There are more great image-editing tools than ever before, and they aren't limited to the desktop. We've curated a collection of the best Mac and iOS apps for tweaking, filtering, improving, painting, or just plain editing your favorite photos, no matter where you happen to be. Best of all, most of this software is extremely affordable (or even free), so dive in and find an app that's a good fit for your personal workflow.
Out with the old, in with the new: iPhoto and Aperture exist only in our memories now, but they've been replaced with a capable new option already on our Macs (the ones with OS X Yosemite, anyway). Coupled with iCloud Photo Library, Photos (free, Mac) keeps all our high-resolution images (and videos, should you want them) in the cloud, available at all times from OS X and iOS devices. Although it may not be as powerful as Aperture, Photos is a great deal faster and more capable than iPhoto. The only thing missing is support for plug-ins or extensions, but Apple announced that's on the way with OS X El Capitan this fall. For many readers, Photos will be all you'll ever need.
If you don't need the complete control (and occasional complexity) of Aperture, iPhoto (free, Mac) gets the job done quite well in just a few clicks of the mouse. Although it will soon be replaced by an all-new Photos app, iPhoto's auto-enhance tool makes any photo look great in a single click, and the unified library means you can jump into Aperture to make pro corrections, then right back into iPhoto. There's also rich Facebook integration and iCloud Photo Sharing available, but those who prefer print can create some pretty awesome photo books and letterpress cards as well. And did we mention it's absolutely free?
3. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (Mac) has been working overtime in recent months to become a home for orphaned Aperture users, thanks to a built-in migration tool that makes it easy to switch. Smart Previews allow users to edit low-resolution files on the go and have changes automatically applied to original images when an external drive is mounted, along with pro tools like Advanced Healing Brush, Upright, and Radial Gradient borrowed from the more expensive Photoshop. Creative Cloud members ($9.99 per month and up) can also sync Lightroom 5 images with a mobile app, putting the most-used image editing tools in the palm of your hands.
4. Photoshop Elements 13
Like iPhoto, Photoshop Elements 13 ($99.99, Mac) is for users who want Aperture or Lightroom-style results in just a few clicks. The latest version makes it easy to create photo remixes or mashups, pick the best composition, and offers more comprehensive selection tools while offering five variants for each effect you want to apply. Facebook junkies will love the app's profile and cover photo creation options, while Guided Edits and Slideshows have been improved and Elements Live delivers creative ideas, tips, tricks, and help without having to leave the software.
5. Pixelmator 3.3
Pixelmator 3.3 ($29.99, Mac) delivers Photoshop-class tools in a package only a fraction of the price, including powerful, pixel-accurate selection tools, top-notch painting, drawing, and retouching options, more than 160 effects, and an elegant collection of professional-grade color correction tools. The latest version adds complete support for OS X Yosemite (including Handoff and iCloud Drive), and also works hand-in-hand with Pixelmator for iPad for seamlessly creating and editing images on the go, while retaining the option to further enhance them back on the desktop. Best of all, there's full support for layered Photoshop PSD files, and images can even be imported from iPhoto or Aperture.
6. Snapheal 2.5
If your photo editing needs lean more toward restoration or retouching, Snapheal 2.5 (Mac) provides a deliriously simple UI with the ability to remove unwanted objects like magic, or adjust shadows and highlights on dark or overexposed images. With Snapheal Pro ($39.99 or $19.99 upgrade), the application can even be run as a plug-in inside Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, or Aperture, adding improved image editing algorithms and a Blur brush with selective masking.
7. Capture One 7
Capture One 7 ($49.50 for Express/$299 for Pro, Mac) is the offering from Phase One, a manufacturer of remarkably expensive medium-format digital cameras. Its software also works with consumer models, though, and Capture One Express is the cheaper option. It claims to have a particularly fast workflow coupled with the best image quality of all editing software, but Aperture and Lightroom don't trail too far behind.
8. DxO Optics Pro
DxO Optics Pro ($99 for Standard/$199 for Elite, Mac) has a rather scientific approach to image editing, and its selling point is that it claims to correct the flaws introduced to images by camera lenses better than other software.
(Free, Mac) is completely free, and more like Photoshop Elements in Expert mode than any of the others. In the past, it suffered from poor documentation and an unintuitive layout, but now has built-in help, a downloadable manual, online tutorials, and a customizable interface. The Mac version of the app even comes bundled with a raw-image-processing plugin. Get started on GIMP with this guide!
10. Perfect Presets for Camera Raw
(Free, Mac) packs 140 filters for Adobe Camera Raw that let you apply tweaks without ever touching a manual tool. It's perfect for beginners.
11. Tiffen Dfx 4
Sometimes, all that's needed to make a good photo great is throwing on a filter or two. Tiffen Dfx 4 simulates the look of more than 2,000 award-winning glass filters, delivering 134 digital equivalents and more presets than you can shake a stick at. The latest version adds borders, cartoon, and colorize gradient options, curves and selective detail adjustments, the ability to add grunge effects like film dirt, hair, stains, and scratches, and subtle new Pearlescent and Satin looks created especially with modern digital camera sensors in mind. Tiffen also offers Dfx in Photo Plug-in ($149.95, for Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom, and Aperture) or Video/Film Plug-in ($499.95, for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Avid, and Final Cut Pro) versions.
Analog ($9.99, Mac) is a flexible tool for adding borders and effects that make your images look like they were taken with a film camera.
13. Adobe Photoshop Mix
The desktop power of Photoshop comes to smartphones and tablets with Adobe Photoshop Mix (free, iOS), a non-destructive photo enhancement app that makes it drop-dead simple to cut objects out of images and combine them with other elements. There are also plenty of great looks on hand which can be applied to selections or entire images, and users can open Photoshop documents, individual PSD layers, or even photos from Lightroom Mobile. A free Creative Cloud membership is required to use Photoshop Mix; the latest 1.4.1 version adds smart auto crop technology for the iPad, as well as iOS 8 Touch Size support for more precise finger selections.
14. Hydra Express 3
Hydra Express 3 (Mac) combines images with different exposures for more tonal range, resulting in finer detail and greater impact.
15. Camera+ 6.1
Thanks to the arrival of iOS 8 extensions, Camera+ 6.1 (iOS) just became an iPhoneographer's best friend. No longer do users have to open the app and import an image to apply the awesome Clarity filter — once enabled, it's right there in the built-in Photos app, alongside all of the app's other awesome image editing options. Of course, if you don't use Apple's Camera app, this third-party solution offers a host of other improvements, including a front-facing flash mode for better selfies, touch exposure and focus, and sweet shooting modes like Stabilizer, Timer, and Burst. The latest version also delivers a new Pro quality setting, which processes and stores image in TIFF format with lossless compression.
16. Halftone 2
Sequels are rarely as good as the original, but Halftone 2 (iOS) really delivers the WHAM, BAM, POW! of classic comic books on your iPhone or iPad. There's plenty more here than just adding halftone dot patterns to your favorite photos: Creative options include captions, balloons, stamps, photo panels, page options, and even 720p HD movies, with a host of robust output formats including JPEG, PDF, comic-friendly CBZ, and MP4 video. There's even an experimental 3D anaglyph feature to create images from the bygone era of red and cyan glasses!
With complete control over contrast and brightness, and a range of presets to choose from, My Sketch (iOS) will convert your shots into convincing pencil and charcoal drawings, complete with realistic imperfections and scribbled edges. You can crop your images before you start work and export at a range of sizes.
18. Etchings 1.7
Restyle images for a unique textured look on your iPhone or iPad with Etchings 1.7 (iOS), which delivers 12 different styles and complete control over line width, color, and styling. With image exports up to 3300 x 3300, users can put the result on a virtual stamp, frame it, or use it elsewhere as a regular drawing. The latest version adds support for iPhone 6, as well as the option to etch images right from the built-in Photos app using iOS 8 extensions.
As with the OS X plug-in, Rays (iOS) makes it easy to cast rays of light, which pass through brighter areas and are blocked by darker detail such as window frames or people. You can change the length, color, and opacity of the rays, and the brightness at which they kick in.
Every Mac since the dawn of OS X has come with the Preview application. It doesn't get much attention, but it contains image-editing tools that shouldn't be ignored, especially as they come for free. It can import from cameras and scanners directly from its File menu. Its Tools menu can find options to resize your image, rotate and flip it, and even make adjustments to exposure and color. That's just a start, but be sure to investigate Automator, too, which can do great batch-processing.