Of course Windows 8 PCs can run the highest-powered photo editing software in the land, Adobe Photoshop. But if you’re running Microsoft’s touch-friendly OS on a tablet, big old Photoshop may be overkill, and you may not want to spend all that money for a few simple photo fixes. To the rescue comes Adobe Photoshop Express, a free, lightweight, touch-enabled app for Windows Tablets—both x86 and ARM-powered devices. The free app makes basic photo fixes a snap, and integrates with Adobe’s Revel online photo-syncing service.
Install and Signup
Photoshop Express is available from the Windows Store as a slim 8.4MB download. When you first run it, the app takes you through a mini “Getting Started” tutorial pointing out its salient features. Happily, you don’t have to create a user account just to use the app’s photo-editing features (unfortunately this is not universally the case, as evidenced by apps like Fhotoroom). Of course, if you want to partake in Revel’s online photo hosting, you’ll need a user account.
Three large tiles dominate the home interface of Photoshop Express, each concerned with where to load photos from—Pictures Library, Adobe Revel, and Camera. If you choose the last, you’ll have to grant the app permission to access your PC’s camera, which only makes sense. The app’s camera interface is very basic, though it does let you choose a photo resolution and use a self-timer. I should note that, on my ARM-based Microsoft Surface (the first version), applying adjustment came with a bit of a lag, while on a Surface Pro, performance was snappy.
Basic Photo Fixes
After you select a photo to work with in the app, you’ll be in Edit mode and you’ll see a row of six buttons along the bottom with fairly self-evident names—Crop, Correct, Looks, Red Eye, Reduce Noise, and Auto Fix. You can unpinch to zoom your picture for a closer look, and tapping on the screen hides the buttons, so you’ll see nothing but the photo. A separate pair of buttons on the right let you compare the original with the edited version and save or share the photo online.
The first thing I like to try in any photo-editing application is the Auto Fix option, if one exists. This can save me minutes of tinkering if it does a good job. Photoshop Express’s mostly did a fine job of improving images’ lighting, but I found that tended to brighten too much, and I didn’t see it correcting color on overly warm-toned photos.
To address any shortcomings of the autocorrect tool, the app let me go in and tweak several key photo parameters. Tapping the Correct button revealed more choices for not only adjusting contrast and exposure, but also clarity and vibrance. These last two will be familiar to Adobe Lightroom users: The first sharpens and adds contrast among the photo’s midtones for more pop, while vibrance accentuates colors without overdoing saturation.
The app’s Exposure page let me separately adjust the brightness of highlights (bright areas) as well as shadows—very useful for those frequent cases where a person is backlit and you just want to brighten their face without completely bleaching out the background. Of course, it also let me adjust the overall exposure/brightness of the photo.
Cropping uses the large handles that work well on touch screen, and offers nine preset, commonly used aspect ratios as well as free-form and keeping the image’s original aspect ratio. Included with this tool is straightening, or leveling, capability. The large slider makes it easy to adjust the tilt of your image. The Crop tool is also where you can rotate or flip the photo, so that all the basic geometric needs of photo editing are covered.
The app’s red-eye correction is pretty remarkable: I just tapped near the affected organs, and the pupils were accurately and convincingly converted to black.
One bummer is that the app’s noise reduction tool costs extra, though you can preview its effect, and it costs $4.99—pricey even for a full mobile app. Two sliders, for reducing luminance and color noise, let you adjust the tool’s effect. Indeed, as you’d expect from Adobe, it did a good job smoothing the speckly dark area of an interior shot I used to testit.
No photo app can exist without those Instagram-like filters these days, it seems, and Photoshop Express is no exception. The app offers 22 of these filters, more than Instagram can boast. With descriptive names like Summer, Pastel, Vivid, and Haze, these filters are indeed effective, capable of adding lots of interest to your pedestrian snaps. If those aren’t enough, 20 more premium looks, including Orton, WhiteMist, and 60sTVGrab, are available for $4.99.
I do wish an automatic, best-guess option were available in this package, especially since we’re dropping a fiver on it. I’d also love to see some of Adobe’s gee-whiz feats like content-aware object removal and perhaps a selective-focus tool and some text capabilities. The latter can be had in the competing Fhotoroom Windows 8 app.
Sharing to Revel and More
Adobe wants you to use its Revel online photo (and video) syncing service, and that’s not a bad thing. A free account gets you 50 photo uploads per month, while a $5.99-a-month paid account allows unlimited uploads. It’s not a bad idea to have an Adobe account, which you need to sign into Revel with, since that also gets you access to trial versions of all Adobe’s software. Once you save photos to Revel, you’ll be able to access them from attractive Web-based galleries or from pretty much any Adobe photos software. If you edit them in Photoshop Elements, your edits are automatically synced to all other instances of the Revel-based photo.
But Revel isn’t the only output target for your work in Photoshop Express: You can also save to your local Pictures folder or send directly to Facebook. The Facebook upload, however, offered no niceties such as choosing a specific album or tagging. Text for the post is the extent of your options when sharing to the social network of record.
Is Photoshop Express for You?
You can’t go very wrong when picking a photo editing app from Adobe. The company invented the genre, and Photoshop Express offers a tasty subset of its smorgasbord of image-manipulation tools. Yes, it lacks a lot of what makes an app like Photoshop Touch remarkable and I’m disappointed that a couple of its appealing features cost extra. But Photoshop Express deserves a tile on your Windows 8 start screen, even though you can actually do a bit more with the competing Fhotoroom app.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc