How to edit photos with the iOS Photos app

Gone are the days of buying expensive editing programs like Photoshop or Lightroom. Nowadays, if you want to make quick and easy edits to photos on your iPhone, just use the Photos app. The Photos app is the easiest, fastest, and best way to make quick edits before sharing them with friends, family, or social media. Want to create your own little masterpiece? Just open the Photos app and get started. Read on to learn more about how to edit your photos with the Photos app and turn your photos into Instagram-ready perfection.

How to access edit mode

The first and most important is to learn how to enter edit mode. To do this:

1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone, tap “Camera Roll” or another gallery, then choose the photo you want to edit.

2. When the photo appears on your screen, look at the top right corner of the screen and click “Edit”.

Edit iPhone Photos Edit Camera Button

3. The editing tools will now appear. There are three main options to choose from: adjust light and color, apply filters, or crop and straighten.

Make light adjustments

The best place to start with iPhone changes is to change the color, brightness, or sharpness. Start by looking for the leftmost button in the Edit screen that looks like a dial with dots all around. When you make any changes here, they will affect the amount of light in your photo. You can increase the overall exposure or add and remove shadows.

Change iPhone Camera Light SettingsChange iPhone Camera Light Settings

There are a number of options in this space, so let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Auto: the Auto button, which is the first option that appears, will attempt to use artificial intelligence to adjust lighting, shadows, brightness, etc.
  • Exposure: Changes to the exposure will determine the amount of light in the scene. As is the case with most of the options here, you can add or reduce the amount of light. Drag the slider to the right to lighten your image or to the left to darken it.
  • Shine: If you want to bring out more detail with a richer image after editing, this is the place to start. Dragging the slider to the right will lighten the shadows. Dragging to the left will make the shadows darker.
  • Strong points: Here you can adjust the brightness only of the bright areas that currently exist in a photo. Move the slider to the left to darken highlights or to the right to lighten them.
  • Shadow: Shadows are best described as the darkest parts of any image. Slide your finger to the right and the shadows will get lighter or to the left and watch them get darker.

Make color adjustments

Change the contrast of the iPhone cameraChange the contrast of the iPhone camera

Allowing color adjustments will allow you to change the look of your photos and make them “pop”.

  • Contrast: Working with the contrast tool will allow you to refine the dark and bright tones of any photo. Use the slider to make fine adjustments. Go left to decrease contrast or right to increase and darken shadows.
  • Brightness: Unsurprisingly, the brightness will brighten or darken your photo. Slightly different from the exposure setting, the brightness slider will lighten or darken the photo without adjusting the exposure.
  • Black dot: this is the best place to highlight the darker tones in any photo. By targeting the darker parts of your photo, you can create a more vibrant image.
  • Saturation: Do you want to make the colors more vivid? Less dynamic? Saturation is the perfect place to do it. Dragging to the right will make the colors stand out more. Otherwise, moving to the left will make the colors darker.
  • Vibrance: this is similar to the saturation tool but with more subtle changes. This is a good way to adjust the colors of an image without impacting skin tones.
  • Heat: Using this editing feature will help make the colors in your photo warmer or cooler. This is a good way to correct any white balance issues that may exist on the original photo. Drag to the right to warm the image and to the left to “cool” it.
  • Tint: If you ever want to add a tint of green or magenta to a photo, this is the place to do it. Drag to the left to add a green tint or to the right for magenta.

Make detailed changes

Making detail edits can really help an image look better after changing the settings. With these changes come a caveat, however, as the amount of detail in any iPhone image is limited by the size of the sensor on the iPhone.

Edit iPhone Photos Camera SharpnessEdit iPhone Photos Camera Sharpness
  • Acuity: Make changes here, and your photo can get sharper (think sharper) with more definition. If you try to sharpen too much (to the right), you can drastically reduce the quality of the photo.
  • Definition: Use this option to make changes to a photo that will improve the overall clarity of all details.
  • Noise reduction: Did you end up with a grainy picture at night? This is the best feature to change so that you can end up with a usable photo.
  • Thumbnail: The thumbnail tool will try to lighten or darken the edges around a photo. If you ever want someone looking at a photo focused on the center of the image, adjust the thumbnail first.

Make changes with filters

While changes in light, color, and contrast all require manual work, editing with filters is best for beginners. Press the middle button on the “Edit” screen (which looks like three overlapping circles), and you can slide your finger across them. As you move your finger, each filter applies a different look by adjusting some of the different settings detailed above. Only one filter can be applied at a time, but you can change the filter whenever you want.

Change Camera Filters for iPhone PhotosChange Camera Filters for iPhone Photos

Apple has also added the ability to shoot with filters enabled. Launch the Camera app and look for the same Filter button at the top right of the screen. These are the same three overlapping circles. You can now take photos with any filter of your choice enabled. Even after your photos have been taken with a filter, you can always go back and add another filter later. This is a great way for beginners to understand how filters will work.

Crop and straighten

The rightmost option on the iPhone photo editing screen is the button that allows you to crop or straighten to adjust your perspective.

Edit Photos from iPhone Crop SquareEdit Photos from iPhone Crop Square

When you click on this menu, you will be presented with a few options.

  • The first option is to straighten your image. Move your cursor right or left until the image is properly straightened.
  • The second and third options concern perspective correction. The second is to adjust perspective horizontally and the third is to adjust perspective vertically.
Edit Photos from iPhone Camera Flip SquareEdit Photos from iPhone Camera Flip Square

Another set of options also appear when you are in the crop screen. Look at the top left of the screen and you’ll see options to flip and rotate. The rotation does exactly what it looks like and rotates the photo 90 degrees with each press of the button. The “flip” button will flip your image horizontally.

Edit photos on iPhone Camera Adjust sizeEdit iPhone photos Camera Adjust size

At the top of the screen is also another button to adjust the photo format. In this menu, you can take your original photo and adjust it to 16: 9, 10: 8, square, 4: 3, 3: 2, etc. There are about ten size options in all.

Last but not least is the ability to crop your photo and remove any unwanted background distractions. Cropping a photo is incredibly easy and is done by adjusting any of the four corners of a photo. As soon as you enter the crop screen, four white corners will appear around the edges of your photo. Press and hold them and move them in / out or left / right until you find the perfect crop. A white border will indicate where the new edges of the photo will be to help you frame it exactly how you want it. Click “Done” when you are done making changes, and all your changes will be saved.

While there are plenty of third-party apps for taking and editing photos on an iPhone, the default Photos app is good enough for most of us. For anyone who just wants to jump in and get started, the default editing features are fine for you.

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David Beren
David Beren

David Beren is a freelance technical writer with over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves dogs, his kids and everything Nintendo.

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