Have you ever taken a photo on your phone, but wanted it took a dab better? Or, a lot better?

The phenomenon of wanting to edit a photo immediately has happened to me multiple times a month (okay, fine—multiple times per week!)

In a matter of minutes, I’ve been able to turn a photo that lacked contrast or needed a boost into a photo worthy of sharing. Here are my favorite apps that have been staples in my collection of phone apps for photo editing.

VSCO

I’ve had VSCO for what seems like years, and the app has changed over time in that it now is more than simply an editing app. It’s also (what VSCO calls) a way to discover the VSCO community, where you can see photos shared and discover creative people.

With the free version, which I have, you have access to unlimited use of nine presets, which range from a vintage-style black-and-white to brighter presets with color tints and contrast settings. From time to time, VSCO will give a limited-time offering of a new preset that you can use for free in addition to the original nine.

Other functions available with which you can edit your photo are exposure, contrast, adjust, sharpen, saturation, white balance, skin tone, grain and fade. I like using a combination of these and giving my photo a unique feel before posting to Instagram.

Here’s one of my favorite retro VSCO filter edits of a photo I recently took in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Tips For Editing Your Photos On The Go Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Google Photos

I downloaded Google Photos around three years ago, and never looked back. In addition to being the default way I store all my phone photos (and because I do my phone shooting on the Google Pixel, there’s a lot of volume here!), the Google Photos app has some quick and easy ways to edit photos while on the go.

To start, you have around 12 filters to apply to your image immediately after taking it. From there, play with light, color and pop, and then crop, rotate and adjust. By adjusting these settings, I can prepare my image to slide into Instagram or VSCO for further editing. Check out the photo of Lisbon, Portugal, that serves as the thumbnail for this article, and you’ll see what Google Photos can do for you with a few taps.

Tip: If you have Google Photos already, you’re likely aware of this function, but for new users, it’s important to know that you can search your entire Google Photos camera roll and archive by person, place or even “thing.” That’s right—you can search “dog,” and Google Photos will give you results matching “dog” from your uploads since the beginning of your syncing. This has helped so much when I’m creating photos for @halfhalftravel and need to search for a coffee cup!

A Color Story

I found out about A Color Story while researching new apps to throw into my “on-the-go” mix of apps. What stands out to me most about a Color Story is that you can use a lens curve, just like when you edit in Lightroom. This is not only fun to play with, but it gives a huge boost to an otherwise drab photo.

The biggest, and slightly cheesiest, feature that I have found in A Color Story is the lens flare edit. This app will let you add a whole artificial lens flare into your photo! There are also (in the free version), effects like “light leak” and “bokeh,” but these are the only free extra effects available without buying the full version of the app.

Next are the adjustments. There’s tone curves, contrast, brightness, saturation, vibrance, temperature, tint, hue shift, blur and grain, along with color additions for shadows and mid-tone. You’ve got lots of options here.

You can connect Instagram to A Color Story as well, and it’ll show you a grid. Here’s my best before vs. after edit with A Color Story.

Before:

Tips For Editing Photos On The Go

After:

Tips For Editing Photos On The Go

Snapseed

To me, Snapseed was a unique discovery. I still can’t seem to figure out if the world knows about Snapseed and its plethora of edit functions.

For filters, there are a selection of what’s labeled as “Looks,” and a choice of four black-and-white options. Interestingly, there’s an option called “Last Edits,” which will apply your entire range of edits from your last use to your next photo.

For tools, there’s the standard tuning, white balance, cropping and rotating, but what’s hugely fun here are tools for perspective shifting, “healing” (applying parts of a photo to other parts), “glamour glow,” tonal contrast, grainy film, “Retrolux” (much like the original Instagram filters from 2012), double exposure and adding of text.

I could play on Snapseed for days. Also, it’s free, even with everything I’ve mentioned above.


To start, download any or all of these apps for 100% free in your app store. You can start playing around with photos you’ve already taken, or go out and get shooting!

I’d love to see what you’re creating with edits in your phone, so please reach out to me on Instagram (@halfhalftravel) to share.