How to Edit Photos in the iPhone Photos App

Editing your digital photos used to mean buying expensive editing programs such as 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 photos, apply filters, remove redeye, adjust color balance, and more. 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 still your best bet.

NOTE: This tutorial pertains to 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.

01
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Open the Photo-Editing Tools

Editing photos on the iphone
JPM/Image Source/Getty Images

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.
02
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Cropping Photos

Cropping to change shape.

J. Bear

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 and shapes. To use them, open the cropping tool and then tap the icon that looks like three boxes inside each other (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 Done in the bottom right to crop the image.

03
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Rotate Photos

A screenshot of an image being rotated in Photoshop

Plume Creative / Getty Images

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 the way you want, tap Done to save your changes.

04
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Auto-Enhance Photos

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

Just tap the Auto Enhance icon, which looks like a magic wand, in the top right corner. The changes can 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.

05
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Removing Redeye

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.

Note: The redeye tool is not always available. You'll see it only when the Photos app detects a face (or what it thinks is a face) in a photo.

06
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Adjust Light and Color

Editing photos in iOS photos app
JPM/Image Source/Getty Images

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 with these options:

  • 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.

07
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Remove Live Photos

If you have an iPhone 6S or newer, you can make Live Photos — short videos created from your photos. Because of the way Live Photos work, you also can remove the animation from them and save just 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 Live Photo so that it's deactivated (it turns white). Then, tap Done.

08
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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.

  1. In the Photos app, tap the edited image for which you want to get the original.
  2. Tap the three-sliders icon (or Edit in some versions).
  3. Tap Revert.
  4. In the pop-up menu, tap Revert to Original.

You should now have the original photo back again.

There's no time limit on when you can revert to the original photo. The edits you make to photos 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, because the original isn't changed.

09
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Use Photo Filters for Extra Effects

add filters to iPhone photos
image credit: alongoldsmith/RooM/Getty Images

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 grab features from the other app as if they were built in.

10
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Editing Videos on the iPhone

Editing iPhone Videos
image credit: Kinson C Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

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