Smart Photo Editor v1.25 by Anthropics
While Smart Photo Editor won’t suit everyone, for photographers who enjoy ‘playing around’ with special effects it offers a quick and easy way to experiment with creative adjustments. Some photographers will use it for simply dropping an effect onto an image, which is where the integration with Photoshop provided in the Studio version could be worth paying extra for.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy to apply pre-set effects, it’s less easy to use the program for normal image tweaking. Consequently, we don’t see it appealing to professional photographers or other experienced users of Photoshop or other sophisticated editors.
But it’s relatively cheap and cheerful and fun to play with, which will be all some people want.
Although Anthropics Technology’s Smart Photo Editor has been around since 2012, it’s not your average photo editing program but more like a comprehensive effects application. Developed by the makers of PortraitPro and LandscapePro, it provides an easy way for snapshooters to enhance their photos through functions ranging from basic tweaks, to complete transformations achieved through community-developed special effects.
The user interface in Smart Photo Editor is simple and relatively easy to navigate.
The software is available in two versions: Standard and Studio, the only difference between them being that the Studio version has been designed to work as a plug-in for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, adding all the available effects to each application’s workflow.
Both versions include the following features:
- Apply photo editing effects with one click
- Access thousands of effects from the community
- Free online support
- Picture controls
- Read and write JPEG and TIFF format
- Optimised for 32 bit Windows and Mac
- Optimised for 64 bit Windows and Mac
- 64 bit has no limit on image size
- Read and write TIFFs with 16 bits per colour sample
- Read camera RAW & DNG formats
- Supports conversion between different colour spaces
- Supports setting monitor and working colour spaces
- JPEG and TIFF embedded colour profile support
- Works stand-alone
Regarding the raw file support, we found the program could open files from some recently released cameras, including the Olympus PEN E-PL9 and the Panasonic GX9, which suggests it’s being kept up-to-date. Indeed, a list of the last few files we worked on with the software shows this to be the case, as shown in the screen grab below.
However, when you move to saving files, only three options are provided: JPEG, TIFF and PNG. You can’t save to the ‘universal’ DNG format, which would have been really convenient as it would provide a quick way to convert raw files that aren’t supported in Adobe Camera Raw.
Who’s it For?
Smart Photo Editor has little resemblance to a conventional photo editor, although it provides some of the same adjustment tools. However, the range of adjustments available is less than those available through a dedicated editing program ““ unless you use the effects settings that are the main attraction of the program.
While it’s less attractive to photographers who prefer regular image editors, it will probably appeal to anyone with a collection of images who doesn’t enjoy the ‘hard graft’ of learning how to use complex programs like the Adobe or Corel products. It’s more likely to appeal to those who like applying special effects, without necessarily understanding how they work.
Smart Photo Editor will also attract photographers who enjoy belonging to communities because it enables them to contribute to the dynamic community, enabling the software to improve over time. They can also draw upon the expertise of existing users, who have uploaded thousands of effects to share.
Be warned, however, that the downloadable user manual struggles at times to explain what’s involved in the more complex processes like the Effects Editor
The User Interface
As shown above, the Smart Photo Editor’s interface is simple and straightforward as well as attractively designed. The program uses a non-destructive workflow and as each change made, a thumbnail history is displayed from right to left across the top of the screen, with the latest change added to the right hand end. The full history of your edits can be saved as a proprietary ‘*,pe’ file, enabling you to return at a later time.
The home screen is split into three panels, with a tools panel down the right hand side and file management functions along the top. Mousing over the buttons in the tools panel will pop out an overlay box showing what it does.
When a tool is selected, its menus are displayed in a panel to the left of the image (shown above), while an identifying thumbnail is displayed as a tab above the image. At any time in the adjustment process, you can go back to the changes made with the selected tool by simply clicking on its tab.
By default, tips pop up in yellow boxes (shown above) as you work, providing notes on the function selected. These can be disabled once you’re familiar with the application.
Using the program is easy: simply browse and select the effect you want and it’s applied with one click. Any subsequent adjustments you want to make can be applied via the sliders in the left hand panel, which are specific to the selected tool.
Once you’ve found an effect ““ or set of adjustments ““ you enjoy, you can save it in the Favourite Effects button by right-clicking on the tab relating to the adjustments and choosing ‘Store Or Publish’. This takes you to the Tagging Effect panel, where you can give it a name and make it turn up in specific gallery sections. If you click ‘Tag For My Use Only’ it will only be visible to you; clicking on ‘Tag And Share Effect’ will share it with the rest of the community and it will appear in all their galleries.
The Tools Panel
Ranged down the right hand side of the screen, the tools panel contains buttons for accessing the following effects and tools (listed in order from the top): Effects Gallery, Select Area. Favourites Recent Shortlists, Area Treatment, Image Treatment, Composite, Erase, Red Eye, Text, Crop, Straighten, Rotate and Effect Editor. We’ll look at these in turn.
The Effects Gallery opens a screen full of thumbnails showing the available effects, ordered in priority of their suitability for the image. You can browse through the effects by scrolling down the screen clicking on the arrows at the sides of the screen.
You can also search for the effects a user has contributed by entering their user name into the search box in the top right of the gallery. Mousing over an effects thumbnail reveals a pop-up window showing the Effect Controls for each effect.
The Effects Gallery.
You can enlarge a thumbnail by clicking on it and press Confirm to apply it or Mask Area if you want to choose which parts of the image it applies to. When an effect is selected, the image is displayed with it applied and thumbnails of alternative effects are displayed above it, making it quick to browse through the options available, as shown below.
Clicking on the Select Area button below the Effects Gallery opens an overlay screen containing buttons listing various options, such as The Sky, The Subject, Background, Plants, etc and including an option to list anything not offered. Expect to see the normal yellow tips pop up to provide assistance.
You can choose between two Selection Tools: Lasso and Edge Finder. Both provide relevant adjustment options. The area selected will be shown with an overlaid red wash by default. This can be changed with the visualisation buttons.
The edge finder automatically detects edges, making it quicker to select complex areas. Three brush options are provided: Find Soft Edge, Find Hard Edge and Airbrush. There’s also a button for inverting the selection.
When using the Lasso, you simply draw a line around the area you want to select and the software will find the edges within it. There are five display options for this tool. We found it best to stop just short of completing the encirclement because that could cause the selection to vanish.
We found the edge selection tools were unable to handle very fine details, no matter how small the brush tip we selected. However, the ability to quickly toggle between selecting areas you wish to include and exclude makes this tools surprisingly powerful
The screen grab above shows the use of the edge selection tools.
The Area Treatment button lets you make adjustments to the area you’ve selected (or if no area is selected, to the entire image). Once again, brushes are used to select an area, which will be highlighted with a red wash.
Adjustment options include sliders for tweaking parameters like exposure, brightness, sharpness, etc. and a Gallery button that calls up thumbnails showing suggested adjustments. Both are shown below.
The Image Treatment button has more sliders that apply the selected adjustment to the entire image. Double clicking on any slider resets it to zero. At the top of the list are three Auto Fixes, while below are groups covering Levels, Contrast and Colour parameters. Options can be expanded by clicking on the More Sliders button
The Image Treatment tool contains a wealth of adjustments, including an Auto button, which may not necessarily deliver the end result you want. It should be easy to tweak exposure parameters to improve the result.
The remaining tools are largely self-explanatory. The Composite tool lets you add an overlay or underlay to the image and then use a brush to select which parts of the new image you want to be transparent so the background shows through.
Compositing images by overlaying one on the other and then erasing unwanted areas with the selections tools. .
The normal selection options are available and we found the Find Hard Edge setting did a good job of defining the edges that should be retained. You can also adjust the opacity of either layer, if needed, and use the Move, Rotate and Scale button at the top of the to relocate the overlay/underlay (but not the original image) on the screen.
The Straighten tool provides both horizontal and vertical straightening guides, a useful feature when you’re dealing with images in which the horizon is partly obscured.
The Effect Editor button at the bottom of the panel lets you select a group of ‘nodes’ by dragging buttons onto an ‘effect canvas’. This lets you edit existing effects or create your own effects by applying a chain of individual adjustments sequentially.
This function works like a flowchart, allowing different adjustments to be combined through a combination of pre-defined building blocks. The system can combine many different adjustments, although it takes patience and persistence to make it work because it’s not well documented in the user manual.
With an image loaded in the software to use the Effects Editor, click on the ‘Effect Editor’ button to call up the Node toolbar, which contains the various adjustments and the Effect Canvas below it. The interface in this mode is much less intuitive than the main interface and the Help file isn’t good at clarifying the sequence of moves you need to make before it will let you ‘Publish’ the adjustments to the image.
Expect to see this message pop up a few times while you learn how to use the Effects Editor.
To edit an effect you have to select the parameters you want to adjust from the Node toolbar and drag them into the Effect Canvas below. The canvas will contain boxes labelled Effect Input and Effect Output by default when the editor is opened. You can move these buttons about on the Effect Canvas to make space for adding buttons from the Node toolbar (Nodes).
Double-clicking on each Node you add reveals the adjustments it supports and allows you to adjust those parameters. To apply the first effect, click on the right button at the end of the Effect Input box and drag a link to the button at the left hand end of the Node. The right button on the Node is then connected to the left button on the Effect Output box to complete the sequence.
You can insert as many Nodes as you like between the Effect Input and Effect Output boxes, provided you link them in the sequence in which you wish them to be applied. The green circle highlights which Node input or output is being shown in the right-hand main
panel. Clicking on a Node input or output lets you change what you want to see.
If none of the Nodes provides the adjustments you want, you can also search through the available effects by typing keywords into the search tab in the Node toolbar. When your effect is ready for publishing, click on the ‘Publish’ button within the Effect Canvas. It should have a green light beside it.
The green light beside the Publish button shows the edited effect is ready to publish.
If there’s an amber light, something is wrong with your effect. The tooltip on the button or clicking on the button should display what the problem is so you can fix it. By choosing, developing and short-listing effects you like, the software learns which effects work well with different types of pictures and shares this with the community.
Version 1.25 of Smart Photo Editor is by its nature a work in progress and the Anthropics developers have done a good job of providing an application that a large percentage of the picture-taking market will enjoy using. Kudos to Anthropics, too, for establishing a lively online community where like-minded users can share their work and access others’ experience.
There’s a risk that the database of effects could become over-large ““ and also a risk it could become stuffed with unattractive effects. But judicious pruning and the elimination of effects that aren’t popular should address both issues. Its success will rely on how well it develops an on-going relationship with its users.
While Smart Photo Editor won’t suit everyone, for photographers who enjoy ‘playing around’ with special effects it offers a quick and easy way to experiment with creative adjustments. Some photographers will use it for simply dropping an effect onto an image and here, the integration with Photoshop provided in the Studio version could be worth paying extra for.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy to apply pre-set effects, it’s less easy to use the program for normal image tweaking. Consequently, we don’t see it appealing to professional photographers or other experienced users of Photoshop or other sophisticated editors. But it’s relatively cheap and cheerful and fun to play with, which will be all some people want.
You can download a version from http://www.smartphotoeditor.com/download/. At the time this review was published, both the basic and Studio versions were discounted to roughly half their regular prices.
Hardware: 1GHz processor or faster recommended
Systems compatibility: 64-bit Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, or XP or Mac 64-bit OS X 10.7 or later
Display support: 1400 x 1050 minimum supported display size
Disk space requirement: 63MB minimum
Minimum RAM: 2GB recommended
Computer interface: Internet connection and registration are necessary for required software activation and access to online community
Batch processing: Yes
Export to social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ plus http://photoeditor.anthropics.com/forum/ product forum for sharing effects
Distributor: Anthropics Technology Limited, http://www.smartphotoeditor.com/product/
RRP: Standard – AU$59.90 (discounted to AU$29.95 when this review was conducted); Studio – AU$99.90 (discounted to A$49.95)
- Features: 8.8
- Ease of Use: 8.6