Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2018
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Snapseed

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Extremely powerful photo editor will equally delight pros, amateurs

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
9–12
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Pros: Professional-level editing tools, including RAW image capability.

Cons: Assumes some familiarity with photo editing. Students must leave app to get all the help resources.

Bottom Line: It successfully walks the fine line of photo-editing features, offering satisfying experiences for those making quick edits and those crafting perfect images.

Teachers can use Snapseed themselves to create attractive and illustrative photos for lessons or presentations. Students can also use Snapseed for their own self-expression or projects. It'd be best used in an art or photography class, but could be a helpful tool for any classroom where students will be capturing and sharing imagery for research projects or portfolios. Since the app is free and available for iOS and Android, it's easy for most students to have access to its use. If you or your students are new to photo editing, orient yourself to what all the editing options do on the support page. There's also a support forum specific to this app with plenty of people available to help.

One way teachers can kick off a collective self-education session with Snapseed is to have students spend a school day taking photos of each other, or of nature, architecture, or anything that catches their eye. Then, the next day in the classroom, have students choose a handful of photos to edit -- perhaps choosing for each photo a unique style that evokes a mood or an era. Later that week, they can then share their results with the class, walking students through the techniques they used in a presentation that includes before and after examples. Class discussion can compare how students edited photos of similar subjects.

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Snapseed is a free photo-editing app by Google. It's available for Android or iOS. You can take photos in the app and edit them, or edit photos already in your camera roll, including photos in JPG and RAW formats. It includes a large number of preset filters to apply to your photos, but there are also 29 tools you can use to apply precise and fine-tuned effects, such as tune, curves, crop, brush, perspective, HDR scape, vintage, retro lux, portrait, lens blur, frames, vignette, text, and more. You can also save a combination of edits as a particular "look" that you can then easily apply in one tap to other photos.

There are built-in tutorials that quickly show you how to achieve certain looks, from vignettes to vintage postcards. Each one is very short, listing the tools that are used in the tutorial, then going through what you need to do with step-by-step visual examples.

One particularly handy aspect of Snapseed is how easy it is to undo and revise work. At any time, you can undo or change any edits made so far, allowing you to access each edit separately. Then, once you're done with your image, you can share it, open it in another app, export it (creating a copy with permanent changes), or save it, which saves the image along with its edits that you can still undo/change in the future. 

Snapseed has a nice, simple design and a deep set of fun and useful features, but it's not entirely intuitive. While it'll take some time to get oriented -- including a lot of trial-and-error -- once you get a handle on things, it's clear just how much depth there is to this app and how much leeway you have when editing your images -- including a possibly best-in-class system for undoing changes and making revisions. In terms of the editing itself, there's a perfect blend of instant gratification presets and detailed, tweakable effects that make for long-term utility. The step-by-step tutorials also offer students an accessible way to focus their photo-editing education. While there's no shortage of competition in the photo-editing genre, this free app -- spanning both iOS and Android devices -- is one teachers must check out. The only other competitor that comes close is Adobe Photoshop Express.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The uncluttered design puts the focus on editing. Cool tricks, like head tilt or "glamour" filters, make for instant engagement. Tutorials inspire new things to try.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

There's an extensive collection of photo-editing tools, from the simple (cropping, white balance) to the professional (RAW developing). Edits can be undone, and the app includes plenty of tutorials.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The included tutorials help students learn how to use many of the app's features, but most of the help is on the support website and in the forums. It could use some in-app tool tips.


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