How to edit photos on a Mac

If you asked any Mac user what they use their computer for, editing photos would come near the top of the list. There are, of course, many tools you can use to edit photos on a Mac, including Apple’s own Photos.  

However, Setapp includes all best apps to take your photo editing to the next level photo.  

Which is the best app for photo editing?

Discover all the 6 best photo editing apps, available for Setapp members - this is a quick way to weed out which app is right for you.

1. TouchRetouch, an app to remove unwanted objects from any photos with the absolute minimum of effort.

One-touch removal tool makes distracting lines vanish in seconds - mark only a section of a line to remove it whole (no need to be precise - the app is so smart that can remove the entire line.) 

This app can remove unwanted things from any photo:

  • telephone posts and wires
  • surface scratches (straight and curved) and shadows
  • skin blemishes and pimples
  • human-made objects like garbage cans, street signs, and telephone posts
  • photobombing persons
  • and whatever you think that is spoiling your photos.

TouchRetouch has a range of tools for selecting areas you want to erase.

TouchRetouch app removes objects

2.  Emulsion app is a photo catalog which allows non-destructive editing, metadata manipulation, photo organization, and more:

  • it allows quick access to your collections by folder, albums, tags, places, people, or ratings
  • allows you search through all collections by name or other metadata characteristics
  • lets you edit details in EXIF metadata 
  • can apply changes to one or to multiple pictures 
  • can adjust exposure, gradient, texture, tones, highlights, sharpening, gamma, RGB channels, noise reduction, vibrancy, temperature/tint, and almost everything else
  • Emulsion app includes some essential tools like a clone tool, cropping, rotation, magnification, and preset filters (you can even add dust and scratches for a retro look)

3. CameraBag Pro is the robust editing app to apply, tweak, and compare professional filters and adjustments across your photos.

CameraBag Adjustments tool

4. Photolemur, an AI-powered photo enhancer that automates the editing process. 

This app makes almost any photo look better without manual editing, as well as allows to automatically enhance a batch of images at once with drag-and-drop simplicity. The app has 12 smart technologies ranging from color recovery and exposure compensation to smart noise reduction to automatically analyze and adjust your photos.

5. Photobulk, an app for batch editing: add text/image watermarks, rename, resize, compress photos, and optimize them for the web in a click.

6. Polarr, one of the best apps for editing photos that lets you do much more than just use filters.

A photo edition process is similar in each photo editing app, so we show you the most useful on a Polarr example.

Apply and edit filters

Click the camera icon at the top left of the Polarr window and navigate to a photo you want to open, then click on it and click Open. To add a filter, click the filters button (three circles) on the left-hand toolbar. Now, click the more (three dots) button next to the name of the filter to see a list of available filters.

Choose a filter group from the list and then choose one of the variations from the selection displayed. Once you’ve chosen a filter, drag the slider next to the filters panel up or down and click the tick symbol at the top of the slider when you’re happy with it.

Use some filters to edit your photo

Add some text to your photo

Click the ‘A’ in the left-hand sidebar to add text. Start by clicking on Presets. If you see a preset you like, click on it to add it to your photo. Click on the text to edit it. If you don’t see a preset you want to use, you can click on a shape to add it and then click on ‘Add Text’ to place text on the shape. Or you can just click ‘Add Text’ to add it without a shape. However you add text, you can change the font, the size, the spacing and the color using the options in the toolbar that appears when you click the text. You can also turn text into an outline or invert it. If you want to add fancy dividers between lines of text, click Dividers.

Use some text to your photo

Adjust the lighting and colour

Click the Adjustments icon on the right-hand toolbar (second from the top). The color adjustments are grouped at the top and the lighting adjustments are below. Drag the slider in each adjustment left or right to change its value.

Scroll further down and you’ll see options for adjusting hue and saturation and for using curves to adjust highlights and shadow. To use curves, click on the Curves tool, choose whether you want to apply the change to all channels or only the red, blue or green channel. Then, when the curve appears, drag the points on it up or down.

Tip: you can undo any change by pressing the undo button in the left toolbar (bottom icon). Or you can see a list of changes you’ve made by pressing the history button (second bottom). You can also undo anything pay pressing Command-Z.

Try to use adjustments

Add Effects

Scroll down to the bottom of the Adjustments window and you’ll see an Effects button. Press it to see a list of effects. To use them, drag the slider to the right until you’ve applied as much of the effect as you want. You can also add distortion, by clicking Distort, choosing the top of distortion you want and dragging the slider.

Tip: You can add some adjustments to selected areas of your image, rather than the whole image. To do that, click the local adjustments tool in the right-hand toolbar (third from the top) and choose how you want to apply the adjustment. For example, click the brush and then brush over the area you want to apply the effect to by clicking on your trackpad and ‘brushing’ over the image with your finger on the trackpad. Then choose the adjustment you want and drag its slider.

Tip: You can copy adjustments and paste them into another image by pressing the Copy Edits button in the Adjustments toolbar, switching to a different image and pressing the Paste Edits button.

Apply photo effects

Crop your photos

Click the crop button in the right-hand toolbar (second from bottom). To straighten your image, drag the dial up or down. To crop the photo, drag one corner inwards, then drag the box around the image until its positioned the way you want it.

Use Polarr’s face editing tools

Polarr can recognize multiple faces in a photo and allow you to edit them to do things like make a smile brighter, make teeth whiter or make eyes bigger. It’s very impressive and easy to use. Open a photo with at least one face on it. The Face tool icon in the right toolbar (bottom) will indicate how many faces Polarr has detected. Click on the Face tool and on the face you want to adjust. To automatically improve the face with one click, click on the Auto tool. To make specific, detailed adjustments, click on the tool that corresponds to the part of the face you want to adjust – Skin, Face, Eyes, etc. Then use the sliders beneath to adjust elements of that feature, such as brightness, contrast, or size.

Use tools for face retouching

Manually re-touch a face

Click ‘Face’ at the top of the face menu to go to the retouch menu. At the bottom, you’ll see Remove Spot and Liquify. Click on Remove Spot and you’ll see a healing tool and a cloning tool. You can use these to cover blemishes and imperfections.

Click the Liquify tool and you’ll see several tools for distorting features. Click one and then use the size and strength sliders to control how heavy the effect is. To apply the distortion, click on the face in the area you want to distort and then drag over the face. You can make cheeks bulge, noses grow and eyes pop!

Tip: For any adjustment you make, you can switch back to the original version of your photo by clicking the Reset button.

And if you need help choosing the best colors to use in your images, Sip, also available in Setapp can help you do that.

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