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Review: PhotoForge for iPhone, the gateway photo editor for your digital camera bag

JAiB reviews PhotoForge

Is that a PhotoForge in your pocket, or are you just — oh, ok, it is PhotoForge.
I’ve been taking quite a while to review all of my favourite photo manipulation software, but I’ve finally reached the final one in my arsenal (for now). PhotoForge rounds out my posse of beret-wearing, artist apps (to which Photogene, TiltShift Gen, and AutoStitch also belong). Those other apps are ridiculously useful and all have their purpose, but none of them is quite the Swiss Army Paintbrush that PhotoForge is. Seriously. You can do almost anything with this $2.99 app: add filters, paint, erase, blur, clone, and even crop. It should be illegal to carry all of these tools in one app on your iPhone.

Firing up the forge
Before you get to crafting your photo you first have to load one up. Since I use this app pretty regularly, this presents one of my biggest stumbling blocks. Loading up a photo is easy, but dealing with the dialogue that asks “Do you want to resume from previous session?” every single bloody time I load the app up, regardless of whether I saved when before exiting the app, is annoying to say the least 🙂 I keep meaning to write to the developers to make this dialogue pop-up an option (“would you like to resume or edit a new photo?”), but I keep forgetting to. Blast.

Controls, top to bottom
You’ve got to know your PhotoForge controls from top to bottom, because that’s how they’re positioned: editing tools at the top, settings and filter buttons at the bottom. The top bar holds a host of goodies for you to play with — all of which you’ve seen before if you’ve used something like Adobe Photoshop.
You’ve got your standard brush, eraser, paint can, clone tool, smudge tool, colour picker, and zoom/pan tool. This isn’t the order featured in the app, by the way. I realized only too late that I was typing them out as I thought of them. It’s too late to correct the mistake, I fear. I’d have to erase this last paragraph and I can’t very well do that . My apologies.
The bottom bar features buttons to save, load, undo/redo, crop, rotate, straighten, adjust paintbrush colours and size, and finally…apply filters. Ohhh, and let me tell you, there are so many filters here that they deserve a section of their own.

Speaking of Filters
I find it insane that there are 18 filters and 15 adjustments are included in PhotoForge for a mere $2.99. It’s amazing, especially when you consider how many other apps out there charge $0.99 to just apply one effect. As it is, however, I don’t really use very many of the filters — it’s the adjustments I’m after. I especially love the blur and hue/saturation sliders, but there also auto white balance, auto exposure, and auto enhance buttons similar to what you’d find in Picasa. Heck, there’s even a tilt shift slider, although the TiltShift Generator app does a much better job of this.
If you’re not sure of what the effects will do, then the undo button is your friend. My favourite thing is to play with the Eraser after applying a filter or adjustment. That way you can select which portions of the picture you want to stay “normal”, and which ones to to enhance.

Saving Time
The save button is in the bottom-right corner, and saves are pretty quick as long as you don’t edit very much. I made a few pictures that featured selective de-saturation (where only specific objects where shown in colour) and those could take up to a minute to save on my 3GS. I don’t mind, though — it was a fair amount of editing to achieve the effect and I’m surprised that my iPhone could process something even that quickly.

Conclusion
Out of all the tools in my digital camera bag, PhotoForge is by far the most flexible.  I see the app  as the backbone of my photo editing toolset, and while I recommend photo lovers eventually buy Photogene, AutoStitch, and TiltShift Generator, I believe PhotoForge is really the best place to start.

PhotoForge is available for $2.99 on the App Store.

PhotoForge  was bought at author’s expense for review on Just Another iPhone Blog. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • Lucion

    Thanks for the review. Having read your other photo app reviews I was curious to read more about this one.

    I was ready to hop on board with this app, but some of the reviews in the app store gave me pause. Did you notice any issues with your edits not saving correctly?I was also alarmed that, from the sound of it, this app doesn’t keep an image’s native resolution.

    I take app store reviews with a shaker full of salt, but these issues were rampant. It is quite possible these users were not using the app properly so I figured I’d ask for your input.

    Now I realized I just typed all of this rambling comment on an iPhone keypad when discussing the merit of a $2.99 app. It’s not like I’m dropping $500 on Photoshop!

    Thanks for the reviews.

    • Hey Lucion,

      you know I haven't had any major issues at all with Photoforge. The app can keep the photo's native resolution — but it's not a default setting. Go to settings -> photoforge to set this up.

      It's pretty hard to use the app improperly since the save dialogue is one button 😛 but on my 3GS on 3.1.2 I don't have any complaints.

      It's true you're not spending $500, but with so many of these tempting apps out there I think it's still good to take a moment to pause and think on these purchases — hence the reviews 😛 thanks for stopping by