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Tip Of The Week: Use Nik Software’s Snapseed for Quick Photo Editing

Tips & Tricks
Figure 1: The initial Snapseed interface.

Figure 1: The initial Snapseed interface.

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

There’s no shortage of photo editing apps out there. From Photoshop on the high end, to (gulp) MS Paint on the absolute low, there’s a glut of programs that will let you do something with your images.

The trick is in finding an app that actually does something useful, something that will prompt you to put down your hard-earned money for it even though you may already have Aperture, Lightroom, or Photoshop.

I’ve been a fan of Nik Software for some time now. I own the full suite of their pro plugins, and frequently use Silver Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, and Viveza to work on my image. Now, I’ve added another Nik tool to my arsenal.

Figure 2: The control point technology in Snapseed is very powerful.

Figure 2: The control point technology in Snapseed is very powerful.

Some time ago, Nik got into the iPad apps market, and released Snapseed for the iPad, which I featured in a previous article. That, I think, is one of the best photo editing apps for the iPad, and I go to it regularly.

Early this year, Nik also released a version of Snapseed for desktops. A Mac version was first to market, and was eventually followed by a Windows version. Snapseed for Mac/Win is $19.99, and is worth every last penny.

So here’s the deal. If you already have Nik’s plugins, you can already do what Snapseed does. The thing is, even though I have the full collection, I still go to Snapseed for quick edits to images. Here’s why.

  1. Figure 3: You can add some funky effects to your images with Snapseed.

    Figure 3: You can add some funky effects to your images with Snapseed.

    It’s fast. I finished a sharpen/add structure, black-and-white conversion with some film grain, and some selective editing to brighten the foreground in under five minutes. The tools, though powerful, aren’t overwhelming, so you get your edit done and you’re out.

  2. It’s cool. Think of it like Instagram for your Mac or PC. You can add a bunch of great Grunge or Vintage effects, then send your image to FaceBook, Flickr, or just email it out.
  3. It’s powerful. The same control point technology that makes Nik’s plugins so powerful is present in Snapseed. You can drop a control point on a portion of your image (say, your foreground), and you expand it till it covers the area you want to edit.
    The magic happens when you realize that even though your “selection” is a circle, the only things in the circle that are going to be affected by your adjustments are tones similar to the ones directly under the center point of that circle. As you can see in Figure 2., the water isn’t selected, just the man-made structures, which have tones that match the center point of the circle.
Figure 4: The original image with Lightroom adjustments (left) and the version from Snapseed (right).

Figure 4: The original image with Lightroom adjustments (left) and the version from Snapseed (right).

Could you do the same thing with Photoshop, or with Nik’s other tools? Sure. Those are tools you go to when you want to seriously edit an image – for your portfolio, maybe, or for publication.

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to apply effects to an image with the option to do some really cool selective editing, give Snapseed a try. At $20, it won’t break the bank, but it’ll let you get an image together in minutes for sharing on your social network of choice.

That’s it for this week’s Tip. As always, questions and feedback are welcome in the comments below.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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