10 apps for editing photos before you post to Instagram

Even if you end up posting your pictures to Instagram, you should be using these apps to edit them first.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
Sarah is a freelance writer and CNET How To blogger. Her main focus is Windows, but she also covers everything from mobile tech to video games to DIY hardware projects. She likes to press buttons and see what happens, so don't let her near any control panels.
Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
Taylor Martin
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Instagram may be the most popular photo-based social network, but even with its newest editing tools, there are better editing apps out there. Here are 10 free photo-editing alternatives to make your photos look pro.

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VSCO Cam (Android, iOS) isn't just a photo-editing app -- like Instagram, it's also a kind of social network. VSCO Cam has more of a minimalist vibe, which means that, like Instagram, its actual editing capabilities are a tad limited. It offers sliding adjustments for brightness, contrast, clarity, sharpness, saturation, highlights, shadows, temperature and skin tone, as well as options to tint your photo different colors or add grain or vignette effects. VSCO Cam comes with several free filters and also offers filter packs for purchase in its shop.

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Priime (iOS) is free to use, but comes with a handful of $0.99 (£0.99 or AU$1.49) in-app purchases for different filter packs or a one- time $9.99 (£9.99 or AU$14.99) in-app purchase to unlock them all. Priime is a lot like VSCO without the social aspect. All of the styles you will find in Priime were developed in collaboration with top photographers, and each comes with a backstory and info on the photographer who developed the style. Another killer feature is suggestions, which will show you a selection of styles that might fit the image you're editing, based on a number of factors.

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Google's photo-editing app Snapseed (Android, iOS) is one of the best photo-editing apps around, thanks to the incredible control it gives you over your pictures. It has nine editing tools for tweaking your photos, including a brush tool that lets you selectively adjust exposure, saturation and color temperature; and a healing tool that lets you remove blemishes or erase objects from photos completely. Snapseed also has its own set of filters (sorted into 11 different categories, including Retrolux, Noir and Glamour Glow). Unlike Instagram, Snapseed lets you fine-tune filter effects by modifying attributes like brightness, saturation and texture strength.

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Pixlr (Android, iOS) is a photo-editing and filter app that lets you build your own Instagram-like filter with effects, overlays and textures. Pixlr has a variety of photo-editing tools, including a red-eye fixer and exposure, temperature, contrast, brightness and saturation adjustments, as well as brush tools for selectively brightening, darkening and pixelating parts of your photo.

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Darkroom (iOS) is a relatively simple filter-based photo editor that lets you create your own filters from the presets that are included with the app. Unlike some of the other ones I've mentioned, Darkroom isn't a full-fledged photo-editing app. Your editing tools are limited to cropping and adjusting a few different facets such as the brightness, contrast and sharpness.

But the neat thing about Darkroom is that once you've adjusted a filtered photo to your liking, you can go back to the menu and create your own filter with those adjustments included. Darkroom offers more advanced editing tools for an upgrade, as well as extra filter packs (sold separately in the app's store).

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Litely (iOS) is one of a few photo-editing apps (Pixlr is another) that supports iOS's photo-editing extensions, which means you can use it directly from your Photos app. Litely is a very simple filter-based photo editor -- like other filter-based apps, its editing tools are limited.

The app has sliders for exposure, contrast, vibrance, temperature, vignette, highlights, shadows and sharpness, as well as a cropping tool. The app comes with nine filters, which are actually just three filters with three variations each, but you can purchase additional filters in Litely's store.

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Over (Android, iOS) costs $3.99 (£3.08 or AU$5.39) for Android users and is free for iOS users (but it also has in-app purchases). This app is more about dressing up your photos than editing them -- the main feature of Over is the ability to add artistic text or overlays to your images. If you've ever seen those inspirational Instagram pics overlaid with inspiring words or phrases like "wanderlust" or "good vibes," they're probably using Over.

The basic version of Over offers limited editing capabilities and a handful of free graphic text designs, and the app also features three free designs daily.

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Word Swag

Word Swag (Android, iOS) is $3.99 (£3.08 or AU$5.39) for Android users and $4.99 (£4.99 or AU$7.99) on iOS. Like Over, it's mainly for adding stylized text to your images. The main difference between the two is the ease of use of Word Swag and that you can create your own text. It also lets you choose specific crops for various social uses, such as Facebook posts or covers, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Photo Editor by Aviary

Photo Editor by Aviary (Android, iOS) is practically a one-stop shop. This photo editor has everything, from advanced editing capabilities (including the ability to tune brightness, exposure, shadows, highlights, warmth, saturation and vibrance) to filters, effects and overlays. You can also crop and rotate photos, add text to your pictures and doodle directly on your pics with a custom pen tool.

For quick edits, Photo Editor by Aviary features an Enhance section with preset enhancements for different settings, like scenery, food and night-time photos. The Aviary Supply Shop has thousands of filters, frames, stickers and artistic overlays -- all of which are currently free for a limited time.

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Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express (Android, iOS) offers advanced photo editing as well as corrective editing features, such as red eye correction and blemish removal. This app is free with in-app purchases and premium features that can be accessed if you sign in with your Adobe Creative Cloud account.

Adobe Photoshop Express has filters, frames and cropping and image adjustment capabilities, as well as all the editing features you're used to: exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, temperature (warmth), tint and vibrance. It also has a handful of extra adjustment dials you won't find in other apps, including the ability to sharpen your picture, reduce noise, defog and increase clarity.

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