There's a very important step between taking a photo and sharing it on your network of choice, and it can easily become the most enjoyable part of the mobile photography experience.
Smartphone cameras can do some incredible things nowadays, with new and even more amazing features being announced all the time. While it's important to have the tools to take a good photo, being able to edit that image afterwards can often be just as important. Whether you've got a breathtaking panorama of a city skyline or you're putting googley eye stickers on the photo of that guy who fell asleep during the team meeting, having a photo editor on your phone is a big deal. Having the right photo editor on your phone is an even bigger deal, and that's what we're talking about today.
While there's plenty to be said for apps that are all inclusive, we're focusing on the best standalone photo editors for Android, regardless of what kind of camera you have and what skill level you think you are at.
1. Adobe Lightroom Mobile
On desktops and laptops, Lightroom is one of the most commonly used photo editing apps out there. It's powerful, professional, and the learning curve isn't all that bad considering the hundreds of tiny changes that can be made to an image in order to transform it from a good photo into something you hand on a wall. Since smartphone cameras have been capable of producing wall-quality photos for a little while now, and out processors are nor more than capable of performing complex edits on the fly, a mobile version of Lightroom offers a similar level of editing capability no matter where you are.
Lightroom Mobile is only available on Android phones at the moment, but the interface is clearly designed to be touch friendly in an attempt to offer the same kind of flexibility the desktop version of the software is capable of. This means awkwardly zooming in on things every once in a while, but when you add in the ability to edit images in RAW formats on top of everything else you get a great quick tool for the Lollipop age of smartphone photography. Plus, if you use Lightroom on your regular computer you can use Adobe sync to ensure you're able to check out your edits as soon as you are back at your desk.
2. PicSay Pro
While serious photo editing has its place and time, quick and fun edits are way more common in our social networking world. The ability to snap a quick pic of your kid playing in the yard, some graffiti you spotted on a train car, or a diner sign late a night that stood out as you walked down the street are the things smartphone cameras are perfect for, and the ability to add something quick to make that one thing stand out or even just to add a little bit of silliness is too much fun to pass up. If this is your style of photo editing, PicSay is the app you need to be looking at.
PicSay comes in a free version and a Pro version, and both offer fantastic lightweight features that can make a photo pop. You can bleed the color out of a photo save for a few small places, apply a quick filter, maybe a speech bubble with something clever in it, and be on your way to sending the photo in minutes. The UI can be a little on the clumsy side, with pinch to zoom and tap-based editing tools happening simultaneously that make it very easy to accidentally add or remove something as you edit, but both versions of the app make up for it with the sheer number of options (more of which are available in the Pro version) you have at your disposal. At $3.99, the Pro version is absolutely worth it.
3. Photo Editor by Aviary
There are a lot of simple editors out there that handle basic filters and focus shift kind of edits for free, but most of these apps are either tied to a social network (Instagram, for example) or just aren't flexible enough to be worth having on your phone. Aviary takes the filter fans and increases the quality by an order of magnitude, offering a clean and simple UI that focuses on letting the user quickly zoom in an make edits without interrupting the artistic thought in process.
Edits happen through a simple bar across the bottom of the app, making it so you can can make one-handed on-the-fly edits as you walk down the street and get back to what you're doing. It's a lightweight photo editing app for sure, but the focus on a simple UI with straightforward tools and a boatload of effects make it hands down the most powerful simple editor.
4. Google Photos
Google has (finally) broken Google+ Photos out of the Google+ app and into its own service — complete with its own app. This means you'll no longer have to use Google+ to have access to the service and free storage, as well as all the other features that come with.
Google Photos gives free storage, but is a bit lacking in the editing department — for now. The reason it makes this list is because of the "Creations", which are essentially the same as the old Auto-Awesome machine-learning and editing we saw with the Google+ Photos app.
As you upload your pictures, secret algorithms go to work to analyze things. The Creations are output automatically. Take a handful of burst shot images and you'll likely get an animated .gif, or dramatic images might get filters and frames added. It's all automatic, but you can also make your own Creations manually.
5. Autodesk Pixlr – photo editor
It's easy to think about photo editing as a one-off kind of activity on mobile devices, where you take a single image and shoot it off to a social network after you've made some quick edits, but photo editors can and often do offer a great deal more than that. Editing for social is fun, but when you have dozens of photos from an event or you want to assemble something memorable from years of collected photos, there's no reason you can't do this on your phone or tablet. The best app for the job is Pixlr, as it does a great job not only as a standalone editor but as a collage and creative editor too.
Pixlr's UI is fantastically powerful, but terribly dense at the same time. The app is a series of tiny black boxes that are great once you've gotten used to the interface, but intimidating to those who are just starting out. The toolbox this app offers truly is everything but the kitchen sink, but it also offers auto correction tools for those who aren't quite ready to dig in and make granular edits yourself. The collage features especially stand out due to being entirely mobile friendly, allowing you to easily assemble quick collections of photos into a single thought. If you've got the time to sit down and really learn how to use the software, this could easily become your favorite photo editor.
6. Hyperlapse by Microsoft
Hyperlapse is a technique for taking still photos and creating a smooth time lapse movie from them all. Originally designed for sport and action cameras, the idea has been brought to mobile, and is a great fit.
While not really an image editor in the traditional sense, Hyperlapse from Microsoft (not to be confused with Hyperlapse from Instagram) offers a pretty unique way to have a little fun with your camera. It certainly deserves a space here.
7. Your turn
These are the photo editing apps that really caught our eye, but there are dozens and dozens out in Android land today. Sound off in the comments with what you're using and what kinds of photos you find yourself editing the most!