In this article certified Photoshop expert Eric Renno, aka TipSquirrel takes us through some of the functions of free mobile app, Snapseed. Over to you Eric:

Snapseed has been around for a while and many readers may remember it as a desktop application produced by Niksoft. Google have since bought Niksoft and have incorporated the Snapseed engine into Google Plus as well as developing the mobile application.

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Why Snapseed Is My Go To Application…..

Snapseed is a great photo editor that keeps things simple, having resisted the urge to cram filters and special effects into its interface. So, lets take a look at a workflow, I won’t cover everything here but once you know how the app works you can dive into all the settings.

Load An Image

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In this example I’ll be working on an iPhone 4s but the process is the same on an Android device, menus may look a little different however. Press the + at the top of the app and you’ll get the choice of where to load an image from. Snapseed works on a copy of your image so don’t worry about your original. That said, as you work through the app, and you commit a change there’s no going back, only to the very beginning of editing.

Straighten and Crop

I prefer to straighten and crop first so that I’m not distracted by parts of the image I’m not going to want. This isn’t so important now, but later when we add a blur effect it may be.

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To straighten the image tap the icon that looks like a spirit level. Sliding your finger up and down on the screen rotates the crop, try to line the grid up with something vertical or horizontal. If you need to rotate by a 45-degree angle tap one of the arrows at the bottom of the screen. Once you’re happy tap the check mark in the bottom right corner. As mentioned above, this commits your edit, there’s no back button.

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To crop the image tap the crop icon. If you can’t see it slide your finger left and right on the icons to slide through them all. There’s several resets but you can free crop too. In my example, I’m cropping to a square. You can resize the crop by sliding your finger on the crop border.

The Fun Begins

Snapseed has always had a function called Drama, and it’s got better and better! If you’re familiar with the Clarity slider in Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom you’ll recognize what this is doing. Snapseed is looking for areas of contrast in your image and boosting them where they meet. All of a sudden details pop out, this is always the first thing I do and sometimes it looks horrid, but more often than not I love it.

Contextual Menus

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In many of the Snapseed adjustments there’s an inner menu. To get to them, tap and hold and slide your finger up and down. This will scroll through the different menu items. In the Drama adjustment the menu consists of just two options, Filter Strength and Saturation.

To alter the value slide up or down to select the menu item, release and then tap, hold and slide left to decrease and right to increase. Once you’re happy, tap the check mark.

Selective Adjustment

The power of  Snapseed comes from being able to analyse an image and find edges of  luminance and colour. Once in the Selective Adjustment is selected you’ll see a + in a circle. Tap this, and  the image sets an adjustment point. Using a two finger pinch you can adjust the range of this point which is displayed in a red, or Rubylith colour.

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Again there’s a contextual menu that can be accessed as detailed above. This time there’s three options; Brightness, Contrast and Saturation. Each will only affect the masked area.

You can add as many points as you wish, and they can overlap too for more control. If it gets a bit cluttered and you’d like to see the image without the pins, tap and hold the eye icon at the bottom of the screen.

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You can also see a ‘Before and After’ by tap and holding the icon of the mountains in the top right hand corner. This appears in all the adjustments.

Black And White

Although in this case I didn’t use the Black and White adjustment, I did go into it, just to see if I like it. I thought the image lost some of it’s interest, but by tapping the ‘X’ I rejected the adjustment and I returned to where I was prior to going into the Black and White adjustment.

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Center Focus

Center Focus has become a popular adjustment but a word of caution: if you’re going to upload your image to Fotolia through the ‘Instant’ app you should use this sparingly. In my case here, the person looking for images may be more interested in the train than the platform sign, but for me the platform sign is the focal point.

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The center of the Center Focus will be in the centre of your image, as you might expect, but you can move this anywhere you choose. Again, use the pinch to change the radius of the blur, and then use the contextual menu to edit the blur amount and brightness.

There’s also a Tilt Shift Blur. This creates a straight area of focus with blur radiating from it. This simulates, somewhat, the use of a Tilt-Shift lens and is useful to add depth of field to some images too.

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If You Like It, Put A Frame on It

The frames in Snapseed are a little basic but can be altered a little. Once you’ve chosen a frame, a pinch will adjust its size. Agin, if you’re thinking of uploading the image to Instant, you may want to leave a frame off.

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Make It Sharp

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The Details adjustment will sharpen your image. Again it’ll look for contrast differences. There’s two contextual menu items in here, Sharpen and Structure. To see how these are working on your image, tap the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen and then tap on the image where you’d like to check the sharpness. By tapping the magnifier and the tapping and holding on the image you can look around your image in detail.

Save It

Finally, for this image anyway, save it by tapping the box with an arrow in it in the top right corner.

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Don’t forget to share it too, photos are meant to be seen after all.

Bits We Didn’t Cover

There’s a few more bits to Snapseed I didn’t cover here including;

Tune Image: This works just like the Selective Adjustment, but it’s global rather than just in a selection.

Grunge: This will add a texture and tone to the image and can often be a little heavy handed. Great on the right image though. The two intertwined arrows will randomize the effects, you can keep tapping until you find one you like.

HDR Scape: If you’ve taken an HDR image this will boost it up quite significantly. It’s a little old-school in its final effect but can be a nice starting point, much like Drama.

Retrolux: Adds a light leak effect, good on some images.

Thanks so much to Eric for his fantastic advice. To keep up with all of Eric’s tips and tutorials check out his website, YouTube and Facebook page and find him up on Twitter! And for more information on how to improve other aspects of your mobileography check out this blog post