I have been using the Lightroom mobile app for a few years now. It comes absolutely free so long as you’re happy to pay a small fortune for one of Adobe’s subscription packages! It does work very well though, and has a number of very powerful features for editing images on a smartphone. The selective masking tools in particular, are very capable. There is a free version of the app, however it doesn’t include some of the best features, such as the healing brush, geometry tools or selective editing tools. It can’t even edit RAW images!
In a recent video I decided to take a look at Snapseed. I took a RAW image captured with my Pixel 4 phone camera, and used both Snapseed and Lightroom mobile to edit it directly on the phone.
Snapseed’s interface is attractive and intuitive to use. Instead of moving sliders around with your finger, you choose your parameter and simply move your finger left and right across your image. It’s a small thing, but saves screen space, allowing you to see more of your image. All of the options you expect are available under the RAW development category; Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Blacks, Whites, etc. In place of Lightroom’s Texture and Clarity sliders, Snapseed has one parameter called Structure. It works in a very similar way, allowing the user to sharpen and define their image, or instead, soften it. I like to use the latter with woodland scenes like the one I demonstrate in the video. I did feel that some of the RAW development tools didn’t seem to have as much effect on my image as they do in Lightroom, but there are many more tools available once RAW development is finished. It’s possible to crop an image, fine tune tone, white balance, detail level and add a vignette, amongst others. There are also more creative tools available, such as vintage, grunge, noir and retrolux effects, which work more like Instagram filters than the more subtle tools I’m used to using in Lightroom. Glamour Glow, I found to be particularly effective in creating a soft, ethereal look in my woodland scene. What I did miss were colour tools, that allow changes to hue, saturation and luminosity for individual colours.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Snapseed and the premium version of the Lightroom app, is the lack of selective editing tools in the former. There is a tool called Selective in Snapseed, with which the user can tap to choose a colour range within the image. The brightness of this selection can then be adjusted. There is also a brush tool that allows techniques such as dodging and burning to be applied to the image with a finger tip. They’re not really comparable to Lightroom’s selective features however, and I find this to be one of the major drawbacks of Snapseed.
Let’s not forget though, that the free version of the Lightroom app doesn’t include selective editing tools either. It does include organisational features and will remember the settings applied to an image, so that it can be opened up and worked on at a later date. But the lack of RAW editing abilities makes it inferior to Snapseed.
Lightroom and the data it saves will use up lots of storage space on your phone. It’s currently using up about 750mb on my Pixel 4. Snapseed is much lighter in comparison (partly because it doesn’t save image data), taking up approximately 55mb.
In conclusion, Snapseed needs to be compared to both versions of Lightroom separately. It has many advantages over the free app, but trails behind some of the features that comes with the high costs of the premium version. If you already have an Adobe subscription, the Lightroom mobile app is a no-brainer, but for everyone else, Snapseed is a great, free alternative that can produce some high quality results.