Photogene: Serious Photo Editing On the Move

In the world of desktop image editing, there is only one name that springs to mind in front of all others – Photoshop. But when it comes to the iPad, the choice isn’t so clear, despite Adobe’s presence in the App Store.

With this in mind, I approached this review of Photogene with the hope of discovering a more heavyweight alternative. Mobile Pond, the developer of Photogene, is hardly a household name – they only have this one iPad product in the App Store – but this is an app which is slowly gaining popularity. At $2.99, it’s certainly a cheaper alternative to the products produced by the software giants, but when it comes to serious editing, is it a better alternative?

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Looks and Speed

This photo editor may not be blessed with a stunning UI, but the black and blue colour scheme of Photogene provides clarity, and looks professional. Menu items are easily big enough to avoid the mistakes that chubby fingers can cause, and whilst this app is by no means eye-candy, the overall impression is smart, understated practicality.

Photogene's UI

Photogene‘s UI

Photogene’s most noticeable attribute is its speed. Upon starting the app, the iPad’s image library loads almost instantly, and even when loading large, individual images for the editing process, the longest I had to wait was a couple of seconds – mighty impressive. The rapidity continues when you come to make adjustments; move the sliders and your changes are rendered almost instantly. The rendering of images when you zoom in is also very quick.

Added together, this fleetness of foot gives Photogene a distinct advantage over its competitors; come the time that a large number of images need to be edited, I, for one, will be glad of this speed.

Metadata

As a committed photographer, one minor gripe I have with many iPad photo editors is the lack of metadata they allow access to. And I’m not talking about every detail under the sun here. Many apps refuse even to display the size of the image you’re working on, which is simply useless for any advanced editing. Imagine my pleasure, then, at seeing Photogene’s Metadata menu.

Photogene Metadata

Metadata in Photogene.

Joy-of-joys, it contains every piece of image-related data imaginable, including IPTC data (stuff like copyright and keywords) and GPS location. It may only be a small mercy for photo-geeks like me, but it is a significant feature missing in many of Photogene’s competitors.

Editing

For those who want the one-click editing experience, Photogene provides the near-obligatory filter options, as well as a selection of frames and the option to add text to your image. If this is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong app – there are numerous apps available which provide a much better experience in these departments. It is with higher-level, more advanced adjustments that Photogene really stands out.

Filters in Photogene

Filters in Photogene

All the usual options are in place, such as Crop, Rotate, Exposure and Saturation, but there are some features amongst Photogene’s tool palettes that are surprising to find in an iOS editor – red, green, and blue offset, sharpness amount and radius sliders, as well as the ability to target, separately, chroma  and luminance noise for reduction. What’s more, they actually work, providing a good standard of edited image quality. But best of all? Photogene has Curves adjustment, which allows for very precise control over exposure, and is the ultimate weapon if you’re serious about your editing.

Photogene's Advanced Controls

Photogene‘s advanced controls

Photogene also has a good array of brush-type tools; Heal, manual Red Eye reduction, Clone, Dodge, Burn and Grayscale are all available, although only the first two on that list act as proper retouching tools – the others are merely layer masks. The Heal tool works particularly well — not relying on potentially wobbly freehand control and instead using on-screen target circles to indicate the areas to be sampled from and healed.

Photogene's Heal Tool

Photogene‘s Heal tool

The Red Eye tool is similarly easy to use, and as long as you turn down the intensity of the Dodge and Burn tools, they too produce good results.

That said, the Grayscale option isn’t terribly useful, as trying to select the areas to be desaturated with any accuracy is almost impossible, and sadly, the Clone tool is a dead loss. Photogene provides a lower resolution version of your image while you’re working with the layer masks, which makes zooming in to clone anything a complete waste of time. Additionally, the fantastic control with which you can operate the Heal tool is replaced with pure freehand when cloning, making for extremely messy results.

Messy Cloning

Messy cloning

Under the Enhance menu are even more options, the most impressive of which is the Gradient tool. This allows the creation of both linear and circular gradients, which can be given multiple different attributes. For example – fancy a darkening, de-saturating, blurred-edges vignette? Or how about replicating a warming grad filter?  Not a problem. Of all Photogene’s features, I would say that this is my favourite.

Gradient Tool

Gradient Tool

I was pleasantly shocked by the sheer number of export options available in Photogene. Instagram, Tumblr, FTP, Flickr, Picasa and Evernote are all included as standard, and there is the option to include IPTC, geotag and date stamp data in with your exported image.

Export Options

Export Options

Something that is also worth a mention is the Pro upgrade, which costs an extra $7.99 and is purchasable within Photogene. This brings with it a whole new bunch of tricks like watermarking, RGB curves and auto white balance, as well as a number of batch metadata options. Whilst this package puts the total price up to $10.98, it takes Photogene’s already sophisticated app up to another level – for once, the “Pro” title seems to stand for “professional.”

Conclusion

If you’re looking for simple image editing, or you want to stylize your photos, Photogene is not for you; this is an advanced editing app that has been designed with serious photo editing in mind. If your editing needs fall into the latter camp, I would definitely recommend Photogene above Snapseed, and I would say that the speed at which it operates, alone, puts it above Photoshop Touch.

Photogene is not faultless – the layer masking process is somewhat of a let-down, the included filters aren’t particularly pleasing on the eye, and like all mobile photo editors, it does take its toll on battery life. It is, in my opinion, however, the best “proper” image editor available for your iPad right now.


Summary

Currently the best serious editing option for your iPad, with just a couple of minor flaws.

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  • JD

    As a journalist and photographer, Photogene (together with Photoforge2 and Photo fx) is my preferred iPad photo processing app. I mostly deal with event reporting, so I don’t really use layers or artistic effects, but speed, advanced editing tools and especially the fact that I don’t have to import my photos one at a time, but can browse and star them (and then filter and edit them based on their star rating, rather than having to plough through hundreds of single shots) right in the camera roll are priceless features. It’s in a totally different league to Snapseed and filter apps.

    • Mark Myerson

      Thanks for you comment JD – as you can tell from the review, I completely agree with your assessment.