10 Best Apps to Improve Your iPhone Photos

The cameras and processing power in today’s smartphones have come a long way since CreativePro published the first version of this article in 2009. While some people are perfectly happy editing the images they capture using the built-in Photos app, or applying an Instagram filter before posting, others want more image editing power. The iPhone’s portability makes that possible in situations where working on a computer or tablet isn’t convenient.

So, it’s high time for a new list! Among the diversity that is the Photo & Video category in the App Store, here are 10 great apps for editing photos you’ve captured or imported into your iPhone.


Quality editing starts with a quality original. The Camera app in the iPhone can take great images, but it lacks one feature: raw capture. When you want to record a larger dynamic range of color and have more flexibility when editing, use Halide to save DNG (digital negative) image files. DNG is the native raw format built into iOS. Halide also gives you manual camera controls, putting more power over exposure, aperture, and other settings into your hands.



RAW Power

Speaking of raw images, although iOS natively supports raw formats, not all apps edit them in the same way. Many use the raw image information to create an editable JPEG, for instance. RAW Power, by Gentlemen Coders, edits raw images directly, offering raw-specific controls that go beyond the traditional exposure, contrast, and color adjustments. It’s also able to take Portrait mode photos captured by the Camera app, which intelligently separate a subject from the surrounding scene, and let you adjust the highlights and shadows of the foreground and background separately.

Free; a $4.99 in-app purchase unlocks advanced features.


The Portrait mode on iPhone models with dual back cameras, such as the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, determines the depth of a scene. Using the Focos app, you have greater control over how the different depth layers are edited. For example, make a background more blurry by simulating an f/1.4 aperture and changing the shape of the virtual aperture blades. Did the camera not accurately discern the subject, leaving a shoulder blurry? Focos includes a feature for painting areas to be included at a different depth.


Free, with in-app purchases that vary between $0.99 and $9.99.


One of the original, and best, photo editors for iPhone is Snapseed, which is now owned by Google. Seemingly every editing tool is there: tonal and color adjustments, vignettes, healing, black and white conversion, curves, sharpening… and plenty of filters and premade “looks.” Despite all that, the interface is surprisingly welcoming, with no traditional sliders in sight.



One of the strengths of VSCO is its array of presets—some included, some available for purchase—that deliver nearly any mood to your photos. It also includes a broad set of editing tools you can apply, and then save your own preset recipes to apply to other photos. The company nurtures a vibrant VSCO community of photographers, with options for sharing images and journal collections of photos.


Free, with in-app purchases for series of presets or an annual subscription that unlocks all presets and other perks.

Lightroom CC for Mobile

If your photos are already in Adobe’s Lightroom ecosystem on the desktop, the Lightroom CC app for iOS and Android extends them to mobile devices. Lightroom CC for mobile includes nearly all of the basic organizing and editing features found in Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC, so edits sync easily among platforms as long as you pay for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plan. The built-in camera can capture raw data in DNG format (which Adobe pioneered), and also create HDR (high dynamic range) images with the help of some cloud processing. Even if you don’t have a CC subscription, Lightroom CC for mobile can be used for free, just without the ability to sync.


Free without cloud access; subscription plans start at $9.99 per month.


Most photo edits involve adjusting tone and color, but sometimes the issue with an image is that it’s askew. SKRWT will level your horizon, but more important, it counteracts wide-angle lens distortion and alters perspective. Would the buildings in your image look better if they were completely vertical in the frame? A quick SKRWT edit makes it look like you shot it head-on instead of from the sidewalk. It’s also a great way to tweak perspective when you realize the shot would be better if only you’d been standing a few feet to the left or right at the time.




Even with careful composition, sometimes items appear in your photos that you’d rather weren’t there, from tourists walking into the frame to distracting waste bins near otherwise classical architecture. In TouchRetouch, draw over the items you wish to excise and watch them magically disappear. The Line Remover tool is great for removing annoying power lines, for instance, and the repair tool makes quick work of blemishes or other irregularities.




The Camera app in the iPhone can create HDR images, but you don’t get much control. On the iPhone X and iPhone 8/8 Plus, in fact, it’s just applied by default (and done well in most cases). To make them, the camera combines multiple images at different exposures, broadening the dynamic range to keep detail in very dark or bright areas of the scene. The Pro HDR X app can do the same, with the added benefit of giving you controls to edit the image. More interesting is the app’s ability to merge and edit three separate images, such as bracketed shots you’ve captured using another camera and imported into the iPhone.



I’ve mostly focused on apps that improve photos by adjusting photographic qualities like tone and color, but with digital images, you have a lot of freedom to create. One of my favorite artistic photo apps is Waterlogue, which turns photos into watercolor paintings. That sounds like a trick—after all, Photoshop has had artistic filters since long before the iPhone existed—but the quality of Waterlogue’s output is quite high. Plus, it’s fun to experiment with various painting styles on several different photos.



These apps should handle nearly all of the photo editing tasks you would want on the iPhone, but this list is also a springboard. Spend some time browsing through the Photo & Video category on the App Store to discover more specialized apps, such as ones that offer specific filters or text effects, that mesh well with your own style of photography.

Posted on: June 26, 2018

Jeff Carlson

Author and photographer Jeff Carlson (@jeffcarlson, jeff@jeffcarlson.com) is a columnist for the Seattle Times, a contributing editor at TidBITS, and writes for publications such as Macworld and DPReview. He is the author of the books Take Control of Lightroom CC, Take Control of Your Digital Photos, and many other books and articles. He believes there's never enough coffee, and does his best to test that theory. Visit him at jeffcarlson.com

1 Comment on 10 Best Apps to Improve Your iPhone Photos

  1. Loved the article; thank you. I’m not an app person, by nature, but I can’t wait to try some of these.

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