Compatible with iPad, iPod and iPhone running iOS 4.2 or later (reviewed on iPad 3rd Gen)
PhotoForge 2 is the successor to the highly popular PhotoForge, and the app has been rebuilt from the ground up for this iteration of the photo editor and retouching tool. I’d heard the hype around PhotoForge 2, and wanted to discover if it was worth it for on-the-go photographers.
- Layers, curves and levels settings
- Image editing at full resolution
- 16 adjustment tools and 27 effects filters
- Ability to upload photos to Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa
- Requires iOS 4.2 or later
- Works on iPad, iPod or iPhone
Alternatives to try:
When you launch PhotoForge 2, the ease-of-use is immediately apparent. The UI is clean, minimal and the first-time launch screen offers a helpful, concise description of the app’s features. You’re confronted with a blank, black canvas and a “+” button that opens a dropdown menu. That menu gives you the option to choose a photo from your Camera Roll or to shoot a new photo.
For this review, I’ve chosen an existing photo on my device. Once the photo loads, a double-tap of the screen enlarges the photo to its actual 1:1 size. Another double-tap fits the photo to the screen. PhotoForge 2 immediately distinguishes itself with easy to understand options: the cloud icon in the upper right corner brings up a row of social media and sharing icons to post your pictures online. The upper left corner icon immediately saves your editing project to your PhotoForge 2 album of images and allows you to open a new photo.
But the real meat here is the row of editing icons at the bottom of the screen. They look innocuous, but tapping on each one reveals a staggering array of adjustments, effects and editing tools, as well as a Photoshop-like layers option, a menu that displays your edit history (for reverting to past edits) and a photo information menu.
First, let’s take a look at the copious options for adjusting your photo.
Adjusting a photo
When you tap on the “Adjustments” icon, PhotoForge 2’s trademark menu options appear: instead of simply listing the tools, the app provides a horizontal scrolling menu of icons with a text title that make it readily apparent what each option does (think of a Mac’s taskbar). A simple swipe left or right scrolls through the available options.
The first three options provide a channel mixer, color balance options and a color wheel to colorize your photo. Most options in PhotoForge 2 are controlled by sliders. Unlike some other photo editing apps, these sliders are responsive, precise and mostly easy to use.
I realized quickly that this app is meant for a tablet: while some of the filter and basic editing options are useable on a phone, the depth of options and the precision required to adjust them demands a tablet with a large screen. Add a stylus for even more control: while finger taps mostly got the job done, I didn’t feel totally in command until I switched to a stylus.
No matter which adjustments you make, PhotoForge 2 offers some functionality that pros are sure to love: adjustments are made to the actual full-resolution photo, not a preview. Once an adjustment is made, you’ll see it applied to the photo and then you can approve or reject the change with one finger tap.
Two other notable options include the Curves and Levels tools. These are exactly like the ones you’ll encounter in robust (and expensive) image programs like Photoshop. To have them in a $2.99 app is nothing short of mouth-watering.
On the Curves menu, you can create multiple anchor points along the graph to individually adjust RGB, CMYK and LAB distributions. I like the ability to double-tap an anchor point to remove it, but it only reinforces the necessity of a stylus.
The Levels window gives you the ability to adjust, expand or compress your photo’s color spectrum. These two menus in particular would have benefitted from a zoom function: while you can use your phone or tablet zoom functions to enlarge or shrink the photo itself, that doesn’t apply to adjustment menus. This makes fine-tuning many anchor points on the Curves menu or individual sliders on the Levels menu difficult.
Photoshop fans will also find another familiar feature: a Layers option that works in a similar fashion to the software program. You can create, delete, rotate, fill, merge and scale layers with finger taps and screen gestures. Changes to layers work the same as PhotoForge 2’s Adjustment tools: make a change and then approve or reject it with a screen tap. It’s some powerful functionality for a reasonably priced app—and it distinguishes PhotoForge 2 from competing photo editors.
However, don’t hold your breath that a $2.99 app can save you hundreds of dollars on Photoshop. While the layer functionality is intuitive and powerful, I don’t know how often I’d use it in lieu of Photoshop. Quick edits and layering in the field make sense, but you’ll want to save heavy duty editing for your desktop and pro editing software.
PhotoForge 2 offers several more adjustment options that range from a brightness/contrast and exposure setting (with a -4 to +4 range) to a hue, saturation and lightness adjuster and a white balance option. I haven’t seen another editing app that offers this many robust options. All are intuitive and just as easy (if not more so) to use than anything else offered in competing apps.
Filters are a mainstay in many photo editing apps, and PhotoForge 2 is no exception. You’ll find a staggering 27 effects filters that can be applied to your photos. Here, there are standards like black and white, sepia tone and blurring effects, as well as some interesting choices like Gothic (when your photos just need a touch of dark) and Sin City, which gives your photo the bright colors and washed-out backgrounds of the famous graphic novel by the same name.
Most filters give you the ability to adjust just how dramatic an effect you want to apply. I liked this touch, as it can feel a little cheap when apps include filters that simply change the photo in one way. However, you won’t find anything here dramatically different from an app like Instagram.
Cropping and resizing a photo
PhotoForge 2 also offers several options for resizing, cropping and straightening your photos. Let’s take a look at each.
First, the cropping tool. I found the crop function to be a problem: The typical responsiveness of sliders and adjustments seems a little diminished here if you don’t use a stylus. I found pulling corners and edges took a few tries before I could get the app to respond. With a stylus, however, the situation quickly improves and resizing a photo (with a nice real-time resolution window showing how big or small you’re making it) is fairly easy. You also have options to use preset sizing: 1x1, 2x3, 3x2, 4x3 and 16x9 are available, along with left and right rotation options. The precision isn’t here for exact tweaks, but works for quick crops.
Resizing, however, performs better. Width and height sliders control the photo’s dimensions. The default setting is to keep the height and width proportional, which is useful. But you can also remove proportion constraints if you want to elongate the photo. The “Standard Sizes” bar gives you preset sizes, including 0.3, 1, 2, 3 and 5 megapixel settings. Straightening a photo is intuitive, as well: an adjustment wheel appears at the bottom of the screen and the app offers a grid overlay for perfect alignment.
Two other additions to this menu include texture overlays for you photo and frames for your photos. These seem odd inclusions in a list of options primarily meant for resizing. I would have expected to see them under the effects options.
Other notable features
With robust editing options come robust mistakes. PhotoForge 2 has you covered: the app’s editing history function shows you a preview of every edit you’ve made on a photo. Tap on the photo you’d like to revert to, and you can start fresh from a previous edit. It’s a great feature that’s welcome in an app with so many tools and filters.
The app’s sharing options are also a little more vibrant than you would typically see on a photo editing app. Mainstays like Facebook and Twitter are here, as well as Picasa, Tumblr and Instagram. For those who store photos in the cloud, the Dropbox option is most welcome: this functionality makes a lot of sense if you’re editing and retouching on the go. In fact, I’d argue all photo manipulation apps should have a cloud-storage option.
PhotoForge 2 looks like it deserves the hype. At $2.99, it’s a little above the typical app price point, but that hardly matters. You get more than your money’s worth in this package. (Note that Kit Cam also offers slick integration into PhotoForge 2.)
The adjustment tools are incredibly robust, intuitive and make the perfect photo studio when paired with a tablet. Full resolution photo editing is also a major plus. While the filters are largely superfluous, their inclusion certainly doesn’t hurt. Cropping and resizing are basic, but don’t diminish from the overall experience. For social butterflies, the sharing options are better than most apps on the market. And Dropbox functionality could be dead useful for field photographers.
What we like: A great UI, robust pro editing options, great sharing and cloud upload options.
What we don’t like: The cropping and resizing tools are basic, and the effects filters seem superfluous.
Logan Kugler is a technology writer based in Silicon Valley. He's written for more than 60 major publications including Popular Photography, Computerworld, PC World, PC Magazine, Mac|Life, Men's Journal, and Forbes. He's loved taking pictures ever since his parents gave him a giant plastic kid camera when he was 5. He vividly remembers the day he bought his first digital camera the very first year they showed up at Circuit City: a top-of-the-line Sony CyberShot 2MP.
Dec 10, 2015
Dec 9, 2015
Dec 8, 2015
Dec 9, 2015
|2014_1211_140657AA by old shutter bugger|
from The Bride
|Overloaded by NZ Scott|
from Your City - Delivery Boy
|Barley by Will B Milner|
|APPLE & ROACH by TX Photo Doc|
from Delicious - Unpalatable
Yet another reason to always shoot Raw. These two shots are actually the same photo, photographer Dan Plucinski simply pulled up the shadows in post.
The Galaxy Note 8 is the first Samsung smartphone to feature a dual-cam setup. The 2x tele lens allows for a background-blurring portrait mode and comes with optical image stabilization.
Cloud backup service CrashPlan has announced that it will permanently shutter it's "for home" service by the end of October. If you use CrashPlan to back up your photos, you'll want to find an alternative ASAP.
Equivalence is much-discussed, but still often misunderstood. Here's a simplified explanation of the concept of equivalent apertures, which is just another way of talking about light received by your camera.
Try your hand at this blind portrait shootout between the Canon 1DX Mark II, Nikon D5 and Sony a9. With all bias removed, you might just rank your favorite camera brand worst.
Photo sharing site 500px has just added support for wide-gamut color profiles such as AdobeRGB and ProPhotoRGB, even allowing users to filter their searches by color profile.
DJI just released a mandatory firmware update for the DJI Spark. If you own a Spark and don't update your firmware by September 1st, DJI will remotely ground your drone.
Affordable flash manufacturer Godox has updated its smartphone app so that it can be used to control all of its wireless X flash units, not just the A1 smartphone flash.
Western Digital's new My Book Duo external desktop storage system offers up to 20TB of storage capacity, and comes with RAID-optimized WD Red hard drives.
Version 1.04 of the Sony a6500 firmware can be downloaded from the Sony Support website now.
Not sure how to choose your first drone? In this article, the second of a 3-part series, we discuss what factors you should consider when deciding what drone is right for you.
NASA photo editor Joel Kowsky didn't just capture the solar eclipse from his vantage point in Wyoming, he also managed to capture the ISS buzzing across what remained of the sun.
In these videos, talented photographer and filmmaker Daniel DeArco breaks down several tips that will help flash photography newbies start experimenting with artificial light.
Photographer and master potter Steve Irvine makes incredibly intricate, functional ceramic pinhole cameras that look like robots and monsters.
Chinese gimbal manufacturer Gudsen has released a firmware update for its Moza Air that lets you control the direction and angle of the head remotely just by moving a small handlebar-mounted control unit.
Curious how the Sony a9 performs underwater? Our friends at Backscatter took the camera diving off the Baja California coast, to find out how it handled shooting great white sharks.
While most of the DPReview crew put away our cameras and just watched the celestial event, Rishi decided last-minute to hack together a rig and capture a few shots.
Defunct Russian camera maker Zenit is making a comeback, and they're planning to release a full-frame mirrorless camera in 2018.
The days where you're more or less locked into premium or first-party flash units has gone. They're less than $50 now, so there's one less excuse not to get one. Here's our case for adding one to your kit, and a few pointers to get you going.
If you're shooting the solar eclipse here's a hint: don't fry your camera's sensor. Use a proper solar filter that offers at least 16 stops of light filtration, along with UV and IR filtering. More important? Don't look at it unless you've got solar filters. Sensors can be replaced, your retinas can't.
Photographer Rick Wenner recently captured an odd event called the Race of the Gentlemen with a rather odd camera: The Phase One XF IQ3 Achromatic, the world's only 101MP black-and-white digital back.
Buying used is a good way to save some dough, and with the right precautions you can protect yourself from falling victim to a scam.
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.