Snapseed is Smart – and Fun!

Snapseed lets me make changes based on forethought – not just playing with sliders. That’s important to me.

Yep. I’m a professional photographer. And I admit it – sometimes I shoot with my iPhone… and I still want my photos to look good. I don’t expect amazing results at large size. But if I do take a shot with my iPhone, I like to do a little bit of post-processing. To that end, I’m always looking for good apps that will let me take my iPhone photography up a notch. Snapseed by Nik Software (recently acquired by Google) is one of the apps I’ve been playing with lately, and I like it.

I took this shot of Mount Hood in Oregon with my iPhone 4. The original photograph is just ok. It’s certainly nothing spectacular. Because I have very little in-camera control with my iPhone, I wanted to do what I could in Snapseed to give the image a little more pop.

When I’m working with any photograph – in-camera or in post-processing – the first thing I do is think about what I want to create. My original image showed more sky than I wanted – this image is about the mountain, not that big stretch of blue… pretty as it is. I also wanted to bring out the snow on the trees in the foreground – I felt that it got lost in the original. And I wanted to be able to shift my white balance a bit, because the original image was too blue. The question was – could Snapseed let me create my finished product according to my own ideas about what I wanted to produce? Or would it end up being an experimentation sessions – where I ended up with something nice… but not necessarily what I had in mind before I got started? It turns out, it was a little bit of both.

My first order of business was to crop it. I wanted a pano crop – not the straight out of the camera size that showed too much sky and clutter in the foreground. Snapseed lets me crop to a variety of preset ratios – or create my own, which is what I did here. I also decreased the saturation, adjusted the contrast a bit, added some texture, and adjusted the white balance. Each of these changes was easy to make – and with the help of on-screen tips, I didn’t have any problems creating the finished product I wanted.

Here are some of the features that I like…

Snapseed offers helpful tips to using the app. Very helpful!

The interface is easy to learn. For a first-time user, the tips that pop up on-screen are invaluable. Once you’ve spent a few minutes playing with the options, you’ll find that you have tons of options.

I like options. :)

I can add adjustment points and make targeted adjustments to those areas. Nice!

I like the selective adjustment options very much. They let me target adjustments to specific areas within the frame – similar to what I do in Photoshop with layers and masks.

My photo fills the frame, and options appear when I put a finger on the screen.

The compare button lets me see the changes I’ve made as I work, so I can decide if I like them no matter where I am in my workflow. If I don’t like the effects I’ve applied, I can tap the back button and try something else. I can also use the Loupe tool to take a look at specific areas at full size. Definitely good.

I have tons of options – frames, grunge, drama, focus, black and white… even tilt-shift!

I also like being able to add frames and grunge effects – it’s fun to play with all this fun stuff. Snapseed is great for adjusting color balance, contrast, exposure, and saturation as well. Here’s another sample image that shows what the app can do. I took the original photo with my iPhone 4 – and made simple adjustments. I took this shot late on an overcast day, and I couldn’t get enough light to capture a properly exposed image without a tripod. So, I brightened it up in Snapseed. The image was also way too blue, so I adjusted the color balance to warm it up and produce cleaner colors. The photo won’t look like much blown up to full size – but that’s really not the point. It looks really nice on my iPhone, and it shows the beauty of the scene.

It’s easy to make specific adjustments without experimenting with presets. But I can use presets if I want them!

Now, there is one thing that I want to point out. I deliberately increased saturation too much while working with one of my photos – making sure that I lost details in my highlights. Then made a few other minor adjustments, and went back to decrease the saturation again later. I couldn’t get that detail back without starting over from scratch. That simple experiment tells me that Snapseed isn’t using all the data from my original file as I make changes. It’s constantly throwing away data that isn’t being used at that moment. That’s not at all unexpected – we want our apps to work fast, and saving all that data would slow this thing down. A lot. Still, it’s something you should be aware of if you are using Snapseed. Use the undo or back buttons rather than trying to reverse a change later in your workflow by shifting the same slider. Easy enough.

So there you go. I like Snapseed. It lets me make my own decisions about my photos – but it also offers all kinds of fun options if you just want to see what you can do. It’s well thought-out and well designed, and worth the price if you enjoy this kind of thing.

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