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Finding the Right Photo Editing App

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In part two of this three-part series on what to look for in an app, I'm going to share the top things I look for in any photo editing app. I'm not even going to include the ability to crop; overall adjustment of exposure, temperature, saturation and contrast; and saving a new file to camera roll (rather than override your original image). In my opinion, these come so standard on any photo editing app, I'd rather talk about the features you might NOT have and should look for.


Four essential features of your photo editing app:

1) Selective adjust

Although your app probably comes standard with overall control of exposure, temperature, saturation and contrast, a top photo editing app will give you the option to selectively adjust areas of your photo. Some do this by allowing you to choose a point and define the size of the area you want to tweak. Better apps will also give you a “brush” option to basically finger-paint corrections on your image, from dodge and burn for better portraits, to ambiance for food and temperature for individual colors in your image.

2) Rotate

I'm not just talking about rotating your image 90 degrees in any direction; I'm talking about fine-tune changes you can make to straighten up horizons and make your image look professional-perfect.

3) The ability to review and revoke each change

Of course, “undo” is a key feature, but one step above that is the ability to review each change you've made to your photo individually, view the original compared to your edited version, and revoke each change individually. Being forced to “undo” each step when perhaps the step you messed up on was pretty early in your editing process is a huge waste of time. Plus, it's harder to train your eye to spot what's wrong with an image when you can't see how each individual edit changed the overall image appeal.


Three features your photo editing app should probably have:

1) Histogram

When you learn how to read this graph, it will be immensely helpful in determining what's “wrong” with your image. Remember, we don't want to blindly edit because our editing apps are destructive. Meaning, when we amplify our shadows, we're not actually amplifying shadows; we're removing light-colored pixels, which degrades our photo quality. So, knowing exactly what your image needs will not only save you time, but it will make it easier to only make the edits you really need and keep your quality high.

2) Spot healing

Although spot healing isn't a necessity, it can really help out in some circumstances. Of course, you can remove blemishes, but you can also spot heal an area where your finger might overlap the lens a bit, a smudge on the lens, or a logo in a photo that shouldn't be there.

3) Transform feature

This feature is key if you will be doing a lot of architectural photography. Most often, when we shoot a building, we are on the ground, and our perspective makes the building appear to be smaller at the top. You can use this tool to remove this perspective effect.

4) Filters we haven't already seen a million times on Instragram

Be creative! Stand out! Have fun!

You might also have other features you think should come standard, or apps you recommend. If so, consider posting a comment here and helping us all learn how to be better iPhoneographers! Join us here next week as we talk about key features to look for in a video camera app!