Editing using Snapseed - My workflow from raw to finished image.


Let me begin by saying that this post is covering only the images I edit using the snapseed app, the vast bulk of my work is edited on the computer using lightroom and photoshop. It isn’t intended as a tutorial, merely a response to having been asked a few times how I edit images when using the Snapseed app. I just want to give an example of my own personal workflow. If you are able to get something from it then that’s cool but every image is different and requires a different process of editing. I wouldn’t always perform all of these steps on every image, on other images I may perform more. I think it’s more important to edit for the image and not to any one particular style.

Weapon of choice

I’ve been using Snapseed for mobile editing for a while now. I first downloaded the app a few years ago with a bunch of other photo editing apps. I had decided it was time to embrace phone photography and so required a means of editing on the go but none of the available apps offered me everything I was used to with the desktop versions. The net result - I pretty much gave up on phone photography again.

Last year while on a photography road trip around Perthshire we had stopped off in Dundee. I had found a great composition and had just taken a picture on my DSLR. I had a feeling it would look great in black and white so I uploaded it to my phone to make a quick edit and see if it worked. The only app I had left was Snapseed. In the time since I last used it the app it had changed dramatically. It now had all of the features I would hope to find in photo editing software. It was brilliant. I now use it quite often, mostly for iPhone shots and editing on the fly but I’m super impressed with it overall.

Snapseed tools panel.

Snapseed tools panel.

The Image

The image I’ll be working on was shot on my iPhone on a beautiful calm evening about 10 minutes after the sun had set. Red rays were just catching the high cloud and there was some beautiful reflected light on the water. The iPhone camera did a pretty reasonable job of capturing most of the detail in the scene despite the level of contrast going on but with a few edits I’m sure I can improve on this. 

Raw image shot using iPhone 7 & ProCamera app. f/1.8 ISO 25

Raw image shot using iPhone 7 & ProCamera app. f/1.8 ISO 25

Before I get into the edit, I shoot all of my phone images using the ProCamera app. It gives you the ability to control the camera much more than the standard Apple camera app. Definitely worth a buy if you are an iPhone user.

Step 1 - Crop.

I’m going for a 5x7 crop for this image. I’m lining up the pier marker in the middle of the frame and the bottom of the pier with the bottom third line. I’ts a 50/50 crop but it feels the most even for my eye so I’m ok with it in this image. Step one done.


Step 2 - Tune image.

I open the tune image tool and make some small adjustments. I just want to bring out some of the details in the shadow areas and increase the saturation a touch. You can see in the screen grab below, I’m not going crazy with the sliders I just want to give the image a bit more presence.

Step 3 - White balance correction.   Two minor adjustments here. The image is a little on the cool side so I’m raising the temp a notch to add a touch more warmth and adding a small amount of magenta tint to remove some of the green hues from the foreground rocks. 

Step 3 - White balance correction.

Two minor adjustments here. The image is a little on the cool side so I’m raising the temp a notch to add a touch more warmth and adding a small amount of magenta tint to remove some of the green hues from the foreground rocks. 


Step 4 - Vignette.

I’m going to start off by saying I like vignetting. A few of my lenses have natural vignette and I pretty much always leave most of it in. It helps to draw the eye into an image and is especially effective in an image such as this where most of the drama is happening in the centre. I’m not adding a lot in and keeping most of it to the extreme edge. Too much vignette I feel is a bit cheesy and so while I like it, it I try to keep it subtle.


Step 5 - Sharpening.

There are two parameters you can adjust in the details tool - structure and sharpening. I don’t want to do too much, if you go crazy with the sliders in here you can ruin an image pretty fast. I’m raising the structure slider to +16 and +3 on the sharpening. Very small adjustments, just enough to make the image a little bit crisper and more eye catching.


Step 6 - Curves.

This is one of the tools I felt was sadly missing from the old version of Snapseed. It’s a tool I use on most of my images. It’s great for adjusting certain parts of an image, if you need to drop highlights or raise shadows or adjust certain colours within an image then this tool allows you to do that. Here I’m only really using it for shadow adjustments, making a small tweak to the darker areas to give them a bit more presence. The rocks behind where I was standing were adding some very pretty blue reflected light to the foreground rocks. Exposing for the sky to protect the highlights means that this detail was lost in the shadows and so the adjustments I’m making here are really just to bring some of this back in. 

The Final Cut.

The Final Cut.

Before & after.

Before & after.

And with that I’m done. I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Like I said at the beginning it wasn’t an image that required a whole lot of work so I haven’t gone overboard with the edits, I’ve just tried to polish it a little to bring out some of the key elements I remember about the scene when I was standing there. That for me is what I try to achieve in every image.

On that note...

Recently I’ve noticed increasing debate and comments about editing images, how far to take them vs don’t edit them at all and everything in between. There has been a lot of comment on both sides of the barrier but I don’t really see why there should be a barrier at all. It’s really up to the person shooting the image to decide what is best for that image. Personally, I have two criteria when shooting and editing an image - What am I feeling while I shoot the image and what am I trying to get across to the viewer? I want that image to appear as natural as possible but also - like in the image I’ve just edited - I want to convey to the viewer the same sense of wonder, awe and emotion I was feeling at that time. Cameras can do most of the work if you know how to use them but they can’t do it all. To get the best out of an image I’m going to have to edit it and so I edit my images, all of them. In actual fact a much more accurate description would be that I process all of my images. I shoot raw format so my images straight out of the camera aren’t as sharp, the colours are less vibrant etc and so they all require a certain degree of post processing anyway but I still consider this post processing as important as the actual shoot, for me they are all integral parts of getting from concept to final image. Photography literally translates to light writing, we as photographers are visual storytellers and the photon without meaning to sound too cheesy is our pen. It is entirely up to us as individuals how we shoot, process and present that story. If every photographer shot the exact same scene at the exact same time with the same camera and lens and none of them edited that shot, would platforms like Flickr, Instagram etc. exist today? I very much doubt they would. It’s the variety that makes them interesting. As far as I’m concerned, it’s your picture, do what you want with it. As long as you like it.