The very few who follow my Instagram account probably know that I am a long-time Snapseed user. I purchased my first copy in 2011 when the fledging photo editing app was still owned by Nik Software, shelling out some bucks for the desktop as well as mobile versions. I’ve not been disappointed so far.
There are filters a plenty within Snapseed. But I’m not really a fan of those filter-effects, preferring instead to present my pictures as they were taken, with a minimum of enhancements. So in Snapseed, my first stop is always the Tune Image button, where slider controls can increase/decrease brightness, contrast, saturation, ambiance, shadows and warmth.
Most often, using this function is enough to add the snap to an otherwise flat smartphone photo. Other basic adjustments include crop, straighten and details to add some sharpness to the image. Creative adjustments include Black and White, Center Focus, Drama, Frames, Grunge, Vintage and Tilt-shift. Among these, the ones I find myself using often are Frames – to add a stylish border to the image – and center focus, to add a bit of vignette, blur the background and define areas of focus.
In 2012, Google acquired Nik software and its suite of photo editing/enhancement apps including SilverEfex Pro, Dfine, Color Efex Pro, etc., as well as Snapseed. Initially this meant that the desktop version of the app was discontinued, replaced by a Web version that you can only use if you had a Google+ account. However, the App for iPhones and iPads continued to be available, and this time as free downloads. Additional functionalities were also added to the mobile versions like Selective Adjust, HDR Scape and Retrolux. Below is a snapshot of the iPad version.
I’ve tried other photo apps since then, for example Apple’s own iPhoto, Pixelmator, which is pretty decent in itself, Darkroom, and B&W for converting photos to black and white. However, I’ve always gravitated back to Snapseed as my photo app of choice, even though it had never had a major update since 2012.
Getting into the MIX
Design your own photo filter. With that slogan, MIX entered the do-it-yourself photo app scene, promising endless possibilities to “filterize” your images.Exotic-sounding filters like Eagle, Gum, Orion, Lagoon, Carina, etc, can turn otherwise normal snapshots into surreal, out-of-this-world creations. However, underneath all these flamboyance are some really powerful picture editing tools.
The dSLR-like bokeh effects in the Aperture function provides a much welcome touch to the otherwise infinity-focus setting of smartphone pictures and can produce amazing results. Advanced, selective colour adjustment is also a great tool, making it easy to create coloured pictures on mono background (or vice versa) as in the example below. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)
Perhaps another nifty effect in MIX is the ability to turn day into night. Before and after versions of a monk at the ruins of the Faces Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, taken on an iPad, follow below:
Snapseed Version 2
Then to make matters more interesting, Google finally gave Snapseed a major makeover in April 2015. With the facelift, it feels almost like a totally new photo editing app, replete with non-destructive, layer-based editing found only in expensive desktop applications.
However, I do miss the direct connection to Instagram under the Share or Open In… menus. Now to post photos to Instagram you have to save first to your Photos and then open in Instagram the old-fashioned way. The new Snapseed is still a free download on the App Store or Google Play, but you need to have the latest versions of IOS or Android operating systems. If you take a lot of photos with our smartphone and want those photos to stand out more, it is definitely worth a try.
Happy photo shooting… and editing.
(A very special thanks to Iulia who kindly agreed to have me use photos of her to illustrate this article – you can see more of her as @thecuteberry.)