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Vacation photos – apps to make the most of your snaps

When you want to get the best from precious memories, try these fantastic photo editors

So you’ve been away, and your iPhone has captured many happy moments. But on trawling through them, you realize they’re not quite as perfect as you’d hoped. One beach shot would be great if only someone wasn’t lurking in the background. And those colors aren’t as vivid as you remember. What you need is some apps.

Specifically, you need photo editors that make short work of helping your holiday snaps shine. In our round-up, we start with what Apple has to offer in Photos – starting with the familiar old interface, before showing off some goodies added in iOS 13.

Beyond that, we explore three of our favorite photo editors for iPhone and iPad, outlining what makes them great, and providing some handy hints on how to use them.


Free with iPhone • By Apple

Apple’s Photos app is installed on every iPhone and iPad. It’s more organizer and browser than editor – although it’s fine for the basics.

You can adjust Live Photos in Apple’s Photos

The app offers a quick ‘instant fix’ for levels, cropping and rotation, a small selection of filters, and some correction tools. More interestingly, extensions allow you to use filters and tools from some third-party apps right within Photos itself.

To get started, select an image in your library and tap Edit. Tap the crop button, and the app will often attempt to automatically crop your image. Use the dial and drag handles to override these settings if you wish.

Tap the adjustments (dial) button, and then the options within to fine-tune your image’s color – or convert it to black and white.

Tap the … button to access photo extensions. Scroll to the right and tap More to add further items from your installed apps.

In iOS 13 (and iPadOS), the adjustments section is markedly different. Scroll horizontally to select from a wider range of tools, and use the slider to change the current selection’s value.

Cropping in iOS 13 loses its dial, and uses the standard slider. The section adds horizontal and vertical perspective adjustment – handy for correcting architecture shots.

The top of the screen houses tools as well, so don’t forget to look there. In the crop menu, this is where you’ll find flip, 90-degree rotate, and aspect ratio buttons.


Free • v2.19.2 • 99.5 MB • By Google LLC

Once an iPad darling, Google ate Snapseed, gave it snappy new clothes, and squirted the result on to everyone’s phones, too. The result is a leading free photo editor for iPhone and iPad.

It’s fair to say Snapseed has a lot of tools!

This is a feature-rich app, enabling everything from basic cropping/tuning to full-on image destruction by way of grain, grunge, text, and frames. It integrates with iOS, too, so you can revert saved edits later in Photos – or alternatively just export copies.

Tap Open, and then Open from device. Select an image and then tap Use. Apply a filter from Looks, or tap the Tools tab to see the full selection of available tools. Use Perspective to adjust your image’s lines – although you may subsequently need to use Crop to remove areas Snapseed attempts to fill in.

Tune Image gives you a one-tap magic wand for improving your pic. Alternatively, tap the sliders button, drag up or down to select a property, and then drag horizontally to adjust its value. This input mechanism is used heavily in Snapseed.

Get creative in the app using its various filters. Grunge has some particularly interesting effects – every tap on the random button gives you something new that can subsequently be fine-tuned.

Download Snapseed


Free or $10/£10 • v4.1.10 • 35.4 MB • By Bergen Co.

A classy app with a premium feel, Darkroom is also usable and immediate. Load a photo, and you can delve into cropping and adjustment tools. There’s plenty of depth here, but within an interface anyone can understand.

Darkroom also has a low-effort ‘prod a filter’ option

The one-off IAP unlocks pro-oriented curve and color tools, along with extra filters; the app also enables you to save your current edit as a custom filter. Top stuff, then, for quick fixes and detailed adjustments alike.

Open Darkroom and it will immediately present your photos. Choose albums from the menu (in the sidebar on iPad). Select a shot to load it for editing. Tap Library to return to your pics at any point.

Crop your image using the crop tool’s drag handles. You’ll also see perspective and rotate options, along with buttons to adjust the on-screen grid and aspect ratio. In this section, Darkroom helpfully displays your various edited values at all times, so you can keep track – or return to a tool with a tap.

Tap the sliders button to delve into Darkroom’s full range of adjustment options. There’s no instant fix, and so experiment until you get something you like. Whatever you create can be exported as a copy, or non-destructively overwrite your original snap. (Again, this means you can later remove the edits in Photos.)

Download Darkroom

Pixelmator Photo

$5/£5 • v1.0.7 • 165 MB • By Pixelmator Team

Unlike our other choices, Pixelmator Photo is resolutely iPad-only – and requires the power of a recent iPad (Pro; mini 5th-gen; Air 3rd-gen; standard iPad 5th-gen).

Pixelmator Pro is a perfect and powerful quick-fix editor for iPad

Although packed with features, the app’s main differentiator is machine learning. Having been trained on over 20 million professional photos, a single button tap can – like magic – be enough for a perfect edit. Well, sometimes. But even when the result isn’t quite right, there are still loads of sliders for making further changes.

Import an image by tapping + and then Import. Try your luck with the machine learning algorithm by tapping ML. It’s not perfect, but this is by far the best photo editor automation we’ve seen on iPad.

Select the crop tool. Try the ML Crop option, which aims to automate getting the best possible framing. It’s less successful than the adjustments tool, but worth a go – and you can make manual tweaks yourself.

Tap the sliders button, and you gain access to a wealth of one-tap filters at the foot of the screen, and a sidebar packed full of manual adjustment tools. When you’re done, use the share button to export your image, save a copy, or modify the original.

Download Pixelmator Photo

Also consider…

Want to take things a bit further when editing snaps? These are the apps to install.

Affinity Photo

$20/£20 • v1.7.1 • 1.1 GB • By Serif Labs

Solely for owners of iPads – and reasonably recent ones at that – this photographic powerhouse matches anything you’ll find on the desktop. Overkill for most; perfect for pros.

Download Affinity Photo


$5/£5 • v2.4.4 • 146.2 MB • By Pixelmator Team

In a similar space to Affinity Photo, but squeezed on to iPhone, Pixelmator is a full-featured retouching tool. When you need layers and brushes alongside filters and effects, it’s an excellent buy.

Download Pixelmator


Free • v7.51.12 • 244 MB • By Cardinal Blue

When you want to create something more than a boring online gallery with a selection of snaps, try PicCollage. You can go freeform, or quickly slot your pics into predefined grid layouts.

Download PicCollage


$2/£2 • v2.8.1 • 157.2 MB • By MEREK DAVIS COM, LLC

Digital photography can sometimes be too clean. With Mextures, you can slather on all kinds of grit, grain, and textures, adding plenty of character to your iPhone photos.

Download Mextures


Free • v5.0.3 • 245.1 MB • By GoPro, Inc.

Photos lets you create custom slideshows – but not share them. Quik, despite being a video editor, works with stills. Drop in some snaps, pick a theme, and you’ll instantly have a stylish video slideshow, complete with flashy transitions.

Download Quik