Photography Tips

A Professional Photographer’s 3 Favorite Photo Editing Apps

September 8, 2021

One thing I always talk about with my photography students is that a fab photo comes down to so much more than the editing. It’s the mood, the environment, the lighting, the emotions, the camera settings, the subjects’ faces, the style, and the whole vibe of the scene. However, a great edit can take an […]

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One thing I always talk about with my photography students is that a fab photo comes down to so much more than the editing. It’s the mood, the environment, the lighting, the emotions, the camera settings, the subjects’ faces, the style, and the whole vibe of the scene. However, a great edit can take an already-great picture to incredible with just a few tweaks. So it’s important to have access to a few photo editing apps that you know are reliable, easy to use, and intuitive.

I’m a big fan of doing my edits on a computer after a regular shoot. The larger screen and software on my computer make it easier to tweak and smooth little things here and there, as well as catch color, composition, balance, and lighting that might be slightly “off.”

But when I’m on the go either with my family or snapping a few for-fun photos out and about, I do have a handful of handy-dandy photo editing apps on my phone that I rely on to get gorgeous edits, every single time.

(And let’s be real, I think we’re all tired of Instagram’s yucky filters by now!)

The benefits of photo editing apps

Using a phone app to edit photos is a quick way to modify and upgrade your images on the go! Before we get into my favorite apps, let’s talk about why they’re amazing!

  • You can adjust standalone features, like contrast, shadows, brightness, white balance, tone, and more
  • On many apps, you can save your edit preferences as a preset to get consistent tones in all of your images
  • Many come with their own presets or filters if you want an added element of style (although my approach with presets/filters is the simpler, the better!)
  • You can edit images taken on your phone to look more professional
  • Some allow you to remove unwanted subjects from the image or fix imperfections
  • Best of all… you can edit your photos fast with photo editing apps!

My favorite photo editing apps for your phone

Okay, let’s get into the goodies! These are my absolute favorite, could-never-delete-from-my-phone photo editing apps!


VSCO is (to me) the OG of professional photo apps that make it EASY to clean up, tweak, and play with how your images look. You can use many of its functions and features for free, or pay $20 a year for full access to all the bells and whistles. (They have a 7-day free trial if you want to see if it’s worth it first.)

This isn’t an app akin to Snapchat where you can add a bunch of stickers and GIFs to your images, and that’s not really the vibe I want anyway. Instead, VSCO is amazing because it allows you to adjust individual settings of images, and it also offers tons of gorgeous, artful filters and presets. You can get a really cinematic look with its presets, which I love for some photos. It also offers an amazing selection of black and white filters, if you like that style or want to experiment with a more simple edit.

2. Lightroom

Lightroom comes from the Adobe family, and if you’ve ever seen influencers who sell preset packs, then you’re familiar with this app. A lot of popular presets are sold and used on Lightroom because it’s an easy way to share gorgeous filters that anyone can download and apply to their images for a consistent look.

I’ve found that Lightroom is the standard for professional photographers to use on the go, and it’s because it’s the same app most of us use to edit images on desktop, albeit with more limited tools. You CAN use presets—some are free on the app or you can buy them from a professional photographer or influencer whose image edits you like—or you can play around with the tools and features to individually adjust images to your liking.

I love that you have so many options with Lightroom, and that you have access to many of its functions for free. (You can also pay $5 a month for full access!)

3. Snapseed

Google owns Snapseed, and it’s a great one if you just want to slap a quick filter on your image. It has TONS of filter options, as well as a big range of color and exposure tools to make adjustments to your photos on your own. One cool extra is that you can layer certain effects and filters to create an original and creative look on your own. Plus, all features on Snapseed are free to use for anyone.

That’s it, babes! I can’t recommend these three photo editing apps highly enough. All three are available for iOS and Android, and all have free options available with ample features to use. Start playing around with them to see which one you like best!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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