Snapseed logoThe Snapseed app is the best photography editing app for iOS and Android – and it’s free! As a bonus the core tools are also available for editing your shots online in a web-based app, inside Google+.

Snapseed has the power of a professional tool like Adobe Lightroom, but an ease of use suitable even for beginners, which makes it an app store favourite. Check out the screenshots and read my review/tutorial below. Your mobile photography is about to take a leap forward…

What is Snapseed?

Snapseed is a photo editing app originally created by Nik Software. Once upon a time you could purchase Snapseed as desktop software (I have it on my Mac), but now it’s a mobile and web-based app (iOS, Android, Google+). Nik distributed Snapseed before being acquired by Google. Shortly after, Google made the app free, and the essential tools made their way into Google+.

Tips for Editing Photography with Snapseed

There are a lot of settings. The system is pretty intuitive once you understand that after choosing a setting, you can make an adjustment by sliding your finger across the screen from left to right. Going right usually increases the value, while sliding left decreases the value.

Snapseed screenshot iPad

The adjustments I most frequently make are to values such as “Contrast” and “Ambiance.” Another section to take a close look at is “Center Focus.” Ambiance is like having the ability to boost the light value and colours in every area of your photo. It’s almost like a more subtle brightness adjustment – letting some dark areas become lighter and more detailed, bringing up subtle colour. Of course there’s also the “shadows” adjustment – raising this brings more detail just to the dark areas. (Often better than applying brightness to the whole image). Centre Focus is an option I sometimes employ as an alternative to cropping. Add some blur and dark vignetting to the outside of your image and suddenly the center area rally catches the eye. It works a treat.

I won’t try to describe what you can do with the funky filters that give a retro or grunge look. This is the Instagram style and I think it’s obvious you mostly click presets until something you like appears. My interest is in the professional style adjustments that add more clarity, focus, and rich colour to your image.

Alternative Software

Before I offer further options let me also state that inside Google+ you’ll find the “web app” version of Snapseed. It’s the same kinds of tools – it does the processing on the Google servers and the results are similar to the regular apps. It’s a great option for processing your photos in a pro way at no cost.

If you want professional-style adjustments there are tools both free and paid. Most come with the usual adjustments and some kind of range of filters and frames. Aviary is one of the most popular options in both the Android and iOS stores. Adobe’s Photoshop Touch and Lightroom Mobile are worth mentioning. What I like about Adobe products is the amount of perfecting and tweaking that is possible, but you can also quickly get amazing results without mucking about too deeply as well (beginners – be not afraid of Adobe!). I would be remiss if I also didn’t obviously mention Instagram. Many people love it, and there’s the social aspect to it as well.

A last note re: photo-editng software. Tools like Snapseed and Aviary are free, but if you’re sincere about getting the best from your (mobile) image-editing do consider Adobe products. Photoshop Touch is about $10 and this is a one-time purchase. Great deal! Lightroom Mobile on the other hand will be tied to obtaining the full desktop version of the software so entails a much stiffer commitment of money ($10 per month for Photoshop subscription via Creative Cloud).

Snapseed screenshot iPad

Screenshots note: If you look at the screenshots, you’ll see a number of differences between the images. The second image is brighter and has richer colour. This was achieved using some adjustments like “brightness,” “ambiance” and “saturation.” Often I don’t use the brightness setting at all, as “ambiance” can really lift some darker areas, but I wanted the snow to look less dirty. I also like how the added brightness made the cathedral spire more ghostly and abstract.


Google Play – Android
App Store – iOS