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Tips & Tricks: Photo Editing

Now that you have the basics of amateur photography under your belt, you’re ready to edit the digital photos you’ve taken. We’ll explain cropping, rotating, brightness vs. contrast, what filters are, and we’ll recommend a few apps for more options.

While our phones and tablets have at least some editing features built in, there are additional features available in standalone apps you can download to your device. The editing apps we’ll discuss have free options, however some may provide additional features for a fee. Depending on the type of device you have, for the details of each app discussed, consult either the iTunes App Store for your iPhone or Google Play for Android devices.

It’s very convenient to be able to edit our photos right inside our phone or tablet. Generally speaking, you want to take the best photo you can. But after the fact, there are some things we can do to fix our photos if needed. Or maybe you’d like to make changes just to be creative!

Basic photo adjustments start with cropping. This allows you to remove the top, bottom, or sides of the image, or to set the photo in a specific shape, like making a rectangular photo into a square shape. Or maybe your finger ended up in the corner of the image— you can crop that side off so it’s no longer there.

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Rotation is another adjustment you might find useful. If you noticed the horizon in your picture is off, you can adjust it in either direction to make the photo straight. Or once again, get creative and add an angle to a photo that was shot straight.

If you decide to adjust the “brightness,” you’re increasing the light of the overall picture. “Contrast,” as the name implies, means changing the difference between dark and light. For example, if you increase contrast, light areas become lighter, and dark areas become darker.

Filters apply an overall look to your photo; for example, making a color photo black and white, or adding effects, so it looks as if you pulled the photo out of an old Polaroid instant camera. Play with filters to see what works for you; you can always undo changes you’ve made to go back to the original, or try something else.

All these features, and more, are available in apps you can add to your phone or tablet. Here are a couple to consider:


Snapseed is a free app created by Google. It is well loved by both iPhone and Android users. It has ability to filter, crop, rotate, layer, and more. There are a couple of features unique to this app that make it a favorite for both amateurs and professionals alike. The first is that, on top of the automatic filters, you can make adjustments such as color and lighting by swiping the screen. In this way, you’re able to see the photo adapt in real time as well as be extremely precise. The other interesting aspect of this app is that it stores a log of all the changes you make to a given photo. This way you can easily go backwards in the editing process if you find you don’t like something you’ve added. It will also save your combinations of edits into new automatic filters that can be applied to other photos.

PicsArt Photo Studio

This app functions as a photo editor, collage maker, and camera all in one. There are also a lot of stickers and embellishments (think digital scrapbooking). It’s highly rated because it is very easy to use. There is a free and a paid version. With the free version you have to put up with some advertisements, but it still has more than enough features to keep you busy.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe has created an app that is a scaled down version of their photo editing software. This app is feature-rich in the editing department. You can crop, rotate, resize, sharpen, brighten, blur… You name it, this app probably does it. It has some limitations such as not being able to send your photos directly to your social media profiles, but overall it has a lot of capability, especially considering it’s free.

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