Nik Software Does It Again

Once in a while, a company comes up with a product that just amazes me and once I begin using it, wonder how on earth I ever did without it. One such example is Nik Software’s Viveza plugin which did away needing complicated layers and masks for colour image processing. It made the process much more natural and saved time with it’s point, click and slide approach. To my utter amazement, Nik has managed to bring a version of this to the iOS (Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) platform and it’s called Snapseed.

The iPad is definitely heading to becoming an ideal tool for photographers. It was already a great piece of equipment to use as a portfolio for photographs and video, as well as a great tool for researching stories and reading newspapers and magazines via the various Apps available. As I covered in a previous article, there are already some great image processing Apps available and once these mature and the iPad becomes more powerful and hopefully gets built in USB or an SD card reader, it will definitely become a tool more capable of image processing for the pro on the go.

Snapseed has just taken the bar set previously and raised it by a phenomenal amount. This App is practically why the iPad was invented. The touch interface works so well, that within minutes of using it, the most complex of image processing is done in a matter of seconds. User control is basically based around an up or down swipe for choosing an adjustment and a side swipe for a plus or minus value (or strength value, depending on the adjustment chosen). This way one can very quickly run through the adjustments needed and set a value. It’s so natural, simple and intuitive, with so much fine control that the user interface is simply a work of pure genius.

After the image is loaded into Snapseed, there are two sets of adjustments available; the first set are Automatic, Selective Adjustment, Tune Image, Straighten and Rotate and Crop. This set gives absolute control on the processing. The second page brings more set filters; Black and White, Vintage, Drama, Grunge, Centre Focus and Frames. Although the latter set are an automated looks, they do offer several Styles and variables that can be adjusted, with each filter having it’s own applicable set. These include Filter Strength, Saturation, Brightness, Texture Strength, Centre Size and so on.

Snapseed absolutely comes into it’s own when the Selective Adjust is used. Using the Add (a circle with a plus sign along the bottom of the screen), a spot is selected. This can for example be some blue sky, dark storm clouds, a road surface, a face in shadow and so on. This spot is where the colour to be adjusted is chosen and creates a circle, to show the area that will be adjusted. This circle can be increased or decreased using a ‘pinch’ gesture. Very usefully, as the circle size is adjusted, a red mask appears, showing which the size of the area and also which segments of the image will be covered when adjustments are made.

After the area is defined, the first setting shows a ‘B’ in a blue circle at the centre of the area, standing for Brightness. To make an adjustment, one simply touches the screen and slides left, for darker, or right, for a brighter setting. Once done, a slide upwards reveals the available adjustments available; in this case, Contrast and then Saturation. These are adjusted in a similar way. All of these adjustments only work within the defined circumference and only to the colour of the control spot chosen. If for example a blue sky over woodland is the chosen point, all the adjustments will only effect the blue sky and regardless of how complex the detail in the trees are, non of these is effected, leaving a natural and real look, without the tell tale signs of dodging and burning. It’s as simple as that and within a minute or two, a perfect image can be produced. Snapseed also has a Share button once the image is saved and will Email, Print or send the image to your Flickr or Facebook page.

The only downside to this App is what plagues all iOS photo Apps; there isn’t a single solution that does all. One has to use various Apps together to achieve the desired outcome, for example a RAW processing App (although iOS & app updates have added some RAW functionality, such as Canon and Nikon RAW file support), Snapseed and then an App that can add metadata and FTP. Depending on how many Apps are needed, the constant saving after saving of a jpeg will eventually start to degrade the image. Having said this, as an App, this is by far the most amazing photography software I have seen on the iPad, by far.

The Desktop

In January 2012 Nik Software also brought Snapseed to the Mac desktop. This standalone app works beautifully. Allowing all of the iOS adjustments but on a large desktop with huge files. It’s an absolute must have for any photographer.

10 responses to “Snapseed

  1. I’ve been using Snapseed a lot since it was launched. I simply love it. I use it direct from the iPad/iPhone – but I also love using the iPad to import images on the go from my X100, then use Snapseed to process the images – and upload directly to Twitter/FB. A really good example of an iApp.

  2. I really enjoy using Snapseed on my iPhone however I am confused as to what the market is on a desktop platform? Nik already makes some well-reviewed and loved stand-alone products/plugins for LR and the like. Where does Snapseed fit in amongst a LR/Aperture + Nik plugin (e.g. Silver Efex Pro) workflow? In that context I don’t understand why it is “an absolute must” for any photographer, at least on the desktop. iPhone or iPad, yes!

    • As you have so rightly said, Nik Software have some amazing professional level plugins (Viveza and Silver Efex Pro to name just two of them). The way I see it, Snapseed for the desktop is a different product altogether, aimed at a different market. It’s aim is more for the hobbyist who wants a stand alone product that can produce some easy and cool effects. However, having used Snapseed desktop rather intensively, I can say that it’s a brilliant tool, very usable at a much higher level in photography, i.e. for the serious enthusiast or pro photographer. It’s a very quick way to create certain moods and feels and the output files are superb. Certainly it’s not going to replace my ‘proper’ Nik Software products, but it certainly is now in my dock and part of my toolset. Even pros want occasionally to have a quick and easy way to add a certain effect to certain types of imagery. It’s for this reason that I classify it as an ‘absolute must’.

  3. I too have been impressed with Nik Software. Snapseed is a wonderfuly intuitive tool and the iPhone and iPad versions are positively princely. I’m a little confused by the desktop version though in that I’m not sure where its headed – pricepoint and functionality suggest its aimed at the hobbyist, leaving Viveza etc to deal with professional requirements. I’m not going to use it to create prints instead of Aperture any time soon, but for iPhoneography – internet and projected image, I consider it a must have…

    • The way I’ve been using it is to process my image in Aperture, up to the point that it’s ready for Snapseed; then exporting it and opening up that shot in Snapseed to finish off.

  4. Does the snapspeed desktop version degrade the quality of the file? If you put a raw file in what do you get out? It seems like a great app to add some final touches to images worked on inLightroom and the usual pro Nik plugins…..??

    • Snapseed doesn’t process RAWs so you can’t put a RAW file into it – you need to work on your image in Aperture or Lightroom, export it and then import this exported file. The file is then saved as a jpeg. Although it’s a consumer level fun app, it’s extremely useful and quite powerful, but does lack the functionality of a pro product. For it’s price and ease of use, you can’t go wrong though.

      • Thanks for the reply. I ll get it for fun and hope Nik/Snapspeed see the potential for pro use as they like to have fun too. Used with care and subtlety I think the looks you could get from, for example, grunge, drama and centre focus, may add that individuality and abstraction that playing in the dark room once yielded, especially with the number possible outcomes. Exciting days.

      • Agree fully 🙂 Drop the folks at Nik Software an email; they are extremely proactive. I too have asked for some enhancements. Fingers crossed!

      • Funnily enough, just finished the email to Nik. Cheers.

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