1. Technology

Snapseed Mobile Photo Editor Review

Nik Software's Impressive Mobile Photo Editing App

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Snapseed for iPad

Snapseed for iPad

UI © Nik, Photo © M. Fairchild, used with permission.

What is Snapseed?

Snapseed is an intuitive and fun photo editing app for iOS which offers a number of useful image adjustments, as well as high-quality photography effects. Snapseed was originally developed by Nik Software, which has long been in the business of creating photography plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture. In mid-2012, Snapseed was acquired by Google. Since the Google acquisition, Snapseed has been released as a free app for iOS and Android. Snapseed can also be purchased for Windows and Mac.

Version Reviewed: Snapseed 1.2 on iPad

Compatibility: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), and iPad running iOS 4.2 or later. An Android version is also available.

Snapseed Pros:

  • Excellent in-app help and intuitive controls make it very easy to learn.
  • Helps make your photos pop with a variety of useful adjustments and fun, high-quality effects.
  • You can target specific image areas using simple control points for selective adjustments.
  • User interface works in either portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Universal App runs on most iOS devices. Also available for Android, Windows and Mac.
  • Mobile apps for iOS and Android are now free.

Snapseed Cons:

  • No noise reduction or sharpening adjustments.
  • Organic frames can only be chosen randomly.

Snapseed Description:

Snapseed for iPad - Grunge effects

Adjusting the Grunge effects in Snapseed for iPad.

UI © Nik, Photo © M. Fairchild, used with permission.
  • Snapseed provides powerful photo editing tools in an easy-to-use, gesture-based interface.

  • Adjustments: Auto correct, selective adjust, tune image, straighten and rotate, crop.

  • Filters: Black & white, vintage films, drama, grunge, center focus, organic frames.

  • Within each selection there are more controls for multiple variations and even presets.

  • Choose the enhancement by sliding your finger up and down. Control the amount of adjustment by sliding left and right.

  • All edits are shown as you make them.

  • Tap the compare button to quickly see the 'before' version of your edited photo.

  • Many effects offer multiple presets or random variations.

  • In-app overlay diagrams provide at-a-glance tips, and video tutorials are also provided.

  • Share edited photos by email, Flickr, and Facebook. Print via AirPrint.

Hands-On with Snapseed

Snapseed from Google (originially developed by Nik Software) is an impressive photo editing app for iOS, which quickly topped the iTunes App Store sales charts after its release--and for good reason. It is awesome.

(Note: Snapseed was originally released as an iPad-only app. In August 2011, it was updated to a Universal App. Although I used the iPad app for this review, the iPhone version has similar features. Only the user interface varies somewhat for the smaller screen. In 2012, Snapseed became a free mobile app and was made available on the Android platform. Windows and Mac version of Snapseed are available for purchase.)

When you first open Snapseed, it displays an overlay diagram of how to use the app. This overlay is very simple and easy to digest, and really all you need to get going.

I spent just a few minutes playing around with the default sand dune image that initially loaded, and I was immediately hooked--not just by the ease-of-use but also by the dramatic improvement I could create in just a few minutes. I'm always skeptical of the sample images software companies provide for evaluating the software, so I moved on to edit some of my own images, and was equally impressed.

Snapseed offers five categories of adjustments and six categories of effects. Within each adjustment or effect are a number of attributes you can adjust, as described below:


  • Auto Correct does an instant tweak to contrast and color, but you can manually fine-tune this.

  • Selective Adjust allows you to add control points and adjust brightness, contrast and saturation in selected areas.

  • Tune Image adjusts brightness, ambiance, contrast, saturation, white balance.

  • Straighten up to 10° in either direction, or rotate left or right 90°.

  • Crop freeform, choose from common aspect ratio presets, or keep original aspect ratio by pinching to crop.


  • Black & White effect provides controls for brightness, contrast, and grain. Six preset styles are provided.

  • Vintage Films with controls for brightness, saturation, texture strength, and center size. Choose from nine preset vintage styles.

  • Drama effect with controls for filter strength and saturation. Includes six preset styles.

  • Grunge effects with control over style, brightness, contrast, texture strength, and saturation. Randomly shuffle through textures and styles.

  • Center Focus provides vignette blur effects with control over center size and filter strength. Includes six preset styles.

  • Organic Frames adds borders with control over frame width and offset. Shuffle randomly through a number of frame styles.

Snapseed for iPad - Vintage Films

Browsing the Vintage Film presets in Snapseed for iPad.

UI © Nik, Photo © K Chastain, used with permission.
To work with Snapseed, you simply slide your finger up and down to choose what attribute you wish to adjust from a pop-up menu, then slide your finger left or right to increase or decrease the effect. All adjustments are shown immediately in a large preview, and at the bottom of the screen there is a meter which displays the value of your adjustments. Also along the bottom are buttons to go back without applying the effect, compare the original to the edited photo, undo/redo, or apply the adjustment. Some filters have additional buttons for presets and random variations.

You can rotate the iPad to portrait or landscape and the user interface adapts, so you can get a larger view of the photo you're working on. You can also apply multiple adjustments and filters to the same image, stacking the effects for even more variations. Snapseed provides most of the color and tone adjustments you'll need, although I wish it had something for noise reduction and sharpening. The filter effects are very impressive and not cheesy like the effects in so many other photo apps.

One of the stand-out features of Snapseed, however, is the selective adjustment control. When you choose the selective adjust option, you can add multiple control points to your image and use these to fine-tune the brightness, contrast and saturation in specific areas. Snapseed uses intelligent technology to make precise selections for you.

After editing your photo, you can return to the home screen, where you can save or share it - or if you made a mistake that you can't undo, you can revert to the unedited version. There is also a button here (home screen) to compare the original and edited photos. The sharing options include Email, Flickr, Facebook, and AirPrint. Sorry, Twitter fans, no TwitPic export option.

Nik Software really got it right with Snapseed--it is a joy to use and delivers impressive results in record time. And though there are a few more things I'd like to see added to Snapseed, it's already a five-star app in its initial release. Move over Photoshop Express… I'll be clearing a space on my iPad home screen for Snapseed.

Snapseed for iOS in the iTunes App Store
Snapseed for Android in the Google Play Store

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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