Your phone’s camera is more powerful than ever, but they are far from foolproof. It’s always discouraging when you think you’ve lined up the perfect shot, only to discover that you messed up something—your composition, your white balance, or who knows what—and you have captured a less-than-perfect rendering of a moment that is gone forever.
Thankfully, you can fix your situation by getting your hands on a photo-editing app that’s equally adept and easy to use, even when you’re making the most advanced edits. Google’s Snapseed (iOS, Android) app fits the bill, but its treasure trove of tools can be intimidating at first glance. Here’s a quick guide to how Snapseed can help make your photos shine.
What is Snapseed?
Snapseed is Google’s free photo-editing app for Android and iOS. It offers a variety of options for tweaking your pics. Unlike most apps that focus on filters, Snapseed gives you lots of options for adjusting an image’s core properties and structure. It houses these advanced tools in a no-frills design that won’t overwhelm you, nor you will have to go through a steep learning curve to master it—an issue you’ll likely face on professional apps like Adobe Lightroom.
What can you do with Snapseed?
Snapseed gives you access to both basic and advanced tools for editing a picture. You can customise details such as highlights and contrast, crop or rotate the frame, add vintage effects, blur the background, fine-tune the white balance and more.
Snapseed also has about a dozen predefined filters you can try if you’re looking for a quick, no-fuss fix, and comes with a bunch of bunch of different tools you can use to annotate images and add text, banners, and speech bubbles.
More importantly, it offers a feature called Selective that lets you apply some of your edits exclusively to a particular area of an image. For instance, in a scenery shot, if you’d like to highlight an animal, you can simply select the area it occupies and raise its brightness level.
Snapseed stands apart from other apps thanks to its advanced features—stuff you’d typically find in high-end photography software. Thanks to Google’s smart algorithms, which take care of the heavy lifting, using these professional tools is as straightforward as turning a dial.
Once you’ve got the hang of using them, you’ll be able to easily rid your shot of unnecessary objects, artificially extend landscapes, switch an image’s perspective, alter a person’s expressions or head pose and a lot more.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you can use the app.
How to use Snapseed’s advanced photography tools
These examples were all taken from an Android phone, but accessing the features is identical on iOS.
We can’t quite control a shot’s angle after it’s taken, but Snapseed’s Perspective tool allows you to tweak it ever so slightly. Since pictures are two-dimensional, Snapseed can’t unearth hidden details that would have been otherwise visible from another perspective. Instead, this feature allows you to edit the subject’s relative position by artificially expanding the photo’s edges to fill the gaps.
For example, pretend you have a picture of a mountain. Due to… circumstances, you couldn’t shoot it from the centre. You can simply crop and level the sides to make it appear symmetrical, or you can take advantage of Snapseed’s Perspective tool. All you need to do is fire up the app, tap Perspective, and tilt the picture towards the middle. Snapseed will intelligently expand the elements at the borders and reproduce the shot from the angle you desire.
This tool, as you’d expect, won’t produce accurate results in more complex situations. But here, it does the job perfectly.
Expanding your image artificially
If you need to artificially add a little bit to your image—perhaps to make it the right size ratio for whatever it is you’re doing—try Snapseed’s Expand option, which is based on the same technology that powers the Perspective tool. In this case, Snapseed will attempt to digitally replicate the edges of your shot by stretching them, kind of like an automated Photoshop clone brush.
The Expand tool can be found right next to the Perspective tool within Snapseed. Once you’ve imported your file, select Expand and drag the handle of the edge you’d like to extend. For optimal results, it’s best to expand gradually and wait for Snapseed to catch up before you move further.
“Heal” specks and blemishes out of your image”
Even the tiniest obstruction is enough to ruin an image. It could be a bird that flew in the frame just when as you hit the shutter, or a speck of dust that stuck to your camera’s lens without you realising it. Snapseed’s Healing ability can mend these blemishes by guessing what a picture might look like if whatever it is you don’t want in it… wasn’t.
In the scene pictured above, I didn’t want the cellular tower and wire to block the sky’s dawn colours, so I used Snapseed’s Healing tab to get rid of them. You can think of this tool as an eraser, but use it carefully; you have to tap or drag your finger over the objects you want to remove, but it won’t work if you wipe the object in one go.
Your first step should be to zoom in the area you want to edit. Healing works best when you use it as if cleaning a wound. Gently “dab” several times over the object until Snapseed figures out what’s in the background and deletes the object. In case the app messes up at any point, you can undo the last dab and resume by clearing off the object’s borders.
It can take some trial and error to understand how to control the Healing tool. (Make sure you take care of all the resulting smudges, too.)
Fixing awkward faces in photos
Head Pose’d image
Snapseed has a solution for your frowning or absent-minded faces, too. Its Head Pose tool transforms your face into a 3D model that you can then manipulate. For example, you can edit a person’s mouth to convert a frown into a grin. On top of that, there are options to adjust pupil size and a head’s focal length, so you can modify a face’s shape.
After importing your picture, go into the Head Pose setting and give the app a few seconds to map the face you’re trying to tweak. Once that’s done, simply move the head to a different position. Under the Adjust tab, you will have access to the Pupil Size, Smile and Focal Length sliders.
Apart from Head Pose, you’ll also find a section called Portrait you can use to manage characteristics such as skin tones and skin smoothness.
The Edit Stack and overlapping text
A much-better looking implementation
One of Snapseed’s best features is its edit stack, which gives you an overview of all the edits you’ve applied so you can easily revert or revise any of them without undoing all of your work.
The edit stack also makes it possible to effortlessly perform a range of advanced photography tricks. You can hide a piece of text behind another object, like a building, for a dramatic effect. To do that, add text to your image normally and align the portion you’d like to hide with the object. Return to the home page and tap the little stack icon at the top. Select “View edits” and double-tap the blue box labelled Text.
Choose the brush and tap the Invert button located on the far left beside the cross on the bottom bar. This will bring your text to full opacity. Set the brush opacity to zero by tapping the downward arrow four times. Zoom into the area you want to hide some of the text and brush over it. This will partially camouflage the characters. Once you’re content with the look you’ve achieved, hit the tick button.