People get a bit sniffy when you talk about free software. Quality comes at a price they will tell you. And, to a point, they are right. But the world of software is different, for many reasons. Superseded software may be offered free. Or limited functionality software may be offered free, with tantalising extra features available for an extra cost. But sometimes good software is not only offered for free, it’s given a major upgrade too.
That’s what happened recently with Google’s Snapseed. It’s a great image editing and manipulation application that’s been around a few years and is available from the Android and Apple App Stores for the respective smartphones.
Though it’s a smartphone app, I’ve found it so useful that I regularly import images taken with my ‘other’ cameras to a smartphone just to use Snapseed. That’s even easier now that Apple has introduced Photos (not that I’m a fan of Photos – I’m one of those that seriously misses Aperture and sadly misses iPhoto).
In the original guise Snapseed offered a range of quick fix tools – with the added benefit of a degree of control – along with some more creative features. Best of all, you could operate the controls of each module with a simple up and down swipe of the finger to select a tool, and right to left swipe to vary the degree of application.
The basic tools offered included the basics – for cropping, aligning and adding sharpness, along with tuning controls to vary the saturation colour and all the usual parameters. A welcome addition to this set of tools was the Ambiance control – a lovely hybrid of HDR and contrast control that helps lift shadows and control highlights.
A short while ago, as I mentioned, I discovered my phone had identified and automatically upgraded Snapseed to a new version. That, I have to admit, irritates me a touch. I like to choose when a major upgrade is initiated but, too late, it was done. But any irritation was quickly assuaged as I discovered the enhanced potency of the app.
First up, and useful was a Histogram – ideal for getting a quick look at the tonality of your image. Gone, or so I though was the one touch quick fix – one of those features that professionals are quick to pour derision on yet I’m happy to concede that when used with the right images can be a big time saver. Fortunately, the quick fix was not gone it’s just found a new home in the Tune Image module, along with my beloved Ambience control.
New to the party this time are transformational tools – that do a remarkably good job of correcting converging verticals and, direct from the more monolithic image manipulation programmes, a spot repairer. Not a full clone/rubber stamp tool but great for fixing blemishes on your images.
The filters section has had a major boost, with the original suite (which included a single image HDR tool, black and white control, drama filter and the inevitable Lomo camera/Hipstamatic style filters) bolstered by new effects such as Glamour Glow, Noir and Tonal Contrast.
The HDR feature – HDR Scape – is a favourite of mine. It can create pseudo HDR effects using a single image. It’s a dramatic tool that’s easy both to over use on shots that don’t need it but also to over apply, giving that increasingly cliched and obvious HDR effect. Use it subtly though and you’ll be well rewarded.
All in all, it’s a worthy upgrade and makes a useful app even more so. I just hope that increasing success does not go to it’s head and result in another iteration that begins to add complexity that is pleasantly absent from this upgrade.