A picture is worth a thousand words, and high-quality images make all the difference to making your websites look professional and engaging. The rapid growth of Instagram is further proof that social media audiences engage the most with image-focused content, and you need to make sure your images stand out when users are scrolling through their feeds.

Thanks to photo editing apps, you no longer have to be a professional photographer or take a Photoshop course to create professional quality images for your website and marketing materials. You can simply download one of many apps to your phone or tablet that will make quick improvements to your photos and graphics in just a couple of taps, while others offer deeper customization for experts.

Whether you just want to enhance color, contrast and sharpness or to add drama with filters, textures and light effects, we've chosen 7 of the best image editor apps to help your digital marketing pop off the screen. These apps are all available free or paid from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

1. Snapseed

Free for Android & iOS

If you only want to download one image editor, Google's own Snapseed is the best all-rounder out there. With a huge amount of features, it's suitable for experts as well as those just starting out who'll find its slider interface simple to get the hang of.

Features include:

  • Adjust color, exposure and sharpness
  • Straighten, rotate and correct perspective
  • A range of filters and effects
  • Brushes and tools for selective modifications

Since the app is free, with no extra in-app purchases, there's nothing to lose if you find you prefer another option.

2. Adobe Lightroom

Free for Android & iOS with optional subscription

Another great all-purpose photo editor, Adobe Lightroom allows for precision adjustments of images. It also has a built-in camera that's capable of long exposures and other tricks your standard camera app might lack.

If you've used Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom on desktop before, you'll already be familiar with the basic functions. One-tap presets let you make quick changes to images, while experts can fine-tune levels or apply curves and other advanced features to get exactly the results they want.

The standard phone app is free, but if you want to sync your photos across devices and unlock premium features, you'll have to shell out $10 per month for Lightroom CC and Adobe's Photography Creative Cloud.

3. Afterlight 2

$2.99 for Android & iOS

If you're looking for the ultimate all-purpose photo editor, Afterlight 2 might take the crown – but you'll need to pay for it. The comprehensive app currently costs $2.99 as a one-time purchase, with no ongoing subscription or in-app purchases.

As well as covering the usual bases, Afterlight 2 appeals to creative users who want a unique finish with customizable filters, double exposure blending and overlays mimicking dust and light effects. But if you'd prefer something more straightforward, it also comes with a wide range of presets that make it simple to set the mood you want.

4. VSCO

Free for Android & iOS with optional subscription

A more specialist app, VSCO makes digital photos look like classic film snaps, if you want to give your images a nostalgic vintage or retro finish. With an advanced tool set and camera controls, the app is popular with professional photographers as well as general users.

You can use the built-in camera to take and modify photos on the go or upload existing images. Filter strengths can be adjusted for dramatic or subtle enhancements, along with all the basic editing tools you'd expect, such as cropping and level adjustments.

The full selection of more than 130 filters is only available by subscription for $19.99 per year, but the free app includes enough to keep most website owners busy.

5. Lens Distortions

Free for Android & iOS with optional subscription

Add atmosphere to your photos with lens flares, weather effects and artistic textures. Whether it's sunlight, rain or glass distortion, Lens Distortion overlays deliver realistic and eye-catching results to make everyday photos more special.

There are five options for each filter in the free app, with more options available if you pay between $3 and $5 per month. Multiple overlays can be added to the same image for a complex finish, and you have total control over brightness, opacity and other levels when customizing your final image.

6. Mextures

$2.99 for iOS with optional in-app purchases

iPhone users who want a wider range of textures and light effects to play with will find plenty to love in Mextures, from film grain, grit and grime to light leaks and gradients.

First-time users can try out the preset formulas before getting to grips with the editing tools and stacking or blending different effects. Successful formulas can be saved or shared with other users.

7. Instagram

Free for Android & iOS

The world's fastest-growing social media platform has a photo editing suite of its own to give a boost to your Instagram marketing.

It's not as comprehensive as other image editors out there, so probably won't satisfy more creative publishers. But with a range of adjustments, corrections, filters and effects to play with, it's convenient for giving your images a final polish before posting, and may be all you really need.

Don't overlook image SEO

Making your images beautiful will encourage clickthroughs and improve engagement with your posts, but there's more you should pay attention to behind the scenes to improve your website's performance.

Google's AI is getting impressively accurate at identifying the content of images, but you should give them a helping hand by using descriptive filenames and metadata. Use keywords to give your pages a boost, but avoid keyword stuffing, or you could get penalized.

Oversized images that take too long to load will also harm the user experience and affect your page rank. Upload smaller images or use optimizing tools such as TinyPNG to reduce image file sizes without losing noticeable detail.

For more marketing guides and tips for improving your business website, follow the Limecube blog.