Snapseed: A Few Adjustments to Make Great Photos

In this tutorial I’ll give you the basic adjustments to make awesome photos using Snapseed on your phone. If you haven’t tried Snapseed you’re missing out. The best part of Snapseed is the interface works extremely well with your mobile device and as you’ll see it’s a very powerful photo editing tool.


Here’s our image straight out of the camera. Kind of an interesting tree stump overlooking the river. Probably not going to win any awards especially with terribly flat mid day light. Let’s see if we can spice this up a bit. Click on the edit button to bring up the adjustments.

Tune Image

Start with the “Tune Image” adjustments from the Tools section. These may be the basic adjustments but they are also very powerful and will get your image 80-90% of the way to your masterpiece or at least a few ooohs and ahhhs from your friends.

  • Exposure – adjust if necessary. Usually you’re camera will do a great job metering but there are times you might need to adjust this.
  • Contrast – here you can bump up the contrast a bit. This helps with the perception of a sharper photo and gives some punch to your photo. Try +15 to +25 as a starting point.
  • Saturation – for a flat photo like this you can add +25 to +50 to give the photo some life. In good light around sunset you might not need any adjustment or just a small bump of +5 to +15. This isn’t the type of photo you would desaturate although that can be a popular look for portraits.
  • Ambiance – this is one of my favorite adjustments. I push this up to +50 or even more. It gives that HDR look without going too wonky and over the top HDR. From what I can tell it is reducing highlights, increasing shadows and adding some vibrance in one slider. In Lightroom you’d need to adjust all 3 of those separately but here you get it all at once. Apply liberally!
  • Highlights/Shadows – you can adjust these to fine tune but the Ambiance slider might be all you need. Adjust if necessary.
  • Warmth – definitely add some warmth to an image like this. An adjustment of +25 to +40 is probably all you need. Any more and your photo will be overly yellow/warm. Again if shooting around sunset you might need much less or no warmth added.

Basic adjustments applied. Not a bad start!


Now let’s look at the detail adjustments. You can add a touch of Sharpening but the real meat is with the Structure slider. Kick up the slider to +50 or so and you’re adding a lot of character to the textures like the tree stump in the image.

Watch out! If you have a really detailed area in your photo adding more structure can cause those areas to become overwhelming. You might think you’re adding more awesomeness but you can quickly overdo it. It’s like adding too much salt to your food. The first bites taste good but then it can become unbearable as your senses are overloaded. The same will go for HDR adjustment in the next section.

HDR Scape

Next choose the HDR Scape from the Filters menu. You can adjust the filter strength to your liking. Watch out for halos and again don’t create a scene that’s way too busy. An adjustment of +25 to +75 is probably a good range for most photos like this.

Note: It’s worth going back to the basic tuning adjustments after applying the HDR to add back Contrast and adjust the brightness/exposure. One of the big mistakes people make with HDR is losing the contrast in an image so be sure to punch it back up if necessary.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touch: Glamour Glow

Don’t miss this last adjustment. It’s similar to one of my favorite plugins in Color Efex Pro called Glamour Glow. It’s a great way to reduce noise, add some warmth and give a bit of a dreamy feel to your photo. Something that’s hard to duplicate straight out of the camera.

After adding some glow (or a lot) you may want to back off a bit on the Saturation and Warmth. That’s precisely why those adjustments are present in that filter section. That goes for all of the filters and tuning adjustments. Snapseed does a great job putting the adjustments that interact with one another together. Keep that in mind when making adjustments.

Final Thoughts

Remember these are adjustments for a bland photo that needs some life breathed into it. If you go back and look at the screenshots you’ll see how the histogram is stretched into almost a bell curve. Mid tones are expanded yet there are still bright whites and dark shadow areas. My histograms are usually centered just left of center.

I hope this has helped you add some punch to your bland photos and have fun playing with Snapseed and developing your signature look!

Snapseed Image, Snapseed adjustments Final image using Snapseed.

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