Image editing: how to get more out of your smartphone photos

The smartphone replaces a digital camera in many cases. It’s clear that the need for photo editing apps is growing as well. Who wants to send boring photos to their friends and family?? We’ll introduce you to Pixlr, Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom mobile in detail here.

Last updated: February 2019



Pixlr is a well-designed, clear and comprehensive image editing app. Most operations and functions are quick and easy to use. This makes Pixlr especially suitable for beginners.

After selecting a photo you get to the main screen. The first tab opens the basic image editing options like crop, rotate, sharpen, etc. As a special feature here are two options: Colorize and Double Exposure.

With colorize you can set a colorkey. Here, a part of the image remains colored, the rest becomes black and white. There is a small field that you can move anywhere in the image to set the colored area. The result is shown to you immediately. If one finds the area too large, you can narrow it down even further.

A tap on the eraser at the top left and you can use a brush to color areas that should become black and white. With the brush directly below, you can color the areas again. Tap on the hook, confirm the selection. To apply the effect, all you have to do is tap on the check mark in the bottom right corner. Simple and fast to create real eye-catchers.

By the way, the tool with the eraser and the brush is available for all effects in the app.

Image editing with Autodesk Pixlr

The second special point is double exposure. Here you can insert a second picture in your photo. You can also create surreal effects here by using different display methods. You can control the opacity of the photo on top via the bar at the bottom of the screen. With the eraser tool you can easily remove disturbing elements and thus create creative and unusual images.

Pixlr has a lot of ready made filters that you can put over the pictures. It simply depends on your taste, which one you like. I personally hardly use it and prefer to edit photos via the first tab. Attention: When you install the app, the filters have to be downloaded first. So you better be in a WLAN.

Great is the text tool of Pixlr. It is also easy and intuitive to use. If you select it, a field for text input opens immediately. You can then simply drag the text to the desired position and rotate it to make it larger or smaller as you wish and assign any color to it. Pixlr comes with many fonts, so that everyone should find something for his taste there.

At the end, simply click on "Done" at the top right and select whether the result should be shared or saved. In which size the photos are saved, you can specify in the settings. These are accessible via the start screen.

All in all, the app is really well done and does what it is supposed to do very well and effectively. Pixlr is available for Android, iOS and Windows.

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Snapseed is a powerful and intuitive app as well. The functions are divided into two groups – tools and filters. The points under Tools are self-explanatory. The operation is relatively simple. When you swipe up or down, you select which option in the respective tool you want to use. Swiping to the left or right reduces the size of the image. increase the strength of the effect. Especially worth mentioning here is only the transform tool. With this, you can change the perspective of your image to a certain extent and thus, for example, eliminate plunging lines. Since March 2017, you also have the option in Android to correct the perspective with one click.

Also since March 2017 the Android version has got a kind of forum. There you will be explained different image looks that you can recreate afterwards. Nice feature: you can apply the effects directly to an open image. Also new is that you can share the look of your images with your friends by simply creating a QR code. Of course you can also save your looks and apply them to other photos with a few clicks.

Image editing with Snapseed

The filters offer different settings, but they are not presented in detail here. The operation is analogous to that of the tools. There is also a special feature here. You can apply a filter to an image at different strengths. In the upper right corner you can see a number that shows you how many editing steps you have already applied. The is clicked. A list of all the steps that have been carried out appears at the bottom of the screen. Click on the desired effect and then select the middle icon with the brush. Now you can set the effect strength below and paint over the image. The painted area appears red. So you have a good overview of what you’re doing in the picture. The further you zoom into the image, the more precisely you can trace even complex shapes. Confirm the desired result and then you can click on the arrow at the top left to exit the menu and save the image.

Image editing with Snapseed

Snapseed works fast and precise and is definitely one of my favorites. The app is available for iOS and Android.

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Lightroom mobile

Lightroom mobile is the little brother of Adobe’s image editing software, which is very popular with professional photographers. However, to use all the features you need one of the Adobe subscriptions.

Unlike many other apps Lightroom can handle RAW files. If your camera supports this format, you can shoot and edit RAW photos directly in Lightroom. This often gives much better results than editing jpeg or png files. Since March 2017, Lightroom also offers true HDR in RAW format. To do this, three files are recorded and then added together. The only downer is that the function is only available on a few phones so far. Currently (March 2018), only owners of an iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, iPhone SE, iPad Pro 9 can use the filter.7″, S7, S7 Edge, Google Pixel or Pixel XL access it. But more smartphones should follow as soon as possible. Tip: Activates the "technology previews" in the settings. There you can unlock new features in the test phase and get notified when new features are available.

You can load the pictures into collections. When selecting the tools, some options are a little hidden. In addition to the usual options and filters, you also have a few typical Adobe options, such as desaturating individual colors.

Image editing with Adobe Lightroom mobile

Below the photos you can find the individual options. For example, to desaturate a single color, select the "Color" tab and then click on the "Mix" field. Then you see the menu from the middle image above. Now you can either select the individual colors and change them. Or you can tap into the image and change the hue by swiping left or right. With both options the color is adjusted in the whole image. So customizing in a specific place is not possible.

Besides that there are several effects you can choose from. The result is immediately displayed in a preview. If the effects don’t quite match what you have in mind for the image, you can adjust them afterwards in the normal Edit menu.

Besides the normal effects, Lightroom also offers the possibility to work with gradients. This way you can edit only specific areas of an image. If you want to duplicate a gradient to apply it elsewhere in the image, all you have to do is press and hold on the screen. Then you simply move the gradient to the desired position and, if necessary, adjust the settings a bit more. By the way, you can also remove a gradient in the same way.

Adobe Lightroom mobile history

In February 2018, Lightroom got a really interesting update. On the one hand, the Google Assistant has been integrated. So you can search for images in Lightroom by voice command. Is quite nice. But what’s really good is that perspective correction has finally made its way into Lightroom mobile.

To use it you have to scroll all the way to the right in the menu. There you will find the item Geometry, where all the nice tools of the desktop version are assembled. Including the Upright function, which you can use either automatically or via the guides.

Lightroom is a pretty powerful app that allows you to work very precisely. One thing, however, is only possible to a limited extent. Sharpening images is only possible in the gradient tool. There it would be nice, if Adobe once again improve and make the function generally available. Meanwhile you can freely sharpen your photos. It is also nice that you can freely select such things as noise reduction or graininess. In addition, there are now 40 new profiles in addition to the conventional looks. Behind it are presets that are categorized as Modern, Nostalgic, Black & White, and Artistic. They are a good starting point to give your photos an appealing look.

For a while now, Lightroom has also offered the ability to sort your photos by faces. The app recognizes the faces automatically and you can then sort them according to your needs and bspw. Merge all your family photos into one folder.

Furthermore, Lightroom mobile offers the possibility to develop and save your own presets. First you edit your image normally. If you then click on the three dots in the upper right corner, you will see the menu item "Create Preset". This is what you choose. Then you can assign a name and save everything. If you want you can also assign your preset to a group.. The finished preset can be found in the lower menu bar under "Presets".

Lightroom has developed into a really powerful app in the last few months, which is hardly inferior to the desktop app in terms of functionality.

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