Is Enlight able to enlighten your mobile photos? Part 1

25 March 2015

Author: Michał Szklanowski
Editor: Wojtek Papaj

The App Store is crowded with apps. Photo apps as well. There are thousands of them. So for a newcomer it is not really easy to stand out from the crowd of apps that already exist. Enlight is one of the recent attempts to challenge the existing status quo by providing the very comprehensive all-in-one package, that aims to make many of the single-purpose photo apps no longer needed/necessary. Let’s see if it lives up to the promise.

Introduction

Enlight is produced by Lightricks, a small Israeli-based mobile app startup. However small, Lightricks is a recognized brand. Not by their name, but by the name of their first mobile app – Facetune. Facetune is a smashing hit in AppStore, one of most popular photo apps and also one of the most popular apps overall.

What made Facetune so popular is the combination of the idea (app for making portraits more pretty), a solid imaging technology behind it (all Facetune tools are high quality) and also very transparent and intuitive user interface (most tools are self-explanatory, for more advanced use cases producer provide short video tutorials).

While Facetune has been continually updated with updates and small additions, the company has been silently working for last two years on another app – Enlight. While Facetune is certainly king of portrait editing, Enlight aims to be king of the world in mobile photo editing.

I was wondering about the origin of Enlight’s icon, which reminds me just a bit a fox from Firefox logo and received the following explanation:

The concept of Enlight’s fox, a Kitsune (Japanese mythologic fox) was selected by Lightricks’ creative team as the logo and represents the magic that Enlight brings to photo editing. Like a fox, the app is sleek, cunning, and very clever. The Kitsune is a fox with many tails, the more tails it has, the wiser it is. Enlight, being the most comprehensive and all-in-one app in the market, is the most intelligent of them all.

Let’s see if the blue fox is really that smart.

System requirements

Enlight is the iPhone-only app. In fact, you can’t even download it on the iPad for the time being. Lightricks have confirmed plans to release make Enlight universal app although the timeline is not known yet.

The app requires iOS 8.1 to run, which effectively limits the supported hardware to iPhone 4S and newer models. The vendor says the app is optimized for newer devices. Is has an introductory price of $3.99, which is likely to go up at certain point of time.

Application interface

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Picture 1. Enlight’s Tour, shown on the first application run.

Enlight on the first run will show nicely animated tour, that introduces the user into the main app concepts. The tour has 6 steps during which main concepts of the app are explained. The tour can be accessed again from the menu available under the Enlight icon.

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Picture 2. Application main screen.

After dismissing the tour, we are presented with main application screen. That’s one of the things that I immediately liked – how simple and familiar the screen looks like.

Let’s start with Photo Drawer – it’s the photos stripe available on the bottom. By default it would show you the last couple of photos from your Camera Roll. Swipe it up and it will reveal full size photo grid, which you can flick up and down. Plus a link to go back to Albums.

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Picture 3. Choosing albums.

Albums screen presents two sections: My Albums, which shows all the albums on the device and Enlight-specific section named Enlight. This section contains three albums:

  • Unsaved sessions – contains unsaved editing sessions (for which Save Session option wasn’t explicitly chosen). Enlight will store last 10 unsaved sessions by default, this number can be changed in the app preferences (described later).
  • Saved sessions – user can explicitly request editing session to be saved. There is no limit for saved sessions, however you need to be aware that every session with fill your SSD storage, so it’s a good habit to perform a clean-up.
  • Demo photos – similar to Facetune, Enlight contains 4 high-quality stock photos, which you can use for experimentation.

Personally, I don’t see too much difference between saved and unsaved sessions, since saved session don’t have any name attached to it eg. name of the project. For my use, I set the limit of unsaved sessions to 50, which is the highest finite number (you can also set it to Unlimited, which will eventually fill your entire phone with editing sessions, but that’s not what I want). Saving last 50 editing sessions gives me a good history of my edits.

Getting back to reality, Photo Drawer has one function – allows you to load the photo into the application. Photo Drawer also allows to easily change a photo. Enlight will not get into your way at any time – eg. if you want to pause current edit and jump to another photo – you can. No popup window, no warning. Enlight will patiently save all the changes and change the photo.

If you don’t want to load a photo, but shoot one – you can tap on the Camera button in the middle top of the screen, which launches very rudimentary Camera interface. I would clearly not recommend to use for anything more than a wall texture snap – the interface is much more limited than native Camera app. Enlight is for photo editing, not photo shooting – let’s stick to that.

Continuing the tour of the user interface, the top left icon is the Enlight icon, which reveals application information screen, with the following options:

  • Run again Enlight Tour
  • Settings (described later)
  • About screen
  • Rate and Review
  • Links to Enlight social media sites
  • Possibility to send the feedback

Two more buttons to describe: Export button (classic iOS export icon, impossible to miss), allows for various ways of exporting currently edited photo. More on that later.

Last button – top right – is the Menu button. It shows or hides the main application menu, where you will find all the tools. A word of explanation. You can either use this button to completely hide/completely show the menu, or swipe, which has three distinct steps: menu hidden, menu icons shown (but no labels), menu icons shown with labels. Once you get used to the icons, you might want to skip the labels, saving precious screen real estate.

App settings

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Picture 4. Application settings screen.

After tapping on the Enlight icon, and choosing Settings, we end up in Settings menu. Settings menu is worth visiting before you start first Enlight edit, because it allows you to customize the way the app works.

The following settings can be set:

  • Save photo location – for photos taken with Enlight’s built-in camera. Skip this one, as I said Enlight camera is now somewhat simplistic, better use the built-in iPhone Camera app.
  • Export quality – very important setting, which determines the size and quality of photos while doing export. Four modes are available:
    • Compact – saves JPEG with 75% quality, maximum photo size 1024×1024. Not recommended if you are serious about your photos.
    • Normal – saves JPEG with 75% quality, maximum photo size 2048×2048. Better than compact, but still insufficient for serious mobile photographers.
    • High – saves JPEG with 95% quality, maximum photo size 4096×4096. Now we are talking. Saving 95% JPEG gives even slightly better quality than what the iPhone’s built-in Camera is saving by default (it uses 90% JPEG). I recommend to use this setting unless you like to count pixels (see below)
    • Pro – saves image in lossless PNG, maximum photo size 4096×4096. Using PNG instead of TIFF is not a good choice, since photo loses all of its metadata (both: related to camera settings – EXIF, and copyright information – IPTC). However, Lightricks is learning very quickly and they already announced that they are going to support TIFF in the next future.
  • Unsaved session capacity – you are able to choose the buffer for unsaved sessions. Possible values: 5, 10, 20, 50 and Unlimited. I recommend to set this particular setting to 50, as it gives you good history of your last edits, but still the app is doing the clean-up so you don’t need to worry to delete old sessions. When you set it to 50, you can pretty much forget about explicitly saving sessions. Below the setting you have the information about the memory used by sessions and links to delete unsaved sessions and delete all sessions – for your consideration.
  • Presets section allows you to remove all user presets and reset preset intensities. If you don’t know what user presets are, continue reading.
  • Last section of the settings – Help – allows to disable tooltips (not recommended as they are really useful) and reset tool tips (in case you are showing the application to someone that is not familiar with it).

Non-destructive editing workflow in Enlight

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Picture 5. Undo-redo and before-after buttons.

We got used to the apps that offer use non-destructive editing, haven’t we? Enlight is no exception here. It will layer the adjustments over the original photo, not overwriting it. You can stack the adjustment to achieve more creative effects.

Your best friends in this creative journey are undo-redo buttons (left side) and the before-after button on the right side.

With Undo/Redo you can navigate back and forward your history of adjustments. Beware that this is a real stack – you can’t take out the element from the middle of the stack. You can undo any number of steps, but always starting with the last step. This is one limitation you need to live with, however this approach also allows you to re-use the same tool for even more creative effect. In other applications (such as VSCOCam) you can modify any setting at any point of time, but you cannot stack the same adjustment on top of one another.

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Picture 6. Main application menu with section Canvas expanded.

Zooming in to see the details in the photo is also very powerful. Double tap on the photo to get a 3X zoom. Double tap again to get another 3X zoom which makes it 9X. Continue to pinch with fingers to get to eh zoom level, where single pixels become so big that they look like squares. I loved the zoom in the Facetune app (very useful for portraits fine tune corrections) and I’m happy to report that it works the same way in Enlight. Pleasure to use.

Second thing that immediately liked in Enlight is the way the tools are laid out. You can sequentially follow sections and tools from the top to bottom and it just does make sense. That’s just the usual way I approach photo editing: first do the cropping and perspective correction, then do the basic corrections, then go more creative with filters and advanced tools.

So let’s briefly explain the sections:

  • Canvas – contains Crop, Skew and Refit tools, that operate on the photo as a whole, changing it physical parameters.
  • Image – contains Adjust, Clarity and Target tools, that are used to adjust image visual parameters.
  • Filters – contains Analog, BW and Duo filter packs, which allow you to change the mood of the photo (filters are usually presets of various adjustments that have been put together to achieve certain effect).
  • Tools – contains Mixer, Reshape and Tilt-Shift tools, which are used to achieve more creative versions of your photo.
  • Artistic – contains Painting, Urban and Sketch tools for those practicing painterly art
  • Brushes – contains Doodle, Effects and Text, which makes it possible to add various elements such as stamps or text to the photo.
  • Finalize – contains Border, Frame, Instafit and Collage tools – usually used as a final step before you publish your image.

Tapping on the section icon (eg. Canvas) will reveal tool icons inside the section and collapse all the other sections. Tapping on the particular tool icon will load the tool and its toolbar.

Working with the single tool

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Picture 7. BW tool screen with Presets tab selected.

When the tool is loaded, the application will present the tool screen, which is a bit different from the main screen. We will explain it on the example of the BW filter, but most of the other tools work the same.

Let’s start with the top – X button will cancel the tool and return to application’s main screen. The apply button (V) will apply changes and also return to main screen. Tapping on tools name will reveal animated help about the tool.

The action happens on the bottom, where the tool options are presented. Available options are organized in tabs. In this particular example we have three tabs:

  • Presets – contains several presets – good way to start familiarizing on how certain effect works. You may just like certain preset and you are fine to stick with that
  • Tools – This tab contains various tools available for this screen – presets are nothing more than predetermined settings for those tools, but you can further customize them.
  • Mask – that’s where real magic starts. Mask allows you to selectively apply the adjustment to only some parts of the screen.

Let’s start with Presets. They are presented on a list which you can swipe left or right. Tapping on a given preset icon (which itself is a preview of how the effect would look like on the current photo), will reveal a number, which is preset intensity. Swipe your finger right on the photo to increase the number, swipe it left to decrease it.

Tip: If you think that number changes too quickly and you can’t precisely set it to certain value, instead of swiping horizontally, swipe your finger diagonally, it will slow down the movement and allow you to set the appropriate value.

If you are not happy with the new intensity for the preset, just quickly tap on Undo to revert the preset intensity to the default setting. Presets intensity choices are remembered, but you can go to Settings menu to reset all presets to their default intensity values.

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Picture 8. BW tool screen with Tools tab selected.

When you click the Tools tab, you are presented with new toolbar with more detailed options available, where you can customize the adjustments in more fine grained way. Tapping on any of the icons will reveal particular adjustment parameters.

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Picture 9. BW tool screen with Tools/Tone tab selected.

Eg. here we tapped on Tone and it revealed five different parameters that can be set. Setting the parameters works exactly the same way like setting intensity of the preset.

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Picture 10. Saving custom preset.

Note: when you first choose a preset, and then start to modify its value using the Tools tab, and then you go back to Presets menu, you will be given the option to save your modified settings as a new Preset (just tap on big plus in the presets list). The custom preset is added to the list and given an ordinal name (eg. BW1, BW2, BWx for BW filters). If you are not happy with your custom preset, tap it and hold and you will be given an option to remove it. You can also choose to remove all custom presets from the main Settings menu.

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Picture 11. BW tool screen with Mask tab selected.

Mask tab allows to selectively applied previously chosen tool to the photo. By default the effect is applied to the whole photo, but tool allows us to:

  • Fill – apply effect to entire photo in case it’s needed
  • Clean – remove effect from entire photo
  • Apply – selectively apply the effect using your finger
  • Wipe – selectively remove the effect using your finger
  • Strength – allows to set the brush strength/opacity. For more detailed edits, especially portraits, set it to lower value.

For more detailed edits where you need to be sure that your selection is accurate, pinch to zoom into the photo. The brush behaves in quite intelligent way, trying to stick to the edges of the areas, so you don’t need to do very precise brushing to achieve good results.

As you can see on the attached screenshot, achieving color splash effect on the example photo is quite trivial.

After we have done all the edits we wanted in the particular tool, we need to save the changes by tapping Apply. Alternatively, you can tap on Cancel to abandon changes.

In any case, you are returned to the main screen, where you can pick any other tool and continue your editing process. The last edit in stacked on the top of all the previous edits. You can of course roll it back, or roll back to any other previous step. However, the edits that have been finalized, can’t be further modified. You can just undo them if you don’t like them.

Publishing the photo

IMG_2637Picture 12. Export screen.

Before publishing your photo, consider visiting menu section named Finalize. It contains set of tools that can be helpful before publishing the photo, including my favourite tool Instafit, which alone is worth paying for this app.

Upon tapping on the Export button, you are given plenty of options on how to export your photo.

  • Save Photo – saves photo in the Camera Roll. Enlight is not using the new iOS 8 method of saving a new version of original photo. It will always create a new copy of the photo (many people prefer to work this way). The good news is that exported photo will maintain all the metadata from original photo (unless it is saved as PNG – see description of the Settings menu above).
  • Share Multiple – allows you to share multiple photos at once. Very convenient option, however export options are then becoming more limited – eg. you can’t share multiple images on the Instagram at once.
  • Save Session – saves current editing session.
  • Mail – shares photo via built-in Apple Mail.
  • Message – shares photo via iMessage
  • Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc – shares photo to one of the social network apps. The choice here depends on what you have installed on your device.

Using Export option doesn’t close the editing session – after the export is finished, we can continue to work with the photo.

Summary of part 1

This review is going to be very long, so we decided to split it in two parts. The first part (which you are currently reading) – gives you the overview of the app and how to use it, without describing specific app editing tools. After reading part 1 you should be fully familiar with how app works and start experimenting.

Part 2 of the review is going to be very comprehensive description of all the tools the application offers. Part 2 is more of a reference, which part 1 is more of a tutorial. Read tutorial and look in the reference in case you are not clear on how to use any particular tool.

Please stay tuned and follow our Instagram account @grupamobilni to get notified about part 2 when it’s ready.

Contest

We have a second Enlight contest, with another redeem code, allowing to download app for free.

The question is following: What is the name of the Lightricks’ prioprietary technology, used for Enlight and Facetune brushes?
Please answer the question in the comment to our Instagram post. First person to give the correct answer will receive a redeem code.

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