Snapseed for Cell Phone Photography

Hi Folks:

There’s a saying among photographers that the best camera is the one you have with you in the moment.  To that end, both Marcia and I prize our Android-based cell phones, and Marcia especially has a certain notoriety among our photo group for her landscape and macro cell phone photography.  We’re not personally fans of the ‘retro’ look offered by programs like Instagram, and although we do use Camera360 Ultimate on both of our phones, most of the time we shoot the images as ‘unprocessed’ as possible and do post-processing work in Lightroom.  There are times, however, when one simply wants to be able to make and share an image without having to run it through a computer first.  Enter ‘Snapseed‘, from Nik Software.

A free app, it’s remarkably robust in its capabilities.  One can either start the Snapseed app first and make an image through installed software, or one can make an image first and then open it in Snapseed from the phone’s gallery.  While there are some presets, including Black and White, retro effects, and even a ’tilt-shift’ effect using gradual blurring, there are a variety of options available for manual tweaks as well.  One can adjust Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, White Balance and more, Rotate, Crop, add Sharpening and/or Structure, and even add a frame.  There’s even a ‘Selective Adjust’ feature that will be familiar to anyone who’s used the brush in Lightroom or the similar tools in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro or HDR Efex Pro for example.  One won’t find the level of functionality available in Lightroom or Photoshop by any means, but no one expects to do serious editing on a smart-phone-sized screen either.

Two things to be aware of, however.  One is that when working with a group of tools one can either accept or reject the changes, but once accepted there’s no ‘undo’ button.  The only option is to reset and start over.  The second thing to remember is that it’s generally best to work the tools from left to right, as some choices will influence others.  If for example one adds a frame to an image and then decides that the image needs a little straightening, rotating the image will also rotate the frame.

Here’s an example of a quick shot I made for a Google+ friend who is experiencing winter snows and -40°C temperatures.  I wanted to show her that not all of Canada is white!  The image on the left is straight from the camera, and the image on the right was processed using Snapseed.  It’s not a great image to begin with, but you can see that the second image is brighter, sharper, and has more contrast.  I used the Selective Adjust tool to brighten some of the shadows on the base of the lamp post and the tree trunks and added a frame.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms - Snapseed

Okay, that’s it.  Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. While all of our images are covered by a Creative Commons license, non-commercial, non-dervis, more and more photographers are using watermarks to reduce illegitimate copying and use.  A friend of ours found an Android app called ‘Add Watermark’ that allows you to add a watermark to your images from your phone or tablet.  We have no experience with it, but if it interests you it can be found on the Google Play Store

P.S. II, the Sequel: You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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