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Snapseed for the iPad: Professional Results from a $4.99 App

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Andrew S. Gibson, author of Exposure and Understanding the Histogram, highlights some of the great features of Snapseed, a photo-editing application for the iPad that punches above its weight. If you want your photos to dazzle, but you can't afford the cost or time required to edit with Photoshop or Lightroom, Snapseed may be just the app for you.

Snapseed is the first iPad app from Nik software, and at $4.99 from the U.S. iTunes store, it's a good deal less expensive than any other Nik product. You can use Snapseed to edit photos taken with your iPad, or to edit JPEG, TIFF, or Raw files transferred to your iPad from your computer (or a camera using Apple's camera-connector kit).

Personally, I really enjoy editing my photos using Snapseed on my iPad. It's quick, easy, and fun, and the creative possibilities are nearly unlimited. However, there is a caveat about image size. Snapseed downsizes large images to a resolution of 2304 x 1536 pixels. This relatively low size is fine if you just want to make small prints or display your photos online. But it's a problem if you want to retain the full resolution of your original images, and for me it makes Snapseed a fun app rather than a serious one. (But perhaps that's the whole idea of the iPad—to have fun, doing your "serious" computing on a laptop or desktop.) Please bear this point in mind as we go through Snapseed's impressive feature list in this article.

Getting Started

The first time you open Snapseed you'll be greeted with a screen that looks something like Figure 1. This is the overlay, an ingenious feature that guides you around the Snapseed interface. (It also appears when you open one of the filters for the first time.) Tap anywhere on the screen to make the overlay disappear. You can call it back at any time by tapping the Help button at upper right and selecting Show Overlay.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Snapshot's opening screen.

With the overlay screen out of the way, you can see the Snapseed interface shown in Figure 2. It's very simple. The filters, 11 in total, are on the left. The picture in progress is displayed on the right. The first image you see is a sample image supplied with the app. You can tap on the Open Image button in the upper-left corner to open an image saved in your iPad's photo albums (or to use the camera).

Figure 2

Figure 2 The Snapseed interface.

Under the image are four buttons. You'll come back to this screen after you've used one of the filters, and these four buttons are always ready:

  • Compare. Tap this button to show the original image, and release it to see the edited version again; it's a quick-and-easy way of comparing the two. There's another compare button at the bottom of the editing screen for each filter—you can also use that option for comparing the edit with the original image.
  • Revert. This button reloads the original image without saving any of your edits.
  • Save. Snapseed saves the edited image in your camera roll when you tap Save. You can do this as many times as you want; Snapseed gives each image a unique name. The original file is never overwritten.
  • Share. Tap this button to share the image you've created via Facebook, Flickr, by email, or by printing wirelessly to a compatible printer.
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