Instagram Editing Apps Guide (2023): Best Photo Editing Apps for Instagram

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March 22, 2023

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This Instagram editing apps guide will help parents learn:

  • What are photo editing apps and why do students want to use them?
  • Why parents should care about the effects of using Instagram editing apps
  • Pros and cons of the top third-party Instagram photo editing apps

In this guide, parents & educators will learn:

Learn why parents and educators should care about photo editing apps

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Table of Contents

Sharing photos and videos with others online is nothing new and Instagram is one of the most popular forms of social media in the world with over 2 billion active users (Source: Statista).  Now many third-party Instagram photo editing apps are available to edit and enhance photos and videos before posting them to the popular site.  These apps can be easy and fun to use, but parents should be mindful of the potential adverse mental health effects social media and filtered photos can have on teens.  

Student & parent training video

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

What are photo editing apps and why do students like them?

  • Photo and video editing apps are used to manipulate photos and videos with basic editing tools such as white balance and more realistic AI-powered digital filters
  • Instagram features built-in photo and video filters to help users post to their Instagram feed and Instagram Stories and Reels (short-form videos similar to TikTok), but many teens are looking for more advanced editing tools
  • Teens love to use these apps because most of them are easy to use and don’t require any specialized design skills
  • Students see other people’s edited Instagram photos and want to use the same filters and tools to achieve the same aesthetic

Top concerns for photo editing apps

  • Research has confirmed that exposure to edited photos on Instagram and other social media directly leads to lower body image, especially in girls, and the use of face filters by adolescents increases their acceptance and desire for cosmetic surgery (Source: BBC)
  • Parents should discuss with their students what these apps do, how they like to use them, and how they make them feel 
  • The use of editing apps can further perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards, making it difficult for teens and tweens to feel confident

VSCO pros and cons

VSCO app logo
  • VSCO is a photo and video editing app, for both iOS and Android, that allows users to share edited media directly to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or messages from the app 
  • There is a free version with a limited amount of preset filters and editing tools and a subscription that offers more advanced features.  The app constantly suggests that users upgrade to the membership and offers a seven day free trial
  • The app is not just a photo editor, but also a camera.  Users can take photos or videos directly in the app with certain filters or overlays and then continue the editing process
  • VSCO is a form of social media where creators can share their photos and videos on the app, scroll a feed of others’ posts, follow other creators, and exchange direct messages with creators that are mutually following each other, but there is no comment feature.  Users can “like” others’ posts, but the app doesn’t make the number of likes or followers public 
  • All VSCO profiles are public and posts can be downloaded and shared across other platforms by any other user
  • Location data can be shared with photos.  This setting can be accessed through the “Security” tab
  • The overall aesthetic of the app is very artsy, but students may still be exposed to mature and revealing content 

Canva pros and cons

Canva app logo
  • Canva is a free, online graphic design tool students can use to create a wide variety of projects that can be shared directly to Instagram
  • The platform is designed to be user-friendly with pre-designed templates for Instagram so students of all ages can use it without graphic design experience
  • Canva is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac
  • There is the option to purchase individual graphics or upgrade to a Canva Pro account
  • If students connect with Canva using a social media platform or share a design through social media, Canva may capture their contact details

Photoshop Express pros and cons

Photoshop Express logo
  • Photoshop Express is a photo editor from Adobe available on iOS, Android, and desktop devices developed to be more user-friendly than Adobe Lightroom, their photo editing program used by professional photographers
  • The Photoshop Express app and desktop version are free to use, but there is a premium version available for purchase
  • Users can use the built-in photo filters called “Looks,” create collages, add text, and create memes and upload media directly to other platforms such as Instagram
  • Students do not have the opportunity to interact with others (including strangers) through Photoshop Express

Facetune pros and cons

Facetune logo
  • Facetune is a photo and video editing app for iOS and Android available for purchase only, but students can use the app for free for 7 days
  • Facetune allows users to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to digitally edit photos and videos and save them to their device or share them on social media
  • Users can change the backdrop, remove people or things from photos
  • Facetune is mostly used to change the looks of faces and bodies and users can whiten teeth, remove under eye circles, reshape their face, change their skin tone and apply makeup, change eye color, and more
  • Learn more about this SmartSocial Red Zone app in our full Facetune Guide

Pixlr pros and cons

Pixlr logo
  • Pixlr is another popular Instagram editing app that uses AI to edit photos from your desktop or smart device
  • Pixlr has many templates to choose from or users can design their own to create posts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or other products such as flyers, posters, invitations, and business cards
  • The program is free to use but there is a premium subscription available for purchase that offers more templates and other advanced features
  • Pixlr users can upload pictures to the app or website, edit them, save in various formats, and then share them via social media or email
  • Students do not have the opportunity to interact with others (including strangers) through Pixlr

Snapseed pros and cons

Snapseed logo
  • Snapseed is a photo and video editing program owned by Google and is available on iOS and Android devices
  • Snapseed allows users to digitally edit and enhance photos with 29 built-in filters and editing features
  • Users can save the edited media in a high-quality format that keeps the resolution of the original image


Editing photos and videos can be easy and fun with third-party Instagram editing apps. The options range from whimsical filters that turn your face into an animal to very realistic face-altering filters. Parents and students should be aware of the potential negative effects these editing tools can have on a teen’s self-image and mental health.

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