Tag Archives: PhotoForge 2

Best Apps: High-end Photo Editors, Part 2


Update: Feb 24, 2013. I’m hoping to do a new post with a few newer editors included. Apps never stop! Laminar Pro has replaced Iris Photo Suite, and Photoshop Touch is another option. I need to dig through some other apps as well.


This post is the continuation of Best Apps: High-end Photo Editors, Part 1. I’ll continue to compare and contrast a few of the features in the high-end photo editors of Photogene for iPad, PhotoForge 2, Filterstorm, and Iris.

Noise Reduction

I used an image that was taken with the camera on my iPad in mediocre light. Let’s just say it is very noisy. I didn’t play with any other images, so this is a very limited test. I tend to not use noise reduction very often since a) sometimes noise is nice to give it a feel, and b) I don’t have to worry about what others think of my images 🙂

Photogene for iPad uses the two slider technique for Luminance and Chroma. PhotoForge also uses two sliders but calls them Luminance and Color. These both feel very similar to Adobe Lightroom. Iris does noise reduction with three individual channels (RGB), and Filterstorm has a single strength slider.

Filterstorm uses a single slider for overall noise reduction.

Iris Noise Reduction

Iris Noise Reduction

Filterstorm Noise Reduction

Filterstorm Noise Reduction

Photogene Noise Reduction

Photogene Noise Reduction

A small part of the original image and the reduced noise version from each are shown here. This one is hard to call, but it is clear Iris isn’t the best option. The others are similar, but not identical, in this particular test. I’d probably give a slight edge to Photogene for iPad.

Noise Reduction: Original Shot

Noise Reduction: Original Shot

Noise Reduction: Photogene

Noise Reduction: Photogene

Noise Reduction: PhotoForge

Noise Reduction: PhotoForge

Noise Reduction: Filterstorm

Noise Reduction: Filterstorm

Noise Reduction: Iris

Noise Reduction: Iris

Winners: Photogene for iPad, Filterstorm, PhotoForge.

Timeline/History

Filterstorm and PhotoForge both use s similar technique here, showing small images of what you’ve done with each step. Filterstorm is a bit quirky in the fact that when you apply an automation it just shows the last step performed on the image rather than the name of the automation (multiple actions, similar to a fancy preset). PhotoForge currently has the Pop! Cam as an in-app purchase (I highly recommend it). When this is applied to an image it just shows up as Pop! Cam and doesn’t show the individual settings in any way.

PhotoForge Timeline

PhotoForge Timeline

Filterstorm Timeline

Filterstorm Timeline

Photogene for iPad and Iris have have buttons that support multiple undo/redo without the visual indicators (or names of your action).

Winners: Filterstorm and PhotoForge.

Metadata

Not all people make use of this, but this is very important to some photographers (or folks in the photo business).

Photogene for iPad provides full access to the metadata. It’s easy to view the EXIF data, and allows editing of the IPTC and location data. You can also save default settings for the IPTC. This can be very useful for people that make use of this data. Filterstorm provides access to the EXIF data and lets you edit the IPTC data, as well as saving “sets” so you can apply this to future images.

In PhotoForge I couldn’t find a way to view the EXIF data, but access/editing of the IPTC was easy. However, it didn’t allow you to save settings for future use.

Iris doesn’t seem to have any method for dealing with the metadata.

Metadata: Photogene

Metadata: Photogene

Metadata: Photoforge2

Metadata: Photoforge2

Metadata: Filterstorm

Metadata: Filterstorm

Metadata: Filterstorm (con't)

Metadata: Filterstorm (con't)

Winners: Filterstorm and Photogene for iPad.

Healing/Cloning

Photogene for the iPad has a Heal/Clone that feels similar to Lightroom. You can apply multiple instances of a two circle configuration where the image from one circle will get placed in the other circle. You can then adjust the size of this region. It works rather well.

Heal/Clone: Photogene

Heal/Clone: Photogene

None of these apps can really compete a more complete healing tool such as Touch Retouch (which is superb). Filterstorm both have a cloning tool. Iris does not have cloning tool.

One thing I do find odd is that none of these apps have square cloning tools.

As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any square masking/cloning tools in other photo editing apps. Some high-end sketching/drawing apps have them, but photo apps seem to avoid including square tools. I’m not sure why that is, but my guess it is something in the Apple set of APIs that makes it difficult to do square. Or maybe no one wants them 🙂

The one reason I’d like such things is to deal with corners of images. In some apps it is very difficult to get to the corners for drawing masks and such. This is primarily due to the apps not allowing you to drag the image partially out of the main window area (so the corner sits in the middle of the screen). Photogene and Filterstorm do not have this problem, so it is easy to put a mask in the corners, but Iris and PhotoForge do. Many other apps that I can think of also use the method, which makes it hard to get to the corners.

Heal/Clone: Filterstorm

Heal/Clone: Filterstorm

Winners: Photogene for iPad, and Filterstorm.

Multiple Filters

Many apps let you apply filter after filter where they continue to process further and further. Photogene for iPad is different in this regard. If you want to apply the posterization filter, followed by sepia filter, you would have to save your image in between. I find this just a bit odd (maybe I’m missing something…always possible). Other than that, the rest of the apps lets you apply multiple filters to an image.

PhotoForge, with true layers, really gives you far more potential here since you can apply multiple filters to different layers to achieve your look.

Winners: PhotoForge, Iris, and Filterstorm.

Presets: Use and Save

Many editing apps (ranging from high-end to rather simple apps) have presets, which perform multiple transformations on an image with one click. The apps take different approaches here.

PhotoForge does not include any presets, although I believe from the forums that this will make it in a future version (the GhostBird team is very active on the web).

Iris includes presets, but does not allow you to save your own. [Note: The graphic pen preset seems to crash on my iPad 2 every single time I try to use it.]

Photogene for iPad includes many presets, and allows you to save your own.

Filterstorm includes a few with the app, but also allows you to download additional presets. Some are done by the author, and some by users which have emailed them to the author. You can email a preset to others. Maybe the author (or someone else) will set up a site where presets could all be stored. Nifty.

Presets: Photogene

Presets: Photogene

Presets: Filterstorm

Presets: Filterstorm

Presets: Iris

Presets: Iris

Winner: Filterstorm, although Photogene for iPad is close behind.

Preview of Effects Using Before/After

Being able to get a preview of the changes you are about to make in comparison to the current image is always useful.

Filterstorm has a really nice preview feature. The app lets you preview an effect on the left, right, or full screen, and you can switch these at any time. This is very useful so that you can get a feel for the amount of change required (such as brightness or contrast). You can tweak the value before clicking apply.

I will mention that this seems to be a bit unstable in Filterstorm. The app has crashed on me about five times in the past three days, and it was always when deciding to change the preview region. Often half the image would become black, and then the app would shut down. Unfortunately I haven’t be able to replicate this in a reliable way (the worst type of bug – ‘seems to do yada, but I’m not 100% sure’). Maybe my iPhone could use a full restart. [Note: Filterstorm was updated yesterday and this problem may have been fixed.]

Photogene for iPad added a before/after toggle switch when it was updated recently. While adjusting the parameters for a filter you can toggle the view so you can get a quick view of the image with and without the effect.

PhotoForge and Iris do not have anything similar, but you could always use the undo/redo in Iris or jump back/forth in the timeline of PhotoForge to quickly see the full change.

Before/After: Filterstorm

Before/After: Filterstorm

Before/After: Photogene

Before/After: Photogene

Winner: Filterstorm, although Photogene for iPad is close behind.

Zoom In/Out

Although a minor point – I’ve gotten used to zooming in and out by double tapping on an image. PhotoForge and Photogene for iPad do that. Iris doesn’t respond to double taps. Filterstorm zooms out on double tap and your tap location moves to the center of the screen. That is unique among the iOS editing apps that I’ve tried. Mild inconsistencies when using multiple apps (and I think I use far too many some days!) can be just a bit annoying, at least until I get to know them all.

I personally prefer the zoom in/out approach, but that is just me.

Winners: PhotoForge and Photogene for iPad.

And The Winner Is…

Competition is good, and there is no clear winner. It somewhat depends on what you are looking for in your editor.

Iris is still behind Photogene for iPad, PhotoForge, and Filterstorm, but it has potential. It has 72 built in presets (more than any others in this post), and has the “Color Sense” feature that the others don’t. If Iris would improve the GUI related to masks it would become a much better app.

For those that like the feature set of Adobe Lightroom I’d say Photogene for iPad is the best choice. It feels similar to Lightroom and the GUI isn’t that far off. The downside of this app is that it isn’t Universal and the iPhone version is a bit older (although still very nice). Iris isn’t Universal, but the iPhone and iPad versions are equivalent in features. [Note: Photogene Pro (in-app purchase), not reviewed here, includes additional features such as improved masking and individual color curves.]

Another tiny little detail that you’ll find in Photogene is that double clicking on a slider will reset it to the zero value. I think that is impressive work by the developer (at least in my mind). I love little things like that.

For those that find layers important the only choice is PhotoForge at this time (Filterstorm is working on layers). PhotoForge is Universal.

Filterstorm is a powerful editor that has one of the most unique methods for sharing presets. It is also very similar to Lightroom, but the GUI is not as close. It is Universal. [Note: Filterstorm Pro, not reviewed here, includes additional features such as batch processing.]

Right now PhotoForge is my favorite high-end photo editor for the iPhone/iPad. The layers alone make this an amazing app. The in-app purchase of the Pop! Cam feature is also superb.

I find Photogene for iPad and Filterstorm to be close in features, although the GUI is a bit different related to masking in particular. Since I started using Photogene very early on (probably the first photo app I bought) I still find myself using it quite often, and just don’t feel as comfortable in Filterstorm (I’m sure many feel the opposite way).

I plan to keep Photogene and Filterstorm in my camera bag, but I’ll go ahead and make the call…
Overall Winner: PhotoForge.

At least for the moment. Competition is good. 😉


For more information:

Filterstorm Home Page
Iris Photo Suite Home Page
Photogene Home Page
PhotoForge 2 Home Page

Also, if you have any thoughts on any other high-end editors, please drop a though in the comments.

Best Apps: High-end Photo Editors, Part 1

I chose to start in on this series of “Best Apps” with high-end photo editors. I guess the first question is what exactly is a high-end editor? Photoshop is the high-end editor for the personal computer (or at least most would say that), so we’ll see what can come close to that for the iOS photo apps.

Wikipedia lists a wealth of features for an image editor including layers, histogram, noise reduction, color changes, sharpening/softening, and many more. The iOS photo apps I’ll go through here have most of those features. I’ll cover some of the similarities and differences for the apps in specific areas.

At this time I feel there are only two high-end editors on the iPhone, and three on the iPad. For the iPhone I have Filterstorm and PhotoForge 2, and for the iPad I add Photogene to the list. I’ve also included Iris in this review. It has recently been updated and seems to be moving forward.

Links of interest with current prices:

Basic editing

For the most part thing such as cropping, scaling, and flipping are the same in all the apps. Rotation is a bit odd in PhotoForge 2 since you have to do this under the Crop setting (and not Rotation) when you want to do something besides 90 degree increments. In Filterstorm this is listed under Straighten rather than the Rotate & Flip.

In Iris I couldn’t find a way to do small rotations (only 90 degree increments).

Winner: Photogene for iPad and Filterstorm.

PhotoForge Crop Settings, with Small Rotation

PhotoForge Crop Settings, with Small Rotation

Filterstorm Transformations, Rotate vs. Straighten

Filterstorm Transformations, Rotate vs. Straighten

Photogene Rotation

Photogene Rotation

Histogram/Curves

Photogene for the iPad shows the basic RGB histogram with the typical black and white endpoints and the midtone slider. The window view of this is very small. For the curve you have just a single RGB curve which is full screen. I will point out that there is in-app purchase for Photogene Pro that provides individual curves. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the histogram below the curve which would be really nice at this size.

Photogene Curves

Photogene Curves

PhotoForge has histograms and curves where you can select individual colors. This is the best of all the apps.

PhotoForge Histograms

PhotoForge Histograms

PhotoForge Curves

PhotoForge Curves

Filterstorm doesn’t have histogram controls, but does display the histogram at below the curves. The curves of each individual color can be selected.

Filterstorm Curves (iPad)

Filterstorm Curves (iPad)

None of the apps display a modified histogram as you adjust the curve.

Winner: PhotoForge.

Layers/Mask

In my mind this is where PhotoForge is far beyond everything else. The individual layers are shown with a really well done GUI. Each layer can have an individual mask, and the blending technique and opacity of each can be adjusted. Each layer can be copied so it is easy to keep a mask around for later use, and invert it with one click. This feels so natural to me relative to all the other apps out there right now.

PhotoForge Layers

PhotoForge Layers

Filterstorm sets things up a bit differently. There aren’t true layers, but when you want to perform a change (brightness, contrast, filter, etc.) on the image you can create a mask for that effect. As far as I can tell, you can’t keep that mask for later use (if I’m wrong please let me know in comments). In this app you perform the action and then draw the mask. I also didn’t find a way to go back and edit that mask after applying it, so be sure it is good the first time.

Filterstorm Mask

Filterstorm Mask

Photogene for iPad also takes the individual layer approach similar to Filterstorm, although it is implemented in a manner that feels a bit more straightforward to me. In this case you select an option from the Masking Overlays section, and then paint the mask. It will store one mask for each fo these items: Dodge, Burn, Blur, Grayscale, and one effect (dream, painting, comics, etc.). You can end up with five separate masks that you can go back to and edit a later time.

Photogene Mask (Contour View)

Photogene Mask (Contour View)

Iris will store layers, but unfortunately has no true GUI associated with the layers/masks, and it somewhat forces you to keep track of things in your mind. I’ve played with this for about an hour and am still not always positive what I’m doing at certain points. This app seems to have a lot of potential here if a GUI could be implemented.

Iris Mask Alerts

Iris Mask Alert

Iris Mask Alert

Iris Mask Alert

Iris Mask Alert

Iris Mask Alert

Winner: PhotoForge, although Photogene is good for the masks that it implemented.

Part 2 of this will continue with additional topics of noise reduction, metadata, presets, GUI, and more. Stay tuned 🙂

Update: Here you go…Part 2!

Filterstorm 3 Is Live

Filterstorm 3 was released earlier today. It is a photo editing Universal app that is on sale for $1.99 through the 24th (regular price is $3.99). It can be downloaded from iTunes.

Let’s just say that for those that want a very powerful photo editor two of the top choices right now are Filterstorm 3 and PhotoForge 2. They have many overlapping features, but each has a few unique ones, and the interfaces are different.

From the official description for Filterstorm 3:

Filterstorm has been designed from the ground up to meet your iPad and iPhone photo editing needs. Using a uniquely crafted touch interface, Filterstorm allows for more intuitive editing than its desktop counterparts with a toolset designed for serious photography. A favorite of Photojournalists, Filterstorm is at home in a professional workflow, or for anyone who simply wants to get the most out of their pictures while on the road.

Filterstorm contains a suite of powerful tools including curves manipulation, color correction abilities, noise reduction, sharpening, vignetting, and black and white conversion fine-tuning. It also includes the powerful ability to apply any of the available filters by brush, color range, and gradient.

One of the new features that I really like in Filterstorm 3 is the left/right split preview pane, so you can see side by side before/after effects. You can toggle the left, right, or full preview portion. The watermarks feature is also rather slick.

Filterstorm 3 Preview Pane

Filterstorm 3 Preview Pane

Most everything feels very intuitive in Filterstorm, but I find the layers/masking feature a bit less intuitive relative to PhotoForge 2 (just my opinion). Both of these apps have a very well designed GUI. I probably need to spend a bit more time to get used to the masking in Filterstorm 3. Let’s just say I often forget to read instructions 😉

This video for the iPad version that gives you a good feel for how the app looks/feels, and the wealth of features. The iPhone version of the app is of course a bit smaller.

If you are looking for a powerful photo editor I can highly recommend Filterstorm 3 with no hesitation. I played with it this evening and am amazed at how much you can do with photos on an iOS device. Wow.

If you are even thinking about buying it you might as well grab it before the price goes up!

On the competitive side, PhotoForge 2 (which should be Universal in the next week or two) has many similar features. Photogene for iPad is very good if you are just looking for an iPad app.

For professionals or those that tend to not even use a laptop, there is a professional version of Filterstorm called Filterstorm Pro (up to version 1.3) today. It includes many bulk and organization features. That can be downloaded from iTunes.

Far more information can be found at the Filterstorm website.

Transferring Images in PhotoForge 2

Earlier today I was asked about transferring photos in PhotoForge 2. I’d seen it listed as a new feature, but I had not actually tried it before. It wasn’t truly obvious at first, but once I figured it out it seemed easier 🙂

The first thing you do is make sure you have PhotoForge 2 running on two iOS devices. I have an iPhone 4 and iPad 2 (I can’t wait for Universal PF2). You will need Bluetooth turn on for both devices. You can either do this ahead of time in your General Settings for your device, or let PhotoForge 2 turn it on during the process by asking your permission to turn it on. Both methods work.

In this case I want to transfer a photo from PF2 on my iPhone over to my iPad. Be sure you are looking at the image in PF2 and then from the share button (cloud in upper right) choose the Device 2 Device button.

PhotoForge 2 Device 2 Device

PhotoForge 2 Device 2 Device

This is where you’ll have to turn on Bluetooth if it isn’t running. The iPhone then begins sniffing the airwaves for another device.

PhotoForge 2 Searching For A Device

PhotoForge 2 Searching For A Device

Now, on my iPad (where I want the image) I open PF2 and on the main home screen I click on the “+” button as if I want to add a new image. You’ll then see a small icon in the upper left of two devices bumping (upper left corner).

PhotoForge 2 on iPad when adding new image.

PhotoForge 2 on iPad when adding new image.

Click on that “bump” icon. The iPad now starts sniffing airwaves as well.

The two should now see each other and you’ll get a connection window. On my iPhone I now clicked on the name of my iPad.

PhotoForge 2 Finds A Device

PhotoForge 2 Finds A Device

After a few moments my iPad asked to accept the new image and I said OK. After a minute or so the image had transferred. I did this about six times and the connection seemed to die on me twice. I would just hit cancel when nothing happened and would try once again with success.

Hope that helps out.

I was wondering if it would transfer the original image, along with the timeline of changes you made to the image, but it seems to just transfer the image as you had it at the time. In the timeline on the second device it just shows the “Load” statement. Thus, you won’t be able to jump back in your editing on the second device. Maybe in a future update.

On a totally separate topic, I set a personal record for myself in a one mile run. My first sub six minute mile. A smoking 5:54. I’m happy.

PhotoForge 2 Update to 2.0.2

PhotoForge 2 was updated earlier today and a wealth of changes were made. Doesn’t look as if it has become Universal yet, but that is scheduled for late June, so I’ll be patient 🙂

I’m looking forward to trying out the other features this evening. PhotoForge 2 is currently $2.99 on iTunes. It is a must have app.

Full list of changes:

– Added Rotation Editor.
– Added Vignette Editor (8 different vignette styles with full intensity control).
– Added Color Balance Adjustment Editor.
– Added Colorize Adjustment Editor.
– Added Device to Device image transfer. You can now easily transfer photos between your devices.
– Added ability to invert layer masks.

– Changed the behaviour of the shadows & highlights adjustment to give much better results.
– Greatly improved performance of crop and layer transform tools.

– Fix for projects not loading properly after update to previous version.
– Fix for graphical corruption when repeatedly cropping huge images.
– Fix for rare bug on iOS 4.2.1 that may cause app to become unresponsive when no wifi connection is available.
– Minor graphics improvements and fixes.
– Minor bug fixes.