I recently wrote a beginners and advanced guide for using the iPhone’s in-built camera – a true point-and-shoot app for easily composing, exposing, and shooting photos. The next step to producing extraordinary images is taking some time to process them in what is now called the “digital darkroom”.
These days you don’t have to get your hands dirty with photo chemicals and paper in order to enhance your images. There are several relatively easy to use photo enhancement iOS apps that require little or no prior knowledge about photo processing in order to produce quality images. One such app for the iPhone and iPad (among other iOS image editors) is Nik Software’s Snapseed, which is listed on our Best iPad Apps page, and is a free universal app that works on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
With a few simple taps and finger movements, you can enhance your digital images in Snapseed and get similar impressive results to what would take three or four times as long to bring about in Photoshop. Snapseed consists of over a dozen image processing and enhancement tools that you can selectively apply to improve your photos.
The app starts you off with a sample photo which you can use to learn and explore all of the features. Snapseed is not a destructive photo editor, which means that it doesn’t affect your original images. It makes a copy of the images you select to process, and you save the changes applied to the copied photo back to your iPad or iPhone Photo Library. The app even has access to the iOS camera which allows you to shoot photos and open them directly in the app for processing.
If you don’t know where to start, you can begin with the simple Auto Correct tool to see if you get results that you like. This tool basically adds contrast and auto-corrects the white balance of the selected image.
With a processing tool selected, simply move your index finger to the left or right to adjust the level of enhancement or move your finger up and down to select an enhancement feature. Tapping the tiny Help ”?” button in the top-right hand side of the app presents illustrated instructions that teach you how to use each of the selected tools.
One of the most useful menu items is the Compare button, which you can tap to view the difference between your original image and the applied enhancements. When you are satisfied with an enhancement, simply tap the Apply button in the menu bar (be sure to tap that button long enough for the processing to begin).
While you can undo and redo selected enhancements while you’re in the editor, once you tap the Apply button, the enhancements are permanent. The only way to get rid of them is to tap the Revert button, which will take you back to your original image. Unfortunately, you can’t selectively undo or delete individual enhancements or layers as you can in Photoshop.
Tools and Filters
In addition to the Auto Correct tool, Snapseed includes over a dozen tools and filters, including Crop, Straighten & Rotate, Black & White, Vintage Films, Drama, Grunge, Tilt-Shift, and Frames.
Since using these filters and tools doesn’t require you to understand layers and other complicated controls, you can simply explore them without needing a special manual for how they work.
The cropping and sharpening tools (the latter of which is found within the Details tool) provide two basic enhancements that will improve most images. The Auto Correct tool should handle most of the contrast enhancements you need to make, but you might also try using the Selective Adjust tool for correcting exposure problems.
The Vintage Films, Drama, Retrolux, and Grunge tools apply more artistic filters to your images. The Center Focus and Tilt-Shift tools can be useful for changing the depth of field in your images, or selectively softening the foreground or background of your photos.
After you’re done with all your enhancements, you can save the photo to your Photo Library, or you can share it to your Google+ photo gallery, Facebook or Twitter, Email, as well as copy or print the image directly from the app.
Snapseed is a relatively easy photo processing app to use, but it includes advanced features and tools for making complex image enhancements. It is the perfect application for those who want to do more with the simple point-and-shoot images captured with an iPad or iPhone camera.