How to Edit Photos on Your Smartphone

Editing the photos you take on your smartphone is an often overlooked but essential part of smartphone photography. Some photographers believe that editing makes up for bad photography or that good photos shouldn’t need editing. 

However, editing can be a great way to take your already stunning photos and make them even better. You don’t need to change the entire look of your photo to enhance it, unless that’s what you’re into.

Every mobile photographer has their own unique style of editing, so you just need to find what works for you. If you haven’t yet found your style, here’s how to edit photos on your smartphone

Tips to Edit Photos on Your Smartphone

There was a time when your smartphone didn’t have the processing power to handle photo editing, but those days are long gone now. Today you can edit photos on your smartphone while you have Spotify playing in the background and 37 Safari tabs open. Take advantage of technology – it’s here to make your workflow better.

Download a Photo Editing App


Obviously the first step to editing your photos is going to be downloading a photo editing app. It’s likely that your phone’s camera app will allow you to make some changes, but you won’t have the same range of options as you would with a third-party editing app.

There are a ton of great editing apps on the market for both iPhones and Androids, but if you don’t yet have a favorite app, here are the 3 Best Free Photo Editing Apps.

You might consider downloading more than one editing app at first to help you decide which one will work best for you. This way, you’ll be able to try each one out and determine which features you like or don’t like in an editing app. For example, I do basics edits to my photos in Lightroom Mobile CC before cleaning the image up in Snapseed. It’s just the mobile photo editing workflow that works for me – find what works for you!

Start with Good Photos

This may seem obvious but editing won’t help you overcome bad photography. It can improve certain elements, but it’s crucial to get your composition and lighting right the first time. Photos that are too dark or too light won’t be able to be edited as well as photos with proper lighting.

Remember, editing allows you to put that final touch on your artwork, so you need to start out with photos that are good enough to work with. The more time you spend on taking high quality images during the photoshoot, the less time you’ll spend editing later.

Basic Photo Editing

photo editing apps exporting photos
Photos with Phones

Now, it’s time to get into the actual editing process. Before you start editing, there are a few things to know. The most important thing you need to do when editing the photos on your smartphone is to make sure you’re saving the edits separately.

Unless you’re an experienced photo editor that knows exactly how to get your style right every time, you want to avoid saving your edits over the original photo. Most photo editing apps give you the option of saving the edited photo as a separate file without erasing the original image. 

This step is crucial because if you make any mistakes along the way, you can easily start over with the original photo. If you save your edits over the original, you’ll need to figure out how to undo everything you’ve already done or accept your edited image the way it is.

Once you’ve figured out how to save your edited images as separate files, you’ll need to decide how you want to edit. In most cases, you’ll have three options. You can have the app automatically adjust the photos, use preset filters, or adjust the photo manually.

Auto Adjust

The easiest way to edit your photos is to use your editing app’s Auto Adjust feature. This feature automatically adjusts the exposure, color balance, lighting, and more with just a single tap.

For the casual mobile photographer, the Auto Adjust feature is priceless. Rather than messing around with complicated curves, you just tap a button to automatically improve your image.

The downside to automatic adjustments is obvious. The app edits your photo according to its own interpretations of the photo, rather than your own. You don’t have the ability to change the style of the photo to suit your unique brand of photography.

Preset Filters

photo editing app presets VSCO
Photos with Phones

If you’re looking for a different style of editing but aren’t yet ready to dive into manual adjustments, preset filters can be great intermediate step. If you’ve spent any time sharing photos on social media, you’re probably familiar with the concept of filters.

The same concept applies to the preset filters in your editing app. In fact, some apps allow creators to make and sell their own unique presets. So, if you follow a photographer whose style you admire, you might be able to purchase and download their presets to emulate their style.

Of course, you can also use preset filters as a base to achieve the look you want. Choose the filter and adjust the photo further as you see fit. Soon, you might find yourself making your own preset filters.

Manual Editing

manual photo editing app iPhone and Anroid
Photos with Phone

Your final option in editing photos on your smartphone is to manually adjust them yourself. This option requires you to adjust each element separately, so you need to change the brightness, colors, exposure, or saturation as you see fit.

This option gives you the greatest flexibility in style as you can make subtle changes to your photo or completely alter the look. As you gain more experience in photo editing, you’ll be more confident in your editing style and you might consider experimenting more. If you want an in-depth guide into my photo editing style, then let us know in the comments!

Don’t Over Edit Your Photos

It’s important to note that there is a difference between creative editing and over editing. Creative editing gives you the freedom to create unique and interesting works of art. Whether you’re creating surreal images or something that resembles a kaleidoscope, never be afraid to experiment.

However, you should use caution when editing to make sure you don’t over edit. Over editing is what happens when you edit a photo so much that you begin to lose the image quality. 

Remember, when you make changes such as cropping and exposure adjustment, you’re probably going to lose some details. As a result, your over edited photos might appear noisy or pixelated. 

Again, once your photo has been over edited, there’s no saving it, so always remember to save your edits separate from the originals.

To avoid over editing, it’s best to make subtle adjustments as needed. You can always adjust more as you go, but subtler changes will help preserve your image quality. Maintaining image quality is is a must to edit photos on your smartphone. Shooting in RAW helps, though.

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