Best Photo Editing Apps

Updated on
January 16, 2024
Best Tools
January 16, 2024

The Ideal Photo App: How to Pick?

The apps on a smartphone flying off it with a paint brush stroke background
Photo: Canva

In the age of Instagram influencers and smartphone photography, a stunning image is worth a thousand likes. But have you ever wondered how these visual masterpieces are crafted before they make it to your feed? Behind every breathtaking photo lies the silent strokes of editing genius. Welcome to the world of photo manipulation, where the line between the real and the enhanced blurs into artistic perfection. With an estimated 1.2 trillion photos taken in a single year, the power of a good photo editing app has never been more influential. But amidst the sea of options, which ones truly stand out?

Imagine transforming your photos from ordinary to extraordinary with just a few taps on your screen. It's not just about slapping on a filter; it's about fine-tuning the light, the contrast, the composition until it tells the story you want it to. "Photography is the story I fail to put into words," said Destin Sparks, and a good photo editing app can be the pen you need. From the casual selfie enhancer to the aspiring professional, there's a tool for everyone. But which app will suit your narrative? Will it be the precision of Adobe Photoshop Express or the versatility of Snapseed? Could VSCO's presets be your creative ally, or will Adobe Lightroom's advanced features unlock your photo's potential? Perhaps the artistic flair of PicsArt or the graphic design simplicity of Canva will cater to your vision. With each app offering a unique palette of features, the question isn't just which app is the best, but which is the best for you.

1. Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express is a powerful entry in Adobe's suite of image editing software, designed for those who want to quickly edit and enhance their photos on the go. This streamlined version of Photoshop boasts a user-friendly interface that is accessible on mobile devices and tablets, making it a popular choice for casual photographers and social media enthusiasts.

Adobe Photoshop Express' PC thumbnail
Photo: Adobe Photoshop Express


  • Advanced Editing Tools: Photoshop Express comes equipped with a wide array of editing tools and filters that rival its desktop counterpart. Users can adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, and more with precision. The app also includes a variety of one-touch filters, allowing for instant transformations of your images.
  • Professional Quality: Despite being a mobile platform, Photoshop Express does not compromise on quality. It produces high-resolution images that can meet professional standards, making it suitable for both personal and commercial use.
  • Integration: For those already invested in the Adobe ecosystem, Photoshop Express integrates seamlessly with other Adobe products. Users can easily import and export between applications like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Creative Cloud for a more synchronized workflow.
  • Cloud Storage: As part of the Adobe family, users can take advantage of Creative Cloud storage, ensuring that their work is backed up and accessible across devices.
  • AI Enhancements: Leveraging Adobe's AI technology, Photoshop Express provides features like auto-fix and one-touch enhancements, which can significantly speed up the editing process and improve results.


  • Learning Curve: While more accessible than its desktop counterpart, Photoshop Express still has a learning curve, especially for users who are new to photo editing. The range of tools and options can be overwhelming at first.
  • Subscription Model: To unlock its full potential, Photoshop Express requires a subscription. While there is a free version available, it comes with limitations on features and tools, which can be a drawback for users looking for a one-time purchase.
  • Limited Features Compared to Desktop: Although impressive for a mobile app, Photoshop Express does not have all the features and capabilities of the full version of Adobe Photoshop. Professionals might find it lacking for more complex editing tasks.
  • Advertisements: The free version of Photoshop Express includes ads, which can be intrusive and detract from the user experience.
  • Device Compatibility: Some advanced features may not be available on all devices, which can be frustrating for users with older or less powerful smartphones or tablets.

In summary, Adobe Photoshop Express is a robust photo editing tool for mobile users, balancing professional quality with user convenience. It stands out for its cloud integration and advanced tools, although it may present a learning curve for new users and its full feature set comes at the cost of a subscription.

2. Snapseed

Google LLC's app Snapseed's icon thumbnail
Photo: Snapseed

Snapseed, developed by Google, is a comprehensive photo-editing application that has gained popularity due to its user-friendly interface and robust set of features. It's designed for both novices and photography enthusiasts who want to enhance their images on-the-go.


  • User-Friendly Interface: Snapseed boasts an intuitive interface that makes it easy for beginners to navigate. Its simple layout and touch gestures allow users to adjust their photos with minimal effort.
  • Free to Use: This app is completely free, offering a full suite of editing tools without any hidden costs, subscriptions, or in-app purchases, which is a significant advantage for casual users and professionals alike.
  • Powerful Tools: Snapseed comes with a plethora of editing tools, such as selective adjust, which lets you fine-tune specific areas of your photo without affecting the rest. Its range of tools includes basic adjustments like brightness and contrast, as well as more sophisticated options like curves and white balance.
  • Non-Destructive Editing: One of the key benefits of Snapseed is its non-destructive editing feature. This means that you can revert back to the original photo at any time without losing quality.
  • Supports RAW Files: For those who shoot in RAW, Snapseed provides the capability to edit these files directly, which is a big plus for photography purists and professionals.


  • Limited Features: While Snapseed is powerful, it doesn't match the advanced features and fine-tuning capabilities found in professional desktop apps like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
  • No Desktop Version: Snapseed is tailored for mobile use, available on iOS and Android devices. However, this means there's no desktop version for users who prefer editing on a larger screen with more precise controls.
  • Learning Curve for Advanced Features: Although the interface is user-friendly, some of the more advanced features can have a steeper learning curve for those who are new to photo editing.
  • Limited Sharing Options: The app could improve by offering more integrated sharing features. Currently, users have to save their edited photos and then share them from their device's gallery or another app.
  • No Batch Editing: Unlike some desktop applications, Snapseed doesn't offer batch editing, which means users have to edit each photo individually, potentially consuming more time.

In conclusion, Snapseed is an excellent choice for mobile photography enthusiasts looking for a cost-effective, powerful photo editing tool. It strikes a balance between ease of use and a comprehensive set of features, although it may not completely satisfy the needs of professional photographers used to more advanced desktop software.


VSCO's logo
Photo: VSCO

VSCO is an app that has carved out a niche for itself among photo enthusiasts and social media influencers. It's celebrated for its high-quality, film-like filters that provide images with a distinctive look. Let's delve deeper into the pros and cons of using VSCO for your photo editing needs.


  • Stylish Filters: VSCO sets itself apart with a suite of aesthetic and modern filters that mimic the grain and warmth of film photography. These presets are meticulously crafted to enhance photos with a professional and chic appearance.
  • Community Aspect: VSCO isn't just a photo-editing app; it's also a platform for creative expression. Users can share their work within the app's community, fostering an environment of inspiration and discovery among like-minded photography enthusiasts.
  • Easy to Use: With its user-friendly interface, VSCO allows for quick and straightforward edits. This makes it a great option for those looking to apply high-quality filters without a steep learning curve.
  • Advanced Camera Controls: For those who want more control over their photography, VSCO offers advanced camera settings within the app, allowing users to adjust focus, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO before taking a shot.
  • Educational Content: VSCO provides tutorials and tips, which can be incredibly helpful for users looking to improve their photography and editing skills.


  • Subscription for Full Access: VSCO operates on a freemium model, which means that while the app is free to download, many of its most popular filters and editing tools are only available through a paid subscription.
  • Limited Editing Tools: While VSCO excels in its filter selection, it falls short in providing a comprehensive set of editing tools. Users looking for advanced features such as layer editing or detailed retouching might find VSCO's offerings too basic.
  • No Desktop Version: Unlike some of its competitors, VSCO does not offer a desktop application, which can be a significant drawback for users who prefer editing on larger screens.
  • Social Features Lack Depth: Although VSCO has a community aspect, the social features are not as developed as other platforms like Instagram. The focus is more on individual expression rather than social interaction and engagement.
  • No Video Editing: VSCO is primarily designed for photo editing, and users seeking to edit videos will need to look elsewhere, as the app does not support video editing features.

In conclusion, VSCO is an excellent choice for anyone who values simplicity and style in their photo editing process. However, those requiring more robust editing capabilities or social networking features might consider exploring additional apps that cater more closely to those needs.

4. Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom's thumbnail logo
Photo: Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is a powerhouse in the realm of photo editing, widely celebrated for its comprehensive suite of professional-grade tools. Designed to cater to the needs of professional photographers and serious hobbyists, Lightroom offers an array of advanced features that enable users to refine and enhance their images with precision.


  • Professional Tools: Lightroom is equipped with a robust set of editing tools that meet the demands of professional workflows. Users can take advantage of features like RAW file processing, color grading, and batch editing to ensure their photos stand out with a professional finish.
  • Cloud Storage: With seamless integration into Adobe's Cloud services, Lightroom provides users with the convenience of cloud storage. This means that photographers can access and edit their photos from any location, on any device, ensuring a flexible and uninterrupted workflow.
  • Mobile and Desktop Versions: Adobe understands the need for accessibility, which is why Lightroom is available on both mobile and desktop platforms. This cross-compatibility allows for a synchronized editing experience, so you can start editing on your desktop and make final adjustments on your mobile device, or vice versa.
  • Non-Destructive Editing: One of the key advantages of Lightroom is its non-destructive editing feature. This means that the original image files remain untouched while you apply edits, which can be reversed or changed at any time without loss of quality.
  • Presets and Profiles: To speed up the editing process, Lightroom offers a variety of presets and profiles. These are essentially one-click solutions for applying specific looks or adjustments to your photos, which can also be customized and saved for future use.


  • Subscription-Based: One of the major drawbacks of Lightroom is its subscription-based model. Users are required to pay a monthly fee to access the service, which can add up over time and may not be the most cost-effective solution for everyone.
  • Complex for Beginners: While Lightroom's comprehensive feature set is a boon for professionals, it can be quite daunting for beginners. The learning curve is steep, and new users might find the interface and multitude of options overwhelming.
  • Performance Issues: Some users have reported performance issues with Lightroom, particularly when dealing with large catalogs or high-resolution images. This can lead to slower processing times and may affect overall efficiency.
  • Limited Photo Manipulation: Unlike its sibling software, Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom is not designed for extensive photo manipulation. While it excels at photo adjustments and enhancements, users looking for advanced manipulation capabilities might find Lightroom lacking.

Adobe Lightroom remains a top choice for photo editing software, offering a balance of professional tools and convenience. Despite its few downsides, its strengths make it a go-to solution for many photographers looking to streamline their editing process and maintain a high standard of quality in their work.

5. PicsArt

PicsArt's logo
Photo: PicsArt

PicsArt is a comprehensive photo-editing app that goes beyond basic filters and cropping. It's a creative platform that combines editing, drawing, and collage making, all in one place. With its extensive suite of tools, it allows users to manipulate photos with a level of precision that rivals desktop software.


  • Creative Freedom: PicsArt offers a vast array of creative tools and effects, including advanced photo editing, digital drawing, and layering. Users can experiment with different brushes, masks, and textures, which enables a high degree of customization for each project.
  • Community Driven: The app boasts a large, active community where users can share their creations and find inspiration. This social aspect of PicsArt not only fosters collaboration but also allows users to participate in exciting challenges and contests.
  • Regular Updates: The development team is committed to keeping the app fresh and innovative. Regular updates introduce new features, effects, and improvements, ensuring that the creative experience continues to evolve.
  • Cross-Platform Availability: PicsArt is available across various devices and operating systems, which means you can start your project on your phone and finish it on your tablet or vice versa.
  • AI-Powered Tools: The app includes AI-powered features such as one-tap effects and background removal, which allow for quick and impressive edits even for beginners.


  • Ads and In-App Purchases: While PicsArt is free to download and use, the free version includes ads, and certain premium features require in-app purchases. This can interrupt the creative flow and may limit access to some advanced tools unless you opt for a subscription.
  • Can be Overwhelming: The sheer number of features and options available in PicsArt can be daunting for new users. The learning curve might be steep for those who are looking for a simple editing tool.
  • Resource-Intensive: Due to its extensive functionalities, PicsArt can be demanding on your device's resources. Users with older devices may experience slower performance or reduced responsiveness when using the app.
  • Privacy Concerns: As with many free apps, there are concerns about privacy and data usage. Users should be aware of the permissions they grant and understand the app's privacy policy.

6. Canva

Canva's logo
Photo: Canva

Canva has emerged as a powerhouse in the world of graphic design, especially for those who are looking to create stunning visual content without extensive design skills. Its intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it a go-to tool for creating professional-looking designs in a matter of minutes.


  • Design Focused: Canva is specifically tailored for non-designers who want to craft compelling social media graphics, presentations, posters, and other visual content. Its focus on design ensures that users can produce aesthetically pleasing graphics with ease.
  • Ease of Use: The platform is incredibly user-friendly, making it accessible for beginners and those who may feel overwhelmed by more complex design software.
  • Templates: Canva provides a wealth of templates that cater to a wide range of industries and occasions, from business presentations to wedding invitations, significantly reducing the time and effort needed to create content from scratch.
  • Collaboration Features: Canva allows multiple users to collaborate on a design, making it perfect for team projects and ensuring consistency across designs.
  • Extensive Asset Library: Users have access to a vast library of stock images, icons, and fonts, which can be used to enhance the visual appeal of their designs.
  • Cross-Platform Accessibility: Canva can be accessed via web browsers or through its mobile app, offering flexibility to design on-the-go.


  • Limited Photo Editing Tools: While Canva excels in design, it does not offer the same level of photo editing capabilities that specialized photo editing software provides. This can be a drawback for users looking to perform advanced photo manipulation.
  • Subscription for Premium Features: Many of Canva's more advanced features, such as resizing designs for different platforms, removing backgrounds from images, and accessing premium assets, require a paid subscription.
  • Print Quality: While Canva offers a print service, the quality may not always meet professional printing standards, which can be a con for those needing high-quality print materials.
  • Design Limitations: Although Canva has a wide range of templates and design elements, there can be limitations in terms of customization and uniqueness, as many users may end up using the same templates.
  • Internet Dependency: Canva's functionality is heavily reliant on having an internet connection, which can be a limitation for users who need to work offline.

In summary, Canva is an excellent tool for individuals and businesses looking to create eye-catching graphics with minimal design experience. However, it's important to consider its limitations in photo editing and the dependency on a subscription for accessing its full suite of features.

Best Photo Editing Apps Comparison Table

Adobe Photoshop Express Snapseed VSCO Adobe Lightroom PicsArt Canva
Target Users Casual photographers, Social media enthusiasts Novices, Photography enthusiasts Photo enthusiasts, Social media influencers Professional photographers, Serious hobbyists Creative users (editing, drawing, collaging) Non-designers, creating visual content
Interface User-friendly User-Friendly, Intuitive User-Friendly, Stylish Advanced, Professional tools Vast array of creative tools Intuitive drag-and-drop
Cost-effectiveness Subscription Model, Free version with ads Completely Free Freemium Model Subscription-Based Free, Ads, In-App Purchases Free limited version, Paid subscription for premium
Advanced Tools Extensive editing tools and filters Selective adjust, non-destructive editing Film-like filters, Basic tools Comprehensive professional-grade tools Advanced photo editing, digital drawing Design-focused with basic photo editing
Professional Quality High resolution, professional quality High-quality edits, Non-destructive Aesthetic filters, Not for advanced editing Professional finish, Non-destructive Creativity-oriented tools Professional-looking designs
Integration/Compatibility Adobe ecosystem, Cloud Storage, Limited device compatibility Easy export, No desktop version No Desktop Version Cloud storage, Mobile and desktop sync Cross-platform availability Cross-platform accessibility
Mobile Availability Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Desktop Availability No No No Yes No Browser-based
AI Enhancements/Features AI technology with auto-fix features Limited AI features No AI editing features No specific AI features mentioned AI-powered features like background removal No specific AI enhancements mentioned
Community Aspect Not emphasized Not emphasized Community sharing within app Not emphasized Strong with sharing, challenges, contests Collaboration features
Educational Content Not emphasized Not emphasized Provides tutorials and tips Not emphasized Not emphasized Not emphasized
Unique Strengths One-touch filters, quality output for personal and commercial use Powerful tools, supports RAW files Unique stylish presets, community aspect Non-destructive editing, presets and profiles Regular updates, community-driven platform Extensive asset library, collaboration features
Notable Weaknesses Learning curve, ads, limited features compared to desktop Limited advanced features, no batch editing Limited tools, subscription for full access Complex for beginners, performance issues Overwhelming features, privacy concerns Limited photo editing tools, design limitations

Summary Table for Types of Users and Apps

Users Type Recommended Apps
Casual photographers Snapseed, VSCO
Social media enthusiasts Adobe Photoshop Express, VSCO, Canva
Novices in photo editing Snapseed, VSCO
Photography enthusiasts Snapseed, Adobe Lightroom
Professional photographers Adobe Photoshop Express, Adobe Lightroom
Creative users (editing/drawing) PicsArt
Non-designers (visual content) Canva
Serious hobbyists Adobe Lightroom
Professionals requiring advanced tools Adobe Photoshop Express, Adobe Lightroom

Note: The data provided in tables are based on the given descriptions in the content provided.

How to Choose the Perfect Photo Editing App for Your Skills?

A clip art of a landscape with 2 sparkles in the top right on top of a blue gradient background
Photo: Divya Sood/ Canva

Choosing the right photo editing app depends largely on your specific needs, skill level, and the kind of photography you do. Apps like Adobe Photoshop Express and Lightroom cater to professional photographers who require advanced editing tools. Snapseed and VSCO are great for casual photographers who want to enhance their photos with ease. PicsArt and Canva, on the other hand, are excellent choices for those who are into creative designs and social media content.

Remember, the best app is the one that fits your workflow and helps you achieve your creative vision. Happy editing!

Best Photo Editing Apps
Liz Ryu

Data Specialist

I meticulously ensure data quality and organization, contributing to the foundation of AI models. I nurture the data ecosystem, preserving and securing linguistic data. My role extends beyond data to enhancing AI models by providing linguistic insights and innovative ideas, particularly in Chinese and Japanese languages.

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