Photoristic HD Brings the iPad One Step Closer to a Perfect Image Editor

A lot of people talk about image editing on iPad, but I’m not sure it’s quite there yet. Until it handles RAW, I’m going to be continually disappointed by some of the controls these apps offer. But some of them are so promising that it’s hard not to be tantalized by them, not to think that they offer a real glimpse of the photo editing future.

Some people have said things like that about iPhoto. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine app, but it’s never going to replace some of the finer tools we’re used to on our desktops. Other people have said similar things about Snapseed, an app I really admire for what it’s doing on an iPad. But at the same time, Snapseed feels like it’s a little non-intuitive. It takes me a long time to really “get” what it’s about. That’s not the case with Photoristic HD though. Photoristic is an iPad photo editor’s dreamland: it’s fast, powerful, and a lot of fun. Read on to find out what makes this a must-have image editor.

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Easy to Use

Photoristic takes one straight from the pages of Snapseed and bases its touch controls on moving your finger up and down to select an option, and then left and right across the screen to increase or decrease the adjustment. It’s a smooth system that Photoristic actually gets a lot better, with more understandable onscreen controls than the competition.

Photoristic is really easy to use and has a variety of different image editing tools.

Photoristic is really easy to use and has a variety of different image editing tools.

I particularly like the bottom navigation bar, which makes the app a little bit easier to navigate — a lot easier, actually — and prevents it from becoming too overwhelming. Because editing is broken down into these categories and each category allows you to swipe up and down for multiple different adjustments, you get a very fluid feel for what it’s like to edit photos in the app.

Powerful Image Editing

Beyond that, though, the controls are actually remarkably powerful. If you were editing these photos in RAW, you’d have a great atmospheric editor. The bottom settings include everything from Saturation to Luminance, which is great for colour isolation, and even Split Tone adjustments.

Within two minutes, I'd made this picture much less dull and drab than it was when I started using the app.

Within two minutes, I’d made this picture much less dull and drab than it was when I started using the app.

What really impresses me are the little things: the Exposure adjustment is much more accurate than its competitors, making real changes that nearly look like the real RAW-processed deal to the image. If you just need to uptick the exposure a little bit in a photo, Photoristic is easily the best and most realistic app for it.

I’m also impressed with the app’s speed. All your adjustments are made in real time, so there’s no second guessing when you’re trying to make a change. On my iPad Air, the app is incredibly zippy and never misses a beat.

The app also works in portrait mode, but sadly, you can't pinch to zoom.

The app also works in portrait mode, but sadly, you can’t pinch to zoom.

The interface looks great on iOS 7, but I wish you could really take advantage of some of the iPad’s finer capabilities with elements like Pinch to Zoom. In fact, the lack of a Crop tool also feels bizarre. Some basics like that are missing, despite the fact that the app itself is otherwise powerful. I understand I could just crop images in my Photo Stream, but that just feels so dumb by comparison.

There are some other touches that I really do like, though. For example, the Undo button is very handy and obviously placed. I like that the Compare button works as well as it does, and it’s easy to see obvious differences in your pictures as you edit them. The one problem I have with these buttons, though, is that some (like the Black and White toggle or the Compare button) are very white, while others are a harder-to-see grey colour. The app could benefit from a healthy and consistent in-between bright grey tone instead.

The Presets

And, of course, no image editor would be complete without a set of Presets. These are worth talking about because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many in a single app. You might think that the one Black and White toggle is all that the app can do, but there’s actual no fewer than twenty Black and White presets.

And speaking of monotone colour presets, if you want to isolate colours completely and do a Schindler’s List-style photograph with only one colour being revealed, that’s as easy as choosing a filter. There’s no work required, and the results are often stunning.

The presets are awesome, but what I love even more is that it's easy to make your own.

The presets are awesome, but what I love even more is that it’s easy to make your own.

All the standards are here, but there are also some lovely ones you probably haven’t seen before that look really good in a lot of different photos. In fact, you might not ever need to do your own custom editing because there’s probably a suitable filter for every picture. Even though there’s no Instagram on iPad, after applying a filter, you can send the picture to your Photo Stream or Dropbox for easy access on your iPhone (although it would be easier if Instagram would just release a tablet app already).

The big twist with photo presets is that you can also make your own. After editing a photo I took one morning of the breakfast restaurant I was headed to, I made some quick edits to the image and titled my changes “Morning.” My edits brightened up most of the image and gave it just a slightly warmer temperature, while emphasizing some of the blues. It turned out lovely, and represented to me how most morning walks look in my memory’s eye. It was easy to save the Preset, and now I can use it on any picture that I like.

Final Thoughts

Photoristic HD is great, and filled with features that almost every iPhone-ographer can put to good use. Even if you don’t have a huge need for an image editor, it’s one of the good ones. I wish that it had some advanced features, like support for x-callback-url so you could string photos together into a workflow, and I wish it supported basic things like cropping or zooming in on an image, but as far as pure image editing goes, Photoristic HD is a hard app to beat. I highly recommend it.


Photoristic HD has a unique mix of powerful features and an easy-to-use editor that make it great for aspiring photographers and a fantastic alternative to popular apps like iPhoto and Snapseed.