The New Snapheal – Smarter, Faster, Prettier

Image editing can be fun, but it can also be tedious and frustrating, especially if you want to make changes that require either professional apps that cost a lot or skills that only come from years of experience.

Removing unwanted objects from photos – people, power lines, trash, you name it – can be either very easy, depending on the background and general composition of the image, or a huge a pain. Snapheal can make this a breeze for you. The editing app has received a major update and we’ll take a look at what has changed and how it will affect your workflow.

No Degree Required

Since I reviewed Snapheal earlier this year, I won’t go into the same details again, but will focus instead on the new features and usability.

For those who haven’t read that article, here’s Snapheal in a nutshell: the app allows you to (relatively) quickly remove unwanted object from your photos. You simply paint over the areas you want gone and then let Snapheal work its magic.

As someone who works with Photoshop professionally and Pixelmator at home, my expectations were pretty high since I know what can technically be achieved with some effort. To my surprise, Snapheal held up pretty well against the competition.

Within just 20 minutes I had removed the power lines, the power pole, and touched up the entire image with contrast and saturation

Within just 20 minutes I had removed the power lines, the power pole, and touched up the entire image with contrast and saturation

The strength of Snapheal compared to Photoshop (Elements) and Pixelmator is that it doesn’t require a great deal of knowledge or skill to achieve pretty good effects. Anyone who has ever opened up PS knows that the sheer magnitude of palettes and buttons is overwhelming at first and that it takes months and years to master the application. Leaving aside the fact that it is much too expensive for the average user.

  • Snapheal: $9.99
  • Pixelmator: $14.99 (currently reduced)
  • Photoshop: $600

While Pixelmator is quite affordable at the moment and is much easier to use (we took a look at the new features of the Cherry upgrade here), it still isn’t really an app that can be used right away without any previous experience in image editing.

The reason for this is that both PS and Pixelmator are full editing application, offering you thousands of options to work with. Snapheal, on the other hand, focuses on exactly one thing: removing objects. That allows for a much simpler user interface and you can actually start using it right away.

Use Snapheal and Work At The Same Time.

When I tried Snapheal for the first time, I was using it on my 2010 iMac 27” i5 Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM. And while the app produced results I was happy with, I wasn’t that much impressed by the way it slowed down my Mac. While Snapheal was rendering all the changes, there wasn’t a lot of anything I could do at the same time. My iMac became too unresponsive.

Now, with the new Snapheal, I’m working on my brand new 2012 MacBook Air 13” with the i5 processor, SSD and 8GB RAM. And it doesn’t hiccup a bit. I have Spotify running, Sparrow, Tweetbot, Byword, Snapheal and some other utilities like Alfred or TextExpander. The fans do about 2500–3000rpm, which in my book is okay for what I’m doing. Depending on the amount of changes you are attributing in one sitting and the level of precision you selected, it can go up to 4000rpm, but the Mac is still completely usable and it won’t lock up anymore.

While it's rendering your changes, Snapheal will entertain you with some random facts

While it’s rendering your changes, Snapheal will entertain you with some random facts

I’m not a programmer, so I wouldn’t be able to explain what the developer team behind Snapheal changed, but the app is now much more usable.

Polished Up User Interface

The old user interface wasn’t too bad, but as with everything, there’s always room for improvement. First of all, Retina MacBook users rejoice: Snapheal will greet you now in high resolution.

In the new version, Snapheal also sports a drastically reduced set of buttons in the healing tab. The icons are pretty clear on what you can do, removing the need for excessive descriptive texts.

The user interface in the healing tab has beed significantly simplified

The user interface in the healing tab has beed significantly simplified

There are also two new options, the Lasso and Polygonal Lasso. While the normal brush allows you to paint over an area that you want to remove (especially useful for tiny objects), the lasso tools allow you to outline an area. The benefit? Instead of having to paint over large objects (like buildings or a person in the foreground) you can encircle it and let Snapheal worry about the rest.

With my power lines, I could use the Polygonal Lasso tool, which can do straight lines, and cover up most of the power constructions. Whenever there was an irregular shape, I simply switched to the brush and covered that up. It’s also helpful to zoom in to about 200–300% so you can work precisely.

Also new is the Precision slider in the healing tab. It controls how precisely Snapheal with calculate the changes. If you select the highest setting, applying the fixes will take quite a while. Leaving it at the Normal setting produces very good results as well though (and it’s much faster than in the last version of Snapheal).

Set the level of precision Snapheal will use to apply your changes

Set the level of precision Snapheal will use to apply your changes

Using the Proper Erase Mode

When I reviewed Snapheal the first time, some readers criticized that the power lines I was trying to remove were still somewhat visible as shadows on the sky. Granted, I hadn’t really spent too much time on the image, but it irked me because I figured out my initial mistake: I had simply used the wrong Erase mode.

There are three of them and each one is suited for different tasks: Wormhole is best with smallish changes, like my power lines, but I used Shapeshift, which is more suited for larger objects. With the proper mode selected the quality of the healing goes up significantly.

A portion of my edited image before and after. As you can see, you can see ... nothing in the edited version. The power cords and pole have been removed cleanly.

A portion of my edited image before and after. As you can see, you can see … nothing in the edited version. The power cords and pole have been removed cleanly.

Artifacts and shadows will not appear and if you erase in multiple steps, you can fine tune it even more: do a Wormhole for your smaller portions, apply, and then do the larger objects with the Shapeshift effect. Breaking it down can work wonders.

Touching Up the Rest

While Snapheal is primarily meant for removing objects, it will let you improve other areas as well: you can either apply changes like contrast, saturation or brightness to the entire image or work with brushes to target specific areas.

Snapheal also offers a wide range of image improvement options

Snapheal also offers a wide range of image improvement options

It’s very easy to use and pretty much self explanatory. I’d say that it’s about the level of iPhoto. If you’ve worked with the Adjust tab there, Snapheal will feel pretty familiar even though it offers more and finer tuning options.

Verdict

The update to Snapheal is significant. Apart from the overhauled user interface the app has become more responsive, gained new healing modes which allow faster editing and it no longer slows down your Mac (well, depending on your configuration, of course).

Do you need it? Well, if you don’t have Photoshop already, if you don’t want to learn the fine art of image editing via the excellent Pixelmator but need something that goes well beyond iPhoto, Snapheal is a great application and I can recommend it to any one for touching up your vacation photos and family pictures. It’s easy to understand and the results will please you if you’re willing to invest a little time into your image.

The latest version of Snapheal will be hitting the App Store soon, if not today, and it’s currently on sell for just $14.99. The day after the update is released, it’ll go back to its normal price of $24.99, so be sure to snag a copy soon!


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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