Although the winning feature of Instagram is its social networking component, one could argue that its most obvious appeal is the simplicity of its interface to apply art filters. And everyone knows that art filters make crappy photos look fantastic! 😉
And while Photoshop plug-ins have existed for many years, one could argue that the tool does too much and is too confusing when all you want to do is apply an art filter. Enter “Snapseed” from Nik Software. This standalone application can be purchased for a few bucks on the iPad or from your Mac’s App Store. This is how it works:
I just celebrated my 40th birthday, so I figured it was time for a new self-portrait. Here’s what I shot straight out of the camera.
I’m no Photoshop wizard, so I dragged the image into Snapseed on my iMac, and it appeared in the main window.
On the left pane, there are a bunch of art filter categories that are very Instagrammy, and some simple tools to make non-filter-based changes like cropping and straightening. So first, I straightened the image by selecting crop/straighten, then dragging the ruler tool from pupil to pupil. The interface shows you how the image is rotated to make the adjustment.
I clicked “Apply >” in the lower left corner, and then started playing with the art filters. Each filter gives you a bunch of parameters that you can control, which is obviously differentiated from the zero control of Instagram.
The resulting image wasn’t what I was looking for. Too much like an old passport photo.
Call me old fashioned, but I’ve always resented fake tilt/shift images. But here you go:
The Grunge filter gives you that dirty-Nirvana-in-the-90s look, right?
Ultimately, I went with the Vintage filter. I figured I am now “vintage,” and I liked the antiquing effect. It seemed differentiated enough, but not over the top.
I dare say that the process was actually fun. There was enough control to not overwhelm, but the presets were good enough that I didn’t have to fiddle with it. And for some reason the process seemed easier and more satisfying than using a product like Nik’s own Color Efex Pro. I’m certain that Efex Pro can do the same thing, but for some reason, I found this “better.” Perception is a strange thing.
And for $19.99, Snapseed was 10x’s cheaper than Color Efex Pro.
Verdict: Get it.