Using iOS 5 built-in image editing

Apple added simple image editing tasks to its Photos app in iOS 5, including rotate, enhance, red-eye and crop. Each works rather well, and I suspect will be enough for many users. Straightforward and effective, Apple’s editing features won’t replace apps like Camera+, but offer no-fuss solutions to common tasks.

It’s nice that the changes I make most often — crop, red-eye reduction and enhancement — are available without a third-party app. But how do they work? If your expectations are modest, you’ll be pleased. In fact, I’ll guess that most amateur “snap shotters” will find Apple’s solution to be enough. The rest of you will need something more.

To help you decide, here’s a look at the built-in image editing options in iOS 5.


This is self-explanatory. Each click rotates an image 1/4 turn counter-clockwise. I’ve been using this before tweeting landscape-orientation screenshots taken with the iPad.


Similar to the Enhance button in iPhoto, this feature offers one-click image correction to iOS. Enhance is the app’s “best guess” at what will improve a given shot. In my experience, it usually lightens the exposure a bit and brightens color. Here’s an example of a photo before (left) and after enhancement (right). In this instance, the exposure was lightened and the blues on the castle’s turrets are a bit bluer. Those are subtle changes, and that’s for the best. Over-saturated colors would be gaudy and likely ruin the image.

Many photographers wouldn’t think of clicking the Enhance button, but those people aren’t editing their images with Apple’s Photos app, either.



I’ve had hit-or-miss results with this feature. When it does work, it’s very impressive. To start, tap Edit and then Red-Eye. You’re prompted to “tap each red-eye.” If the app finds a red eye, it gets replaced with black. Tap Apply when you’re done.

It typically works but not always. For example, it refuses to correct the red in the right eye below. I don’t know why.


Much like Enhance, Crop is subtle and effective. It offers a grid overlay that can be re-sized and re-positioned. You can also constrain the crop across nine criteria, from the original proportions to 16×9.


What’s nice about crop and all of these features is that changes are non-destructive. Once you commit by tapping Done, the altered image is sent to your device’s Camera Roll while the original photo remains untouched. My only complaint is that you can’t preview a work-in-progress without the edit buttons on the screen. I like a distraction-free view before committing.

Those interested in anything beyond the most basic editing will be disappointed with Apple’s offerings. The rest of us, however, will enjoy the fast and effective options now built into iOS 5.

Update: A couple of readers have noted that you can precise-rotate an image while in crop mode by using two fingers.