Best Photo Editing Apps for the iPad

by Reads (58,253)

The iPad may not have a camera, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an integral tool in your artistic portfolio. You can sync photos from your desktop, transfer them to the iPad using the iPad Camera Connection Kit, or download them from the web. No matter how you acquire the photos, the right apps on your iPad can help you to enhance the photos you capture, fix simple mistakes, create your own masterpieces, and share those images with others.

This is the first in a series of three articles that will showcase just a few of the top photography apps on the iPad. This time the emphasis is on basic photo editing; next time special effects apps take the stage and then photo sharing apps will be in the spotlight.

Amopic ($6.99)

Amopic app for iPadThe Amopic iPad app is the closest I found to desktop photo editing apps. Instead of using a sidebar with the various options laid out like a buffet, Amopic makes extensive use of floating boxes and controls. When you tap one of the categories at the bottom of the screen for Tools, Effects, Pallete (sic), Options and History you will then be presented with a tiny icon bar from which to choose.

Choose Tools for options that control the diameter, hardness, and flow of your paintbrush; a color picker; a text tool; a line tool; spray can; and paint bucket. Under Effects you’ll find options relating to blur, sharpen, pixelize, despeckle, emboss and to remove red eye. You can also apply color effects to your photo with the Pallete (sic) menu. The only sharing option at this time is to save the finished photo to your iPad’s photo album.

Amopic is a relative newcomer to the iPad photography category but it’s already a strong contender. While it may have a rather steep learning curve, it is quite powerful once you grok how to use it. If future updates continue to add new tools while also greatly improving the help/tutorial system, it could easily become one of the best photo editing apps available for the iPad.

Crop Suey HD ($1.99)

Crop Suey for iPadYou can’t usually judge an iPad app by its name, but in this case you certainly can: at its heart, Crop Suey HD is a cropping tool. That may sound underwhelming until you consider that sometimes the simplest tools are also the most useful. When you first start the app, you are presented with a simple three-step tutorial. Simply touch the Open Image icon in the top left corner of the screen, choose an image, and then use the tools at the bottom of the screen to manipulate it.

There are only six options from which to choose: discard, straighten, rotate, flip, crop, and save. None of the four main tools is particularly advanced or complex, but they do represent the most commonly used photo manipulation tools. Once you choose a tool, the work is absolutely effortless, and you quickly realize that cropping photos on the iPad is so much easier than it is using a “real” computer. Crop Suey may not be particularly fancy, but it does the job and it’s easy to use.

Filterstorm ($2.99)

Filterstorm app for iPadUnlike the last app, Filterstorm can be somewhat overwhelming at first — when you first start the app, you are invited to view a six-and-a-half minute tutorial video. That’s usually a warning sign, but the video does a great job of showing you just how quickly and easily you can create beautiful photos out of even somewhat flawed originals.

The icons at the top allow you to choose all of the controls quite easily — nothing is hidden under layers of menus. On the left side you will find four editing modes: pan & zoom for the whole image, a brush to paint effects on certain areas, a color range picker, and a gradient tool with three different styles.

On the right side you’ll find a More menu with several choices such as noise reduction, soften/sharpen tools, and four others. The real meat of the iPad app is in the next three icons: Black & White, Hue, and Light for the luminance filters. Based on curves, a touch of a finger on the controls gives you pinpoint control far beyond what you can do with a mouse or touchpad on a regular computer. There is sometimes a slight lag when the iPad is updating your photo, but it isn’t burdensome.

Experienced users can very quickly produce stunning images; those who are a little less experienced can still use the iPad app well, but will require more experimentation and trial & error to make the best use of Filterstorm. Thankfully you can easily undo each action or revert back to the original image at any time. Finished photos can be saved to your photo library, sent via email, or uploaded via FTP.

Filterstorm requires some real effort to master, but the results are definitely worth it. Being able to use advanced tools in a simple way to correct different areas of a photo individually and create a coherent whole is a task that Filterstorm can help you carry out to perfection.

FX Photo Studio HD ($2.99)

FX Photo Studio HD app for iPadUnlike most of the other apps in this week’s article, FX Photo Studio HD takes more of a cafeteria-style approach to photo editing. Instead of giving you the basic tools to make your own adjustments, this iPad app presents you with a menu of effects, from art filters and distortions to frames and textures.

There are lots of effects from which to choose but you can only apply one at a time to your photo, which means that you have to save the photo each time you decide to keep a change. More surprisingly, even though this is a paid app, you have to pay to unlock additional basic effects, such as color lenses, color strokes, art frames, classic frames, and Hollywood FX.

I appreciate the extra touches that went into the app, such as the ability to mark particular filters and effects as favorites for quick access, as well as the “roll the dice” feature that applies a random effect to your photo. FX Photo Studio HD can apply some fun effects to your photos, but you can’t do much more than pick a filter and accept the results. It can be fun, but there are better photo apps in the App Store.

Photo FX Ultra ($5.99)

Photo FX Ultra app for iPadThe Photo FX Ultra iPad app is definitely “ultra” in its approach, with a wide variety of tools and filters to enhance your photos. Everything is laid out well, with controls at the top of the screen that allow you to choose the various photographic effects, cropping and straightening, and masking filters.

As you choose each tool, additional options pop up on the bottom of the screen with examples so that you can get a thumbnail view of how each choice will affect your photo. It is possible to add multiple layered filters to your photos, though the only way that they can be exported is by saving them to the photo library on your iPad. If you use the Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite on the desktop, you can also email your settings and import them into the application.

Photo FX Ultra strikes a nice balance between the more basic apps that only crop, flip and rotate and the more advanced apps that can be a little harder to use, especially for a relative beginner. The examples really help, because they reduce the amount of experimentation needed to achieve good results.

Photoforge ($4.99)

Photoforge app for iPadThe Photoforge iPad app starts with a blank canvas you can use to edit your photos. Icons on the top invite you to choose your tool, and the bottom is where you’ll find the color picker, brush options, and crop and filter tools. Multiple levels of undo and redo allow you to experiment however you like, without fear of making a mistake. Finished photos can be saved to your iPad’s photo library or saved and emailed to a friend.

Photoforge is powerful, but it can be a little unwieldy thanks to very small unlabeled icons and several layers within the filter menus. Unlike other photo editing apps, you can zoom in for a closer view if you’re trying to edit something with a delicate touch. If you’re willing to put in some time learning how to use it, Photoforge can be a good choice, but not a great one.

Photogene ($3.99)

Photogene app for iPadPhotogene may be one of the most recognized photography apps because it was featured by Apple in an iPhone app commercial. There’s a reason for that — this iPad app is both easy to use and powerful. When you first start the iPad app you are asked to either load a photo from your existing photo albums or continue with your last session.

Once you make your choice, you are taken to the main editing window. The controls at the top left allow you to undo and redo your actions (with multiple levels for each), while the ones on the right allow you to choose a different photo to edit, share your work via Twitter, Facebook, or email, save your photo, or view the help information. The real work happens when you use the tools along the bottom edge of the screen to crop, rotate/straighten, use macros and filters, adjust colors, use curves, remove red-eye, add symbols and captions, or add a frame.

Everything is well organized and easy to use, with instant results so you can see exactly how your choices will affect your photo. I’m very impressed with Photogene, and if you can afford just one photo editing app for your iPad, this is the one to get. You won’t find anything fancy here, or any crazy effects, but you will find everything you need to get the most out of your photos with a balanced selection of usable tools, fast performance, and a reasonable price.

PhotoPal ($2.99)

PhotoPal app for iPadWhen you first start PhotoPal, you are asked to choose a photo from your existing album, start where you left off during the last session, or import the photo currently in the clipboard. After that you are left to use the editing tools which are organized into tabs on the right side of the screen. The first allows you to change the brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation of your photo, change the color balance or color temperature. The second has basic editing tools such as crop, alignment, flip, and rotate, while the last tab includes a few special effects.

All of the icons and controls are very large and easy to see. The intensity of the various effects is controlled by sliders at the bottom of the screen, with instant results. You can save your photos or share them via mail, Twitter, or Facebook so that all of your friends and family can see them.

PhotoPal offers simple, easy to use tools that anyone can use — even your grandma. It’s fun, fast, non-intimidating, and a joy to use. It’s well worth the $2.99 price of admission if you’re looking for a basic photo editing iPad app that can fix basic mistakes and add a few special effects to your photos.

PhotoTouch ($3.99)

PhotoTouch app for iPadThe PhotoTouch iPad app offers a picklist of tools for everything from cropping and rotation to color correction, edge filters, color effects, pixel movement and drawing. Unfortunately all of these tools are in one giant list, so you have to scroll up and down to access everything.

You can share your photos on Twitter, with automatic resizing, but the real focus of this iPad app is on creating PhotoTouch Albums for viewing your photos. You can transfer your photos wirelessly from an iPhone via Bluetooth and organize your photos into albums, which can then be exported to the photo albums feature on your iPad.

PhotoTouch has some nice features and effects, but this relatively new app, released just a couple of weeks ago, needs to have some additional features added in future updates in order to compete with the other apps included in this article.

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