Too many photo-editing apps can degrade your photos

Enlight app

There are simply too many photo editing apps in the App Store. The temptation is to use many of them to utilise the best features and tools from each. But beware, using too many photo editing apps can degrade your JPEG photos! What is the solution?

When working with JPEG photos, there is one thing you must know. JPEG images use lossy compression algorithm to shrink down the size of the files. “Lossy” is a computer science jargon, which basically means that the compression method used in the JPEG file format results in an inexact representation of the original image.

This has implication on the quality of JPEG images as you work on them multiple times. When your digital camera saved a photo in JPEG format, it caused the first round of inexact representation of the original image (from the camera’s lens). When you open that JPEG file in an app, that app can only work on that inexact representation. After you edit the photo and save it, it will cause the inexact representation of the inexact representation of the original image to be saved. If you reopen that JPEG file, edit and save it again, it will cause the inexact representation of the inexact representation of the inexact representation to be saved.

What this basically means is that the more times you save a JPEG image, the greater the degradation. If you do it too many times, the degradation will eventually be visible to any untrained eye.

One solution is to work on RAW image format, do all the editing you need before saving the final output into the JPEG format. But since RAW images are uncompressed representation of the original, they will take up huge amount of space. This will not be an option for you if you’re running low on space in your smartphone. Also, most photo-editing apps are not able to handle RAW image format. So, you will still be confined to working with JPEG images.

The next best solution is to do all your photo-editing on one app. This will minimise the need for saving and re-saving your JPEG image. That means the app that you use must contain as many tools and features as possible so that you don’t need to use another app to do certain photo-editing tasks. There is one app I recommend for this purpose: Enlight. Enlight packs so many features into its clean and easy-to-use interface that it effectively replaces most standalone apps. It has many advanced features such as tone curves, custom presets, and amazingly beautiful and customizable filters.

From the description at the App Store,

Image Perfection
• Brilliant features to bring the best out of your photo
• Precise & selective control over tone, color, and details
• Create and save your own unique presets
• Built-in masking within every tool allow you to seamlessly blend effects

Analog & Duo Filters
• Reproduce the style of classic cameras and vintage film
• Revitalize colors with two-toned gradients
• Add light leaks and custom vignetting for a retro feel

Black & White Photography
• Discover the magic of monochromatic photos with darkroom-inspired techniques
• Signature presets dedicated to stunning b&w photo conversion
• Add artistic touches with film intensity, grain, and fade

An Artist’s Dream
• Easily convert your photos into artistic masterpieces
• Create amazing painterly effects
• Convert any image to unique street art
• Transform your photos into realistic looking sketches

Decorative Touches
• Personalize: draw, write, or doodle directly on your image
• Decals & special effects add-ons make your photo unique
• Add and customize text, borders, frames, and more!

Photo Mixer
• Overlay two photos to produce a double exposure effect
• Create photo montages for impressive surrealistic results
• Seamlessly merge photos with various blending modes

Intelligent Photo Correction
• Instantly repair under or over-exposed photos
• Bring out lost details with a simple swipe
• State-of-the-art noise reduction tool
• Clone/Heal tool allows for seamless removal of defects

Power Tools
• Bloat, shrink, or reshape specific objects in the photo
• Linear, mirror, and radial tilt-shift options to shift focus
• Multi-channel curves for ultimate control over image tonality
• Universal masking for precise control over every effect

Crop Options
• Flip, rotate, and straighten crooked photos
• Perspective: vary the photo as if taken from a different angle

Social Media Heaven
• Make your photos square-ready for Instagram!
• Create funny memes to share with friends
• Design unique photo collages with a variety of templates
• Share your amazing results directly to social media
• Share multiple photos at once

Innovative Workflow
• Not finished editing? Auto-save photo sessions, continue later
• Compare your work to the original with before & after
• Choice of export quality (JPEG, PNG or TIFF)
• Real time 19MP editing on iPhone 5 and iPad 3/iPad Mini 2 and above
• Animate your editing sessions to show your workflow

One feature I really like about Enlight is the ability to mask and unmask every effect and tool. You can first apply an effect on the entire photo and then unmask and mask certain regions within the photo just by using hand swipe motions. For example, if you want the entire photo to be black and white except for the doughnut shaped object in the centre, you can use this feature to ensure that only the doughnut ring is in colour while the rest of the photo is in black and white. You can define the mask just by using your fingers, as if you’re doing some colouring pre-school colouring.

For me, I find that I’m starting to deleting all the other photo-editing apps as Enlight is the only one I use.

Download Enlight here. It is a universal app, which means you only need to buy once and use it on both the iPhone and iPad.

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