The 8 best free photo editing apps available in 2021

Smartphone cameras are improving with every release, keeping up with our obsession with taking photos and sharing memories. Although the technology is advancing, we still sometimes need software to make our photos pop.

A staggering 1.8 billion photos are shared every day, with photo editing apps helping many of us create that perfect snap that our cameras just couldn’t capture. If you want your next upload to be picture-perfect, use one of these free apps below. 

What is a photo editing app?

Simply put, a photo editing app allows you to adjust the appearance of the photos you’ve taken. As they’re designed with phones in mind, they are extremely convenient and can be used on the go. You can change a whole host of aspects, like the colour, contrast, clarity and brightness of pictures, as well as advanced features like removing impurities or imperfections. You can also add filters to completely change up the look. 

The best free photo editing apps

Check out our favourite free iPhone and Android photo editing apps on the market today: 

For the beginner - Instagram

Apple

Android

Can upload immediately to social media

Up to 25 filters to experiment with 

Easy for businesses and influencers to consistently brand their images
 

Social media is addictive

Not enough features and choices for the more advanced photographer

With over 1 billion users each month, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms to date. It’s a visual platform where you can share photos and videos for others to see.

You can then edit your images using Instagram’s array of colour palettes and filters to change the contrast and brightness, as well as adding symbols and stickers. Instagram is more than just filters though - you can do more advanced tweaks such as warmth, saturation, shadows, highlights, and sharpness.

You can then easily upload the picture straight to the platform, as well as the option to share on Facebook. 

For the professional - Snapseed

Apple

Android

Different levels of complexity

29 features - from classic to complicated

Saves edit history
 

Could be overwhelming for a beginner

If you’ve been editing photos for a while and know a little bit more about what you’re doing, you may be interested in Snapseed. The app offers a whole host of features, like precision masking to alter the depth of images (this allows professional photographers to blur different background elements and clarify foreground imagery), and the “Selective Adjust” tool which gives you greater precision when wanting to edit only a portion of a photo. 

You can also create your own filters and easily undo changes, as all of your editing history is saved on the app. 

For businesses - Canva

Apple

Android

Great for creating digital assets

Multi-purpose: good for photos, posters, logo design and leaflets

Can share to social media and your own website
 

Less features than others, due to multipurpose function

Canva is a great app for businesses who want to create visual art to brand and portray their company. You can create a host of marketing imagery, as well as upload and edit your own photos. 

It’s more of a graphic creation tool than a strict image editor, but it still lets you make basic changes. Place visuals, stickers, filters, and more on your images to transform them from simple to professional in a few easy steps.

For smart technology - Adobe Photoshop Express

Apple

Android

In-built AI technology to help adjust photos automatically 

Includes tutorials to assist beginners in their understanding of photoshop tools
 

Have to sign up for an Adobe ID account (although it’s free)

Have to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription to access more sophisticated features

Adobe Photoshop Express is perfect for people who want to edit their photos, but aren’t sure exactly what to do to them.

The app uses AI technology and a host of other smart filters to automatically make corrections to the picture you upload, such as contrast and exposure issues. For a more guided experience in the world of photo editing, this app is for you. 

For quick changes - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Apple

Android

Great for more professional photographers

High-quality tools presented simply for easier navigation
 

Have to sign up for an Adobe ID account (although it’s free)

Have to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription to access more sophisticated features

Not beginner-friendly

Another of the Adobe Creative Cloud family, the Lightroom app allows users to adjust the light, distortion, grain, detail, and overall colour palette of photos. The tools are designed for people who know what they’re doing, and can be difficult for beginners to understand. 

The app is compatible with RAW files, a popular format for professional photographers, as well as standard image formats, like jpeg and png.

For classic filters - VSCO

Apple

Android

Includes an online community of like-minded photographers

Filters are lightweight and subtle, and easily adjustable with sliders 

Can share directly to platforms, including VSCO, Instagram, and WhatsApp
 

Not for heavy editing

Not much more to offer outside of filters and minor colour/light adjustments

VSCO gives photos a more unique quality than many other editing softwares. It focuses on retro-style presets, like Grain and Fade, for that polaroid effect which differs from the clear, vivid, and ‘poppy’ filters you see on Instagram. 

The app also allows users to create montages by collating videos, images, and shapes into a collage. Explore the customisable colours and exposures to add different layers and moods to your combined media, including editing the video itself with VSCO presets.

You can share your images across multiple other platforms, like messaging and social media. 

For the artist - Enlight Photofox

Apple

Perfect for artists who like combining drawing and photography, or prefer photo-realistic art

The app won the Apple Design Award (2017)

Includes tutorials to help guide you to use the app and its various tools
 

For Apple users only (sorry Android fans!)

Can be complex for beginners

Limited free options - have to pay for a subscription to access all features

Enlight Photofox is the app for artists who like to combine drawing with photography. You can blend photos, explore the variety of filters and graphics available to add, and create glitch art (distorted, multicolored, layered, abstract art). 

Much like Photoshop, you can adjust photos with a bunch of advanced tools to correct and enhance your imagery. You can also draw and paint directly onto your photos for added effects, choosing from a range of brushes and sizes. 

Though it’s free to download, you’ll have to pay to unlock all of its features. 

For foodies - Foodie

Apple

Android

Great for food photography editing

Can share images to many platforms

Over 30 foodie filters

Photo and video tools 
 

Not so great with anything but food

Foodie is the perfect app for anyone obsessed with sharing photographs of their meals. You can choose from a range of specific filters to enhance the colouring and tone of your photo, like BBQ, Crispy, Chewy, and Tropical. Filters can be applied to photos and videos alike, good for businesses. 

The app includes guides to help you perfect your editing skills, as well as a mute button and timer to assist in public shoots. 

You can share your images to Facebook and Instagram. 
 

There you have it - our top 8 free photo editing apps that you can use for a variety of different styles. Remember though, just because you can edit a photo doesn’t mean you have to - there is nothing wrong with our natural features or the world around us. 

Whether you’re just starting your photo-editing journey, or are a seasoned pro, you should consider a smartphone with a good camera to capture those memories. If you’re looking for more advice on how to take and edit photos, check out our top photography tips


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