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Edit Photos in Photogene

You may already be adept at pushing pixels in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, in which case you’ll find Mobile Pond’s Photogene for iPad to be a familiar editing environment. It includes traditional tools such as levels and curves, lets you work with layers and masks, and boasts full-resolution image editing. (Some advanced features require a $7.99 in-app Go-PRO purchase, which is worth it if you’re serious about editing photos on the iPad. The regular version, at $2.99, is still quite capable for most editing.)

To get started, browse your Photo Library and tap an image to open it in Photogene’s editor. As you work, you can tap the Undo button to step back among your edits; or, at any point, tap the Original button to discard all changes.


To recompose a photo using the Crop tool, do the following:

  1. Tap the Crop tool to reveal the selection area and a side pane where you can constrain the aspect ratio.
  2. Drag the selection handles to define the visible area. You can reposition the selection over the image by dragging the area from the middle using one finger.
  3. Tap the Crop button in the pane to apply the crop.
  4. To dismiss the Crop interface, tap the Crop button in the toolbar.

For images that are a bit (or a lot) askew, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Rotate button in the toolbar.
  2. In the Rotate panel that appears, drag the Angle slider to straighten the image (4.7). Photogene applies the change as soon as you let go of the slider.

    4.7 Some photos require more straightening than others.

You can also rotate the image by quarter turns or flip the image horizon-tally or vertically.

Adjust Tone and Color

Photogene includes several tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, and color, each of which have their own strengths. The Brightness controls, for example, can brighten or darken an image or pull detail out of shadows and highlights. Or, you may prefer to adjust white and black levels using the histogram, or adjust curves to manipulate separate red, green, or blue channels.

Adjust brightness and contrast

I often shoot with exposure compensation set to –1 (or maybe a third of a stop) because it results in slightly more saturated colors and, more importantly, reduces the chance that portions of my image will end up blown-out to all white. Camera sensors, especially when shooting in raw mode, capture a lot of detail in shadows that might not immediately be apparent. Pixels that are blown out, however, rarely offer any usable image data.

The easiest method is to manipulate the sliders in the Brightness section of the Adjustments panel:

  1. Tap the Adjustments button to reveal the panel.
  2. Drag the Exposure slider to increase or decrease the photo’s overall brightness (4.8).

    4.8 Adjusting exposure in Photogene’s Brightness panel

  3. Drag the Contrast slider to enhance the distinction between light and dark pixels.
  4. To illuminate pockets of darkness, drag the Lighten Shadows slider; this control also affects the full image, but not to the extreme that the Exposure slider does. Similarly, use the Darken Highlights slider to try to recover overly bright areas.

If you’re more familiar with adjusting levels in desktop software, scroll down to the Histogram section, where you can drag the left vertical bar to set the clipping point of black pixels (making the image darker) or drag the right bar to specify highlight clipping (making the image brighter). The triangle in the middle darkens or brightens the image’s midtones.

Some people prefer to adjust exposure using curves, a feature available in the pro version of Photogene.

  1. In the Adjustments panel, tap the Show button in the Curves section. The interface appears over the top of the image (4.9).

    4.9 The Curves interface

  2. To increase brightness, tap the control point in the middle of the grid and drag it up and to the left. Dragging it toward the lower-right area of the grid decreases the exposure.
  3. Tap anywhere on the curve to add a new control point, which you can use to further adjust the tones. For example, adding another point toward the lower area of the curve lets me apply contrast (by compressing the dark values) while retaining the increase in exposure I applied in the previous step (4.10).

    4.10 Adding a control point

  4. Tap the Hide button in the Adjustments panel when you’re done.

Adjust color cast

Does your photo look a little green? The adjustment tools can compensate for color shifts as well as exposure values:

  • In the Adjustments panel, drag the RGB sliders to increase or decrease the red, green, or blue offsets.
  • If you’ve purchased the pro version of Photogene, bring up the Curves editor and then tap one of the colored tabs to the left to edit just those channels.

Adjust white balance

If your camera misinterpreted the existing light as being too cool or warm, you can specify a new value for white balance (also called color temperature). Living in Seattle, I often do this to add warmth to photos taken under gray skies, but cameras can be thrown off by fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs as well.

  1. Tap the Adjustments button, and scroll down to the Colors section of the Adjustments panel.
  2. Drag the Color Temperature slider left (cooler) or right (warmer).

In Photogene’s pro version, you can set the white balance by identifying an area that is white, black, or neutral:

  1. Scroll down to the Colors section of the Adjustments panel and tap the eyedropper icon.
  2. Tap and hold on your image to bring up a zoomed-in loupe, and then drag to locate a neutral color (4.11).

    4.11 Use the Color Temperature loupe in the pro version of Photogene to set white balance.

  3. Lift your finger; Photogene picks a Color Temperature value based on your selection.

Adjust saturation and vibrance

To boost or pull back the color in your image, drag the Saturation slider. However, to retain skin tone, the Vibrance slider might give better results.

Apply Selective Edits

You won’t always want to apply adjustments to the entire image. Photogene’s Retouches category of tools includes a healing brush but also masking overlays that let you paint areas to be adjusted. For example, use the Dodge tool to brighten an area, or enhance the depth of a photo by applying the Blur tool to its background. The pro version of the software lets you adjust exposure, saturation, contrast, color temperature, and RGB offset values in areas you paint.

  1. Tap the Retouches button in the toolbar.
  2. Tap one of the Masking Overlays tools.
  3. Set the diameter of the brush by tapping the Brush button and specifying Radius and Feather amounts using the sliders provided. Tap the button again to dismiss the popover.
  4. Begin painting the edit onto the photo by dragging (4.12). To erase an area you’ve painted, tap the Erase button; or, easier, tap once on the photo to switch between the Paint and Erase tools.

    4.12 Apply edits to selective areas. In this case I’ve inverted the Grayscale tool so I can erase the balloon and reveal its color.

    Normally, you see the effect that painting produces as you work. However, you can also tap the Contour button to view the edit area in translucent red.

  5. Tap the Done button at the bottom of the panel when you’re finished.

Apply Creative Presets

Photogene offers dozens of presets: Tap the Presets button and choose among several categories (Colors, B&W, Vintage, Frames, and Fun). Then, tap a preset to apply it.

What’s more interesting is the ability to save your own presets. For example, if you find yourself applying the same amount of vibrance and sharpening to your images, create a preset. After setting those options on a photo, tap the Presets button, tap My Presets, and then tap Save.

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