Video: How To Use The Selective Tool In Snapseed From Google
The Selective editing tool is one of the most useful features in Snapseed for landscape and travel photographers like me. In a travel photo like this one, I know where I want your eyes to go. When I shot this image I wanted that red barn to command your full attention. But when I look at what’s on the screen right now, I feel like there is some competition between the grasses in the foreground and the barn. The problem is that warm yellow colors like the grasses in the foreground are very attractive to the human eye and so your brain is not sure right now whether barn or the foreground is the most important element in this scene. If I go into the Tune Image menu right now in Snapseed and then I kick up the Saturation control to about 30.
The barn starts to really pop but the yellows in the grasses and the blues in the sky also start to glow. Adding more saturation everywhere makes the whole image more vibrant but it doesn't the barn stand out more than its surroundings. Since that didn’t work I am going to tap on the X on the toolbar at the bottom to cancel these changes and then I am going to launch the Selective Tool. Like the options in Snapseed’s Tune Image menu, the Selective Tool lets us change the Brightness, the Contrast, or the level of Saturation in our images. The difference though is that the Selective Tool allows us to target these changes to specific areas in our image rather than changing everything everywhere. In Photoshop vocabulary we would call this masking. Let me show you what I mean here by changing the intensity of the foreground grasses first.
I am going to tap on my foreground about here. See how a little B in a circle just appeared. That circle is called a Control Point and it represents the center of the area that Snapseed is about to change. If I slide my finger sideways across the screen right now then Snapseed will increase or decrease the Brightness of that region. I will set the Brightness to about -10 to make this area a little bit darker than it was in my original image. Now I am going to slide my finger up or down across the screen to bring up the Brightness, Contrast, or Saturation menu. For this part of the photo, it’s the Saturation that I really want to change so I’ll slide down until that’s the active control. Now I’ll slide my finger to the left to lower the level of Saturation in my foreground. To make sure that this change affects the whole meadow I am going to press my thumb and forefinger against the screen at the same time and use the push out motion to expand the center size. As I do this, you will see that Snapseed covers the area that this control point is changing in bright red.
In Photoshop lingo we call this red overlay the rubylith and it represents the area that will be affected by this change. The red overlay represents the area that this mask is affecting. I am going to tap on the Add button now and then tap on the center of the sky to create a second control point. This time I am going to set the Brightness to about the -5 or so. Set the Contrast to about -10, and the Saturation down to -10 as well. As the sky becomes less bright and less saturated it becomes less interesting which is ultimately going to help me drive your attention right to that barn. Now I am going to double tap on the barn itself to zoom in. I’ll tap on the Add button again. Then I’ll tap the barn to create one more control point. If I do the two-finger pinch in / push out thing, then I can adjust the size of my mask so that only the barn will be selected.
I am going to bump the brightness up a little, add a little contrast, and then some Saturation. When I double tap in the navigator window in the bottom right, Snapseed will zoom back out so that we can see the whole image. Watch how your attention shifts around in this scene as I tap on the before and after button now. This might be a little overdone but I bet that the red barn really commands your attention now. I am going to tap on the checkmark on the toolbar to accept these changes and return to Snapseed’s main menu. What you have just seen, I hope, is a demonstration of the power of local changes vs global adjustments. If I cared about this image, I would press the Save button right now to preserve these improvements but in the interest of time, I am going to open up another example and show you some more tricks. Like I said at the beginning, the Selective Tool is wonderful for landscape photographers because it allows us to push and pull different parts of our image in different directions. In this sunset photo I want to make two big changes. First, I want my foreground, the road and the sagebrush at the bottom edge of this frame a little brighter, and then I want to make the sky really stand out.
I will tap on the road to drop a control point here. Now I will bring the brightness up to add more light to my foreground and add a little contrast to keep some of that twilight mood. Next, I am going to create a second control point and place it in the center of the sky. I would love to pull the brightness down here to make the sky darker but in this case, the sky is so pale that a heavy brightness shift just makes it look gray and unnatural. Let me undo that change by double tapping on the word brightness up there at the top of the screen. Instead of changing the brightness, I am going to slide my finger up and switch over the Saturation control. Adding a whole bunch of Saturation here will make those pale colors much more vibrant and thus more eye-catching. I’ll swipe up again and add a little bit of contrast too. Let’s see the before and after.
Much better but do you notice how the changes that I made to the sky do not extend all the way out the edges of the frame. Snapseed is fading my changes out gradually. As you get further and further away from the center of that control point the change that this mask calls for has less and less effect. This is wonderful because it keeps the mask from having hard obvious edges but can see how the top left corner is less colorful than the center of the sky. I could try changing the center size here with the two-finger pinch move and that might help expand the area that’s being changed out but there is an alternative. If I tap on the edit pin itself, if I tap right on my control point, then a little menu will appear with some icons. From left to right in this menu, we have icons that represent cut, copy, delete, and reset. I am going to tap on the icon that is the second from the left which represents copy. Now I will go over and tap once in that upper left corner. This time a little clipboard icon appears which is supposed to represent the paste command.
When I tap on the clipboard icon, Snapseed will paste in a new control point. If I swipe my finger up and down across the screen you can see that this control point begins with the exact same settings that I used for the one in the middle of the sky. It's a copy. If I do the two finger move now you can see too how its rubylith covers that whole corner in dark red meaning that the upper left is the area that this pin is affecting. I am going to expand this mask out a little so that it overlaps with the changes that I created with my first control point. When I tap the before and after button now do you see how the additional saturation and contrast that I have added to the sky is becoming more uniform? I think that I will tap once more over here in the sky by the cliffs on the right side of the screen to bring up that clipboard icon again. I will paste another control point down and I’ll adjust the center size again so that this one also overlaps with the first sky control point that we added. I am adding this point so that the color of my upper sky looks fairly uniform from edge to edge.
Let’s see the before and after here once more. Now I am happy. Now I have a landscape with the right level of brightness in my foreground and a strong punchy eye-catching sky. I’ll tap on the checkmark in the bottom right to commit these changes and to return to Snapseed’s home screen. Once again I should save my work, and I urge you to do so, but I am going to jump right into our final example. Here I have some maple leaves that I found while hiking in the rain in Zion National Park. I love the composition here but visually there is just too much competition between that red sandstone rock and those beautiful leaves. So into the Selective Tool we go. I am going to start with a control point here to change the intensity of that sandstone slab. Here I am going to take the brightness, the contrast, and the saturation values down a little. I am going to lower all of these values because I know that the human eye is always attracted to the warmest, brightest, and most saturated element in any scene.
As the sandstone gets darker and less saturated it loses importance for your eyes and thus the leaves become more eye-catching. If you look at this image right now you can see that the changes that I just made though are not really affecting the corners of the frame. I’ll use the two fingers push out move here to expand the center size as much as I can. Better but still not perfect. So this time I am going to press and hold on the control point itself and then I am going to slide my finger around the screen. As I slide my finger around you will see the loupe tool again as I reposition the control point. I am going to slide this point to the right so that it really changes the right side of my frame. Much better but now the left edge of the rock seems too bright and too saturated. So now I will use the single tap to copy this control point and then I’ll paste the second one over there in the upper left. Now I will drop a third one of these down here in the lower left to make sure that the whole rock is getting darker and less saturated. Alright, now my background looks good and those leaves are starting to pop.
But I think that we can do even better by creating more visual push and pull. So now let’s really pull your eye into those leaves by adding some additional control points. I’ll tap on the add button again and then I’ll put another control point right on top of the red leaf. I don’t need to make a big change here but adding a little contrast and more saturation will make my subject stand out even more. I need to be careful here with the size of my mask so that I am not accidentally adding contrast and saturation back into the rock around this leaf. I also need to be careful about exactly where I place this control point since it is the pixel color at the center of the loupe that Snapseed’s U-point masking technology uses to build this mask. Next, I am going to duplicate this pin and paste it down on the yellow leaves so that they get the additional saturation and contrast too. Now let’s see the before and after again.
So close. There is just one more tiny change that I want to make. When I look at this image now I find that my eye is also being drawn into that little green mossy spot on the right. When everything was so rich and saturated in the beginning I didn’t even notice that detail but now that we have tuned the rock down that little moss patch stands out. This makes sense visually since that green is now warmer and richer than the rock that surrounds it. Easily solved though. I am going to double tap to zoom in here. I’ll tap add and create one more control point right on the moss. Now I will drop the brightness down and the saturation. A double tap in the navigator window again will zoom me back out and now I am going to press and hold the Hide button on the toolbar to hide all of my edit pins away and to see what our finished product looks like. Awesome. I’ll tap the checkmark to commit these changes and return to the home screen. This time I am definitely going to save my work. The original image here from my smartphone was not bad but it didn’t tell nearly as clear a story as what we have now.
What I hope you have seen in this tutorial is the power of selective changes and how we can use this amazing masking tool to push and pull our viewer’s eyes around our canvas..