Life in TransitA Digital Nomad in Asia

Snapseed, Pixlr Express - Travel Photography

Ethelene on the boat during our Phi Phi island boat tour. - Snapseed drama filter and Pixlr Express film border.

Two recently released apps, available both on Android and iOS, solved most of my photography software needs while travelling.

Before these two apps, I had purchased the 10 USD Adobe Photoshop app for more flexibility in touching up my photos while on the move.

Unfortunately, I hardly ever use my tablet to post photos from my camera, opting for the convenience of using my phone most of the time. Moreover, the Photoshop app does not run on the phone.

Thankfully, Google bought over Nik software and Autodesk decided to give us a customizable version of its popular Pixlr-O-Matic app. Thus the resulting free Snapseed and Pixlr Express apps became very useful tools in my Android photography software collection. They have put my previous go to app, Picsay Pro, on the back burner.

The recently released Snapseed app from Google Play excels in spot adjustments

I’m a big fan of the Selective Adjust feature. Sometimes, you need a spot or two just a touch brighter, like someone’s face partially in shadows. With this function, you can achieve that. Many other tools only allow you to make adjustments to the photo as a whole.

Details is another feature I like. There are other sharpening tools on the market, but I like the Structure tool as it adds to mid-tone contrast. It can give your photo a bit of that “HDR” look.

That effect can also be achieved with the Drama filters. The fine adjustment ability from these filters gives us a lot greater creative control on how “dramatic” you want your picture. Dark clouds combined with outline hilights on a persons face is one of the effects you can achieve with this tool.

The tilt-shift feature for Snapseed also provides some more customization than other tools. The squishable elliptical shape allows you to better define the boundaries between sharp and blur. It hurts my eyes when I see improperly used tilt-shift. The transition of blur to sharp is very smooth

Overall, Snapseed excels in spot fine tuning adjustments.

Pixlr Express shows it strength in filters, overlays and borders.

The collection of borders and filters in Pixlr Express is phenomenal.

Usually, I first edit my photo in Snapseed. If I need a border, I go into Pixlr Express to add that to the photograph. If I want to go fancy with overlays and filters, I’ll also use Pixlr Express. While Snapseed does have the Grunge feature, I prefer Pixlr Express’ collection. Scrolling through 400+ unnamed variations of Gruge hoping to find some variation I like doesn’t seem very intuitive. At least with Pixlr Express, each filter is named. I can easily go back to that filter again if I like the look.

Colour Splash is another Pixlr Express feature that could come in handy for those of you who like the selective colouring of pictures. Some people love to hilight their subject by keeping them in colour while making the rest of a the photo black and white. This feature will help you achieve that effect.

One feature Snapseed doesn’t have in its spot adjustment collection is “touch up” where you can spot remove blemishes from your subject’s faces. Pixlr Express comes to the rescue here. I suppose you could also use it to clone objects out of your pictures. But I’m a journalist and even using filters is a stretch, much less cloning things out. Thus, even in travel photos, I tend not to clone things out.

Keep in mind that every time you re-save a JPEG file, you are losing image quality. JPEGs make a file smaller by throwing out details that it “thinks the viewer will not notice”. So once you save a file the second time, you don’t get the information from the first save, but also throw out more information from the second save. So try not to chain too many editing programs.

Good photography is more important than filters

All that being said, adding random filters, lines and colour mutations to a picture does not make a crappy photo better. It just distracts a viewer from the flaws of poor photography.

First learn to take good photographs then play with filters after. I will address that in a future tutorial.

Enjoy playing with Snapseed and Pixlr Express. Feel free to post links to your travel photos with Snapseed and Pixlr Express in the comments below! 🙂

note I took the photos here with my Canon D10 waterproof point and shoot and processed them with Snapseed and Pixlr Express on my tablet.
View samples edited with Snapseed »

Pages: 1 2
Tagged: photography, tips
Posted in: Features