There’s no denying that technology has advanced over the recent years, in particular, mobile phones. Some of the flagship phones today have amazing camera capabilities and in some instances, sharing the same technology found in entry level DSLRs. Apps have also improved over the recent years becoming more robust and sophisticated, as a result, we now see an abundant number of photo editing apps from basic filters to advanced post-processing and object removal.
In the beginning…
When I first dived into the world of Photography, I quickly learnt that a large portion of your time is spent in front of a computer importing, culling and processing photos. Over time I got tired of this process and started looking for different alternatives. I’ve tried different software, changed my workflow but in the end, it kept finding myself back to being in front of the computer, I needed a quicker solution, something that I can do while on the road but not be encumbering, something that would allow me to upload and post to social media without having to wait until I was back home.
Enter the mobile phone!
In the app eco-system, editing apps are a dime a dozen, finding a quality app can be a tiresome task, fortunately, I’ve found a handful of apps that I use on a daily basis and has now formed part of my workflow. This guide is just an insight to what my workflow consists of, obviously, this will not suit everyone, but if you’re someone looking for a faster way of doing some quick adjustments before posting your photos onto social media, then hopefully some of the apps and processes in this guide will help you achieve that.
Part 1: Transferring photos to the phone
I primarily shoot with the Fujifilm X-T1, which, fortunately, has a dedicated app that connects and transfers photos from the camera directly to your phone via the built-in WiFi. This serves part of my culling process, the app displays thumbnails of all the images on the camera’s SDCard, I can view the full image if I like to ensure I don’t transfer the blurry shots over the sharper ones. This is probably the easiest part of the workflow and can be done quite conveniently i.e. waiting for the train or bus.
Part 2: File management
Before doing anything else, it’s important to have a basic folder structure in place, it makes searching for specific photos a lot quicker than having to troll through all the photos from the one folder. It’s also a time saver if you participate in photo challenges or competitions and looking for a specific genre to submit for a brief. I like to keep mine simple, I have 1 main folder where all the images transferred from my camera are saved into, this acts as my ‘originals’ folder. I create other folders based on the event or genre and move the final processed images to the respective folder. Something like this:
Note: Make it a habit to backup the Originals photos onto your PC or portable HDD, this will save space on your phone especially if it has limited internal storage capacity and no option for an expandable memory.
Part 3: Post Processing
I wrote an article a while back after Adobe announced the release of their Lightroom Mobile App for iOS and Android, you can read it here. It’s easily one of the best editing apps available for mobile devices, it’s free (no bs in-app purchases). This is my go-to app for minor exposure and colour corrections, the auto-straightening tool works very well. It has all the basic functions found on the desktop version such as dehaze, tone curve, lens correction, basic sliders, vignetting, split tones, colour/b&w, crop, rotation as well as some basic filter presets. The only tool missing from this otherwise amazing app is the brush tool. Like the desktop version, it keeps a catalogue of the changes. One great feature that makes this a standout from the crowd is the ability to import and edit RAW files (.dng format), another app that does this is Snapseed. The app as a built-in camera mode and if your phone allows it, it can capture RAW. When exporting, LRM gives you the option to export to the highest quality available or optimised for the web (2048px). I mainly export to 2048px for all my social media platforms, however, the limitation is that it exports a maximum of 15 photos at a time and you’ll have to wait for it to finish before you can do anything else.
Update 1: Since writing this, Adobe released v2.3 which come with RAW HDR and a few other minor improvements
Snapseed was a core product of Nik Software, a photo editing software known for its popular Lightroom and Photoshop plugins including Capture NX and EFex Pro. Google eventually acquired Nik Software a few years back for an undisclosed amount. Snapseed does everything that Lightroom does plus more, a lot more. Unlike LRM, Snapseed has a healing and brush tool, you can easily dodge and burn sections of your image. It also comes with its own set of filter profiles including a face detect feature where you can select predefined presets and it will enhance that part of the face i.e. enhancing the eyes, smoothing the skin tones etc (Great for you selfie lovers). The only minor downside with Snapseed is that you can only open and work on 1 file at a time,
and after you save the final image, there is no log of the settings you’ve applied, unlike LRM where it keeps a catalogue of the changes made so you can fine tune the adjustments and re-export. It isn’t a deal breaker considering how much it has to offer, I use Snapseed if I can’t achieve the look I want in LRM.
Update 1: Since writing this, Snapseed released v2.16 adding shareable looks, auto-perspective and more. The shareable looks allow you to apply the same filter settings from one image to another.
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
If you’ve never heard of VSCO, then you’ve been living under a rock. This app is the holy grail when it comes to filters and I’m not referring to cheesy corny ones with emulated sun flares, hearts symbols or pathetic borders, I’m talking about visually stunning filters that set the mood. There are bucket loads of filters for you to choose from, if you’re familiar with the filters in Instagram, then this works the same way, there is a live preview as you toggle through the various filter profiles. It also offers some basic processing tools such as contrast, perspective tool, crop, highlights, shadows, etc. I process a majority of my Street portraits and photos with VSCO using the A5, A6 profiles for colour and B1, B2 and B6 for Black & White.
My list of apps would have stopped with the 3 mentioned above, however, I had to include this amazing app. I came across this app by accident, I was browsing through my social media and misclick on a sponsored advertisement and was redirected to the app’s landing page on the Google Play Store. I thought to give it a go, after all, Google has a refund policy where I can get a full refund within 15mins or so after installation. Within a few minutes of use, I decided to keep it after seeing how well this app performed at removing objects and especially lines. In the original image below, you can see that there were multiple power lines running through the image. The app easily removed all the power lines without leaving behind any signs of manipulation. Example, to remove an unwanted line, simply trace your finger across it and the system will automatically snap to the line and remove it. You don’t even have to draw a perfectly straight line, the app will detect it quite easily. There is very little apps out there that could remove objects and lines as well as TouchRetouch, highly recommended.
Step 4: Posting to Social Media
Once my photos are done, I’m ready to post them online. My social media platform of choice is Instagram. It doesn’t degrade the photo as much as Facebook does and it acts as a portfolio of all your photos. I rarely use the in-app filters that come with IG, I basically just open the photo I want to upload, add my #hashtags and post.
All this can be done in the space of a few minutes, from the point the photo was transferred to your phone to being shared on social media.
If you’ve used IG before, you know that #hashtags are crucial and using the right ones can mean the difference to having just 2 people see your photo compared to hundreds, thousands or even millions (probably over exaggerating a bit there). You’ll also know it’s a time-consuming processing, having to remember all those tags and typing them all out. As an added bonus I’ll share a little tip with you that will speed up this process dramatically.
For Android Users, go to the Play Store and download an app called Texpand, this app allows you to create shortcuts, for example, I create a shortcut label called #igbw, in it will be all the popular black & white hashtags. I’m the type that prefers to put my hashtags in the comment and not in the actual post. So after I’ve posted my photo on IG, I navigate into the comments section and type #igbw and it will pre-populate with all the hashtags I’ve assigned to that label.
For iOS Users, you can achieve this in the normal phone’s setting menu under keyboard and create similar labels, I’m not entirely sure how well this works, I’ve read that there is a limitation of characters. The Texpand app is also available for iOS.
If you have any recommendations for apps, please leave a comment below.
Find me on IG @joejongue
That’s all folks.