Photo editing apps and software are a necessity if you want to be taken seriously in the world of photography.

It is entirely up to you whether you use apps or software (or both). Some people don’t like to edit their photos at all as it ‘makes the image false’. Whilst there is some truth in that, I personally love to get creative with the editing process and make my photos look as good as they can. 

Why You Should Use Photo Editing Apps and Software

These days there are so many people using editing tools to improve their photos. If you aren’t doing the same, then you might struggle to really stand out online. 

Before and after image of a photo of the Himalayas using Lightroom photo editing software.
One of my edits from Khardung La Pass, India.

When it comes to Instagram in particular, some argue that if your feed follows a colour/mood theme you’ll be more likely to convert profile viewers into followers.

Using photo editing apps and software makes this much easier to achieve. As you can simply adjust the colours and tones yourself.

There are Plenty of Free and Paid Options

All of us are working with different budgets, skill levels and aspirations.

Some of you will only want to edit on a phone, where as some of you will want to take things further on a Mac/PC.

Photo Editing Apps

1. Snapseed

In our opinion, Snapseed is the best free photo editing app for smartphones. Available for apple and android users.

It’s actually surprising how much you can do with this app. Developed by Google, the app is powerful and really easy to use. 

Snapped photo editing app tool section.

It has some really nice filters if you’re looking for a quick improvement to your photo. If you want to go further, it has all the standard adjustment tools available such as exposure, white balance, HDR, Healing, etc.

You make your adjustments by swiping left or right or touching the areas of the photo you want to affect. 

Snapseed has features that cater to all of us. It is easy enough for beginners to get some nice results, but also powerful enough to be useful for more experienced photographers.

If you’re a beginner photographer make sure you don’t make these beginner photography mistakes.

It also allows you to edit RAW files as well as JPEG, which I find impressive for a free app.

A bonus to the app is that if you export a photo from Snapseed, the app creates a new image rather than altering the original. This means that your original photo is never affected, unlike some apps.


VSCO is another brilliant photo editing app, with a free version of a similar standard to that of Snapseed. It comes with some beautiful pre-sets, as well as all the standard photo editing tools (contrast, saturation etc.). 

A feature I really like with VSCO is their ‘Discover’ section. This is a great place to learn and find inspiration from others. It’s a place where members of the community post their best pics and simple tutorials.

photo editing app feed section
VSCO’s ‘Discover’ and ‘Feed’ sections feel like a social network.

It almost has an Instagram feel about it, with the slogan ‘a community for creators, by creators’.

  • Minor Issues

The presets are named things like ‘B1’ and ‘B2’, and all the editing tools are just icons rather than names. For example, to edit sharpness you need to click on the triangle. This makes it less intuitive to use than Snapseed.

However, these are minor issues and once you’e used to the system a few times it shouldn’t be a problem. 

  • Price

While it is free to download and use the basic version, you’ll find many of the better presets are not available for free. 

There is a premium version for a very reasonable $19.99 per year.

They also sell Preset Packs on their website for desktop, although as of the 1st of March 2019 the company will be entirely on mobile phones and hence these will not be available.

3. Lightroom

Without a doubt, the best editing software comes from Adobe Lightroom. This refers to both their smartphone and Mac/PC versions, when paid for. Available to apple and android users.

I say ‘when paid for’ because Adobe Lightroom CC on mobile is actually free to use up to a point.

However, I think that the free version is no better than Snapseed and VSCO and hence if you aren’t willing to pay monthly then don’t bother with it.

Photo Editing Software


GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), is perhaps the best online free photo editor.

It’s pretty easy to use and can produce some really nice results fairly quickly.

GIMP free photo editing software for desktop

While it is not quite as ‘clean’ as Lightroom or Photoshop, it does have a vast number of features comparable to the Adobe pair. If you are looking for a powerful photo editor for free, GIMP is a good option.

  • One thing to bear in mind with GIMP

When you edit a file it won’t create a new file it will just alter the original, permanently changing it. To get around this, make sure you duplicate your file beforehand. Then just use one of them to edit with in GIMP.

You might also want to create ‘Duplicate Layers’ every time you change something so that you can delete them later on if you don’t like them.

For more on this, here’s an introduction to GIMP.

2. RawTherapee

Raw Therapee logo, a photo editing software.

Rawtherapee is a brilliant, powerful editor that can really stand up to Lightroom as a viable alternative in many aspects.

Unlike GIMP, this editor is non-destructive. This means that when you edit a file, it will create a new file for you so that the original is not changed. 

It has both basic and advanced editing tools available, very similar to Lightroom. It also allows you to edit your images in RAW file, which if you aren’t aware is the best way to edit your photos. LINK

Again it is not quite so clean and slick as the Adobe competition, and so will be a bit of a learning curve for some. That said, there is a forum area on their website where you can find help. 

While they do ask for a donation if you like their product, Rawtherapee is completely free to download and use. I find that pretty amazing considering how much you can do on here.

I know this is meant to be the ‘Mid range’ price section, but to be honest if you’re not going to get Lightroom then I think this is a viable alternative.

3. Lightroom

As stated before, Lightroom is by far the highest quality photo editing software out there.

Lightroom for desktop editing a photograph or a country lane.
A screen grab from my Lightroom Classic, the best option in my opinion.

If you are trying to take your photography to the highest level possible, then you should really consider getting at least Adobe Lightroom. 

It is also worth noting that there are 2 types of Lightroom. There’s Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. You can get both for the same price.

Essentially Lightroom CC is cloud based and hence you can edit the photo on your phone and then log on to your Mac/PC and continue from where you left off. This is pretty cool if you like editing on your smartphone. But, if you are like me and solely edit on a Mac/PC then I think Lightroom Classic is the more powerful option.  

Lightroom, Photoshop and all the other pieces of kit Adobe offer aren’t cheap.

  • Price

Just Lightroom alone will cost you at least £/$10 per month. Therefore you need to be able to justify speding over £/$100 per year on a piece of editing software. 


There is so much choice in 2019 when it comes to photo editing apps and software. Even if you are just starting out and don’t want to invest in anything, then the free options in the article will still allow you to improve your photos with relative ease. 

However, if you want to get more serious with your photos, I suggest Adobe Lightroom. 

If you are a travel blogger or photographer, as we mention regularly here at People of the Planet, photos are hugely important for your travel articles and social media profiles.

Lightroom is the industry standard, and hence it makes sense to use it. Although it must be said that the free/cheaper options will still do a good job.

Check out some of our recent photography articles:

We hope you find that useful! If you’ve used/use any other editing apps/software that you think deserve a mention, let us know in the comments or send us an email!

One half of People of the Planet. Sharing our adventures, best travel tips and travel photography! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to learn, explore and find travel inspiration.

Author Christian Larby

One half of People of the Planet. Sharing our adventures, best travel tips and travel photography! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to learn, explore and find travel inspiration.


  1. On my iPad my choice is PS Express by Adobe. This is a great tool to develop photos. It gives me every feature I use for free.

    On my Mac I‘m using Luminar which is a great alternative to Lightroom. Luminar has tons of features. E.g. an AI function which does a great job. Since end of last year it also has a catalog function where the files itself stay where they are in their original directories on the hard disc.

    • POTP Admin

      Thanks for the reply Thomas! PS Express is indeed another option. Even the free Lightroom CC on mobile can produce good results. It’s interesting to hear you mention Luminar, it is one of the best paid alternatives to Lightroom out there. If they produce a mobile editing app and include it in the purchase price, it would definitely be something we’d consider.