FX Photo Studio HD: iPad Painting of Effects Made Easy

| In-Depth Review

FX Photo Studio HD offers a well balanced selection of filters and photographic editing controls that will assist anyone wishing to perform photographic editing tasks on the iPad.

That is, provided you don’t want to edit your photographs in portrait mode.

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FX Photo Studio HD for iPad. The main window layout. 

Features

  • Over 190 eye-popping photo effects and filters
  • Mix and customize all effects
  • Paint with effects
  • Add effects to favorites
  • Powerful editing toolbox that allows for adjustments to gamma, saturation, contrast, hues, and exposure, along with crop, rotate, and flip options
  • Share direct to social networks
  • Retina enabled
  • Print via AirPrint

Using FX Photo Studio HD

Anyone with a keen eye for photography will appreciate the elegance and simplicity of FX Photo Studio HD. Everything is so well laid out that within minutes you will feel at home using the app, and you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

If you are an existing user of the companion iPhone or Mac apps, then you will appreciate the conformity in user interface design between the versions.

The app can accept a series of photographs and images from various sources. Users of the iPad 2 and the new iPad will be able to use the front and rear facing cameras to capture photographs directly within the app.

Your Camera Roll and Photo Stream are also available for importing photographs, or screen captures from your device, as you would expect.

Launch window showing photographic import options.

More interesting though is the non-standard import options. You can import from the Clipboard, Facebook, or the in-app Documents folder that is accessible via iTunes App File Sharing.

The clipboard option is interesting as it allows you to cut or copy content from another app or even a website. It is certainly useful for anyone creating or referencing web based material. The Clipboard option essentially becomes your paste command within the app.

Filters and Effects

Once you have your selected photograph open in the app, you will be presented with a control bar at the top of the display, and the available effects will be on the right hand side. When selecting certain filters or effects, additional specific controls will be displayed underneath the photograph. This allows you to alter aspects such as the contrast and brightness of the filter.

You will notice when using the specific controls that the ability to draw a mask is also available. Selecting this option will present a new, full featured, area of the app that allows you to take the selected filter and literally paint it onto different areas of the photograph.

To ensure accuracy, the developer has incorporated a viewing box. This allows the user to see exactly where their finger is located within the photograph, without blocking the area that is currently being modified. If you’re a little overzealous there is always the Erase FX button that allows you, with the same accuracy, to reduce the painted effect.

Draw mask area showing the settings and viewing box.

Brush options are also available allowing for changes in diameter, softness, and opacity.

The painted effect feature is simply amazing and is certainly a standout when compared to its competitors.

The available effects are neatly categorized and when selected they will preview the change to the photograph immediately. When you have chosen your final filter, by tapping Apply, the rendering process will commence and depending on the size of the image, filter selected, and the performance of your iPad it will take as little as a few seconds to a minute to render. In this case, newer iPad models will render faster, but if you are an original iPad user, or the rendering takes longer than expected, you will be pleased to read the amazing facts as the rendering is taking place. This feature can be turned off it you wish.

Multiple filters and effects can be added on top of each other but the lack of layer selection will hinder this ability. Undo and redo options do exist, but that doesn’t help when you want to remove a filter three or four steps earlier.

Whilst you are processing filters and effects, you can tap on the view original image button to compare the current photograph to the original. It is handy to have this, but I would like to see an option for a side by side comparison, rather than having to tap the feature on and off.

Users also have the option to change the preview quality from the default level of high, to medium or low. I wouldn’t suggest using low, but medium is sufficient. There is a noticeable difference in image quality, but remembering it is only the preview quality makes it more palatable. This will be of benefit should you notice a slowdown in app performance, and may be more appropriate for users of the original iPad.

Also within the options area is the ability to view hidden effects. Through a small button in the very bottom right hand corner of the display, you can not only rearrange the filters and their categories to suit your workflow, but you can hide them from view. This is a great option as not all filters will be to everyone’s liking.

The app does give you a lot of features for its US$1.99 price tag, but the developer has opted to have in-app purchasing for additional filters and effects such as Color Lenses, Hollywood Effects, and Classic Frames. I would much prefer to see these options included in the app, even if that means a slight price rise.

Tools

Moving away from filters to take a look at tools, you will notice you have crop, rotate, resize, and adjust as possible options to work within.

User interface showing crop and percentage rotation options.

The cropping allows users to select a crop area down to the pixel, or simply manually select the area they wish to crop. Some preset ratios are also available to ensure you get the most accurate crop for your requirements.

Within the cropping area, you can also adjust the crop angle by one or five degrees at a time.

The rotate options are your basic 90º left and right, and horizontal and vertical flips. Although, it would have been nice to have a 180º rotate option in this area.

Resizing is actually the reason why this app appealed to me. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you are constantly producing web based graphics to specific dimensions, it is a feature that you can’t live without. As with cropping, you can resize to the exact pixel.

When you need to manually enter pixel dimensions, you will notice that the onscreen keyboard does not present itself. Instead, the developer has a number bar that allows you to enter the dimensions you wish to use. I’m not keen on this option, but it is functional.

In the adjust area you will be able to alter the brightness, contrast, gamma, hue, and saturation. I appreciate developers putting these options in, but without true color management at the system level, I feel the accuracy suffers for anyone specifically looking for color precision in their work.

It would be nice to see the developers team up with a color profiling company, such as Datacolor, in order to bring this functionality to their app, and therefore make color reproduction seamless throughout a users entire workflow.

Once you have completed editing and applying filters to your photograph, you will obviously want to share your work. There are a number of share options available including saving the photograph to your Photo Album, in-app Documents folder, or the Clipboard.

Available share and save options.

If you wish to share the finalized photograph online, you can select from Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram. The selection is vast and should offer enough options for most people. Remember, you can always save the photograph to the Photo Album and upload to Google+, via the official G+ app for example.

Emailing is also supported, as is printing to AirPrint compatible printers.

What I Did Like

Pinch and zoom functionality is a must for any photo editing application, but not all photographic apps have this functionality. It is good to see it applied here.

Precise pixel cropping and resizing options ensure you have the right dimensions for your requirements.

Flexible input and output options to suit many purposes.

Amazing masking capabilities that are as powerful as many desktop counterparts.

The ability to hide filters you do not wish use.

Backwards compatibility with any iPad, running iOS 3.2 or later.

What I Didn’t Like

The inability to use the app in portrait orientation is cause for concern when editing portrait photographs.

The omission of layers results in limited photographic editing capabilities.

The additional in-app purchasing options don’t offer enough additional benefit to users to be a paid addition. I would prefer to see a slight increase in the price of the app and have these additional features included.

Summary

Unfortunately, the lack of editing in portrait mode will disappoint some users. Especially, those of you who work mainly in portrait style photography. Pinch and zoom does help but that doesn’t allow you to see the photograph clearly in its entirety.

Overall, the app is a superb addition to any iPad. It appeals to amateur and professional photographers alike, as well as being practical for anyone looking to edit web based graphics or family photographs.

The level of control and accuracy in the masking and painting of various filters and effects is a marvel in touch screen computing. That ability alone is worth owning the app.

Product: FX Photo Studio HD for iPad

Company: MacPhun LLC

List Price: US1.99

Pros:

Precise pixel-by-pixel cropping and resizing, flexible input and output options, powerful masking and painting of effects and filters, ability to hide effects and filters, conformity of user inferface with iPhone and Mac versions.

Cons:

No editing capabilities in portrait mode, no layers for improved editing, in-app purchases for additional effects and filters.

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