Back in the early days, you had to use aperture, shutter time, and chemicals to create special effects in images. Then came Photoshop, and now we see a stream of apps written for touch-based mobile devices. The success of Instagram has taught the amateur how to apply simple filters with the touch of a finger.

I am starting to use these applications for professional presentations, usually not to recover a poorly shot image (most stock images are of excellent quality), but to harmonize images across a presentation with a certain look and feel that is consistent.

Photoshop is still great for removing backgrounds from images, and inserting a 2D image onto a 3D surface. However, its artistic filters are far too dramatic. And making quality adjustments is tricky. It requires a lot of skill to darken a background, lighten a foreground or vice versa. You had to familiarize yourself with alpha channels and the fundamental ways digital images are stored.

Tel Aviv this week, on filter steroids
My favorite app so far is Snapseed. Next to the dramatic filters that I do not use, it has a set of easy tools that give great control over an image. Ambience to change the balance between foreground and background, sharpening to make images crisper, structure to emphasize texture without destroying the edges of a subject, and best of all, the ability to adjust these effects to part of the image. I find it easier to use and more powerful than iPhoto.

Initially I bought the iPad app, which made me purchase the Mac app as well.

Still, I need to rely on Photoshop to control the exact dimensions and DPIs of images. Software innovation by small independent companies comes at the price of a more complicated workflow.