Snapseed: The Ultimate Image Editor

The very form of the iPad seems to suggest it be used as a platform for image enhancement and editing, so it’s little wonder that there has been an explosion of photography-focused apps designed exclusively for Apple’s tablet.

Nik Software bring a pedigree to the table as the company best known for their popular Photoshop plugins such as Color Efex Pro, Viveza and Sharpener Pro aim to produce the ideal balance between ease of use, flexibility, and versatility with Snapseed.

Read on after the break to find out if they’ve succeeded!

Keeping Things Simple

Snapseed's elegant and intuitive UI

Snapseed's elegant and intuitive UI.

Though existing programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are powerhouses of image editing, they are both quite involved tools and take time to properly master. Snapseed follows a different path, aiming to help remove any existing barriers to productivity and creativity, while cutting down on time spent reading the manual.

It’s a very simple matter to pick up and begin using Snapseed right away, but the minimalist UI contains a wealth of features and options – let’s take a look at some of these below.

The Basics

Selective Adjust

Selective Adjust

Snapseed is host to several fundamental editing and correction tools which will likely be familiar to those with any prior experience with graphics editing – Straighten & Rotate, Crop, Tune Image, Selective Adjust, and Auto Correct are just some of the options.

I decided to test some of these on an image of my own – a lightly edited colour photograph of a lighthouse near my home, originally taken on a Polaroid 330. I did not need to make use of the cropping or straightening options and so decided to start with some gentle brightness and saturation adjustment.

The Selective Adjust option enables one to create multiple control points, which are scalable circles, able to be moved around the screen and denoting an area to be edited. I found this to be a very intuitive way to edit my lighthouse image and started with a control point in the bottom left corner, set to control brightness, with a secondary control point added to the top right corner of the image and set to add an additional amount of saturation. The amount of saturation is controlled by the movement of a finger horizontally from left to right on the screen.

I managed the above steps in just moments despite being new to Snapseed and having little experience in graphics editing software in general. This ease of use created an enjoyable experience, and I continued to experiment with the app’s various tools – whereas I usually get my editing done as quickly as possible and get out of there!


Making minor adjustments with the Black and White filter

Making minor adjustments with the Black and White filter.

Moving beyond the basics now, Snapseed’s filters are the real selling point of the app, with Black & White, Vintage, Drama, Grunge, Center Focus, and Frames all available to use.

Deciding to jump right in and begin editing, I chose the Black and White filter and was not disappointed with the results. Following the now familiar steps of holding my finger on top of the image while simultaneously moving it to select a desired menu choice, I quickly had grain levels and brightness added to my new monochrome image.

The newly edited, black and white photograph

The newly edited, black and white photograph.

It’s very easy to get stuck in to Snapseed’s great features, and though satisfied with my black and white image, I also wanted to give the Vintage filter a try. It’s easy for a beginner-intermediate level user like myself to get carried away so I tried to restrain myself, but more than any other image-editing app I’ve tested on iOS, Snapseed has an almost game-like addictiveness – proving the developer’s promise of “The only photo app you’ll want to use every day!” arguably true.

Exported image

Exported image.

Toy Or Tool?

I found Snapseed more than up to the task for my admittedly basic needs, but it’s not a contender for pro-users. Still, when one considers its portability, price, and flawless feature implementation, both hobbyist and pro alike should find much to like about Snapseed, I know I certainly did.

Snapseed has support for RAW images when transferred with the camera connector accessory, and edited images can be exported with ease to Facebook or Flickr, in addition to email export.

Final Thoughts

The user experience given by Snapseed is very intuitive, and the app can be seen as another step in a direction which aims to give both power users and beginners a piece of software that they can work with. Though there are concessions made in order to keep the UI streamlined, it’s a very feature-packed app nonetheless.

As with other iPad image editing apps, using Snapseed with a touchscreen offers a far more tangible experience when applying textures than using a trackpad or mouse, but when compared to similar apps I’ve come across so far, Snapseed is, for now at least, one of the very best.


Snapseed offers a great deal of value at its low price. More than this though, Snapseed has genuine crossover appeal, with lots of easy to use features and an excellent UI.