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Top 5 Instagram photography editing apps I use

Editing your photos you post on Instagram is a crucial step on making quality content. Either you’re a portrait photographer, landscape photographer or a macro photographer – you have to edit. Even just a little bit – contrast or brightness, but it’s still editing, and that’s what helps you accent your photography in Instagram.

While it’s good to capture a photo perfectly and post as it is, sometimes it’s just not that easy. Especially when you shoot in RAW and you want to extract that detail from the shadows or just tone down spots that are too bright.

I edit my photos on my phone and on the go, so that’s what I’m going to concentrate on in this article. Here are the apps I use often and some – not so often – when editing my photos.

Adobe Lightroom

Available on Android and iOS for free with an option to buy subscription for advanced features.

Lightroom allows you to upload your photos to their library for later editing. It’s useful when you use multiple devices for editing, including tablets and computers.

It’s quite advanced app for editing, including features such as filters, light, color and detail manipulation, as well as cloning and selective editing (which I’m a fan of; paid feature). Lightroom also allows you to clone or remove sports, specifying the place you want the app to use as a source, and also choosing between cloning and healing.

You can also edit raw photos on Lightroom. Since there are not many apps that support raw photos – it’s a big plus.

I use Lightroom for most of my photos. You can also see videos of me editing my photos on Lightroom in my IGTV here and here.

An advantage of Lightroom is that you can always return to every photo you have edited and change your edits and the crop – nothing has been flattened (unlike for other editing apps). You can also start to edit, quit your app and later return to continue editing your photos.

Snapseed

Available on Android and iOS for free.

This was my first editing app I used for my macro photos. It’s simple and does the job well.

Snapseed has many features, such as editing a specific area of a photo by drawing with a brush (similar to Lightroom’s selective editing, but with much less options and without dots to change your edits), selective editing for changing a specific colored parts of a photo (example in a video below), as well as filters (“Grainy film”, most of my first Instagram photos use those filters) and face enhancing options. Snapseed also allows you to clone (heal) spots by drawing over them, but you cannot choose the source area.

Few of my first-ever posted photos in my Instagram account, mostly edited in Snapseed, using Grainy Film filters

In comparison to Lightroom – this app has its own selective editing – and it’s really useful! Instead of manually drawing area where to apply some edits, you can add dots to a specific point on the photo, and the settings will be applied to the area that is the same color as the chosen one. There’s a video below which demonstrate this behavior.

One option I really like in Snapseed is the Expand tool with smart background filling. The feature expands the side of the photo and adds the background making the photo taller or wider. This is useful when you need to transform a photo into a wallpaper, but the photo isn’t as tall as it should be. Also a video showing this added below.

Snapseed also allows you to view your edits done to the photo, and not only change the settings for them, but also choose an area where to apply the setting. For example, if you applied a filter over the photo, you can erase the areas where you don’t want the filter to be applied on. This is a feature I miss in Lightroom.

Editing raw photos is supported in Snapseed, but while in the raw edit window, you can edit only some basic things as exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, structure, saturation, temperature, tint and white balance first, and after applying those, the app converts the photo to a jpeg and you continue your work in the usual editor.

Selective editing in Snapseed
A list of available settings in Snapseed
Expand tool with smart background filling in Snapseed

Polarr

Available on Android, iOS and web for free with an option to buy subscription for advanced features.

Before switching to Lightroom, I used Polarr for a short while for my photo edits. It’s quite similar to Lightroom in terms of options. It also allows you to change every edit on the photo before saving it. Polarr has selective editing available, which is almost the same as Lightroom’s. Polarr also has a list of overlays (lens flare, snow, light leaks and other) you can apply on the photo or a specific area of it.

There are a list of options that are available for Pro users, but Polarr are nice enough to allow one free Pro export a day. That means you can use all the pro edits as long as you do that once a day.

Polarr has a quite large list of filters, which is one of the reasons why I sometimes return to this application when editing some photo.

There’s also an option to add text and shapes to your photos. Polarr allows you to clone/remove spots with the same technique Lightroom does.

Sadly you cannot edit your raw photos in Polarr.

Filters in Polarr
Selective editing in Polarr

Adobe Photoshop Express

Available on Android and iOS for free.

This isn’t an app I use, but I have it installed on my phone, and I consider it to be a good option for simple photo editing.

Photoshop express offers quite large list of filters, as well as overlays, stickers and texts. There is a cloning option available, but it’s only for spots – you cannot draw a line to fill it.

You can also edit raw photos on Photoshop Express.

Basic settings in Photoshop Express
Overlays in Photoshop Express

PicsArt

Available on Android, iOS, Windows and Web (beta) for free with an option to buy subscription for advanced features.

PicsArt is an application filled with many features that can not only edit your photo, but enhance it to a completely another level.

The application includes some basic editing tools, as well as a completely manual clone stamp tool (with the functionality exactly like in desktop Photoshop), which is sometimes useful when the automatic content aware fill in other applications won’t do.

A very useful tool is adding stickers to the photos – either it’s a butterfly or bokeh, or something completely different. If you didn’t find the effects you want through the sticker menu, you can add them through the brush section. Options include (and are not limited to) bokeh, snow, sparkles, fireworks, flowers and much more. There’s also an option to add overlays in masks menu – allowing you to add lights, bokeh and many more things that you can change the colors of before applying. You can also delete the overlays from the parts of the photo you don’t want them on.

Other features of the app include adding text on the photo, adding borders, drawing on the photo, adding shape masks as well as face retouching. You can also create many interesting collages (grids) in PicsArt including up to 10 photos. PicsArt also include options only available with gold membership.

PicsArt does open raw photos, but it seems that they get converted to jpeg, because they cannot extract the detail the way the other apps (that do support raw) does. In short – I don’t think PicsArt support raw photo editing.

Bokeh and snow drawn with a brush in PicsArt
Bokeh sticker in PicsArt

Bonus applications

There are other applications I use to enhance or create my photos.

Lens distortions

Available on Android and iOS for free with an option to buy subscription for advanced features .

This application allows you add snow, rain, clouds, as well as lights and other type of distortions to your photo. That’s it. No photo editing or enhancing features in this app. You can edit each element by rotating and placing it where you wish, as well as you can edit the opacity, brightness and other settings for them.

You have an option to add up to 3 elements and choose from limited list of additions, while there’s much bigger list of elements in paid version of the app.

Snow effect added in Lens Distortions
Sunshine lights added in Lens Distortions

Add Text

Available on Android for free.

This is an app I use almost daily to create my stories I post in Instagram. It’s not meant for picture editing, but it lets you add texts, other photos, shapes and stickers on your photos.

I create all of my custom stickers in Add Text application. You can learn more about how to do that in this blog post!

There’s a handful of options for the texts, including not only color and styles, but also stroke, highlight, spacing, perspective, shadow, gradient and others.

The option I love is that you can import your own fonts (I mostly download them from Google Fonts or dafont.com). This allow you to create photos and texts that uniquely describe you.

You can also save your projects to get back to them later. I use this feature to change the backgrounds or text styles for previously saved photos, so that I don’t have to type the texts again.

Adding and modifying text in Add Text
Adding a photo in Add Text

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