Doing Magic: A Review Of Snapheal

Over the past few days I’ve been tinkering with an advanced copy of Snapheal from developer MacPhun, and boy has it been a roller coaster of emotion the entire time. Snapheal is software designed for the novice looking to perform professional image enhancements and edits. No prior Photoshop or any other software knowledge is necessary to complete amazing object removals and other edits to your photos.

Macphun claims that Snapheal can “do magic” in terms of touching up your photos. After a few days and many hours trying to get stuff to disappear, we finally have a review for you. Will the $9.99 ($19.99 normally) Christmas price tag entice you into the purchase? Worried about what you’ll be getting into with the buy? Scared of Photoshop but still want to make your annoying family magically disappear out of photos? We’ll hopefully be able to touch on these and so much more after the jump!

 


Snapheal is actually quite the photo editing suite. I heard what the price tag was going to be so I figured it wasn’t going to be drowning in features. But after loading the app up I found myself quite surprised. It’ll do your basic edits; you can crop and rotate and adjusting the saturation and contrast of your photos is a breeze! You can blur and sharpen selected areas using a paint brush instead of applying the edits to the entire photo – this is a huge pro!!

Before getting into the meat of Snapheal, I have to stress – do NOT think of this as Photoshop. I began my test period with years and years of Photoshop experience. When I use any photo editing software, I always start by comparing to Photoshop. You have to know not to do this. If you think of it as a Photoshop you’ll not only be disappointed, but you’ll also be confused.

The eraser tool isn’t what you’d think coming from Photoshop or other editing suites. Snapheal uses impressive algorithms that don’t just erase, but replaces the selected area with what it sees is ‘behind‘ the image. There are three erase modes, but by far the Wormhole mode is my favorite. it took me a few tries to figure out exactly how the algorithm works. Going into this with working Photoshop knowledge, I wanted the tool to erase. I didn’t want it to do all the work of replacing the image for me. That is where I ran into some headaches. I am used to erasing a spot on a photo, and then re-building the background myself. Stupid me, I wanted this from Snapheal. What I got was a smart piece of software that did all the work for me and took the headache and time out of fixing the photo.

Once I wrapped my head around that, I really started liking my time with it. It’s a bit tricky and will take some time to learn how it thinks. You’ll realize photos that don’t contain many contrasts will be harder to erase. I took a photo of rainy grey downtown Portland and had a hell of a time trying to get it to find something to replace. It wasn’t sure what to do with those photos. I would assume you might have some of the same problems with ‘busier’ photos. One of the tutorials I watched showed them erasing a bridge. This might be fine if you have an ariel shot of the bridge, but I tried the same thing from a straight on view with buildings in the background. When trying to erase the bridge, it took the shadows from the water as well as the buildings and trees from the background to create some weird looking floating objects.

Photos that have solid colors will be a lot easier to manipulate. If you have a blue sky and green grass, these will be easy to “re-build.” This was troublesome for me, because I was reviewing it in the winter in Portland. The entire city is grey which made it hard for me to use. I dug through iPhoto to try and find some pictures before we hit bad weather. Once I found some, I really began loving the Wormhole eraser mode. I didn’t use the other two modes as much, the ShapeShift mode I found useful in about 1 or 2 photos. I found the Twister mode useless in any edits I tried to make. I couldn’t find a photo that would work with it. But by far, the Wormhole will be, in my opinion, the most used mode in the app.

Moving on to one of my favorite tools from Photoshop – the Clone Stamp. I feel the price tag alone is worth the Clone Stamp tool. This paired with the Wormhole Eraser, you have a ton of professional possibilities at your fingertips. If you aren’t familiar with what the clone stamp does, in short it takes a selected area, and clones that selection over the area you are painting. You are a short ‘Alt’ click away from fixing thousands of pictures! What is nice about Snapheal, is that the Wormhole eraser will do a lot of the work for you. Where in Photoshop, you’ll have to erase, then stamp your way into what you would think is behind the object in the image. The eraser will do that for you, and then you can clean it up with the clone stamp. The Clone Stamp works as you would think it would, if you have any previous knowledge of Photoshop or even Pixelmator. As you can see with the picture below, for heavy editing, it’s a little sloppier. With Photoshop, I would of had a better finished submarine, but for $9.99 that is some damn good “magic.”

The next tool in the app would be the paint brush. Now, this isn’t for any actual painting. This is used as the selection tool for taking an area and applying fixes to it. You’ll be able to adjust the contrast, saturation, sharpness, lighten and darken and even blur just the painted area. It also gives you the ability to invert the mask so you can apply the effects to the outside of your selection. The diameter, softness and opacity can all be changed easily from within the RETOUCH panel.

The next panel down the line is the ADJUST feature. Here you can change the brightness, contrast, exposure and hue/saturation. You can adjust the shadows and highlights as well as de-noise a photo all from this panel. My being color blind, I don’t find myself using a lot of the features. I never have in Photoshop either. But I am assuming they’d work the way you want them too :)

The rest of the features are your normal cropping and rotating of the image. These are nice to have, especially with on the fly iPhone photo editing. I’ll find some of my iPhone camera pictures come out rotated wonky and it’ll be easy to adjust those before you get your feet wet in the editing.

Conclusion:

Snapheal grew on me over the past few days. I’ll be honest when I say that I started off pretty upset. With my knowledge of Photoshop before opening Snapheal up, I couldn’t help but critique as such. That was my bad, as once I figured out how to let go of micro-managing my photo editing I could rapidly “do magic” to any photo I loaded up. With the amount of what you can do using Snapheal, the regular price tag of $19.99 is well worth the buy.

If you are the kind of person that would really like to sink your teeth into Photoshop, but are scared to death of it, I can’t recommend this enough. If you use Photoshop, but want a lighter weight app to do a lot of what you do in PSD, please don’t put that previous knowledge to work. That will bite you in the butt and probably upset you like it did me. I ended up a happy fan though.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some troublesome areas I ran into. Like I mentioned above, the lack of contrast and solid areas caused a problem for me. I found the app crash a couple times when trying to apply the eraser. And speaking of the eraser, if a wider brush is used, and on a bigger area, you’ll find yourself with enough time to brew a cup of tea. I tested this both on a 2ghz Core 2 Due iMac as well as on the 2011 MacBook Air. I didn’t find any change in speed when trying to select a broader area. If I used a smaller diameter brush and selected a smaller area I found the process went a lot quicker. But at least MacPhun made the wait nice, during the process Amazing Facts are displayed. I learned a lot from waiting in the past few days! It is only version 1.0, there is a lot of room to fix whatever bug would cause it to crash.

But all in all, having to wait a little bit longer doesn’t matter when Snapheal takes all the time out of doing what it does. When you add in the eraser too, clone stamp and making sure you have the colors right in Photoshop, Snapheal does all that for you in under the time it’d take you with the Adobe product. I nice feature that I found myself using all the time was the ‘Compare’ option. You can have a side by side view of the image before you got crazy and the final result. Nice feature that isn’t a one-click button in any other photo editing app I’ve seen! After all is said and done with your photos you can easily and natively upload straight to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr!

I fully agree with the “doing magic” tagline you’ll see during every process, as it really is doing the magic. Ease of use, amazing tools and options, I can’t find any reason not to give it a shot. Photoshop can be scary, but that shouldn’t keep you from getting the memories you want out of your photos. Snapheal will do all the dirty work for you and result in the photo you wanted to take.

Pick it up right now in the Mac App Store for $9.99 (special Christmas/launch sale) before it jumps back up to $19.99!!!

Gadgetseria Rating: 4.5/5

Mac App Store: Snapheal

Thanks to MacPhun for the review copy!