Jon Bentley snaps up the best smartphone photo editing apps

28 Nov 2016


Jon blogsPhoto editing

I was disappointed when I learnt, earlier this year, that Google was ceasing support for Picasa, its free photo editing program for desktops and laptops. Since I first tested it on The Gadget Show more than a decade ago I’ve enthusiastically recommended it to anyone who wanted to perform basic photo editing. It did everything most snappers needed without the expense and learning curve of programs like Adobe Photoshop.


Even as a subscriber to Photoshop myself I still turn to Picasa (though it’s not being updated, it continues to be usable in the short term) whenever I want a quick adjustment of things like contrast, exposure and saturation, or a swift resize and crop. It’s just so much handier than more sophisticated alternatives.


Google’s replacement for Picasa is their Photos app. It’s much more in tune with the times. As well as working on computers through a browser, it can be used on mobile devices, reflecting the increasingly phone-centric nature of today’s photography. It comes with the remarkable offer of unlimited cloud storage for your photos providing you allow it to compress pictures more than 16-megapixels in size. Its editing facilities are, however, very limited compared to Picasa’s.


There is some good news, though. The latest photo editing apps now available for tablets and phones go a long way towards filling the gap left by Picasa’s demise. Testing some of them with my tech testers for this week’s show I was pleasantly surprised by how comprehensive and capable they are. And unlike much traditional computer-based photo editing software most are either free or just a pound or two to buy.


I was particularly impressed by Snapseed, another product of the Google stable. It’s even more intuitive and easy to use than Picasa and it contains a variety of sophisticated tools including perspective correction, adjustment brushes and a range of filters.


Prisma, another free app, lets you transform your images into a work of art. Even though it makes you crop your photos, the filters are impressive and quick to be applied. It’s like a supercharged Instagram app.


If on the other hand, you long for the layers and collage creating facilities of Photoshop, the free Photoshop Mix app could be for you. I found I was quickly, if crudely at first, combining several different landscape shots into one frame. With practice, I’m confident that more sophisticated results could be readily achieved.


These were only three apps. But there are hundreds more free or very low cost apps available. Often they concentrate on one particular feature such as AfterFocus which creates a focus difference between the foreground and background to emulate a shallow depth of field, or LensDistortions that adds sun flares, fog, and shimmering light effects to your shots.


Picasa may be going but there are lots of exciting new ways of editing your photos for very little cost and effort.