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Edit Photos in Snapseed

You wouldn’t think a recently developed photo editor would offer much to differentiate itself from others in this field, but Snapseed does it with an innovative interface that makes me often turn to it just because it’s great to use. Conceived for touchscreen interaction, Snapseed doesn’t try to be Photoshop in its approach to editing photos. Instead, it uses immediately familiar swiping gestures to choose which edits to apply and to control their intensities.

To get started in Snapseed, launch the app, tap the Open Image button, and choose the photo you want to edit from your Photo Library. Once the image is loaded, tap one of the app’s correction modules (4.2).


4.2 Snapseed’s modules lead to controls specific to their adjustments.


To change the visible area of the photo, tap the Crop module and then do the following:

  1. Drag the corner handles or edges of the selection rectangle to define the image borders.
  2. Tap the Ratio button to constrain alterations to a specific aspect ratio (4.3). Unlike the Photos app, the Ratio control locks the shape, enabling you to refine the borders at that aspect ratio.


    4.3 The crop area is constrained to the 16:9 ratio.

    To switch between landscape and portrait orientation for the selection area, tap the Rotate button.

  3. Tap the Apply button to accept the cropped area and return to the app’s main screen.

If you need to straighten or rotate the image, tap the Straighten & Rotate module and do this:

  1. Tap the Rotate Left or Rotate Right button to turn the image in 90-degree increments.
  2. Drag left or right on the image to adjust the rotation angle, up to 10 degrees in either direction. (Dragging up or down also works.) Positioning your finger farther away from the center of the image affords more granular adjustments.
  3. Tap the Apply button.

Adjust Tone and Color

The Crop and Straighten & Rotate modules use controls similar to other apps for their edits, but most of the other tools work in a central “cross” configuration: Drag up and down to select the type of adjustment you want to make, and then drag left or right to increase or decrease the amount of the adjustment. For example:

  1. Tap the Tune Image module.
  2. Drag vertically to display the available adjustments and select one, such as Saturation (4.4).

    4.4 Choose an adjustment type.

  3. Drag horizontally to increase or decrease the amount, indicated at the bottom of the screen (4.5).

    4.5 Drag left or right to specify the amount.

  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to choose other adjustments.
  5. Tap Apply to save the edits.

Adjust Specific Areas

Most of Snapseed’s tools apply edits to the entire image. When you need to punch up just one area, use the Selective Adjust module. Although it doesn’t offer the ability to make precise selections, such as highlighting a certain object in an image, the tool lets you define a feathered, circular area to apply brightness, contrast, and saturation.

  1. With an image loaded, tap the Selective Adjust module to open it.
  2. Tap the Add button to create an edit point.
  3. Tap a location on your image to specify the center of the adjustment.
  4. Pinch inward or outward from the point to define the affected area, which shows up as a temporary red mask while you pinch.
  5. Drag up or down to choose an adjustment, which is represented on the point by its first letter: B for brightness, C for contrast, and S for saturation.
  6. Drag left or right to set the intensity of the adjustment; in addition to the display at the bottom of the screen, the edit point also displays a green border to represent a positive value, or a red border for a negative value, according to the amount (4.6).

    4.6 To highlight the barn in this photo, I’ve increased brightness and saturation around the edit point at left (with the blue line indicating the affected area). The edit point at right reduces brightness and increases contrast.

  7. Repeat as needed to get the look you want, then tap Apply.

Apply Creative Presets

Half of Snapseed’s modules are dedicated to applying creative effects, which follow the same approach as the correction tools. Choose Black & White, Vintage Films, Drama, Grunge, Center Focus, or Tilt & Shift to take a photo in a new direction from the original (the image above was styled with the Drama 2 preset).

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