Photo Retouch is a powerful but quirky background changer

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Photo Retouch (free w/paid ad-ins) is a clever app that’s mainly aimed at doing background changes in a photo, or changing a color of a particular object. It’s easy enough to use, after some practice, and the software is good enough to recognize what’s a background and what’s not. In that regard, it’s similar to the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop CC, only you use your finger to do the selecting.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.37.04 PMIn addition, Photo Retouch let’s you blur any part of a photo selectively, and turn a color photo into black and white and then recolor a person or an object.

The app let’s you save to your camera roll, or share on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Using Photo Retouch

The app is fairly intuitive, but I had to try things a couple of times to make sure I understood the workflow.

You can take a photo, or load anything from your camera roll, then you use your finger to highlight what you want to keep. You don’t have to be too accurate, the app is good at pattern recognition so you don’t have to super exact. The objects not selected, like a sky, can then be replaced with a sky from another photo. You load the second picture, then move and scale to the new sky is where you want it. (See my quick example at the top of this post.)

You can use two fingers to zoom so you can work close-up. During the selecting/painting phase, you can also zoom and a small photo appears at the top left to show you the area you are painting that would be covered by your finger.

Issues

When you first get the app, you’ll be asked to rate it. If you don’t, any photos you edit will be watermarked. That’s kind of like blackmail, and something I find pretty unacceptable in a relationship between developer and customer. The app is ad supported, and I found the ads intrusive, both because of their placement, and because some have flashing animation. That’s pretty awful too. It’s better to consider Photo Retouch a $2 app and get the recolor feature and eliminate the flashing ads.

Other little things I saw when I looked at the app was sometimes the magnified area under my finger didn’t always track where my finger was, showing me a magnified view of where I WASN’T selecting a background. It’s not an awful glitch, because it was pretty rare, but it should be fixed.

The app only works in portrait mode. Working in both portrait and landscape would be better.

Photo Retouch doesn’t save it full resolution (bah!) but it’s sufficient for the online social services. Still, it would be far better to leave the photo resolution untouched.

My reaction

So why do I like an app with some big negatives? because it does what it does very well. The background section is easy and quite accurate, and you can touch up any areas you miss. The recolor feature also works well, and you don’t have to paint in detail if what you are re-coloring has pretty obvious boundaries.

The blur effect is fine, but many apps can do that.

In summary, Photo Retouch does well, but the free version is a bit of a mess. Plan to spend the 2 bucks and get a useful and powerful app.

About Mel Martin 122 Articles
Mel Martin is an experienced writer and photographer. He spent 6 years at TUAW writing about photography for the Mac and the increasing catalogue of iOS apps that have made the iPhone the preferred camera for so many. Mel hails from Missouri, attended college in Iowa, and spent most of his life in journalism. He now lives in Arizona, a great place for iPhone photography.
  • Annis Joye

    Interesting app. Background removal can come handy at times.