snapseed logo

There’s a great photo editing app that happens to be from a well-known name, and you may not know about it. “Snapseed” by Google should be installed on everyone’s phone, whether it’s an iPhone or running Android. We’ll explain why.

Many camera apps that come pre-installed on phones nowadays have their own built-in editing tools. Many people are content with these tools, and something with a name like “Photoshop” is intimidating. That’s where Snapseed really shines. It’s powerful but still easy to use.

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Humble Beginnings

Snapseed was originally launched in 2011 for the Apple iPad. Nik Software, a small company from California, created the photo-editing app. The app quickly gained popularity and was named iPad App of the Year by Apple.

Later that year, Nik Software launched Snapseed for the iPhone, and a year after that, for the Windows desktop. Soon afterward, Google acquired the company, and an Android version was released. The desktop version was eventually discontinued.

Snapseed received a big “2.0” update in 2015, and it has continued to receive consistent updates for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices ever since. However, it’s not a product that you hear Google talk about very often despite being quite well-reviewed on both platforms.

Simple Yet Powerful

The best thing about Snapseed is that it condenses many impressive and powerful editing tools into an easy-to-use interface. It’s approachable without being over-simplified.

When you first open the app, you’re greeted with a big “+” button in the center of the screen. That’s it. Tapping this button will take you to your photo gallery, where you can pick a photo to work on.

open a photo

After picking a photo, you’re taken to the editing screen. Snapseed doesn’t hit you over the head with a bunch of tools right away. You’re first shown a row of filters similar to what you’d see on Instagram. These allow you to change the look of your photo with a single tap.

snapseed filters

If the filters aren’t enough, you can take a step up to the “Tools” tab. This is where the more powerful editing tools live. They’re presented in a friendly manner with icons and clear labels. Even if you’re not familiar with all of the terms, the icons give you a hint.

snapseed tools

If there’s one thing I’d knock Snapseed for, it’s how it uses gestures for adjusting the effects. The app doesn’t really explain the gestures very well, although I do like them now that I understand how they work.

Basically, depending on the tool, you slide your finger vertically to choose the parameter, and then horizontally to adjust the value. For example, for the “White Balance” tool, the parameters are “Temperature” and “Tint.”

Once you’re done editing your photo, it’s time to “Export” it. Snapseed once again makes the options here easy to understand. You can share the photo directly without having to use another app if that’s all you need to do. Alternatively, you can create copies and choose specific folders to save it to.

export options

The Best Snapseed Tools

Snapseed has many great tools to choose from, but I want to highlight a few of my favorites. The one that I seem to open Snapseed the most for is called “Healing.”

The Healing tool is meant to get rid of blemishes, but it can do much more than that. I’ve used it to remove crumbs from my kid’s face and stains from shirts. You simply tap the undesirable spot, and Snapseed will try to match it to the surrounding area.

heal tool before and after
Removing a hair with the Healing tool.

The generic-sounding “Tune Image” tool is a good catch-all for a lot of things. The parameters include brightness, contrast, saturation, ambiance, highlights, shadows, and warmth. The “Selective” tool has a few of the same parameters, but you can use it in specific areas of the photo.

If you’re looking for a cool—and somewhat creepy—tool, try out “Head Pose.” It allows you to make adjustments to your head’s angle or your smile as well as artificially change the focal length. If you overdo it, the results can be a little frightening, but for subtle tweaks, it’s pretty neat.

Give Snapseed a Try

The point of this piece isn’t to get you to ditch your current photo editing app of choice. In fact, for the majority of my own smartphone photo editing, I use Google Photos. However, Snapseed is an important tool to have under my belt for those few occasions when I need something more.

Snapseed has over a million reviews on the Google Play Store with a 4.5/5 rating. On the Apple App Store, it has 6 thousand reviews with a 3.9/5 rating. The fact is, people really like it, and if you’ve never given it a try, you should.

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Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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