Filters are a great way to quickly change the look and feel of your iPhone photos, and the free Snapseed app offers a fantastic selection of presets for editing your pictures. But these aren’t just ordinary presets! They’re fully customizable and offer a huge degree of flexibility and creativity, especially when combined with the Stacks Brush tool which lets you apply effects to just certain parts of your image. In this tutorial you’ll discover the full potential of Snapseed’s filters, and how they can dramatically alter the mood of your iPhone photos.
Snapseed has an incredible range of tools for editing and enhancing your iPhone photos, but filters are where the fun really happens with Snapseed.
The tools are great for correcting issues with your original photo, but with the filter effects you can really mess around with the overall look and mood of your image.
Just like Snapseed’s tools, each filter has a multitude of adjustments that you can make in order to tailor the effect to your liking.
If you’re not familiar with the Snapseed tools, be sure to check out these two in-depth tutorials:
How To Use Snapseed’s Essential iPhone Photo Editing Tools
How To Use Snapseed’s Advanced Photo Editing Tools
In this article you’ll learn how to use each of the Snapseed filters, using them to change the look and feel of your iPhone photos in a variety of ways.
At the end of the article you’ll discover how to use the Stacks Brush tool to apply these filter effects to just certain parts of your image. This gives you maximum flexibility and creativity when editing your photos in Snapseed.
To access the filters, simply open the photo you want to edit then tap the Pencil icon at the bottom right of the screen.
The Lens Blur filter is used to draw attention to the subject of your photo by blurring and adjusting the brightness of the surrounding background.
When you open the filter you’ll see two circles on the screen. The area outside of the circles will be blurred, and the area inside the inner circle will remain unaffected. The area between the two circles is the transition between the focused and blurred areas of the image.
Tapping the icon to the left of centre at the bottom of the screen allows you to switch between Elliptical and Parallel blur. The Parallel option blurs the top and bottom areas of your image. This will result in a fake miniature tilt-shift effect that can make your subjects look like tiny toy models.
In both cases you can touch and hold the blue dot to move the focus point around the screen. You can also increase or decrease the size of the focus area by pinching two fingers on the screen.
As with most other Snapseed tools, swiping up and down on the screen will give you access to a menu of options for fine-tuning the effect.
In this case you can adjust the strength of the blur, the size of the transition between the blurred and focused areas, and the intensity of the vignetting around the edge of your image.
Once you’ve selected the option that you want to adjust, simply swipe left to reduce the intensity of that effect or right to increase it.
Finally, tapping the Presets icon just right of center at the bottom of the screen brings up a menu of shapes. Each of these affects the type of blur that will be applied. Experiment with these to see which ones you like the best.
The Glamour Glow filter is used to add a soft focus glow to your image. It’s a simple effect to use but can produce some very nice results. It’s particularly useful for glamour, fashion and portrait photography.
Tapping the Presets icon just right of center at the bottom of the screen will display a selection of preset effects. Swipe left and right to access the various options and tap on the one you wish to apply.
You can fine-tune the effect by swiping up and down on the screen. This gives you options for adjusting the Glow (softness), Saturation and Warmth.
The Tonal Contrast filter brings out fine contrast across shadows and highlights, with precise exposure control. Tonal Contrast filters work on the small detail within an image, rather than on larger areas of the picture as a whole.
A special algorithm will identify areas of small detail and allow you to adjust the contrast between the tones in just those areas.
Swiping up and down on the screen gives you options for adjusting the contrast across the Low Tones, Mid Tones or High Tones. You can also protect shadows and highlights from being affected by the adjustments.
The effects can be quite subtle with the Tonal Contrast filter, but this is usually a good thing. Below I’ve turned all the options up to 100 just to show what it can do.
By experimenting with the various settings in this filter you can bring out details in your image in a very precise and controlled manner. It’s like a clarity filter that you would find in other apps but with far more finesse and control.
The HDR Scape filter can bring a stunning look to your images by creating the effect of multiple exposures. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.
In HDR photography a number of photos of the same scene are taken at different exposures. These are then combined using software to create an image that’s correctly exposed throughout. The idea is to bring out as much detail as possible in the photo.
The HDR Scape filter in Snapseed attempts to replicate the results of this multiple exposure process. It’s very successful at doing so, and this is one of my favorite filters in Snapseed. Having said that, some care must be exercised when using it.
The temptation for beginners is to apply the filter at full strength in every situation. This rarely results in satisfactory images, and you’ll end up with a lot of digital noise (grain) as shown below.
There are four different preset filters that can be accessed by tapping the Presets icon at the bottom of the screen. These presets are Nature, People, Fine and Strong.
These are obviously meant to be suitable for different types of scenes, but I find the best thing to do is experiment to see which preset suits the image you’re working on.
Once you’ve picked a preset, the effect can be customized in the usual way by swiping up and down on the screen. With this filter you can adjust the Filter Strength, Brightness and Color Saturation.
When using the HDR Scape filter, I highly recommend that you fine-tune the effect rather than accepting what the preset gives you. By toning down the filter strength you can get some very nice effects, but if you over-do the HDR effect you can end up ruining your image.
As the name suggests, this filter is used to add a sense of drama to your edits. The Drama filter is great for creating more dramatic skies in your landscape photos.
Tapping the Presets icon to the right of center gives you six presets to choose from. You can then swipe up or down to adjust the Filter Strength and Saturation until you get the best results.
Just like the HDR Scape filter, it’s advisable to tone down the strength of the effect. The presets can be quite strong and can introduce grain into the image when applied at full strength.
The Grunge filter creates an edgy look with strong styles and texture overlays. When the Snapseed 2.0 update was released, this filter had actually been removed. But due to the reaction from long-time users of the app, it’s thankfully been reinstated.
While it initially seems like a pretty simple filter, it has a lot hidden under the hood. The two criss-crossed arrows at the bottom of the screen will generate a random grunge effect – just keep tapping these arrows until you get a look you like.
Tapping the diagonal-striped box at the bottom of the screen will bring up a selection of textures that you can overlay on your image.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can design your own grunge filter by accessing the options available when swiping up or down on the screen. Using these settings you can set the Style, Brightness, Contrast, Texture Strength and Saturation.
By using various combinations of the above you can get dramatically different results. I can see why there was such demand to have this filter reinstated!
The Grunge filter also has a vignetting feature. Pinching your fingers together on the screen allows you to reduce the size of the circle which is the boundary between the bright and dark areas of the image.
If you tap and hold the blue dot you can move the center point of the bright area around the screen. This is useful if you want to lead the viewer’s attention to a particular area of the scene.
Usually we try to avoid having grain in our photos! But if you want to create the effect of using a traditional film camera you can use the Grainy Film filter to add some realistic grain to your image.
This is a simple yet effective filter. There are 18 presets that you can choose from by tapping the Presets icon at the bottom of the screen.
Once you’ve selected the grain style that you want to use, you can swipe up or down to access the Grain and Style Strength options. Again, it’s usually best to dial down the filter strength for a more subtle effect.
The Vintage filter allows you to make your photos look like vintage color film photos from the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. It’s really quite good at replicating older film styles, and this filter is another favorite of mine.
Tapping the Presets icon at the bottom of the screen gives you access to 12 vintage-style presets to choose from. There are a lot of apps out there with vintage filters but these are among the best you’ll find.
There’s also an added edge blur effect that can be accessed by tapping the dotted blue circle at the bottom of the screen.
As usual, swiping up and down allows you to alter the Brightness, Saturation, Style Strength and Vignette Strength. Experimenting with these settings lets you customize the filter to create the vintage look you’re attempting to achieve.
The Retrolux filter makes your photos look truly retro with light leaks, scratches, film styles and more. This is another very versatile filter with a lot of options.
Tapping the Presets icon at the bottom of the screen gives you access to a large selection of presets with different scratch and light leak effects. As with the Grunge filter, you can also tap the criss-crossed arrows to apply quick randomized effects.
Swiping up and down gives you access to a large number of customizable options. You can adjust the Brightness, Saturation, Contrast and Style Strength, as well as the intensity of the Scratches and Light Leaks.
By experimenting with the presets and customizable options you can achieve an endless variety of very different looking results.
The Noir filter produces modern black and white film looks with realistic grain and the all-new “wash” effect.
This is a relatively simple filter with 14 presets and the option to adjust Brightness, Wash, Grain and Filter Strength. It’s ideal if you want to create muted monochrome images.
Black & White
The Black & White filter is obviously for converting your color images to black and white. While this may sound simple, this filter has a lot of options for fine-tuning your black and white conversion.
Tapping the Presets icon at the bottom of the screen gives you a range of preset black and white conversions with varying degrees of brightness, contrast and grain.
The Filter icon to left of center brings up a selection of different colored filters. They replicate the color filters that would have been used when taking photos on black and white film cameras, and they can dramatically alter the look and tone of your image.
When you tap through each color you’ll notice how the brightness of different areas of the image changes dramatically. What it’s doing is altering the brightness of the different colors that were in the original image.
Of course, you can fine tune the black and white edit by swiping up and down on the screen to adjust Brightness, Contrast and Grain.
This is actually a very good black and white editor that’s easy to use and produces excellent results. You should definitely experiment with the colored filters as they can have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of your image.
Finally, we have the Frames filter which lets you add stylized frames to your photos. There are 23 unique choices that can be accessed by tapping the Frames icon at the bottom of the screen. Swiping left or right on the image lets you adjust the thickness of your chosen frame.
I never use frames, and I would recommend that anyone starting out should avoid them. If you ever intend to print and mount your photos, any “frames” that you’ve added in editing will look totally out of place.
The other problem with frames is that they overlay the image rather than being applied outside of the edges. As a result they will obscure anything that’s on the periphery of your photo.
If you do want to apply a frame to your photo, I recommend that you save a version of your edited image without any frame, and then save another version with the frame added.
Use Stacks For Selective Editing
While applying filters is a great way of changing the look and feel of your iPhone photos, you might often find that you don’t want to apply the effect to the entire image. This might also be the case with adjustments that you make using settings in the Tools section of Snapseed.
Luckily, the Stacks feature in Snapseed allows you to apply the effects to just certain areas of the image. This is done using the handy Brush tool in the Stacks area of Snapseed.
You just use your finger to brush over the areas that you want to apply the effect to. You can also use Stacks to completely delete a particular edit (trash icon) or to change the settings of an edit (sliders icon).
The best way to show you how to use Stacks is by using an example. I took this photo of an old house near my home recently. I really liked the sky, but the house and foreground were very dark and a lot of the detail of the architecture was lost.
The first step was to use the HDR filter to bring out the lost detail. It this case I decide to use the Strong HDR filter to bring out as much detail in the house as I could.
As you can see the entire image has been affected by the filter. The house now looks great but the sky just looks completely unrealistic.
In the past I would have had to either put up with the sky the way it is, or tone down the HDR effect which would have resulted in a loss of detail in the building. But thankfully we now have Stacks!
To access the Stacks, tap the number beside the Save icon at the top right of the screen. This brings up the “stack” of each individual edit that you’ve applied to the image. You can tap any edit within the stack to delete or adjust that effect.
I wanted to alter which parts of the image the HDR effect was applied to, so I tapped on HDR Scape in the stack and then tapped the Brush icon to the left.
The Brush allows you to specify the area of the image that you wish to apply the effect to. Simply use your finger as a brush to “paint” over the areas that you want the effect to be applied to – in this case, the building.
If the Eye icon is blue, you’ll see red highlight appear on any areas that you’ve brushed over. This makes it easier to see the areas that you’ve selected. You can switch the Eye icon on or off by tapping it.
The result looks more like the image that I initially intended to take. The sky looks normal and all the detail in the house has been recovered.
The Brush tool in the Stacks section of Snapseed can be used on any effect or edit that you’ve applied to your image. This allows for a serious amount of flexibility in your editing, and I would highly recommend that you learn how to use this feature.
This article concludes the series of three tutorials covering everything that Snapseed has to offer. You can read the other two in-depth tutorials on using the Snapseed tools by clicking the links below:
How To Use Snapseed’s Essential iPhone Photo Editing Tools
How To Use Snapseed’s Advanced Photo Editing Tools
Snapseed really is the complete package as far as photo editing apps are concerned. For anyone starting out this really should be your first port of call. While you might not use every feature it has to offer, it’s so intuitive to use that you’ll soon be editing your photos like a pro.
Even if you’re experienced at photo editing, I would still highly recommend this app. It has so many different ways to customize your edits that you can create truly unique images, no matter what your photographic style.
Snapseed is an incredibly powerful and versatile app, but it’s also very intuitive to use. So whether you want to make basic adjustments to exposure and color, or completely change the look and feel of your photos, there will be something for everyone here.
Snapseed can be downloaded for FREE on the App Store, and you won’t find any hidden in-app purchases.