.
Download: Darkroom (Free, subscription available)
5. Enlight Photofox
Enlight Photofox wants to do more than just provide a way to edit your images. You can turn any photo into a work of art in just a few taps by using selections from the QuickArt or Readymades sections.
For more advanced editing features, the app provides tutorials that showcase other concepts, such as glitch art.
You’ll need to subscribe to access all the different art styles, frames, tools, and more. Subscribers are also able to create unlimited layers in their photo creations.
Download: Enlight Photofox (Free, subscription available)
Prisma is an app unlike any other. When you load an image into Prisma, it sends that image to a server where it’s converted into a particular style of art. These styles are modeled on great artists like Picasso and Matisse, but also venture into comic book and futuristic territory.
You can adjust the strength of the filter, which is fortunate since the app produces a mixture of impressive and slightly-off images. Some filters produce images that really look like computer-generated artwork; others transform images into something weird and wonderful.
Prisma has some of its features locked behind a premium account. If you want more styles, unlimited HD renders, and an ad-free experience, you’ll need to subscribe.
Download: Prisma (Free, subscription available)
7. Lens Distortions
This app is all about emulating the look of fancy glass, weather effects, and lighting. It also includes some basic photo editing tools and uses layers to blend various effects together.
In addition to lens distortions, like blurs and flares, the app includes bokeh balls, fog, rain, snow, and shimmering effects. You can adjust the intensity, position, and scale of the effects as you see fit. It’s a great step toward achieving that vintage photography feel with any image already on your iPhone.
To unlock even more effects and filters, sign up for the premium subscription. You can also expand the various categories by buying packs outright if you’d rather pay once and keep them forever.
Download: Lens Distortions (Free, in-app purchases available)
You’ll either love or hate VSCO’s abstract and minimalist interface. To its credit, the app has improved over time with better labels on its editing tools and a more straightforward approach to image editing.
It’s also the only app on this list capable of capturing RAW images. Tap on the camera and then change the image format to RAW to capture much more visual data every time you press the shutter.
The app brings great levels of complexity to RAW editing, with a number of filters included and more available with a VSCO X subscription.
Download: VSCO (Free, in-app purchases available)
9. Polarr Photo Editor
Polarr Photo Editor makes great use of AI and other tools like face detection to make it easier to edit images. Face detection will automatically select a face and allow you to fine-tune different aspects, like skin tone and other facial features. The AI detection can also isolate features of a photo, like the sky, to make it easier to edit different parts of the image.
Thanks to over 10 blending modes, you can superimpose photos and add effects like cloud, light leaks, and more. You’ll also find a bundle of other editing tools for every level of photographer.
With a subscription, you can unlock all of the app’s available filters, overlays, and other tools. It will also back up all custom filters. As a nice touch, the subscription will also carry over to the desktop and web versions of the Polarr app.
Download: Polarr Photo Editor (Free, in-app purchases available)
Free Photo Apps for Better iPhone Pictures
Now you can perform a variety of edits on your iPhone photos using nothing but your device. A bit of work will make your images look even better.
If you’re serious about your photography, you should consider shooting in RAW. RAW captures more detail than a lossy JPEG, meaning you can push your images further in post-production.