iPhone/iPad App Review: Snapseed

With the amount of press it has been getting recently, you could be forgiven for thinking Instagram is the only choice for tweaking your pictures on the iPhone. Yes, it’s fun and yes, it has a healthy social side too, but it can’t be called comprehensive in terms of editing tools.

At the other end of the scale you’ve got Adobe’s Photoshop Touch, plus Apple’s recently released iOS version of iPhoto, both of which have long feature lists and the ability to transform the look of your pictures. However, both can look intimidating to those who’ve only ever used Instagram or Hipstamatic.

So, what if you want an image editing app that’s both accessible and powerful? You need to try Snapseed.

It may already be familiar to some, as it was the winner of Apple’s iPad App of the Year in 2011, and took home the Technical Image Press Association’s award for Best Mobile Photo App earlier this month too; but if not, here’s why it’s the best all-round photo editing app for iOS.

Upon opening the app, you can select to take a picture using the camera – on both the iPhone and the iPad – or select an existing one from either your photo library, or iCloud’s Photo Stream. This makes it ideal for the iPad, as chances are many of your best photos will be taken with your phone, but will benefit from editing using the iPad’s bigger screen. Access to Photo Stream means no fiddling about with email.

Your chosen picture is presented on the right of the screen, along with a list of options on the left. On the iPhone, this is altered slightly, with the picture above a scrollable list of options. The first six cover simple tasks like straighten and crop, to more complicated adjustments such as the ability to chose one particular spot and alter the contrast, brightness and saturation.

These, along with colour, white balance and ambiance can be applied to the whole image too, or you can select an automatic option to let the app sort out the contrast and colour for you.

Then there are four different filter options, Black and White, Vintage, Drama and Grunge, each of which then contains a variety of examples. It’s not just a case of slapping a filter on either, as the effect can be altered, usually in several different ways, to really tune the look to your liking.

Finally, there’s a Centre Focus and Tilt-Shift option, to help bring the focal point of your picture to the forefront. Once you’re happy with your image, you can add one of eight different frames, which as you’d expect can be tweaked too.

All this is brilliant, and you can spend hours modifying your pictures, but there are two options that make Snapseed really standout. One is the ability to revert back to the original picture at any time, using one button on the main screen. This way, whatever you do to the picture, nothing’s permanent until you save it, and it really encourages experimentation.

The second is the compare button. Some changes can be subtle, and this button gives you a chance to see the ‘old’ version and compare it with the new. It’s really helpful and if you’re a newcomer to image editing, it will help you understand how the changes you make alter the picture.

Combined together, these two features help take away some of the fear of using complex image editing tools, as not only can you learn from using the software, but you don’t have to bother with duplications to avoid ruining the original.

In previous years, all this editing would have meant drop down menus, fiddly sliders and confusing technical terms, but Snapseed avoids all of this by introducing a wonderful touch control system. We’ll use the standard Tune Image menu as an example. Here you can change the brightness, colour, contrast and various other aspects of you picture. A swipe up and down the screen lets you choose which one, and a swipe left and right changes the parameter. That’s it, there’s really nothing else to learn.

When you move on to Tilt-Shift, this left/right swipe is used in conjunction with a pinch to widen or decrease the affected area. It’s incredibly easy, plus the first time you use each setting, a series of instructions overlays the page, so there’s no hunting for hints and tips.

Photos edited with Snapseed can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, by email and Flickr, plus Instagram on the iPhone too, although oddly this option isn’t available on the iPad. If you own a new iPad, Snapseed is optimised to make full use of its Retina Display too.

Once, photo editing software was a bit scary, quite technical and shockingly expensive. Snapseed is very easy to use, presents everything in a clear and concise way and costs just £2.99. With this fantastic iOS app, anyone can turn a good photo into a great photo, almost regardless of experience.

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