Professional image editing on the iPad
$29.99 From Serif Labs, affinity.serif.com Made for iPad Needs iOS 10.3 or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad (2017)
Here, for the first time, is a complete professional photo editor on the iPad. Compared to its acclaimed macOS version, the neat dark interface has been adapted to save space, with palettes docked into a single column at the right and tools down the left that change according to the mode – or “persona” – selected at the top. Photos can be imported from the Photos app or iCloud Drive, but not directly from other apps or Dropbox.
When you open brushes or filters, their controls appear at the bottom and stay in place while you open other palettes, until something overrides them. That can get confusing, but it’s vital when, say, you want to watch the histogram to check the effect of an adjustment. Alternatively you can display a vectorscope or RGB parade – tools more familiar to video colorists – or a power spectral density plot, used in scientific analysis. You don’t even get all these options in Adobe Photoshop CC, which would cost you the same for two months’ subscription as it does buying Affinity Photo outright. The Frequency Separation filter
splits out the detail in an image from the shading so you can edit them as separate layers, an essential pro portrait-retouch technique. Unlike other iOS graphics apps, Affinity Photo lets you edit images in CMYK or LAB color as well as 8- and 16-bit RGB, and handles raw files too, in its Develop persona. Images can be stacked for HDR processing, focus merging, and more.
If that all sounds a bit technical, a batch of video tutorials can get you started, and a text-based help guide is available from the main screen. But if you just have simple tasks in mind, all the filters and adjustments you would expect are reasonably accessible. Layers, masks, and channels work in familiar ways, and the Selection persona offers tools like the Smart Selection Brush and Refine Selection to tackle complex edges. Layers can take effects such as soft shadows, useful when you add vector shapes and text. Affinity Photo imports and exports layered PSD files, among other formats, although it can’t save clipping paths.
A few key tools, such as Levels and Highlights/ Shadows, didn’t work the way we expected them to, and we missed the ability to instantly check the RGB or CMYK value of a pixel. Only one palette can be open at a time, and to close it you have to find and tap its icon again; a “Close the open palette” button would be simpler. We’d like more keyboard shortcuts and less glitching: A few operations slowed the app to a crawl, and it crashed occasionally, although automatic saving meant we lost hardly any work.
Unlike a mouse or graphics tablet, using the touchscreen does risk your finger getting in the way, and for that reason we found the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil easier to use – but you can manage without it.
THE BOTTOM LINE. Affinity Photo is a triumph: an iPad app made for serious creative users, with room to get even better.
The Refine Selection tool can help to clean up and smooth complex outlines.
Raw photos can be imported from most DSLRs, so you can edit with no loss of quality.
Modern features like Haze Reduction make it easy to get the best from your photos.