Snapheal: Pure Image Editing Magic

Do you remember the last time you searched frantically for your camera to capture a moment, a landscape or something else that took your breath away? And do you remember the disappointment when you later at home saw that something – a lamp post, a person, a trash bin… – completely ruined the photo?

Now you can easily fix this problem without having to take intermediate lessons in Photoshop. With Snapheal, it’s as easy as painting over the parts of the image you don’t want and make them disappear. We’ll take a closer look at the app after the break…

Like Magic

The bottom of line of Snapheal is easy enough to summarize: remove unwanted objects from your photos and enhance them at the same time (and in the same app).

The promo video on their website looks astonishing, but of course I wouldn’t believe it until I tried the app myself. Being someone who uses Photoshop professionally on a daily basis I was skeptical, to say the least.

The app interface itself is straight forward, beginning with getting a photo in there. You can simply drag and drop them in there or use an importer, which offers quick access to your iPhoto library and pictures folder.

If you’re using Lion, you can use the full screen mode of Snapheal, which is really awesome as it allows you to see your image large as possible without being distracted by anything else on your screen.

Welcome to Snapheal. Just drop a photo in to get started.

Welcome to Snapheal. Just drop a photo in to get started.

The first interface screen is the most important one, as it allows you to select the parts of the image you want to get rid of. All you have to do is paint over the unwanted areas, which will result in a red overlay.

Paint over the areas you wish to remove.

Paint over the areas you wish to remove.

There are some options to take notice of in the right sidebar: for one, you can adjust the diameter of your brush. I found that I get the best results if I chose a brush that isn’t too tiny. You shouldn’t overpaint too much, but if you are too selective, the app won’t be able to erase the unwanted objects as nicely.

Furthermore, you can select in the lower part which method of replacement should be used. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish – wipe out the Eiffel tower or a speck of dust – these separate modes yield different results.

If you’re trying to remove objects against a very complex background like with the forest in my image, for example, the Twister mode gives the best results.

Once you’re ready, hit “Erase” and then sit back and wait because the calculations really take a while. After all, the app has to analyze the background and surrounding areas of the unwanted objects. Be prepared to have to idle for a minute or longer; my 27″ iMac (2.66Ghz i5 with 4GB RAM) needed for the corrections marked above about 2 minutes. I couldn’t do much else except write some text at the same time; Snapheal consumes a lot of resources.

Snapheal doing magic and educating/entertaining you in the meantime.

Snapheal doing magic and educating/entertaining you in the meantime.

The good thing, however, is that Snapheal seems to be aware of that and tries to shorten the waiting period by providing you with fun and interesting facts during the calculations. For instance, did you know it’s illegal to grow a dandelion within the city limits of Colorado?.

No matter how long it takes, the results are astonishing, to say the least. It took me a couple of attempts to figure out the perfect diameter for the brush and the erase method, but I think the result speaks for itself.

Left the original; right is the image with the removed objects.

Left the original; right is the image with the removed objects.

For those who do not like to search for differences: I completely removed the overhead cables of the train, the metal box on the upper left border of the image, the rod sticking out horizontally to the right from the roof of the train station. Oh, and all the buoys from the river.

Going Further

You should be properly impressed by now. But there’s even more to Snapheal, even if the other options are not quite as breathtaking.

The tabs within Snapheal will lead you next to the Clone & Stamp tool, which allows you to duplicate parts of the image or clean up areas which may appear smeared after the erasing step.

Next up are the “usual suspects” of Retouch Tools, including contrast, saturation etc. If you know your way around masking, you can even use that.

By the way, if you have no idea what those functions are and how to use them, no worries: Snapheal ships with tutorial videos for every single step.

The next tab allows for Adjustments. Via sliders you can set the brightness, contrast, exposure and color temperature to a level of your liking. It goes on with hue, saturation, sharpening and many other features. Last up are the options to crop and rotate the image.

Some touching up later...

Some touching up later...

As you can see, touching up the saturation and lighting up the darker parts of the image can work wonders.

Verdict

Snapheal is an app full of surprises. The first surprise is the quality of its main function: the removal of unwanted objects. Knowing just how much time it takes me to do that properly and manually in Photoshop, I expected to see obvious removal marks and sloppy rendering.

While Snapheal isn’t perfect and careless use of the marker brush (which leaves the red overlay) will produce some smearing, the overall effect is really, really good. For someone who didn’t know the difference, the manipulated area will be hard to spot.

Also, this app isn’t aimed at professionals who can afford Photoshop and know their way around it. It’s aimed at you, your parents or friends who would much rather have nice print out of their photo instead of spending a day or two tweaking it. For that target audience, Snapheal exceeds expectations.

The second pleasant surprise is that the app doesn’t stop there. It offers a plethora of adjustment tools which allow for really nice image tweaking without having to re-import the image into iPhoto. And the results are at least as good if not even better.

For its price, Snapheal is a worth a look for all photographers who need an easy and fast solution to their demands. For those who don’t want to dive in the complexity of Pixelmator and for those who can’t afford Photoshop. In short: Snapheal is the image editor for the rest of us.


Summary

Remove unwanted objects from your photos - with the ease of a few mouse clicks, no crash course in Photoshop required.

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  • Marc

    Hi Julia,
    Let’s say I have Pixelmator and I can use it decently.
    Where would Snapheal fit in my workflow? Does it make anything better than Pixelmator in that particular area of removing unwanted objects?

    What’s the benefit of using Snapheal in that case?
    Do the 3 modes for erasing (twister, etc) bring more flexibility and quality than the one in Pixelmator?
    Is the overall quality better than the tool provided in Px?

    Thank you for answering those questions :)

    • Julia Altermann

      Hi Marc,

      If you know your way around Pixelmator with brushes, masks etc then you might not have need for it. In my opinion, Snapheal is geared towards users who have neither the experience to use Pixelmator properly nor the money to go for Photoshop.

      That being said: Snapheal is a great tool if something needs fixing quickly and I might find myself using it for photos that don’t need the super professional touch but need fixing quickly (private images, for example).

    • http://wannabgeek.com wannabgeek

      I did a comparison of Snapheal. Pixelmator and Inpaint. In the test I conducted Inpaint was the best, followed by Snapheal and Pixlemator.

      I did find that no app was always superior, depending on the image and what was being removed the results varied.

      You can see the results of my test at wannabgeek.com

  • Hansgerd Zappenduster

    Hi,
    you don’t have to do it manually in Photoshop. Since CS5 it has a function called “Content Aware Fill” and works very well.

    • Sigilist

      I second that, and review doesn’t seem to present the comparison in light of this new innovation in CS5. That being said….

      I too highly recommend this utility for those who are not highly graphics savvy, don’t need or want to use a full graphics editor, and are simply interested in cleaning up some of those great shots… if only they just didn’t have those annoying power lines, etc. Very nice and friendly program for the everyday customer!

      But it isn’t perfect, as not program (even CS5) gets it perfect everytime. Not a fault of the program, that’s just life, and results will vary based on the elements that need to be removed and what surrounding parts of the image can effectively be “stamped” over the unwanted elements.

  • Jackson

    I still See the wires in the sky. Gray shadows are no good sign when left in a retouched photo.

    • Julia Altermann

      I could have cleaned it up quite a bit more, but for the sake of getting through all the different features Snapheal offered in a timely manner I didn’t pursue those details.

      I think, considering the price and the results you get from just a few clicks, Snapheal is still impressive. Since it’s not in the same league as Pixelmator or Photoshop, you can’t expect perfect results right away. With a little tweaking and editing (right within Snapheal) you could clean those shadows away as well.

    • Paul Dunahoo

      I see them to, but you have to admit, not bad…

  • Kirill Galenko

    The germans did not try to come up with coca cola and made fanta.

    Coca Cola didn’t want to stop selling its products to nazi occupied territories during the war, so in order to keep the Coca Cola brand “american” and “patriotic”, they came up with fanta as an alternative.

    That’s just one of the big corporations that played both sides during the war.

  • http://smokingdesigners.com Graphic Design Inspiration

    Wow this app is stunning, thanks for sharing the review .

  • Jeremy

    Tried it. Doesn’t work worth a shit for me. lol.

  • http://www.helicopterosavenda.org Helicópteros a Venda

    i AGree in if only they just didn’t have those annoying power lines, etc. Very nice and friendly program for the everyday customer! Thanks !

  • http://www.webelevatemedia.com Photoshop Image Editing

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.
    I like to use manual image editing.
    For more resource please visit web elevate media.

    Thanks again.

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