How to Edit Photos with the iOS Photo App

How to Edit Photos with the iOS Photo App

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

How to Enter Editing Mode

First and foremost is learning how to enter editing mode. To do this:

  1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone, tap on “Camera Roll” or another gallery and then select the photo you want to touch.
  2. When Photo appears on your screen, look at the top right corner of the screen and click “Edit”.1(6)
  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 iPhone editing is with a change in color, brightness, or sharpness. Start by looking for the leftmost button on the Edit screen that looks like a numeric keypad with dots around it. When you edit here, the editing will affect the amount of light in your photo. You will be able to increase the overall exposure or add and remove shadows.


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 try to use artificial intelligence to adjust exposure, shadow, brightness, etc.
  • Exposure: exposure editing will determine how much light is in the scene. Like most of the options here, you can increase or decrease the amount of light. Drag the slider right to brighten your image or drag left to darken it.
  • Brilliance: if you want to show more detail with a richer image after editing, this is the place to start. Dragging the slider to the right will brighten up the shadow. Dragging to the left will make the shadow darker.
  • Highlight: here you can adjust the brightness only in the bright areas of the photo. Move the slider left to make the highlight darker or to the right to make it lighter.
  • Shadows: shadows are best described as the darkest part of all images. Slide your finger to the right and the shadow will get lighter or to the left and watch the shadow get darker.

Making Color Adjustments


Allowing color adjustments will allow you to change how your photo looks and help make it “stand out”.

  • Contrast: working with the contrast tool will allow adjustments to dark and light colors in any photo. Use the sliders to make precise adjustments. Go left to decrease contrast or right to increase and make the shadow darker.
  • Brightness: not surprisingly, brightness will brighten or darken your photo. Slightly different from adjusting exposure, the brightness slider will brighten or darken the photo without adjusting the exposure.
  • Black Point: this is the best place to highlight the darkest hues of any photo. By targeting the darkest parts of your photo, you can create a more dynamic image.
  • Saturation: Want to make colors more vivid? Less enthusiastic? Saturation is the place to be. Shifting to the right will make the colors stand out more. Alternatively, moving to the left will make the colors dimmer.
  • Vibrance: this is similar to the saturation tool but with more subtle tweaks. This is a great way to adjust the colors in an image without affecting skin tone.
  • Warmth: using this edit function will help make the colors in your photo warmer or cooler. This is a good way to fix white balance problems that may be present in original photos. Swipe right to warm the image up and left to “cool it”.
  • Tint: if you want to add a hue of green or magenta to a photo this is the place to do it. Swipe left to add a green hue or right for magenta.

Make Detail Changes

Making any detail changes can really help the image look better once you’ve changed the settings. However, this change comes with a caveat, as the amount of detail in any iPhone image is limited by the sensor size on the iPhone.


  • Sharpness: Make a change here, and your photo can be sharper (think sharper) with more definition. If you try to sharpen (to the right), you can significantly reduce the quality of the photo.
  • Definition: use this option to make changes to the photo that will improve the overall clarity of details.
  • Noise Reduction: do you get grainy images at night? This is the best function for converting so that you can get a usable photo.
  • Vignette: the vignette tool will try to brighten or darken any edges around the photo. If you want someone looking at the photo to focus on the center of the image, start by adjusting the vignette.

Editing with Filters

While editing light, color, and contrast all require manual work, editing with filters is better for beginners. Tap the middle button on the “Edit” screen (it looks like three overlapping circles), and you can slide your finger through them. As you move your finger, each filter takes on a different look by adjusting the different settings described above. Only one filter can be applied at a time, but you can change the filter whenever you want.


Apple has also added an option to shoot with filters enabled. Launch the camera app and look for the same Filter button at the top right of the screen. It is the same three circles that are overlapping each other. Now you can take a picture by activating the filter of your choice. Even after your photo is taken with a filter, you can still go back and add more filters later. This is a really great way for beginners to understand how the filter will be generated.

Trim and Straighten

The rightmost option on the editing screen for iPhone photos is a button that allows you to crop or straighten to fit your perspective.


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

  • The first option is to straighten your image. Move your slider right or left until the image looks completely straight.
  • The second and third options are for perspective correction. The second is to adjust the perspective horizontally and the third is to adjust the perspective vertically.


Another set of options also appear while you are on the crop screen. Look at the top left of the screen and you will see options to flip and rotate. Rotates exactly as the name suggests and rotates photos 90 degrees with every tap of a button. The “flip” button will flip your image horizontally.


Also at the top of the screen is another button for adjusting the photo format. In this menu you can take your original photo and adjust it to the sizes 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 photos and get rid of unwanted background distractions. Cropping a photo is easy and is done by adjusting one of the four corners of the photo. As soon as you enter the crop screen, four white corners will appear on the edges of your photo. Tap and hold it and move it in / out or left / right until you find the perfect result. The white border will show you where the new edge of the photo is and will help you frame it exactly the way you want it. Press “Done” when you are finished editing, and all of your changes will be saved.

While there are tons of third-party apps for taking and editing photos on iPhone, the default Photos app is fine enough for most of us. For anyone looking to jump right in and get started, the default editing features are for you.

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