PhotoToaster iPad App Review for Photographers

PhotoToaster is an amazing photo editing app from the company behind MobileMonet and ColorBlast!, East Coast Pixels. At first glance PhotoToaster looks like yet another photo filter app, but when you delve deeper, you find a wealth of powerful tools to let you tweak to your heart’s content.

As with MobileMonet, you can either import photos from your photo albums on your iOS device, Facebook, or from the clipboard. Once you’ve selected your photo, you can start editing a few different ways:

  • Choose one of the built-in global presets where lighting, effects, vignettes, and borders are pre-configured.
  • Choose your own combination of presets under the individual categories of lighting, effects, vignette, and border using the preview thumbnails.
  • Use the adjustment sliders in each category instead of the preview thumbnails to create your own look from scratch and save as a preset, if you like.
  • Shake your phone or hit the shuffle button on the iPad to apply a random set of effects to your photo.
  • This sounds simplistic, but access to the adjustment sliders is the key factor differentiating PhotoToaster from other photo filter apps. With most other apps, you either like a filter’s look or you don’t. Some apps like Camera+ or FX Photo Studio allow you to change the strength or some other particular aspect of the filter, but it’s still limiting. With PhotoToaster, you can change just about anything and everything about a preset using the adjustment sliders.

    phototoaster ipad app
    Figure 1: Main PhotoToaster editing UI

    The easiest way to start editing in PhotoToaster is to explore the global presets by tapping the globe icon in the lower-left corner. That brings up a menu of preview thumbnails showing the group of “Basic” presets. These are simple edits, mostly geared toward quickly improving the lighting and contrast of your photo. Tapping the button in the lower-left corner reveals more global presets under the “Deluxe” and “Supreme” category names. And you’ll notice that there’s a section where you can add your own presets.


    Figure 2: Three sets of global presets and a drawer for saving custom presets

    You could just choose one of these presets and be done. A lot of them have a great look and are fine just as they are. It makes for quick and easy editing. However, if there’s anything you want to change about the results from a global preset, you can easily do that by tapping on the button to the upper-left of the preset thumbnails to reveal the adjustment sliders for each of the categories.

    phototoaster ipad app
    Figure 3: Adjustment sliders for lighting, effects, vignette, and border

    It’s really surprising how rich and complex your edits can look. This is where PhotoToaster shines. I often start my edits by perusing the different global presets to find a good starting point, then tweak a few settings to finalize my edit. At any point in the editing process you can tap and hold on the photo to compare it to the original. There’s a nice fade animation between the edited and original versions when you do that.

    It’s also fun to shake the phone or hit the shuffle button to get a random set of effects to see what the app comes up with. There are unlimited undos, so even if you get really wacky effects as you randomize the settings, you can undo all the way back to the unedited version of your photo.

    If you end up with settings that you like and want to reuse, PhotoToaster makes it easy to save your settings as a new custom preset. If you e-mail your photo to someone via the app, a link showing what settings you used will be included. If the recipient has PhotoToaster installed, he/she can use your preset. I did notice, though, that if you send the e-mail to a Gmail user, the settings link is inactive. I sent myself a test e-mail from PhotoToaster to my Springpad account, and the settings link remained active in the resulting saved note. I am not sure if there’s something wrong on Gmail’s end, or if it’s something that the developers can fix from their end.

    There are a few more minor issues that I noticed during my testing:

    The crop tool is rather limited compared to crop tools in other photo editing apps. It’s usable, in a pinch, but I would prefer using another app to do my cropping. There is also no rotate tool. Since PhotoToaster doesn’t seem to be aimed at being a full-featured photo editing suite, I can’t fault the developers too much on this. It took a long time for other great photo filter apps like PictureShow to include basic photo editing tools like crop and rotate, so it’s possible these features will be added/improved later. In the meantime, it’d be best to make those simple edits in another app before importing into PhotoToaster.

    If you are in the middle of editing a photo and hit the home icon to return to the main menu, there doesn’t seem to be a way to return to the photo you were editing. All your changes are lost at that point. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) However, it’s not easy to accidentally do this, so unless you deliberately go back to the home screen while editing a photo, this shouldn’t be a problem, just something to be aware of.

    The feature I like least in PhotoToaster is the selection of borders. I personally prefer more subtle, minimalist borders, and many of the borders available don’t fit my taste. Also, the thicker borders cover up a significant portion of a photo instead of shrinking the photo to fit within the frame. The borders aren’t tweakable, either, which is a little surprising since every other setting can be changed.

    None of these issues are deal breakers, in my opinion. It’s likely that many of them, if not all, will be addressed in near-future updates. These minor nits are far outweighed by my delight in using PhotoToaster. The UI is intuitive. You can choose whether to do a one-click edit and be done, or tweak every slider to get just the right look. And once you get that perfect look, you can save it as a custom preset so that future edits can be one-click simple. I’m glad I added PhotoToaster to my arsenal of photo apps, and highly recommend it. It’s a universal app available in the iTunes App Store for $1.99.

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    Author: Cheryl

    Cheryl didn't fully get into photography as a hobby until after graduating from college. The first camera she used on a regular basis was a Canon Powershot A70 point-and-shoot. A couple Sony and Casio point-and-shoots later, she bought a Sony DSC-F717, which would become a workhorse for her and a gateway camera to her first DSLR, the Nikon D70. From there, Cheryl continues to experiment with all sorts of photography equipment and techniques for both digital and film. Her latest main photographic interest has been "iPhoneography", a term usually used for photos taken, edited, and uploaded directly from iPhones.

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    1. Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?

      There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.
      Please let me know. Cheers

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