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Improve smartphone photos with native editing tools (gallery)

Smartphones today take good quality photos, but you can make them even better with a little editing. This gallery shows the available tools for Android, BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone, and iOS.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Viewing a photo, getting ready to edit

Most people take photos with their smartphones and then share them on social networking sites or via email. I rarely see anyone print photos and thus just about every high end smartphone camera is just fine for the majority of people. In this post and image gallery, I take a look at the integrated photo editors found on the HTC One, BlackBerry Z10, Nokia Lumia 920, and Apple iPhone 5.

You will find native photo editing tools on all these newest smartphone platforms, but they don't appear as apps. These tools can improve the quality and look of photos you take. It is also fun to add customizations to your photos. To access these editing tools you first need to go into the device's gallery area and open up a photo. An option to edit a photo will be your gateway to these various editing tools.

I personally liked using the BlackBerry 10 and Nokia Creative Studio utilities the best as they gave me a mix of the essentials with some slick enhancement tools.

HTC One Android smartphone

The editing clients for all the other platforms is the same out of the box. However, on your Android smartphone the manufacturer has flexibility to provide a different native editing tool so the tools available on HTC will be different than what you find on Samung, LG, Motorola, and others.

The screenshots in this post were captured from the HTC One so the native tool has an HTC origin. You will even find that this tool differs from other HTC devices so with Android there is no consistent, cross-device experience.

After opening up a photo, tap the Edit button to access the HTC editor. At the bottom of the display you will find four icons that allow you to access Effects, Frames, Retouch, and Transform.

The Effects tool gives you filtering options similar to what you might find on Instagram. You can select from a number of effects and when you tap on an option you will see a preview of that appear as the photo changes. I personally don't use this tool much.

The Frames lets you customize the border of the photo with options such as wooden, airmail, grunge, and montage. These can be fun at times and I have edited photos using this tool.

When you tap on Retouch several options will appear, giving you a Photoshop Lite experience. The available tools actually are a bit dynamic too and will change depending on the photo you are viewing. For example, if someone photo bombed you then an option to remove that person may appear. Unfortunately, there is not much manual control over this option.

Tools available to you with Retouch include skin smoothing, lighting, face contour, eye enhancer, red eye removal, eye brightening, and anti-shine. As you can see most of these are focused on adjusting photos of people.

The last available tool is called Transform and allows you the ability to rotate, crop, flip, and straighten your photo.

The new Galaxy S4 has even more options for editing so open up a photo on your smartphone and check out the powerful editing tool in your hand.

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2 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Select options from the bottom toolbar

Frames lets you customize the border of the photo with options such as wooden, airmail, grunge, and montage. These can be fun at times and I have edited photos using this tool.

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3 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Checking out some effects

The Effects tool gives you filtering options similar to what you might find on Instagram. You can select from a number of effects and when you tap on an option you will see a preview of that appear as the photo changes. I personally don't use this tool much.

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4 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Frames are a fun way to edit a photo

Frames lets you customize the border of the photo with options such as wooden, airmail, grunge, and montage. These can be fun at times and I have edited photos using this tool.

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5 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Lots of touchup tools on the HTC One

When you tap on Retouch several options will appear, giving you a Photoshop Lite experience. The available tools actually are a bit dynamic too and will change depending on the photo you are viewing. For example, if someone photo bombed you then an option to remove that person may appear. Unfortunately, there is not much manual control over this option.

Tools available to you with Retouch include skin smoothing, lighting, face contour, eye enhancer, red eye removal, eye brightening, and anti-shine. As you can see most of these are focused on adjusting photos of people.

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6 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Let's make my face more narrow

The last available tool is called Transform and allows you the ability to rotate, crop, flip, and straighten your photo.

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7 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: My what big eyes you have granny

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8 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Android: Flip the photo for a different perspective

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9 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlackBerry 10: Editor starts in Artistic mode

BlackBerry Z10 with BB10

The photo editing tools were shown to me at the BB10 launch and have a slick user interface that helps make photo editing a fun experience.

After you open a photo and select to edit it you are launched into the center of the editor with the Artistic tool immediately available below your photo. The way the BB10 editor works is there is a bottom toolbar showing the four main tools and the row above this shows you the available options with thumbnails of your edited photo above the name of the option. When you tap the option, the large photo appears with your changes in place. You still have to save the edited photo and can always go back to your original.

The options available to you in Artistic mode include black and white, lomo, antique, sepia, watercolor, sketch, and more. I like these options much more than those on the HTC One and many like this are found on Samsung devices.

The Transform tool is limited and gives you options to rotate, free transform the size, or make an image square.

With Enhance options you can adjust red-eye, brightness, white balance, contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction. These are the standard editing tools you might find on your computer and are helpful for manual photo control.

The last tool, Styles, lets you apply Instagram-like quick styles to your photo. Options include smooth face, sixties, grain, age photo, cartoon, big eyes, and more.

I like the mix of traditional editing tools and new filters on BB10 and find it to be one of the most useful native photo editors available to smartphone owners today.

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10 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlackBerry 10: Applying an artistic filter

After you open a photo and select to edit it you are launched into the center of the editor with the Artistic tool immediately available below your photo. The way the BB10 editor works is there is a bottom toolbar showing the four main tools and the row above this shows you the available options with thumbnails of your edited photo above the name of the option. When you tap the option, the large photo appears with your changes in place. You still have to save the edited photo and can always go back to your original.

The options available to you in Artistic mode include black and white, lomo, antique, sepia, watercolor, sketch, and more. I like these options much more than those on the HTC One and many like this are found on Samsung devices.

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11 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlackBerry 10: Transform options

The Transform tool is limited and gives you options to rotate, free transform the size, or make an image square.

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12 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlackBerry 10: Enhancement options

With Enhance options you can adjust red-eye, brightness, white balance, contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction. These are the standard editing tools you might find on your computer and are helpful for manual photo control.

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13 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

BlackBerry 10: Cartoon style

Styles, lets you apply Instagram-like quick styles to your photo. Options include smooth face, sixties, grain, age photo, cartoon, big eyes, and morel.

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14 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Windows Phone 8: Choose to edit your photo

Nokia Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8

Like Android, the tools available to you on a Windows Phone 8 device depend on the manufacturer. Since Nokia is the main Windows Phone vendor I have screenshots showing options available on a Nokia Lumia device.

When you tap on the Edit option as you view a photo, Windows Phone 8 jumps to a screen showing the available tools for your device. On my Nokia Lumia 920, options appear as crop, rotate, auto-fix (native WP tool), Camera360, and Creative Studio. These last two are tools provided by Nokia and only appear if you installed them from the Store.

Like iOS, the native WP8 tool is very basic and just gives you options to rotate, crop, and auto fix. That's it, no other options are provided natively so photo editing is limited out of the box.

I haven't used the Camera360 editor too often, but have seen some pretty slick edits made and shared online. After you launch this app, you will see options at the bottom of the screen for clip, rotate, and effect. Tapping on effect takes you into an editor similar to what you find in iPhoto.

Small icons appear in a menu bar at the bottom of the display with options labeled scenery, portrait, microspur, food, and night. Tapping on each of these then gives you a row of filters with small thumbnails showing previews of what you edited image would look like. These filters include names such as foggy, purple, fall, enhance, normal, reversal, maple, emerald, sunny, black & white, and many more.

The Creative Studio app from Nokia is the real powerhouse for editing your photos on a Nokia Lumia. You have the ability to quickly apply filters such as silver, ivory, jade, quartz and more as soon as you launch this editor. A preview of what your photo looks like with these filters appears on the display. After selecting one of these main filters, you can then tap to edit and access several slick photo manipulation tools.

The tools in Creative Studio appear under four main headings at the top of your screen in the panoramic Metro UI. These main options are titled fix, blur, play, and adjust.

The Fix option lets you crop, rotate, and fix red eye. The Blur tool is fun and lets you select parts of your photo to focus on while blurring the rest of the photo. You can use a line drawing tool for this or a slick and easy radial tool.

The Play tool has color pop and collage functions. Color pop turns your photo to black and white and then lets you tap to add color and even gives you control over the primary colors in the photo so you can have all yellow images or all red images shown in color. This is also a fun tool to play with. The collage tool lets you choose images to then pull together into a collage. I use collages for sharing before and after shots quite a bit.

Traditional photo edits are made through the Adjust tool that lets you control color balance, brightness, clarity, and vibrance.

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15 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Windows Phone 8: Options on a Nokia Lumia 920

I haven't used the Camera360 editor too often, but have seen some pretty slick edits made and shared online. After you launch this app, you will see options at the bottom of the screen for clip, rotate, and effect. Tapping on effect takes you into an editor similar to what you find in iPhoto.

Small icons appear in a menu bar at the bottom of the display with options labeled scenery, portrait, microspur, food, and night. Tapping on each of these then gives you a row of filters with small thumbnails showing previews of what you edited image would look like. These filters include names such as foggy, purple, fall, enhance, normal, reversal, maple, emerald, sunny, black & white, and many more.

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16 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Windows Phone 8: Basic native tools similar to iOS

The Creative Studio app from Nokia is the real powerhouse for editing your photos on a Nokia Lumia. You have the ability to quickly apply filters such as silver, ivory, jade, quartz and more as soon as you launch this editor. A preview of what your photo looks like with these filters appears on the display. After selecting one of these main filters, you can then tap to edit and access several slick photo manipulation tools.

The tools in Creative Studio appear under four main headings at the top of your screen in the panoramic Metro UI. These main options are titled fix, blur, play, and adjust.

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17 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Windows Phone 8: Different options appear with Camera360

The Fix option lets you crop, rotate, and fix red eye. The Blur tool is fun and lets you select parts of your photo to focus on while blurring the rest of the photo. You can use a line drawing tool for this or a slick and easy radial tool.

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18 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Windows Phone 8: Camera360 looks a bit like iPhoto

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19 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Choose to edit your photo

Apple iPhone 5 with iOS

Like most of these platforms, there are native tools and then 3rd party applications you can purchase to provide even more tools. The native iOS tool is very limited in the photo editing department with just options to rotate, auto-enhance, remove red-eye, and crop photos.

Since Apple provides iPhoto on Macs and iOS, I decided to include their iPhoto app for comparison even though this one will cost you a few bucks. iPhoto offers tools similar to what other smartphones have natively.

To edit photos with iPhoto, you need to actually launch the iPhoto app and then select a photo you want to edit. Editing tools in iPhoto are dynamic so tapping the icon in the bottom left slides tools out from the left side along the bottom where you can then dive down a level or two for more editing options.

There are options to crop, rotate, adjust contrast, adjust brightness, adjust color levels with slick sliders, red-eye removal, sharpen, soften, and more.

Tapping on the last icon to the right in the bottom toolbar takes you to a palette of tools, called Effects, that open up as a virtually stacked color strip selector. The main tool names appear as ink effects, warm & cool, duotone, black & white, aura, vintage, and artistic. Tapping on a strip then gives you more options for editing photos.

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20 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Basic iPhone editing options

To edit photos with iPhoto, you need to actually launch the iPhoto app and then select a photo you want to edit. Editing tools in iPhoto are dynamic so tapping the icon in the bottom left slides tools out from the left side along the bottom where you can then dive down a level or two for more editing options.

There are options to crop, rotate, adjust contrast, adjust brightness, adjust color levels with slick sliders, red-eye removal, sharpen, soften, and more.

Tapping on the last icon to the right in the bottom toolbar takes you to a palette of tools, called Effects, that open up as a virtually stacked color strip selector. The main tool names appear as ink effects, warm & cool, duotone, black & white, aura, vintage, and artistic. Tapping on a strip then gives you more options for editing photos.

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21 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Auto-enhance is on

Tapping on the last icon to the right in the bottom toolbar takes you to a palette of tools, called Effects, that open up as a virtually stacked color strip selector. The main tool names appear as ink effects, warm & cool, duotone, black & white, aura, vintage, and artistic. Tapping on a strip then gives you more options for editing photos.

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22 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Remove red-eye

Tapping on the last icon to the right in the bottom toolbar takes you to a palette of tools, called Effects, that open up as a virtually stacked color strip selector. The main tool names appear as ink effects, warm & cool, duotone, black & white, aura, vintage, and artistic. Tapping on a strip then gives you more options for editing photos.

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23 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Crop a photo

Tapping on the last icon to the right in the bottom toolbar takes you to a palette of tools, called Effects, that open up as a virtually stacked color strip selector. The main tool names appear as ink effects, warm & cool, duotone, black & white, aura, vintage, and artistic. Tapping on a strip then gives you more options for editing photos.

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24 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: iPhoto adds several more tools

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25 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Pen tools in iPhoto

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26 of 26 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iOS: Effects tools in iPhoto

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