Image-Processing Applications

Living in an age when graphics are gradually overwhelming textual information implies certain changes to people’s psychology (for example, a dramatic decrease in attention spans—especially among the youth), lifestyles, and hobbies. Speaking of the latter, it can be said that more and more people each year fall in love with mobile photography. Unlike “traditional” photography, which requires a person to possess certain knowledge about cameras, lightning, optics, and so on, mobile photography is more intuitive, easy to learn, and thus more available for the majority of people—especially considering that nowadays almost everyone has a smartphone, which is much easier to carry around than a bulky DSLR camera. In this regard, image processing on mobile platforms is extremely popular—starting with Instagram with its built-in presets and settings, applications designed for working with images have become so numerous that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which one is worth using. However, experienced mobile photographers distinguish several most effective applications used most often either alone or combined with each other. Among these applications are Snapseed, VSCOcam, and Lightroom.

Lightroom was designed by Adobe—a giant in the field of designer software solutions; Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, AfterEffects, and other programs widely used by designers all over the world were invented by Adobe. Respectively, it would be logical to anticipate that the mobile version of one of Adobe’s most famous programs (Lightroom is also available for desktop computers) would be as brilliant as its other products. And it is—in a way. Mobile Lightroom is, generally speaking, a collection of photo filters, which can be easily applied to a batch of photos simultaneously; it is extremely useful if a photographer needs to quickly process a number of photos in the same style, for example—using the same color schemes, contrast, light and shade solutions. It is also useful if you need to synchronize your work between different platforms—employing Adobe’s Creative Cloud, you can easily access it wherever you are. It is useful if you suddenly get an idea about how you could process a number of photos you have taken recently, but your computer is not at hand: in this case, you can do the initial processing in mobile Lightroom, and then synchronize with your desktop and finish the work at home, where more of the tools are available. At the same time, mobile Lightroom lacks a number of functions VSCOcam and Snapseed provide.

VSCOcam has many presets as well, either built-in or purchased (the application itself is free). It allows a bit more of control over the image adjustment process than Lightroom, but its main value is still in the pre-made filters; even used alone, without any other processing, these filters can make any image look stylish, moody, and conceptual. The library of filters that can be purchased (for a rather affordable price), is regularly updated, and all of the filters in it are sorted under categories; you can find filters perfectly suited for architecture, portrait, landscape, still life, macro, and other occasions. VSCOcam is somewhat similar to Instagram—it works best if you first apply a filter to an image, and then trim it with fine settings. The application also incorporates a minimalistic social network, allowing users to showcase their work; unlike Instagram, finding bad or boring images on VSCO Grid is difficult. Overall, it is a convenient application with a satisfying level of control over image processing, but lacking several crucial features to serve as a truly universal and powerful tool for a photographer. In addition, although its design is extremely polished, stylish, and minimalistic, some icons are not intuitive, and some people could find the interface somewhat bulky.

And finally, Snapseed by Google is one of the best mobile photo processing tools. Its possibilities and potential are amazing, especially compared to a number of other similar applications. Of course, it does not provide the same functionality as desktop Photoshop, but for a smartphone application, Snapseed does more than just good. Brushes, spot correction, white balance, curves, a whole arsenal of color correcting sliders, patches, text tool (and a powerful one)—all this is more than just basic functionality provided by many of Snapseed’s competitors. This is not to mention various presets—although they are not as sophisticated as in VSCOcam, they can still provide a number of interesting visual solutions. All tools fall under categories, and the navigation is rather sophisticated: a vertical slide selects tools in the chosen category, while a horizontal slide adjusts a tool’s parameters. Once again, not as stylish and fancy as VSCOcam, Snapseed’s interface might look somewhat outdated—but it is fully compensated with the amazing functions it grants its users with.

It is rather difficult to choose the best application among the three evaluated above—and perhaps unnecessary. Each of these applications serves its own purpose, and is probably the best in its own field. For instance, VSCOcam is perfect for quick editing, being able to turn a photo into a masterpiece in no time. Snapseed is for those who enjoy thorough editing and prefer to have full control over processing; it requires a user to spend a lot of time on it, but the result can be astonishing. Lightroom, it its turn, is great for quickly outlining the course of further editing, for processing multiple photos at once, and for accessing all of them wherever a user is, using Adobe’s Creative Cloud. The best results can be probably achieved through combining all of the three applications.

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