Snapseed Is Superior Photo Editor

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Nik Software has produced excellent photo-editing software for desktop computers--Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro--and now it's bringing that expertise to the mobile space with Snapseed, which runs on Apple's iPad.

Snapseed eschews traditional image editing interfaces--you won't find any Levels controls or Curves in the app. Nik has created an editing interface specifically for the iPad.

Figure 1. Snapseed's main interface, where you can select an image to edit, and choose an editing mode. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Instead of struggling to move tiny control points with your fingers, you simply tap an icon to put the program into a particular mode--Tune Image, for example--then slide your finger up and down anywhere on the screen to select the parameter you want to edit: Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, White Balance. Then you drag left or right to increase or decrease that parameter.

Figure 2. In each mode, you drag up and down to select the parameter you want to edit, then left and right to alter that parameter. Click on the image to see a larger version.

For localized editing, Nik added its Control Point technology to the Snapseed. Just like the Control Points in Nik's Vivieza and Silver Efex Photoshop plug-ins, Control Points in Snapseed automatically build complex, high-quality masks to constrain editing effects. In Control Point mode, you click to add a control point, and then drag your finger within the Control Point's editing circle to select and alter a parameter.

Figure 3. Here, I've placed a Control Point on the red part of the motorcycle. Snapseed has automatically built a mask, through which I can apply brightness, contrast, or saturation adjustments. Click on the image to see a larger version.

SnapSeed has an impressive feature set. In addition to such basic edits as straighten, rotate, crop, and tone and color corrections, you also get black and white conversion, retro film looks, grunge generation, photographic edges, and more.

Figure 4. Snapseed's editing modes.Getting Your Images Off the iPad
Once you're happy with your photo, Snapseed has hooks that make it easy to leave the iPad. You can send files via email, post them on Facebook and Flickr, and output to printers that support Apple's AirPrint WiFi standard.

So Worth It
There are some things I'd like to see in Snapseed: vignetting, Control Points in the black-and-white mode, and Nik's Structure control or some other kind of sharpening. But these are very minor complaints given that this is a version-1.0 product.

Levels and Curves controls are great interfaces when you're working with a tablet or mouse and have a very refined level of pointing control. But when you're working with your finger, desktop interface approaches can be clunky and unwieldy. With Snapseed, Nik has created an image editing approach that works gesturally, and so is much easier to manage than a point-and-click interface. When combined with their generous supply of editing features, the result is the best image-editing app for the iPad. And the price can't be beat. Nik's desktop programs sell for $100 to $200; Snapseed gives you similarly sophisticated technology for only $4.99.

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