Handy Photo positions itself as a semi-professional photo-editing solution for iOS, and the difference between this and the numerous low-quality, cheaply-produced, ad-supported free photography apps is apparent almost as soon as you start using it. This is a powerful piece of software, and with everything it’s capable of, $1.99 is a very reasonable price indeed.
Handy Photo caters to a wide variety of skill levels ranging from the Instagram enthusiast who just wants to apply grungy filters to their photos, to those who have experience with fine-tuning their images using an array of common adjustments. While Handy Photo does not provide the level of depth that, say, Photoshop does, its tools are powerful enough to have a very pronounced and positive effect on one’s image.
Using Handy Photo requires that the user first either take a picture with the camera or import an image. Depending on what hardware they are using, the software supports images of up to 36 megapixel resolution — this is only possible on the very latest iOS devices (i.e. iPhone 5, iPad 3 and iPad 4), however. Previous-generation hardware still fares respectably in the resolution stakes, however — the iPhone 4, 4S and 5th-generation iPod touch can handle images up to 10MP in size; the iPad 2 and iPad mini can work with images up to 15MP in size; and even the 3GS, 4th-generation iPod touch and first-generation iPad are catered to with support for resolutions up to 5MP.
Once an image has been loaded, the user may begin adjusting the image. This is largely accomplished by tapping on the “hand” icon in the upper-right corner of the screen, which conceals a variety of options on a rotating “wheel” interface. Tone and Color adjustments allow levels, brightness, contrast, color temperature, saturation, shadows, highlights and sharpness to be played with; Clone Stamp functions like its counterpart in Photoshop, allowing details to be picked up from one part of the image and recreated in another; Move Me allows an object to be marked, then picked up and moved or cloned — good for “face swaps”; Filters provide a series of Instagram-esque visual filters, all of which are customizable to varying degrees; Textures allows various textures to be overlaid onto the image — again, all may be customized; and Frames provides a selection of picture frames — again, all of which can be customized and adjusted to get the perfect composition.
The real stars of the show in Handy Photo are the AntiCrop and TouchRetouch facilities. Both of these perform a similar function to the Content-Aware Fill feature found in later releases of Photoshop — they allow images to be edited, and any “blank space” caused by these edits to be intelligently replaced with what the app thinks “should” be there instead. For example, while testing the app in a coffee shop, I was able to use the TouchRetouch facility to remove a napkin from a photograph of the table I was seated at — the napkin was automatically replaced with the texture of the table. AntiCrop, meanwhile, allows for tasks such as straightening to be performed without having to “zoom in” on the middle of the image due to corners being cut off. Instead, AntiCrop allows a crooked image to be straightened, and any blank space created by this process is again filled in in the same way. The “Move Me” facility also makes use of this content-aware fill facility rather than leaving a “hole” in the image. On the whole, it seems to work very well, though it takes a little while to process the image on older devices.
Once an image has been completed, it can be shared to the user’s photo library, email, Facebook or Twitter. Once it’s in the photo gallery, of course, it can be shared to any other app which has permission to access the user’s photos, or transferred to other devices via Photo Stream or manual transfer.
All in all, Handy Photo is an excellent photo manipulation app for iOS. It’s simple enough to use that beginners will be able to get the hang of it quickly, yet powerful enough for more experienced photographers who need to perform some quick edits on the go. At $1.99, it’s a bargain for what it does, and it deserves a place in every iPhone photography enthusiast’s virtual camera bag.
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