The Future Of Photo Editing..?
I’d say that the complaint I hear most about digital photography is “I just can’t get my head around Photoshop“. Of course, this is good news for those of us who earn a few squids from teaching people how to do just that. But perhaps things are about to change.
Increasingly, we are told, people are leaving the compact camera at home and using their mobile phones to take their everyday snaps. Don’t take my word for it – there are figures to back this up, not to mention the recent news that Instagram (a phone-based photo editing and sharing app which I may have mentioned briefly here in previous posts) has just been gobbled up by the mighty Facebook for a billion dollars. So people are taking – and editing – more images on their mobile phones.
Photo editing apps are accessible and simple to use, as they have to be – they are used in the main by non-photographers. One of the things that I’ve often thought about since I started using my phone to create photographs is “Just imagine how great it would be if these editing apps were available for laptops and PCs”. Well, now they, or some of them, are.
One of my favourite iPhone apps has been Snapseed, which iphoneography supremo Nettie Edwards once described as “like having a darkroom in your pocket”. In fact I reckon that three out of four of my iphoneography images goes through Snapseed at some point. It’s a wondrous bit of phone-based software, and all for just a few quid.
Here’s the best bit: Now it’s also available for PC and Mac – and for less than £20.
Snapseed’s desktop/laptop version is, as one might expect, very similar to the phone app. There are ten adjustment tools (3 “basic” and 7 “creative”). Each tool has a number of preset options, which in turn can be tweaked. Here’s a rundown…
Tune Image (“Fix/Repair/Adjust”): Use this tool to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, ambiance, shadows and warmth. Adjustments can be added globally or to a selected area – so for instance, you can lighten a face by using the brightness tool to a selected area (the size of the area can be adjusted too), in a similar, but simpler way to Photoshop’s dodge tool.
Crop & Straighten (“Re-compose your shot”): Like it says on the tin, plus image rotation. When cropping, you can select the usual aspect ratios as presets.
Details (“Sharpen your photo”): Sharpening, which I never use, personally, but this does it fairly sensitively if needed.
Black & White (“the classic”): Convert your shot to mono with 6 presets plus brightness, contrast and grain sliders. Also, you can add colour filters as you would in traditional black and white film photography.
Center Focus (“put your subject in focus”): This is a very cool tool. Add gaussian blur to as much or as little of the picture as you like, leaving only a clear “sweet spot” that you can move and resize easily – no masks, no clumsy selection tools – easy. You can even add a simple vignette.
Drama (“better than Broadway”): Snapseed’s easy one-touch pseudo-HDR. 6 presets, all of which can be tweaked on strength, brightness and saturation. From the subtle to the OTT.
Frames (“the finishing touch”): Admittedly, Snapseed isn’t the best phone app for frames (I tend to use other apps for this), but the 10 basic options they give you are funky enough, and all adjustable (the size, spread and grunge effect anyway). A near instant transformation compared with the equivalent Photoshop process.
Grunge (“get a little gritty”): I LOVE this tool. Use the “shuffle” button to randomly select grunge styles until you find one you like or drag the “style” slider across to go through the 1500 (yes, 1500!!!) or so grunge styles. Then you can tweak the look via the texture strength, brightness, contrast, and saturation sliders. There are 5 texture patterns to choose from and as usual, you can select how much of the image you want to stay relatively clear while the rest gets grunged. See how long it takes you to do something similar in Photoshop!
Vintage (“the past is new again”): Replicate old film, or cross-processed film effects using the presets and/or the 4 texture patters and/or the 9 colour styles and/or the texture strength, saturation, brightness, vignette, and style strength sliders.
Tilt-Shift (“miniaturise your world”): Intended to create a tilt-shift lens effect, which it does quite convinicingly. Funky, unpredictable (but very controllable) depth of field akin to that achieved with a “lensbaby” in that you can select a linear or eliptical effect. Not my favourite feature here but has its uses.
So all in all a darn good little package for the price (15.95 Euros including VAT for the download). Suits techonophobes as well as more ‘puter-savvy togs looking for something a bit different.
But there is one major drawback: For reasons I have yet to understand, your image will be shrunk within an inch of its life by Snapseed. Feed in a 10mb file and watch in horror as it is spat out at the other end as a 2+mb file. Hopefully, this will be sorted in the not too distant. Until then, this isn’t software you will use for high definition images anyway.
Conclusion: I think this is the way that photo-editing software will go in the longer term. Apps will increasingly, I believe, migrate from phones to the household’s main computers, challenging the dominance of the bulky, over-priced, complicated editing giants. Who will want to pay £1200 for Adobe’s latest megapackage when much simpler and much cheaper options are readily available, even if it means multi-apping as one does when editing images on the phone? Snapseed can be mastered in minutes and can transform images in a much more user-friendly and intuitive way than anything Adobe (or, let’s face it, Apple or Corel) has yet developed.