How to edit photos on iPhone with the iOS Photos app

While there are hundreds of photo editors for iOS on the App Store, one is often overlooked: your iPhone’s very own Photos app. Photos can handle all the basics from changing brightness to cropping and rotating and just about everything in between. If you never really thought about using the native photo editor, check out this guide to all the editing tools available in Photos.

How to edit pictures in iPhone’s Photos app

To access the photo editing feature, start by opening the photo you’d like to edit in Photos. Then tap Edit in the upper right-hand corner. From there you’ll have access to the following tools:

  • Crop
  • Rotate
  • Auto Enhance
  • Light
  • Color
  • Black and White
  • Filters
  • Markup (Draw & Add Text)

Let’s take a look at these controls, and remember to stay in the editing mode as you follow the instructions.

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Crop and rotate a photo on iPhone

One of the most basic yet extremely handy tools in the app is Crop/Rotate. Rotate lets you quickly straighten the subject of your photo or the horizon, while the Crop tool allows you to remove unwanted outer areas from the pic.

How to slightly rotate a photo on iPhone

This comes in handy when your composition is a little off — for example, the horizon needs straightening. Here’s what you do:

  1. Tap the Crop/Rotate icon that looks like a little box with two arrows
  2. Hold and drag the wheel under the photo left and right
  3. Tap Done to keep changes, Reset to start over, or Cancel to discard all changes

How to rotate a picture by 90 or 180 degrees

Sometimes you take a photo in portrait mode, when you actually need it to be in landscape. Mishaps like this can easily be fixed by rotating the pic:

  1. Tap the Crop/Rotate icon that looks like a little box with two arrows
  2. Tap the box with one arrow icon in the lower left to turn the photo 90 degrees at a time
  3. Tap Done to keep changes, Reset to start over, or Cancel to discard all changes
Screenshots: How to rotate a photo on iPhone

How to crop an iPhone photo manually

When you need certain objects out of the shot — like a stranger’s elbow in a photo of your friends — the Crop tool is perfect for the job. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Tap the Crop/Rotate icon that looks like a little box with two arrows
  2. Use two fingers to zoom in on the subject or use one finger to move the corners of photo inwards
  3. Tap Done to keep changes, Reset to start over, or Cancel to discard all changes

How to crop a picture on iPhone using preset aspect ratios

Now, to crop your shot while preserving its original aspect ratio or, on the contrary, change the aspect ratio to a specific value (make it square, for example), do the following:

  1. Tap the Crop/Rotate icon that looks like a little box with two arrows
  2. Tap the multiple-box icon in the lower right-hand corner
  3. Choose the desired aspect ratio
  4. Use two fingers to zoom in on the subject or use one finger to move the corners of photo inwards
  5. Tap Done to keep changes, Reset to start over, or Cancel to discard all changes
Screenshots: How to crop a photo on iPhone

Quickly enhance the quality of your photo

Apple has taken a lot of the hard work out of photo editing by giving you premade filters and the Auto Enhance feature. These two tools are particularly handy when you don’t have the time to fiddle with color and contrast and just want your phone to do all the work.

How to use quickly enhance a photo with Auto Enhance:

  1. Tap the wand icon in the upper right-hand corner
  2. Tap Done to keep the changes or Cancel to discard them

It’s important to note that the Auto Enhance effects are usually subtle, changing the brightness, contrast and sharpness very slightly. Filters, however, can give your shot and entirely different look.

How to apply a filter:

  1. Tap the three circle icon under your photo in editing mode
  2. Tap on each filter to apply it
  3. Tap Done to keep the changes or Cancel to discard them
Screenshots: How to quickly enhance a photo on iPhone

Adjust color, contrast, and brightness

If you find that Auto Enhance and Filters aren’t doing your photo justice, you can adjust color, contrast, and brightness manually. Although manual editing is more time consuming, you have more options this way.

How to manually adjust Light:

  1. Tap the tuning knob icon in the bottom right-hand side of the screen
  2. Tap the Light option
  3. Hold and drag the slideshow to make the photo darker or lighter
  4. Tap Done to keep the changes or Cancel to discard them

How to manually adjust Color:

  1. Tap the tuning knob icon in the lower right hand side of the footer
  2. Tap the Color option
  3. Hold and drag the slideshow to increase or decrease color saturation
  4. Tap Done to keep the changes or Cancel to discard them

Now, both Light and Color settings have a number of sub-settings, such as exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, blackpoint, saturation, and cast. By playing with those, you can achieve more precise edits. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Tap the tuning knob icon in the lower right-hand corner
  2. Tap the arrow icon next to Light or Color
  3. Tap on the aspect you want to adjust
  4. Hold and drag the horizontal bar left and right
  5. Tap Done to keep the changes or Cancel to discard them
Screenshots: How to adjust color on a photo on iPhone


How to draw on iPhone pictures and add text

One of the newer features in Photos is the Markup tool. It allows you to add text and even your handwriting to your photos without using any third-party apps. The Markup tool comes in handy when you need to mark something on a photo, add a comment, or just draw a doodle on a pic for fun. There are several different sizes and colors of “pens” in Markup, and you can increase or decrease the thickness and transparency of the line. Text color, size, and style can also be changed. The lasso tool allows you to move drawings, and the eraser will delete them. Like all the tools above, Markup is available after you open a photo and tap Edit in the top right-hand corner.

How to draw on photo on iPhone:

  1. Tap the three dots in a circle icon above your photo
  2. Choose the Markup tool
  3. Select one of the three pens
  4. Tap on the photo and, without breaking contact, drag your finger or stylus across it to draw
  5. Tap Done to keep changes, Cancel to discard all changes, or Undo to undo the latest edits

How to add text to a photo:

  1. Tap the three dots in a circle icon above your photo
  2. Choose the Markup tool
  3. Tap the blue plus in the lower right-hand corner
  4. Tap Text
  5. Tap on the text box that appears and hit Edit
  6. Type your text and tap Done
  7. Tap Done to keep changes, Cancel to discard them, or Undo to undo the last edits
Screenshots: How to draw on photos on iPhone

Reverting to the original

Sometimes you look at an edited photo and decide that it was better off in the beginning, or that you want to start afresh and edit it differently. If at any time you want to remove all edits and revert the image back to the original, you can do so by reopening the Edit feature and tapping Revert in the lower right-hand corner.


Overall the iOS Photos app is a simple and effective tool that lets you quickly improve photos without a more complicated third-party editor. Plus, it doesn’t decrease the quality of your photo like many other apps do. Hopefully, Photos will keep gearing up on editing tools and will someday become a full-fledged photo editor. In the meantime, it’s perfect for quick basic edits. Give it a go.

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