How to Edit Photos in the iPhone Photos App

Get your iPhone photos looking perfect

Taking a photo of feet on a skateboard on an iPhone

Cultura/Chad Springer / Getty Images

Editing 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 on every iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch can be used to crop photos, apply filters, 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 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.

Instructions in this article apply to iPhones running iOS 12 and later. Earlier versions may have different labels, but the features will be similar.

How to Enter Editing Mode in the Photos App

Follow these steps to make adjustments to photos in the app:

  1. Open the Photos app, tap Camera Roll, then tap the photo you want to edit.

    Opening the Camera Roll on an iPhone
  2. When the photo appears at full size on the screen, tap Edit. The editing tool icons appear.

    The edit button and editing tools in Photos on an iPhone
  3. Use these options to change photos in a variety of ways.

How to Crop and Rotate Photos

The options to crop and rotate photos are under the same tool in the Photos app. Here's how to use it.

  1. Tap the button that looks like a frame (it's in the lower-left corner of the screen). Then, drag the corners or sides of the frame to set the cropping area. Only the highlighted parts of the photo will remain.

    To enlarge the cropped selection, place two fingers on the screen and drag them apart.

    Cropping a photo on an iPhone
  2. The app also offers presets to crop photos to specific aspect ratios and shapes. To use them, open the cropping tool, then tap the icon that looks like three boxes inside each other (on the right side, below the photo) to reveal a menu with presets. Tap the one you want.

    Preset cropping ratios on an iPhone
  3. Tap Done in the lower-right corner to save your changes.

    Cropping an image on an iPhone
  4. To rotate a photo, tap the Crop icon. To turn a picture 90 degrees counter-clockwise, tap the Rotate icon (the square with the arrow next to it).

    Use it more than once to continue the rotation.

    An iPhone photo rotating using the Rotate tool in Photos
  5. For more free-form control over the rotation, move the compass-style wheel beneath the photo.

    Rotate the free-form control up to 45 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.

    Free-rotate tool in Photos on iPhone
  6. Tap Done to save your changes.

How to Remove Redeye

To remove red eyes caused by the camera flash, tap the button in the upper-left that looks like an eye with a line through it. Then, tap each eye that needs to be corrected. Zoom in on the photo to get a more precise location. Tap Done to save.

The redeye tool is only available when the Photos app detects a face (or what it thinks is a face) in a photo.

The red eye tool on an iPhone

How to Adjust Light and Color

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, 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. Tap the arrow next to a category to access even more fine-tuned settings.

Light adjustment options in Photos

How to Auto-Enhance Photos

The Auto Enhance feature analyzes a photo and automatically applies changes such as color balance adjustment to enhance the image.

Tap the Auto Enhance icon, which looks like a magic wand. The adjustments can be subtle, but you'll know they're done when the magic wand icon changes color.

Tap Done to save the new version of the photo. Tap the magic wand icon again to undo the changes.

The Auto-Enhance tool in Photos

How to Remove Animation From Live Photos

If you have an iPhone 6S or newer, make Live Photos — short videos created from photos. Because of the way Live Photos work, you also can remove the animation from them and save a single still photograph.

You'll know a photo is a Live Photo if the icon in the upper-left corner that looks like three concentric rings is highlighted 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). Tap Done to save the photo.

Converting an image from a Live Photo on an iPhone

How to Revert to the 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 and lets you remove your changes and go back to it.

Open the edited image for which you want to get the original, then tap Edit. Select Revert, then tap Revert to Original.

There's no time limit on when you can revert to the original photo. The edits you make to photos don't change the original; they're more like layers put on top of it that you can remove. This kind of editing is known as non-destructive because the original doesn't change.

Revert to Original in Photos

How to Use Photo Filters for Extra Effects

The Photos app has a set of built-in filters that add Instagram or Snapchat-like effects to pictures. To use them, open the Edit tools, then tap the Filters icon, which looks like three overlapping circles.

Browse filters at the bottom of the screen, then tap one to apply it. Select Done to update the image.

In iOS 8 and higher, the third-party photos app installed on a 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.

Applying a filter in Photos on iPhone

How to Edit Videos on the iPhone

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

Person holding iphone recording video at night
Kinson C Photography / Moment Open / Getty Images