Snapseed 2.0 (for iOS) Woes

So, after a long time, wherein I, along with most of the rest of the world (or at least those who care about these things), assumed that Snapseed was dead, Google surprised us with an updated version of Snapseed.

If you’re not familiar with Snapseed, then here’s a quick rundown…
In the summer of 2011, Nik Software, the creators of a few of my favorite Lightroom and Photoshop plugins (Silver Efex, Color Efex and Analog Efex), released Snapseed for the iPad, followed shortly by a version for the iPhone. Apple named it the iPad App of the Year in 2011 and an awesome desktop version was released as well (you could even configure it work as an external editor for Lightroom). In 2012, Nik was bought out by Google, who released a version for Android (good) but killed off the desktop version (bad). (Incidentally, they did lower the price of the Nik software suite (sans Snapseed, of course), so that was a nice outcome of Google’s takeover). The discontinued desktop version’s features were slowly integrated into the photo editing tools of Google+, while the mobile versions were left to seemingly-rot, only occasionally receiving minor updates to fix compatibility issues.

I continued to use Snapseed, wondering how long it would be until it no longer worked with newer generations of iOS devices (in fact, it initially ran super-buggy under iOS 8, but, thnakfully, Google released an update to address these issues). In the meantime, I experimented with other mobile editing apps, including the recently-released and much-praised Enlight, bracing for the day that an update to iOS finally broke Snapseed.

So, imagine my delight when, a couple of weeks ago, iOS’ app store informed me that an update for Snapseed was available. Perusing the release notes as it downloaded, I was pleased to learn that it was a complete overhaul/modernization of the app.

After it installed, I launched it and dug right in. The new transform tools are great for leveling horizons and uprighting buildings, while the stacks concept is an awesome way to go back and tweak previously-made edits.

A few days after it was released, I left for a trip to Key West and the Bahamas. As is my habit, I took a lot of photos with my iPhone for posting to Instagram or to send as postcards to family and friends via the excellent app Postagram.

After arriving back in Addison, I downloaded the several thousand photos I shot with my cameras to Lightroom, then, as my usual practice, plugged my iPhone into my Mac to download its photos to Lightroom.

As they downloaded, I noticed something strange…the photos I’d edited with Snapseed 2.0 didn’t actually have any edits applied.


A bit of Googling led me to learn that the new version of Snapseed uses Apple’s .aae sidecar files to store edits to photos, rather than actually “burning in” the edits as in previous versions. And, much to my chagrin, there’s not a way to force a “burned in” version to be saved.

So, whose fault is this?

1. Snapseed claims that they’re being “good iOS citizens” by following Apple’s guidelines for using .aae files to store edits. However, I don’t see why they can’t also include an option for creating new .jpg files with the edits permanently recorded to the file.
2. Apple’s guidelines are to use .aae files, but I can’t find anywhere that says “do it our way and don’t create new .jpgs with edits embedded”. On top of that, even using their own new, the .aae edits don’t carry over with imported photos (they only seem to show if you use iCloud photo storage), so their implementation of sidecar file-enabled editing seems half-assed in my opinion.
3. Adobe could always elect to download and interpret .aae files in Lightroom, though why should they?


1. Use iCloud photo sync and (Nope…sticking to Lightroom).
2. Use an iOS app that recognizes .aae photos and allows transfer, such as emailing or iMessaging them to myself. (Nope…I just want to plug in and download to Lightroom).
3. When ready to commit changes to an image for download to Lightroom, choose “Share” in Snapseed, then select “Copy”. Tap Open, paste from Clipboard and save. This creates a “burned in” copy of the image that can then be downloaded. (Ugh…I shouldn’t have to go through hoops).

So, What Can Be Done?

Complain to Google. Post angry messages on their Snapseed product forum. Use Enlight or and other sane iOS photo editing app. Switch to Android (which doesn’t, of course, use .aae files), though if you switch platforms for one app, then that’s kind of weird.

In the meantime, I still like the results and ease-of-use of Snapseed. That said, I can’t see myself going through the process outlined in work-around 3 for every image I edit in it, so I’m just going to have to live with the fact that maybe not all of my Snapseed edits will make it into my Lightroom catalog.

  • April 27, 2015