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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

13 Features of iOS 13: Video editing

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

I won’t say that I take a lot of video with my iPhone: a quick number crunch shows that still photos outnumber videos in my Photos library by over 80-to-1. But the iPhone has become a powerful video camera in its own right in recent years, and its features get even more impressive in iOS 13.

As Apple said during its WWDC keynote this year, iOS 13 not only brings new photo editing capabilities, but also, for the first time, enables all those same features for video. Which is pretty impressive, when you remember that previous versions of iOS offered nothing more than the ability to trim videos. In fact, iOS 13’s built-in video editing capabilities are so impressive that they massively outstrip what’s available on macOS by default.

The video editing tools in iOS 13 are incredibly robust.

Tapping Edit on a video in the Photos app does still let you trim a video to a specific section, and, as John Gruber noted in his review of the new iPhones, no longer requires you to save it as a separate clip—in fact this trimming is now non-destructive, so if you shorten a clip and decide later that you want to go back to the full length video, you can just revert to that. You can also now mute a video’s sound by tapping the speaker icon in the top left, or export it to another app by tapping the button in the top right.

But the bulk of the abilities are accessed by tapping the controls at the bottom of the editing screen. Tap on the dial icon and you can adjust image qualities, including exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, brightness, black point, saturation, vibrance, warmth, tint, sharpness, definition, noise reduction, and vignetting. Each of them also lets you choose how intense to make the adjustment.

Video before (left) and after (right) the Auto adjustment was applied. Pretty subtle in this case, with only some minor brightening.

That’s a lot of stuff, and if you’re not someone who knows much about video or image quality, it’s probably a bit overwhelming. The good news is that Apple also provides an Auto button which does its best to figure out what changes will make the video look the best. I particularly like that when you do tap Auto, iOS shows you what adjustments it made to all those other settings in order to get this image, allowing you to tweak any of them further. You can even adjust the intensity of the Auto effect itself.

All the filters available for photos are now available for videos as well.

Moreover, all of that image adjustment is non-destructive, so if you ever decide you don’t like any of the changes, you can revert back without losing anything.

iOS 13 also adds, for the first time, filters for video, which you can access via the third button in the toolbar. So if you decide that video would look better in black & white, well, you can not only make that happen at a tap, but you have your choice of three different black & white filters, plus half a dozen color filters.1 Personally, I don’t have the best eye for this sort of thing—I’m a #nofilter kind of guy—but it’s very cool to be able to simply switch over to a classy looking black & white image with the tap of a finger. And again, these changes are all non-destructive and can be reverted at any time.

I’m not sure why this video of otters off a Scottish isle was in a weird portrait orientation with letterboxing, but, presto, now it’s in landscape.

Finally, and this is actually my favorite addition to iOS video editing, the last section of the video editing screen gives you tools for manipulating the shape of the image. That means, for example, cropping to just a specific section of the video; you can also tap the ratio button in the top right-hand quarter to enforce a specific aspect ratio, including square, 16:9, 10:8, 7:5, 4:3, 5:3, or 3:2. For most aspect ratios, you can even choose whether you want it formatted for portrait or landscape. That means, yes, wait for it: you can re-crop a portrait video into landscape orientation.

And in case that isn’t enough, you can finally2 rotate video orientation. Accidentally shoot in portrait when you meant to be in landscape? Tap the rotate button and you’re done—or, if you prefer, use the manual Straighten tool to adjust it to any angle, not just 90° increments. Those cropping tools can then help you reframe and reformat your image to make it look like it was shot as intended all along. That’s been a long time coming.

Perspective tools let you fix distorted video, right on your phone.

Apple takes these tools a step further, though, by adding the ability to shift the perspective of an image on both vertical and horizontal planes, meaning if you shot something at a weird angle and ended up with a distorted image, you can manually adjust it until it looks right. You can also, at a tap, mirror flip the image over the vertical axis. This is all the kind of incredible stuff that used to require a ton of horsepower and very expensive software, and now your smartphone can just…do it. Better yet, on the iPhone XR or later, all the video-editing features work on any and all formats, including 4K video and slow-motion.

Look, I don’t envision myself taking advantage of these capabilities very frequently—like I said, I don’t even shoot that much video right now. And while professionals using the iPhone to shoot video are probably going to mostly rely on more powerful third-party apps, it’s great that these features are in reach for everybody. Because now, when you do need to flip, rotate, adjust, or re-crop an image, you can do it with all the ease of editing a photo.

  1. Sorry, old-timey photo fans—no sepia option this time around. 
  2. Yes, finally. I said it. I don’t want to hear about it, John

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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