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.


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.


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