How to Edit Photos in the iPhone Photos App

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Editing Photos in the iPhone Photos App: The Basics

editing photos on the iphone
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Editing your digital photos used to mean buying expensive editing programs like Photoshop and learning complex features. These days iPhone owners have powerful photo-editing tools built right into their phones.

The Photos app installed on every iPhone and iPod touch allows users to crop their photos, apply filters, remove red eye, adjust color balance, and more. This article explains how to use these tools to perfect photos right on your iPhone.

While the editing tools built into Photos are good, they're not a substitute for something like Photoshop. If you want to totally transform your images, have more serious issues that need fixing, or want professional-quality results, a desktop photo editing program is your best bet.

NOTE: This tutorial was written using the Photos app on iOS 10. While not every feature is available on earlier versions of the app and iOS, most of the instructions here still apply.

Open Photo Editing Tools

The location of the photo-editing tools in Photos isn't obvious. Follow these steps to put a photo into editing mode:

  1. Open the Photos app and tap on the photo you want to edit
  2. When the photo is displayed at full size on the screen, tap the icon that looks like three sliders (in earlier versions of Photos, tap Edit
  3. A set of buttons appears along the bottom of the screen. You're now in editing mode. 

Cropping Photos on iPhone

To crop an image, tap the button that looks like a frame at the bottom left of the screen. This puts the image in a frame (it also adds a compass-like wheel below the photo. More on that in the Rotate Photos section below).

Drag any corner of the frame to set the cropping area. Only the parts of the photo that are highlighted will be retained when you crop it.

The app also offers presets for cropping photos to specific aspect ratios or shapes. To use them, open the cropping tool and then tap the icon that looks like three boxes inside each other (this is on the right side, below the photo). This reveals a menu with presets. Tap the one you want.

If you're happy with your selection, tap the Done button in the bottom right to crop the image.

Rotate Photos in Photos app

To rotate a photo, tap the crop icon. To rotate the photo 90 degrees counter-clockwise, tap the rotate icon (the square with the arrow next to it) at the bottom left. You can tap it more than once to continue the rotation.

For more free-form control over the rotation, move the compass-style wheel beneath the photo. 

When the photo is rotated in the way you want, tap Done to save your changes. 

Auto-Enhance Photos

If you'd prefer to have the Photos app do the editing for you, use the Auto Enhance feature. This feature analyzes the photo and automatically applies changes to enhance the image, such as improving the color balance.

Just tap the Auto Enhance icon, which looks like a magic wand. It's in the top right corner. The changes can sometimes be subtle, but you'll know they've been made when the magic wand icon is lit up blue.

Tap Done to save the new version of the photo.

Removing Red Eye on iPhone

Remove red eyes caused by the camera flash by tapping the button in the top left that looks like an eye with a line through it. Then tap each eye that needs to be corrected (you can zoom in on the photo to get a more precise location). Tap Done to save.

You may not see the magic-wand icon in all cases. That's because the red eye tool is not always available. You'll generally only see it when the Photos app detects a face (or what it thinks is a face) in a photo. So, if you have a photo of your car, don't expect to be able to use the red eye tool.

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Advanced Editing Features in the IPhone Photos App

editing photos in iOS photos app
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Now that the basics are out of the way, these features will help you take your photo-editing skills to the next level for even better results.

Adjust Light and Color 

You can use the editing tools in Photos to convert a color photo to black and white, increase the amount of color in a photo, adjust contrast, and more. To do that, put the photo into editing mode and then tap the button that looks like a dial at the bottom center of the screen. This reveals a menu whose options are:

  • Light—Includes settings for Brilliance, Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast, and Black Point
  • Color—Includes settings for Saturation, Contrast, and Cast
  • B&W—Includes settings for Intensity, Neutrals, Tone, and Grain.

Tap the menu you want and then the setting you want to change. Different options and controls appear based on your choice. Tap the three-line menu icon to return to the pop-up menu. Tap Done to save your changes.

Remove Live Photos

If you've got an iPhone 6S or newer, you can make Live Photos—short videos created from your photos. Because of the way Live Photos work, you can also remove the animation from them and just save a single still photograph.

You'll know a photo is a Live Photo if the icon in the top left corner that looks like three concentric rings is highlighted blue when the photo is in editing mode (it's hidden for regular photos). 

To remove the animation from the photo, tap the Live Photo icon so that it's deactivated (it turns white). Then tap Done.

Revert to Original Photo

If you save an edited photo and then decide you don't like the edit, you're not stuck with the new image. The Photos app saves the original version of the image and lets you remove all of your changes and go back to it.

You can revert to the earlier version of the photo this way:

  1. In the Photos app, tap the edited image that you want to revert
  2. Tap three sliders icon (or Edit in some versions)
  3. Tap Revert
  4. In the pop-up menu, tap Revert to Original
  5. Photos removes the edits and you've got the original photo back again.

There's no time limit on when you can go back and revert to the original photo. The edits you make don't truly change the original. They're more like layers put on top of it that you can remove. This is known as non-destructive editing, since the original isn't changed.

Photos also lets you save a deleted photo, rather than just an earlier version of the same photo. ​Find out how to save deleted photos on the iPhone here.

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Use Photo Filters for Extra Effects

add filters to iPhone photos
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If you've used Instagram or any of the other legion of apps that let you take pictures and then apply stylized filters to them, you know how cool these visual effects can be. Apple isn't sitting out that game: the Photos app has its own set of built-in filters.

Even better, in iOS 8 and higher, the third-party photos app you have installed on your phone can add filters and other tools to Photos. As long as both apps are installed, Photos can basically grab features from the other app as if they were built in.

Learn how to use Apple's filters, and third-party filters that you can add from other apps, by reading How to Add Photo Filters to iPhone Photos.

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Editing Videos on the iPhone

Editing iPhone Videos
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Just like photos aren't the only thing the iPhone's camera can capture, photographs aren't the only thing that Photos app can edit. You can also edit video right on your iPhone and share it to YouTube, Facebook, and in other ways.

To learn more about how to use those tools, check out How To Edit Videos Directly On Your iPhone