We recently posted a review of the Top 5 Free Camera App Alternatives and hope you have found it useful. To develop the mobile photography theme further we thought it would be useful to share our thoughts on the Top 5 Free Photo Editor Apps.
It is nothing short of amazing to think that a few short years ago, one would not have even dreamed of being able to edit a digital photo without a computer and yet, here we are. Photo editing functions that are normally found on expensive packages are now available for FREE on smartphones and tablets. Professional photographers, enthusiasts and any child with a smart phone can now make full use of these apps to enhance their photos in seconds without having to wait until they get back to their desk.
With dual and quad core processors, ample memory, huge storage as well as cloud computing becoming the norm on mobile devices, it no longer takes a full size computer to edit high definition images. We looked at Top 5 Free Camera Alternative Apps recently and while these camera apps have some basic editing functions, combine their features with any of the Photo Editor Apps in this review and you will be the king of mobile digital photography.
Photo Editing On The Go
It’s easy to see the appeal of editing photos and sharing them on the go. Given the advancements of digital cameras on today’s smartphones; the resolution, the features, the flash and ultimately the quality of the output, users are more confident in using their smartphones to take photos.
It also helps that by using these smartphones, images can be synchronised with other devices via the cloud almost instantly. The stock camera app and photo gallery would also allow users to easily share their photos via social media platform such as Twitter and Facebook.
However, the appeal is in how these apps can enhance your images to give it that WOW effect. We will take a look at each of the following FREE photo editor apps in detail and summarise our conclusions at the end.
- Adobe Photoshop Express
- BeFunky Photo Editor
- PicShop HD – Photo Editor
ADOBE® Photoshop® Express is the Free Adobe photo editing app for smartphones and tablets bearing the Photoshop name. The other Adobe app is Adobe Photoshop Touch, albeit a paid edition, is the more powerful mobile edition of the popular desktop photo editing package available for PC and MAC.
Photoshop Express lets you take images from your photo gallery (camera roll) or shoot new photos using the in-app camera and apply basic editing functions as well as sharing this over social media.
When using the app for the first time, you will get a five page ‘Getting Started’ tutorial. The tutorial will highlight how users can professionally edit their photos, use the new Auto Correct Filter that balances colour, adjusts brightness and contrast to quickly enhance the photo. The other feature highlighted in the tutorial is the borders, red eye reduction option and optional Adobe Effects Pack and Adobe Camera Pack available to purchase.
There is a lot of on-screen help, tap on the effect or editing function and a screen overlay with hints will pop up. Sliding vertically or horizontally increases or decreases the level of the chosen effect. To apply, simply click the Tick icon on the bottom right. The undo and redo buttons allow user to step backward or forward in their edits to get the desired outcome. And when you are ready to save, Photoshop Express will save the edited photo separately, keeping the original.
Transform: Crop, Straighten, Rotate and Flip
Enhance: Exposure, Brightness/Contrast, Hue/Saturation, Tint/Temperature, Black & White, Colorize, Sketch, Soft Focus, Sharpen and Reduce Noise
Effects: 9 Free Filters: invert, pop, rainbow, soft black and white, vibrant, vignette blue, vintage, warm vintage and white glow (expand this with Adobe Effect Pack with 45 more), Borders (plenty of borders to choose from: rectangle, rounded, oval, soft edge, vignette, rough edge, halftone, film emulsion and 40 more borders available to purchase) and Red Eye (useful tool to remove red eyes.
Sharing: email, facebook, twitter and tumblr
Optional Purchases (in-app purchases)
Adobe Photoshop Express may be free but there are in-app purchases to upgrade its features. These in-app upgrades are also available to trial so do give them a go to see if they are any good. The Optional Purchases are:
- Adobe Effects Pack – 45 effects in this add-on pack categorised under Sample, Black and White, Distort, Overlay Frame, Overlay Tile, Stacks, Style, Tilt & Shift and Tone.
- Adobe Camera Pack – this upgrade allows you to reduce noise in the image, allowing you to smooth out grainy and speky photos. The camera pack also enables the Self Timer and Auto Review function available
Platform: Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Kindle Fire
Website: Adobe Photoshop Express
Snapseed was one of the earliest photo editing app on the scene and works really well on the tablet. Similar to Photoshop Express, it allows gestures to edit photographs, apply enhancements and switch levels as well as real time on the screen changes.
Standard features to enhance, transform, and share photos are available but the focus here is ease of use and user friendliness in allowing users to access highly advanced editing features. What we like of this app is the ability to select certain areas or objects on the photo with Selective Adjust and use sliding gestures with the Tune Image feature.
Like Photoshop Express, Snapseed also has the one-tap Auto Correct function. The other advantage of Snapseed is the robustness in that it can take high resolution images. Depending on the device in use, Snapseed is capable of editing up to 20.25 Mega Pixel JPEG, TIFF and even RAW images. Simple load the photos taken with your SLR camera using the Camera connection kit for your iPad.
Here is what others have to say about Snapseed:
“Snapseed…first-class photo-editing software.”
– Roy Furchgott, New York Times
“…hands down the best photo app for the iPad to date.”
– Scott Kelby, President, National Assoc. of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP).
“Snapseed app brings pro-level photo editing to iPad”
– Charlie Sorrel, Wired
Auto-Enhance: Snapseed has the one-tap Auto Correct function
Effects: Selective Adjust (apply enhancement to specific areas on the image), Tune Image (use ambience to create depth and vibrancy that adapts to colours and textures), adjust White Balance, Saturation, Contrasts and Auto Correct (adjusts colour and exposure automatically)
Transform: straighten, rotate, crop with aspect ratio lock or manual control.
Filters: Black and White, Retrolux, Drama, Vintage (from 50’s, 60’s or 70’s) , Grunge, Center Focus and Tilt-Shift.
Borders: frame your images with stylised borders
Sharing: email, Google+, and other built-in sharing methods
Platform: Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Desktop (Mac, Windows)
Not your typical name for a sophisticated photo editor, BeFunky is the app that gives its users tonnes of creative control while keeping everything easy to use. Some of the photo effects and editing options are unique to BeFunky. Other features such as the ability to add text to photo is not available in Photoshop Express or Snapseed.
Users can add unlimited number of effects and edits, set levels for each of the effects and undo effects and edits to create that look on their image.
Sharing is also easy to major social media platform or to BeFunky’s photo sharing site with option to make the photo private or public for the BeFunky Gallery.
Auto-Enhance: The automatic enhancement feature is known as Beautify
Enhance: Brightness, Contrast, Fill Light, Exposure, Hue, Saturation, Temperature, Sharpen, Smart Sharpen, Blur, Color, Matt, Vignette. Users can set their desired enhancement level.
Filters: 29 free effects (Vintage, Pop Art, Grunge, Viewfinder, DuoTone, Toy Camera, Sketch, Tilt Shift, Instant, Old Photo, Cross Process, Cyanotype, Gritty HDR, Pinhole, Orton, and many more)
Transform: Crop, straighten, rotate, sharpen, and add vignetting to any photo.
Borders: photo frames includes Instant, Filmstrip, Halftone, Grunge, Classic frames, and more
Overlay/Annotation: the ability to add text, select from a variety of font, colour and background to image.
Sharing: BeFunky, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr
Platform: Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad)
Aviary is a powerful photo editing SDK. What this means is that if you are a software or web developer looking to add photo editing functions to your app or website, instead of coding one from ground up, you can adopt Aviary’s SDK. We have seen quite a few apps in the market or app store already incorporating this and the number of Aviary’s partners are growing.
The interface is intuitive and there is no short of tools, options and effects. It is worth noting, as one of our readers have kindly point out, you are able to set the size of the image output depending on your application. There is 5MP for quick saving and easy sharing, 8MP (recommended size) for everyday use and 12MP, best for printing and to maintain the details.
Here is what others have to say about Aviary:
“A one-stop shop for any photo editing need.”
“A very comprehensive photo editor and pretty much everything you could ever want to do on your phone.”
“A solid, simple camera editing app.”
Auto-Enhance: on-touch enhancement options – High Definition, Scenary, Food, Portrait, Night. We recommend that you try you the Night feature on your darker shots.
Enhance: Lighting (Brightness, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows) , Colour (Saturation, Warmth, Fade and Tint), Sharpness (and blur) and Focus (Radial or Linear),
Transform: Crop (custom, original, square, 4:3, 6:4, 7:5, 10:8, 16:9 ratios), Orientation (rotate and flip)
Effects/Filters: 12 effects – Clyde, Avenue, Haas, Arizona, Lucky, Dean, Keylime, Boardwalk, Marie, Sage, Metropolis, Cruz. However you can upgrade this to 24 effects for free with the Classic effects pack (12). To do this, click on Add Effects button then scroll down to Classic. This is labelled FREE. Simply click install to add this to your effects collection. You can also find Vignette to add more shades and focus as well as Blemish to touch up and remove imperfections.
Borders/Frames: There are 12 borders to choose from. These are Pistol, Ivory, Punch, Instant, Studio, Antique, Splatter, Grit, Negative, Stamp, Museum and Matt. Unlike effects, there are no upgrades offered. When choosing Frames for the first time you may be prompted to install the Frames pack.
Stickers: There are altogether 24 stickers in the Original pack. You can add more stickers with sticker packs for a small fee. Depending on the pack, each of these gives you 15 or 20 stickers. As with Frames, when choosing Stickers for the first time you will be prompted to install the free stickers pack to get started. There are 11 sticker packs available to purchase in the Sticker Store giving you 172 additional stickers if all sticker packs are taken.
Focus: Tilt-shift effect with circular or rectangular focus
Annotate: Draw, Add Text, Meme,
Touch Ups: fix Redeye, remove Blemishes and Whiten teeth
In App Purchases
Aviary with all its built in features is free but has the option of extending this with effects and sticker packs. Effects packs available are Toy Camera, Street, Woodland, Tidal, Love, Nostalgia, Grunge and Viewfinder giving you an additional 48 effects if all effect packs are taken. Sticker packs available to buy are Weather, Wigs, Memes, Glasses, Mustaches, Love, Space, Hats, Animals, Galaxy and Helmets.
Platform: Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Windows Phone 7, Windows 8, Web
We managed to get our hands on PicShop HD for free on their limited time offer. However, there is a second PicShop, a free version known as PicShop Lite with limited functionality.
Here is one app that has a stylish and friendly interface, it goes one up from the rest by generating thumbnails of your image based on the filters or frames available. It does take a second or two to do this but it means being able to preview your post-edit photo, instead of going back and forth to find the right one by trial. Most apps use a generic photo to show the filter or frame options.
Another feature not found on the other photo editors reviewed here is that PicShop allows its user to download images from their Facebook on top of accessing the camera roll on use the camera to capture a new image.
The app is an attractive design combined with tons of editing options and dozen’s of filters make you want to go back to the app for more. Another feature not found on other apps is the ability to customise the look and feel of the app. Although not immediately obvious, you can change the theme of the app by clicking on the title PicShop on the top bar. You can then select from a set of themes to apply, currently seven but we hope to see more.
Did we mention about the clever thumbnail engine, it automatically generates thumbnail previews in filters and frames section which is quite handy. You can tell that we love it so much we had to mention it twice.
The HD version supports editing of images up to 8 MegaPixel which is great for serious photographers. Edited image are saved as a new image in Camera Roll or for sharing straight to Facebook, Twitter or Email with a single click.
Auto Enhance: Auto Correction function available for single click operation
Enhance: Colour, Saturation, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpen, Blur and Colourize (can be found under ‘Extras’ section.
Transform: Straighten, Crop, Rotate, Flip
Effects/Filters: Vintage, Sepia, Lomo, Lomo 2, Vignette, Super Rich, High Colour, Emboss, Textures, Red Pop, Intense, Dark Pop, Deep Purple, Low Colour, Spy Cam, Blue Pop, Black and White (B&W), Negatives (18 Filters)
Borders: Rounded, Torn, Fuzzy Edges, Painted, Matte, Grunge 1, Grunge 2, Grunge 3, Grunge 4, Polaroid, Polaroid 2, Old Paper, Old Paper 2, Leaves, Balloons, Cartoon, Classic Black, Classic Red, Classic White, (19 Frames)
Stickers/Overlays: Meme Maker, Pointers, Speech Bubbles, Attention Markers, Fun Stickers (Hats, Moustaches, Love etc), Sketch Mode with 8 different brushes, Text with different font options
Focus: Tilt Shift, Depth of Field
Touch Ups: Blemish Remover, RedEye Remover
Sharing: Facebook, Twitter, Email
Platform: Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Windows Phone 7, Windows 8, Web
Website: PicShop HD, PicShop Lite (Frames and Extras Locked – frames, drawing, stickers, meme maker, image layers and more)
Here are some of the features common among all the apps featured in this review. The list here also serves as a point of reference for those evaluating other similar photo editing apps.
Basic Editing: Rotate, Crop, Brightness, Contrast, Flash Fill, and Sharpen are common features. Most photo editing apps let you take photos with the in-app camera function or pull up an existing shot from your camera roll and start editing. Usually edited images are saved separately so you don’t have to worry about losing your original shot.
Effects and Filters: You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to filters or effects as most of the apps reviewed here come with a huge collection of filters. Filters are a great way to quickly and easily edit your photos and while some filters are available across different apps, other are specific to the app so it’s worth trying out different filters on diferrent apps to find your favourite. Some apps such as PicShop lets you decide the level of intensity for chosen filter.
Lux or Auto Enhance or Auto Fix: This great single click function gives your photo, richer tone and colour. It also enhances the contrast and gives the photo more depth.
Frame it: All photo editing apps featured here includes options for different frame or border. Sometimes borders are linked to the filter so different filters can also have associated borders so choose carefully. Others allow you to choose a frame to apply separately.
Tilt-Shift: Applying this effect creates an illusion that your photo has an altered depth of field. With conventional photography, such an effect can only be achieved with special SLR lenses. With the camera app, you can produce this effect at the simple click of a button.
Sharing: Most Photo Editing apps have Social Media sharing integrated allowing you to post your edited image on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Others come with it’s own Photo Sharing platform such as BeFunky that allows you to share your photos there as well as to social media sites. These apps would allow you to add your own caption before posting the edited image.
Our favourite Photo Editor app is Aviary followed closely by PicShop HD. While we got PicShop HD for free, this offer may not be around for long. If we had to choose a second FREE photo editor app, we would go for Snapseed. Already a favourite among professional photographers, Snapseed is one of the earlier feature rich app to be on the Appstore and was voted Best Mobile Photo App 2012 by TIPA (Technical Image Press Association).
Our fourth choice would be Adobe Photoshop Express followed closely by BeFunky. While the transform (crop, straighten, rotate, flip) and enhancement options (exposure, brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, tint, temperature, b&w, colorize, sketch, soft focus, sharpen and reduce noise) are great on Photoshop Express, the 9 free Effects (or filters) are rather limiting. Without paying for the effect pack, options normally available on other apps such as Tilt & Shift, Style, Tone and Overlays are only available as trials and unless you pay for them, it remains as a preview with no way to save your photo with those effects.
BeFunky on the other hand provides the nearly the same number of transform and enhancement options as well as more sample effects for free while additional effect or frame packs can be purchased for $0.99 each. Here is a summary of how each of the apps reviewed here rate against each other.
- Aviary ★★★★★
- PicShop HD ★★★★☆
- Snapseed ★★★★☆
- Adobe Photoshop Express ★★★☆☆
- BeFunky ★★★☆☆
Have you used any of the apps listed above or felt that other Free Photo Editor App deserves to be on this list. Do let us know by posting your comments below.
UPDATE: In fairness to our reader, while the PicShop HD is highly recommended here, it isn’t a Free App. We looked at another Free Photo Editor App to include in this list and finally found one.
After an in depth look at one of the best photo editing app currently out there. PixlrExpress+ and sibling Pixlr-o-meter are both worthy of a place in the Top 5 List, check out the full review in Pixlr: Free Photo Editng Apps Review.