App review: Snapseed

In the beginning…

Photos want to be edited… Not that we have to; but editing our photos bring completion to an experience we want to give others, and ourselves. The problem is not a lack of photo-editing software; we’ve got expensive photo editing software like Photoshop, Acorn even Lightroom, Aperture and many others. The problem is a lack of an affordable and intuitive software for hobbyist and even pros alike.

There wasn’t really a contender, until now. Say hello to Snapseed (for iPad only).

Then there was Snapseed

From the developer’s site:

Snapseed for iPad makes any photograph extraordinary and is brought to you by Nik Software, the recognized leader in digital photographic products and technologies. With Snapseed, enhance your photos with one tap. Tweak photos to perfection with Tune Image or selectively adjust only a part of your photo with revolutionary Control Points. Add incredible effects with innovative filters like Drama, Vintage, and Grunge. Share photos with your friends and family with social network support, or print your photos directly in Snapseed.

Using Snapseed

Snapseed is fast and totally intuitive. Use it for a while, and you’d be editing photos non-stop. What makes it different from the rest is the ease of usage via touch, and its lack of complex instructions and menus/drop-downs. It can’t get any simpler: swipe up/down for options/adjustments, swipe left/right for intensity of adjustment, drag your finger around for adjustments that are point-centered. There’s also a ‘Compare’ button which allows you to quickly compare between your edited state and your photo before you started using that particular filter.

There’s brightness, contrast, ambience, saturation adjustments, as well as tools for straightening and cropping, which works like a charm. There’s also the more creative filters for B/W, vintage, drama (trust me, they’ve used the right term for this filter), grunge, center focus and frames.

Here’s a photo I’ve taken in Hong Kong before the edit.

original photo

And here’s the same photo after about 5 minutes of editing in Snapseed.

edited photo

One particular brilliant option is the selective adjust, which allows you to choose a specific spot on the photo to edit (options limited to brightness, saturation and contrast). In the next photo, you can see the round spots with a ‘B’ on them; they are the spots chosen for selective adjusts, and the B signifies the Brightness adjust. Here, I’ve picked the spots but haven’t done any adjustments yet.

selective adjust

Here’s the same photo after the selective adjustments.

after selective adjust

The sky on the top right is a little darker and lower on contrast; the buildings on the sides are darker and the center is a little brighter. Granted, this is not a great edit but it’s to prove my point about how useful the selective adjust can be as it allows you to edit just a part of your photo. You can also adjust the radius of the area affected.

Now, I know some of you purists would think that this borders on the sacrilegious as such effects usually require quite a bit of work and knowledge of filters and what-nots. However, to the hobbyists and even to pros who want a quick edit on the iPad, Snapseed is almost a god-send (sorry, I had to use this term).  Besides the ease of use and great effects/filters available, Snapseed also allows for full resolution export into your iPad’s camera library; it’s only limited by the file you imported into it.

And it’s only US$4.99. Seriously, for an app of this polish, this is so much of a steal it’s almost a crime. I’m not exaggerating since I’ve already spent several hundred dollars on the educator’s edition of Adobe CS 4, Aperture and Acorn.

All is not well though…

Snapseed is not without it’s limitations. There’s two that bothers me quite a bit:

1. The inability to work with RAW. The iPad can import RAW files into its photo library, but when you try to import a RAW file into Snapseed, what it does is that it takes a snapshot of the RAW file as it appears in the import dialog, giving you a picture that is 160 x 120 pixels, and at 72 dpi. Hence, you’d need to convert your RAW photos into JPEG before you use them in Snapseed.

2. Snapseed cannot sharpen. There is no sharpening adjustment for use.

Snapseed as part of me

So how am I going to use Snapseed? I’ve just bought myself the iPad Camera Connection Kit which connects a SD card to the iPad. Later I’ve a wedding shoot. What I’d be doing is to shoot (with my Nikon D90) in RAW+JPEG, and then import the JPEGs into my iPad via the connector and do all edits on iPad with Snapseed. As a final review, I’d run the photos on my iMac and see how they look like, and if I need to do any color correction or sharpening before sending them out.


Links/Further readings


Review by Scott Kelby

Review by

Review by Digital Photo Buzz

Review by

An update of this review can be found here, and an app update here.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s