“You don’t take a photograph, you make one”. This makes editing a major aspect of photography. If you are just starting out, you would have watched tons of tutorials on editing and the two most obvious choices would be either Lightroom or Snapseed. These apps are quite similar to each other yet distinct on their own. If you ever had any confusion on which way to go, we have a detailed comparison for you.
Lightroom vs Snapseed
1. User Interface
User Interface is no doubt a major part of any smartphone application. You don’t want the user to open the app and juggle around for an hour just to figure out the application. So an ideal editing app should be well-designed with almost all the features just a tap away.
Snapseed has a minimal interface and you would instantly get along with it. You can open only 1 photograph at a time. As soon as the picture loads, you get 3 tabs at the bottom: Styles, Tools, and Export. Styles is where you will get pre-defined templates which you can apply to the picture. Tools tab has all the necessary editing tools offered by Snapseed. Once finished, you can use the Export tab to save your edited photo onto your phone.
Lightroom, on the other hand, has a non-intuitive UI. If you are not familiar with the Adobe ecosystem you will need some time to figure out how to start editing.
You can import your photos in Lightroom by clicking on the add picture button at the bottom floating bar. Adjacent to that is the inbuilt Lightroom camera application. The camera app helps you take RAW photos and also has a full-fledged manual mode. If you are just starting out, it would be difficult to figure out options in Lightroom. You can also make albums to categorize your edits and photos.
Photo editing menu
Now coming to the actual photo editing part. In Snapseed no matter what menu you are on, the entire picture is visible to you. This is important because you need to preview the picture while you are making changes to it. The editing is super slick and gesture-based. So, brownie points for that.
To apply an edit, you have to slide your finger left and right. To toggle through the menu, you have to slide your fingers up and down.
For Lightroom, you have the editing options at the bottom of the menu. You can tap on each option and use the slider to increase or decrease the effect. You can double tap on the slider to reset the effect.
Verdict: Snapseed 1 – Lightroom 0
For the user interface and user experience, I would give it to Snapseed. Lightroom has come a long way in terms of UI but it would never be as user-friendly as Snapseed. Lightroom tries to match its UI to the desktop variant so the existing Lightroom desktop user would find it easy to edit on the mobile version.
Now let’s get on to the main business, the real editing part.
On Snapseed, I feel the editing options are cluttered and vaguely distributed. It would really help if they were categorized or neatly stacked up.
Now, both of them have essential features for tonal adjustment like Brightness, Contrast, Highlights etc. I rather prefer using the RGB curves and they are present on both the application.
Snapseed has some awesome features like Double exposure, expanding a picture, HDR which I seldom use since they are not present on Lightroom.
One of my favorite feature in Lightroom is the HSL tab. Here you can edit each color in the picture individually. Snapseed doesn’t have this option and it is quite a bummer. Talking about HSL tabs, HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.
The tab comprises 8 colors with an individual Hue, Saturation and Luminance slider for each color.
Hue lets you decide the gradient of the color. Suppose, a flower in your photograph looks yellow. Using the Hue you can change the yellow from being orangish to greenish yellow.
Saturation decides the intensity of the color and Luminance decides the brightness of the color. The slider ranges from +100 to -100.
Both applications offer selective masking, healing, and cloning but Lightroom provides more control over the process whereas in Snapseed it is automatic.
Verdict: Snapseed 1 – Lightroom 1
Snapseed would be a good app to start with if you are new to editing. At times, I often end up using both the applications for a single edit and that is actually the conclusion for this section. If you know what you are doing, use both! Still +1 to Lightroom for the HSL tab.
3. Handling RAW images
I wouldn’t have considered this point a year ago but now there are a lot of smartphones that can capture RAW images natively. Even if your phone doesn’t support RAW images, you can easily get Open camera application and start working with RAW images. BDW, you should if you are serious about photo editing.
Both apps support RAW image editing. Lightroom clearly has an upper hand here. There is a slight amount of difference in the way both apps process RAW images. Here, have a look at the screenshots below:
This photo was intentionally shot at high exposure. The Snapseed app doesn’t deal well in processing the highlights and you could see some detail being lost in the highlights.
Camera manufacturers don’t allow you to send RAW images from your camera to the phone directly via the app. So, there are fewer chances that you will be editing RAW images from your camera on your phone. However, I have done that quite a number of times when I have to upload on Instagram and I found Lightroom as the better one.
Verdict: Snapseed 1 – Lightroom 2
If RAW is something you deal with on daily basis just skip Snapseed, use Lightroom.
I intentionally included this section for Snapseed. You can view all your edits in terms of layers just exactly like Photoshop. You can edit a layer or choose to apply the edit on a selective region using the paint brush.
Verdict: Snapseed 2 – Lightroom 2
I can understand that Lightroom has intentionally left out layers because they want people to use Photoshop for it. Snapseed clearly gets a plus one for this.
Since the time Google has taken over Snapseed, it’s absolutely free to use. Lightroom for mobile is free wherein you pay for few features like Healing, Selective masking, and Geometry. The prices start at 5$ a month which is expensive and most people wouldn’t opt for that.
If you have already paid for the desktop variant you don’t need to pay separately for the mobile version.
Verdict: Snapseed 3 – Lightroom 2
So, which one to choose?
That sums up our detailed comparison of Lightroom and Snapseed. Snapseed is good if you are getting into mobile photography and editing. The minimal UI and quick editing options will help you grasp key concepts of editing. Snapseed is mobile only while Lightroom has both mobile and desktop variant.
When you feel you are ready to pay for the Adobe suite and cloud services, switching to Lightroom would be a better option.