Editing photos on a smartphone or tablet is fun, but it’s more often than not a heavy-handed process. Since you have a small screen to work with, most image editors don’t let you make fine-grained adjustments. Instead, they keep the interface simple by just letting you tap on a bunch of filters, and maybe adjust a slider or two to control the effect’s intensity.
This makes for a fast workflow, but doesn’t allow for much sophistication. For example, Instagram is fun, but there’s a very finite limit to how subtle you can be with it. Snapseed is one Android image editing app that bucks the trend, and manages to offer an interface that’s both elegant and very powerful.
When you first look at Snapseed, you may think “oh, I’ve seen this one before“. You’ve got an image occupying the central part of the screen, with a bunch of filters arrayed along the bottom. On the top-right you’ll see a button for saving the current image, posting it to Google+ (Snapseed is owned by Google), or starting with a new image.
When you hit that top-right button for starting on a new image, you can either take the image, or find an existing image in your gallery you want to work with. Combined with a high-quality camera app such as Vignette, you can get some truly impressive results.
This is the source image I’ll be tweaking:
It’s All in The Gestures
This image explains Snapseed’s unique interface better than I could. Instead of adjusting sliders, you swipe up and down to switch between settings, and left/right to adjust the intensity. For example, the Automatic category offers two settings, contrast correction and color correction:
Once you pick one (contrast, in this case), swipe left and right to adjust its intensity. The image changes in real-time, and you get the numeric value for the settings both at the top and bottom of the screen:
Once you’re happy with your work, hit the checkmark on the bottom-right, and Snapseed will process the image to save the changes:
So far, the interface seems nice, but you haven’t seen its real power yet. Check out selective adjustments:
What you see above is a major part of Snapseed’s magic: You get impact specific parts of the image. When you hold your finger over the image, a loupe (magnifying glass) appears next to your finger, so you can see what you’re selecting. Once you find the spot you want to tweak, let go of the screen, and check out the selection:
I’ve got a big circle around the boat on the left of the image, but Snapseed is smart enough to isolate the boat itself. To further reduce the area of influence so that it’s really focused around the boat, I can pinch in and narrow down the circle:
Note what an accurate selection Snapseed lets me make — this is a very unique feature, and one of the main things elevating Snapseed above the competition.
Having played with the saturation and brightness of this selective spot, the boat now really pops (maybe a bit too much, even):
Just because Snapseed lets you fine-tune everything yourself, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy some speedy defaults every now and then:
Many settings have a star which you can tap to get a list of presets. These are often heavy-handed (as you see above), but sometimes that’s what you need. This makes it possible to use Snapseed even for quick editing jobs, and not just when you have several minutes to spend on your photo.
Tilt-shift is one of the most difficult effects to get right:
Instagram has tilt-shift, so this is a great example for how much more nuanced you can get with Snapseed. Like in Instagram, you can control the angle of the tilt-shift. But unlike Instagram, you can also affect the vignetting and brightness. The end result looks like this:
Snapseed is an absolute joy to use, and is basically the best photo processing app I’ve seen for Android. It’s fun to use, and its clever interface really lets you dig deep into a photo and tweak it to your heart’s content.
Have you tried out this Android image editing app yourself? Is there another sophisticated photo editor you prefer? Let me know in the comments.