I am a huge fan of Google Snapseed. I’m not a huge fan of what Google has done with it, dropping the desktop Snapseed app and then the online Snapseed editing tools built into Google+ Photos. This has been replaced by a separate Google Photos option with much simpler editing tools.

Thankfully, Snapseed still exists as an iOS and Android app, and while it’s still around I aim to make the most of it – and I suggest everybody else does the same!

Now although it’s a mobile rather than a desktop app, there are ways to get it to work nicely alongside your desktop photo collection. I’ll come on to that in a later post, but for now I want to look at one of Snapseed’s hidden depths – the ability to stack multiple filter layers to create much more complex effects than you might imagine.

It’s simple to do. Once you’ve added one filter, you click the add filter button, bottom right (the button with a pencil in a white circle) to add another. You can keep going until the image looks exactly how you want it.

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Here’s one I made earlier. If you look at the top right corner next to the SAVE button you’ll see the number 5. This indicates the number of filters that have been applied to the image. And if you tap this number, Snapseed will display the filter layers in the bottom right corner.

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You’ll see that all the filters are labelled by type, and right at the bottom there’s the ‘Original’ image. If I tap this, I see the original photo before any of the filters have been applied. So next, I’ll step through each of the filters I’ve added – it’s an opportunity to explain some of my thinking behind this gritty black and white end result, too.

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So what I wanted was a harsh, gritty, contrasty look to complement the weathered stone of the castle. Snapseed’s Noir filter seemed a good place to start, since this added a contrasty, grainy look to the photo.

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But I also wanted the photo itself to have a damaged, weathered look, so I added Snapseed’s Grunge filter, choosing a preset which mimicked the look of an aged, stained print.

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I also wanted the picture to look as if it came from an old-fashioned plate camera with strong vignetting towards the edges of the frame – and Snapseed’s Vignette filter is made for the job. By this stage, though, I thought some unwanted colour tints were creeping in.

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So my next step was to add the Black & White effect. This stripped out the coloured tints and I picked a preset to give me rich tone and contrast, but not too harsh.

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I finished off with one of Snapseed’s preset frames, choosing one which had a weathered, hand-finished look of its own. I’m quite pleased with the results, though this process took quite a few steps, and there’s no way to save these recipes in Snapseed… or is there? The menu in the top right-hand corner has an ‘Apply last edits’ option, and in a future post I’ll look at how you can use this to apply the same effects, however complex, across a whole batch of images.