Photos are a wonderful way to record great moments in your life. They capture an event for posterity in an instant, and thanks to cameras on smartphones like the iPhone, they can be taken at any time.
You want these photo memories to look great, so it’s important to learn how to make your iPhone photos look better.
Some of what will make your photos look better is understanding composition — making sure whatever you’re taking a photo of looks good in your phone screen, whether that’s making it centered, or zooming in a little on something that’s interesting.
But you can do a lot to improve a picture you’ve already taken from right inside your iPhone.
The iPhone Photos app has some great editing capabilities that can take any picture in your camera roll, and make them look better. You can also get other photo editing apps, but for some great, easy editing that won’t cost you anything extra, it’s good to stick with Photos at least at the start.
Let’s take a look at what these Photos editing features are, and how you can use them to start making your iPhone photos look better right now.
How to edit photos on your iPhone
Let’s start with the absolute basics—how do you start editing a photo on your iPhone? First, take a picture in the Camera app, then open the Photos app. Tap on the picture you want to edit, and tap “Edit” in the top right corner of your phone screen. You’ll be able to access all of the editing features now, denoted with different icons on either side of the black borders on your picture. We’ll go over each of these icons, and how they can enhance your photos, in the sections below.
Automatic enhancements and filters—to keep things quick
Want to make your pictures look better right away, but are intimidated by the many dials and features available in the Photos app? Try starting out by tapping “Enhance,” the magic wand icon in the upper right corner when you hold your iPhone vertically (or in the upper left corner if you hold it horizontally) in Edit mode. Enhance will brighten your image and boost the colors some, making them look a little more lively and saturated. It’s a quick and easy adjustment for the less than tech-savvy out there, and one that makes most pictures look better, even if only by a little bit.
You can see the difference by tapping on your photo when Enhance is activated, as that shows what the photo originally looked like for a few seconds (actually saying “ORIGINAL” at the top of the image), and then snaps back to the Enhanced version. If nothing else, it’s a quick thing to try when you’re editing a photo and you don’t know what to specifically target. It could be the very thing you need to improve the picture!
What if you don’t like how Enhance works on a particular photo, but you still want a quick editing fix, or to at least avoid too many level adjustments? Try applying one of the many Filters available within Photos, and see if they can improve things for you.
In Edit mode, tap the icon that looks like three overlapping circles; that will bring up the Filters selection. Each filter has a name, and provides a small preview of your image with that filter on it at the bottom of the screen. Tap a filter to see it on the larger central image, and scroll through and try out many filters to see which one you like best. You can see your original image again by tapping on the filter preview, the Original filter at the start of the list, or by tapping the central image to see the original picture for a few seconds, as with Enhance.
If you find a filter you like (or if you like the Enhance function), tap “Done”, and your improved picture will save automatically. If you change your mind later, and want to adjust things manually, or if you want a new filter, just go back to the photo and get into Edit mode, then tap “Revert” where the “Done” button used to be. Your photo will go back to the original, and you’ll get a new chance to improve it, however you want.
Straighten and crop your photos automatically, or on your own
Lighting and color can be altered quickly with the Enhance and Filter tools in the Photos app. Your photos can also be straightened and cropped quickly and easily within Photos, some of them even automatically, as long as your iPhone can identify figures in the picture.
To straighten or crop a photo, tap the square icon with two extending corners that has two dotted arrows going around it. If your picture contains figure(s), like a person or multiple people, the picture will automatically rotate and zoom in a way that makes the figure or figures of the picture parallel to the picture’s edges, giving you a good shot of getting decent, centered composition with little effort.
However, the auto straighten and crop may not look quite right if you have other straight lines in your picture, such as from a wall or the floor, or it might rotate your picture too far to cut out more background. Or, as we’ve established previously, you might not have the auto feature available, because your iPhone doesn’t identify any particular figures, like people or animals, in your photo. In these cases, you’ll have to, or you’ll prefer to, straighten and crop your photo manually.
To crop your picture, drag the borders that appear after you’ve tapped the Crop/Rotate icon to cut out unwanted background, or to just change the shape of your picture. Drag your picture around to look best in the new frame you’ve created, and let that be your crop. You can also use two fingers to zoom in or out on a part of your picture within the given frame, and let that crop your image as well.
To straighten or tilt your image, drag the wheel with different angle measurements underneath your picture as much or as little as you need. Those angle measurements can help you decide how far you need to go, and remember to watch the lines that might be in the background of your picture.
To rotate an image entirely, such as make a landscape image portrait, or vice versa, tap the solid square icon that has an arrow curving over it to the left. That will turn your picture 90 degrees to the left. Tap it as many times as you need to to get the orientation you want.
Want to set your picture to a particular size or dimension? This might be relevant if you’re preparing a picture for a social media platform like Instagram. Tap the lined/layered rectangle icon opposite the rotate icon, and select the dimensions you’d like your picture to be, and drag your image to best accommodate them.
Remember, if you don’t like how you’ve cropped or rotated things, you can tap “Reset” at the bottom of your image at any point to go back to your original picture. This also takes away the automatic adjustments Photos makes when you access the Crop/Rotate tool, so use it if you want to go manual.
Adjust the lighting your own way
Automatic enhancements can be great, but maybe you want to be a little more hands-on with your photo improvements. To access your lighting options, tap the icon that looks like a dial surrounded by a semi-circle of dots. From here, you have two options of how to adjust this scale.
To make your picture generally lighter or darker, tap the word “Light”, and you’ll bring up a scale. This scale will darken or lighten your image in proportion with itself, making every level Photos adjusts higher or lower depending which end of the scale you move towards. Drag the scale to where you think looks best for your image. Your original brightness is at the center of the scale, and is marked with a circle at the top of the scale, just for your reference.
If you want to mess with different parts of the lighting in your image, like enhancing only shadows, or highlights, tap the downward facing arrow next to “Light” when you first select the dial icon, or tap the bullet list icon when you’re in the general Light scale. You will be able to see the Light drop down menu, which contains the names of the factors you can control, and the number they’re currently on. Tap one of the names, and you’ll find a scale beneath your image, much like the general Light scale. Drag the scale back and forth to see what it adjusts in your image, and set it to a level you think looks nice with your picture. Play around with all of the different menu items to see what they do, and to get the best look possible for your picture.
Play with color
The color adjustments in the Photos app on your iPhone work very similarly to the ones for light. Tap the dial icon, and then “Color” to access the general color scale, which makes you image more or less vibrant depending on where you drag it. This vibrancy comes from increasing or decreasing saturation and contrast in tandem, but much like with light, you can access those factors individually by tapping the down arrow, or the bulleted list icon. In this drop-down menu, tap whichever of the two you want and adjust the scale to whatever makes your image look best.
The third option in the Color drop-down menu is Cast, which puts an orange or blue hue over your image depending on what you choose in the scale. An orange hue warms an image and makes it brighter, while a blue hue makes it cooler and moodier. Play with this feature too to make your images look as cool as you can.
Make sure you save what you like, and discard what you don’t
Once you’ve made your picture perfect, tap “Done”, and your masterpiece will be saved in your camera roll. From there, you can share it online, with friends, or just send it to your computer to print or preserve for safekeeping.
If you don’t like changes you’ve made, or are making in your edits, tap “Cancel”, and then “Discard changes” to revert back to your original image. If you’ve already hit “Done,” you can also, as we’ve said before, go back to your picture and tap “Revert” to start again.
With these tips under your belt, go ahead and start making all of your iPhone pictures picture perfect! It’s a great way to be creative, and have a little phone with your photos—speaking of, try tapping the circle icon with three dots sometime, and then tap “Markup,” if it’s available. For sillier pictures, you might have some fun drawing all over them in this app, or just making an arrow to point to something important in your picture.
Otherwise, enjoy editing your pictures with all the tips above — we can’t wait to see all of your better iPhone photos!
Free photography lessons you’ll really love from Apple
Do you want to take the iPhone photography game to another level? In case you didn’t know, beyond the quick snapshot or selfie, you can do so much more with your iPhone camera.
Apple wants you to learn all these expert tricks and be an iPhone photography virtuoso.