APP Review :Best Photo Apps For iOS And Android Tablets
The large screen size and high resolution of tablets make them great choices for editing your images.
The road to creating a captivating image doesn’t end once you press the shutter button. Exposure, contrast and color balance adjustments can go a long way towards communicating your photographic vision. And while smartphones are perfectly sized fortaking photos on the go, the much larger screen area of tablets makes them a great choice for perfecting your images after the fact, whether they’ve been shot with a phone or a dedicated camera. All you need is the right app. Here’s a look at the best tablet photo editing apps for iOS and Android, offering features and controls that rival, and in some cases even exceed the capabilities of entry-level desktop software.
Now there are literally dozens of photo editing apps on both the Apple App and Google Play stores, so to narrow the field of potential candidates, I considered only those apps that offer manual (versus automated) adjustments and, as the headline implies, come in both Android and iOS flavors.
Most of the apps I’ll show you are either free, or at least have no-cost “lite” versions available from the developer. And while the focus here is on tablet usage, keep in mind that nearly all of these apps will work on smartphones as well.
Snapseed's adjustment options appear in a popup menu overlay. You set values by swiping left or right.
Snapseed, a well-regarded mobile (and desktop) photo editor was developed by Nik Software, a company acquired by Google last year . Fortunately, Google seems comitted to Snapseed’s future, with the app still receiving regular updates.
Snapseed’s interface is among the most intuitive you’ll come across, with all of its adjustment and effects controls grouped logically among 14 collections, arranged in a filmstrip view beneath the image. Tap one, and the filmstrip is replaced by a control bar displaying relevant editing options. You’ll also find buttons to apply the edit, undo/redo each of the tool’s adjustments, and exit the tool altogether, leaving the image untouched. A Compare button helpfully allows you to toggle between the before and after states while using individual tools. You can also toggle between your current and original image states as well.
Snapseed offers all the standard controls you’d expect to find in an editing app, such as brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance, along with black and white conversion, vignetting, straightening and cropping tools. A large selection of image frames are available and you can even modify their border width.
Tool operation couldn’t be simpler, as you drag up/down with your finger to select a parameter and swipe left to right to change its value. Once you’re happy with your changes you can share your work to Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Google Drive or Dropbox. On an Android tablet and iPad 2, Snapseed can save images at resolutions up to 16MP and will save images up to 20.25MP on a 3rd generation (Retina) or newer iPad.
Pixlr Express has a tab-based menu with individual adjustment options in a popup grid.
Autodesk is known primarily for its 3D design software, but this California-based company also makes Pixlr Express, a free editing app that provides all the usual exposure controls, via slider adjustments. In addition to a saturation slider, Pixlr Express offers a Vibrance control that gives a pleasing color boost to images without looking cartoonish. Crucially, the app has a reset button inside each control screen so you can easily return a slider to its default settings, a feature that many other apps neglect to offer.
Pixlr Express has a few features well-suited to portrait retouches. A touch up tool can be used to selectively reduce harsh glare from faces and lighten shadows under the eyes, both of which it does impressively well. A tooth-whitening brush can be used to produce brighter smiles and you can adjust the strength of the effect after you’ve painted to achieve more realistic results.
After editing is complete you can share your images to your Twitter and Facebook feeds and your Google Plus account if you’re using an Android tablet. If you’d like a more comprehensive set of controls, Autodesk offersPixlr Editor, a web-based editing solution that looks uncannily similar to a Windows version of Photoshop circa CS 3.
PicsPlay Pro offers a Curves tool with individual RGB channel control.
Requires iOS 5, Android 2.2 or later. Free ad-supported version with reduced feature set available.
You only need to spend a few moments using PicsPlay Pro to realize that the team of this South Korean app maker has a fond reverence for Photoshop. In addition to standard exposure and color balance controls, the app offers pro-level features like a Curves tool that allows individual RGB channel adjustments plus an opacity setting to modify its overall strength. You also get a sharpening tool with a radius parameter and a crop tool in which you can manually enter custom ratios. There’s also a vignetting tool that allows you to modify a linear, circular or radial gradient shape and its strength.
But what really sets PicsPlay Pro apart is that when accessing any of its numerous filter effects, you can enable a masking tool to precisely control where the effect is applied to your image. You do this by painting with a brush for which you can configure not only size, but feathering and opacity. A Photoshop-like rubylith overlay can even be called up so you can see exactly where you’ve painted. But wait, there’s more. A button to invert your selection means you can choose to paint over the smallest possible area to apply your effect. You can step backwards through each individual brush stroke/edit to fine-tune your results without having to start over from scratch.
Add up all this control, and the $3.99 price tag can seem like a bargain. And there’s a free ad-supported version with some features disabled if you want to try before you buy. You can share finished images to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Flickr accounts or save them to Google Drive or Dropbox. The app supports up to 25MP resolution images on the 3rd generation (Retina) or newer iPad and up to 10MP images on previous iPads. On Android, the limit is 5MP resolution images.
PicShop features large slider icons for making image adjustments.
Requires iOS 4.3, Android 2.2 or later. Free “lite” version with lower resolution output, reduced feature set available.
PicShop is a solid, if plain looking photo editor from Canadian app maker, esDot. The app offers large, easy to manipulate slider controls for adjustments like brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue and saturation. A radial blur can be used to limit focus to a specific area of the image. There’s a blemish removal tool, but as with most tablet apps, it’s really of limited practical use even on very smooth, even-toned areas, as it tends to leave behind obvious smudges.
A small but impressively tasteful collection of filters is included and PicShop helpfully allows you to adjust the intensity of each filter’s effect. You can also add multiple images atop your original file with a choice of opacity and blending mode. Overall, PicShop is simple to use and provides enough functionality to handle the most commonly required image adjustments. A useful feature that is missing though, is the ability to see before and after comparisons while you’re still working with a given tool. As it stands, you must first apply your change and return to the main option screen where you can toggle between the current image and its unedited state or step backwards through each individual adjustment.
Some may find PicShop’s $4.99 price a bit steep for its rather conservative feature set, especially compared to a free option like Snapseed. But if you have fairly basic editing needs and appreciate realistic filter effects with roots in traditional photography, it’s a worthwhile option. PicShop is also available in a free version (with limited features and lower resolution output) which means you can take a trial run before deciding whether to spring for the upgrade, which you can do with an in-app purchase. You can save images directly to your Twitter and Facebook feeds and PicShop will save images at a resolution of up to 12MP.
Requires iOS 5 and iPad 2, Android 3.1 or later. Phone-compatible version available for separate purchase of $4.99.
Photoshop Touch brings the layers and masking flexibility of Photoshop CS/CC to tablets.
Let’s be honest. If all you need to do is occasionally brighten or darken a image, then using Photoshop Touch is like driving a Ferrari to the grocery store. It will do the job, but the $9.99 cost of the app, coupled with a relatively steep learning curve may be difficult to justify for casual users when compared to using the less expensive PicsPlay Pro, for example. And if you also want the option to use Photoshop Touch on your phone, you’ll have to make a separate purchase for Adobe’s phone-compatible version of the app.
But if you’re a retouching expert and need to remove distracting objects from a scene, combine multiple image layers at various opacities, or create intricate masks to separate subjects from their background, leveraging the technology behind Photoshop CS/CC, look no further.
Adobe’s flagship mobile app is essentially a collection of photography-centric editing tools whose functions will be familiar to desktop Photoshop users. You can apply Curves, Levels, saturation and color balance adjustments, to name a few. You can apply these edits to an entire image or paint in their effects on specific areas of a single layer. You can create freehand or image-aware selections and use both clone and healing brush tools.
With all this power comes some complexity. Knowledge of Photoshop CS/CC is obviously a plus, but because this app is designed for a touch-enabled device, even Photoshop power users will have to learn their way around the interface. So plan to devote some time at the outset to following at least a few of the app’s built-in tutorials.
Photoshop Touch comes with access to Adobe’s Creative Cloud storage and syncing services so that you can start editing a file on your mobile device and then continue making adjustments to the same image, complete with any image layers you’ve created, from your desktop machine. You can share images to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Photoshop Touch can output images at a resolution of up to 12MP. Apple users should note that Photoshop Touch is not compatible with the first-generation iPad.
If advanced editing like this is well beyond your needs, Adobe does offer their Photoshop Express app, which is free. Yet it has such a limited feature set that you’re really better off with one of the other free apps I’ve mentioned.
While these apps have their differences, what they all have in common is the ability to perform traditional photographic edits while taking advantage of your tablet’s larger screen area for a more precise and comfortable editing experience than your smartphone provides. And of course you can easily share the finished results to your social feeds. So the next time you’ve got an image that looks good, but not quite great, fire up your tablet and give one of these apps a try.
Have any favorites that I’ve missed? Tell me about them in the comments below. And be sure to check out my roundup of the best camera apps for your smartphones.