What's missing? What's the secret?
Your smartphone is designed to take 'normal' photos
This is because it does not know the purpose or intention of your photo. It has to balance the available light to create a natural-looking image to capture what is in front of it. The result is often muted colours, lack of detail and depth. It does not know your personal preferences to blur elements of the photo or darken edges to bring your viewer's attention to the subject.
Your smartphone camera also cannot know your preference to make some small sections of the photo more vibrant, detailed and punchy. Filters edit the whole photo, are not suited for every subject and often degrade image quality.
Let's go there!
There was a trend to include the hashtag #NoEdit to a social media post. Not to be confused with the hashtag promoting positive body image, being honest and vulnerable.
The reason I am discussing #NoEdit is to highlight that the recorded default JPEG file format has applied a set of predetermined edits. The original photo is automatically processed to add blacks, contrast, brightness, noise reduction and sharpening. Otherwise, you would be very disappointed with a flat-looking, dark photo lacking sharpness.
The alternative is to record your photo in RAW file format. This retains the most amount of data for image editing. However, most people (me included) prefer JPEG for compatibility and readiness to share instantly with a few quick additional edits.
Improve whole image & specific areas using Editing apps
As a photographer, you also wear the hat of a visual designer. You arrange visual elements to manipulate the user's attention and direct them on how to 'read' and interpret your image. Photo editing is the fine-tuning control to be creative and draw in the viewer of your photo lingering for longer, appreciating your creation.