First look: Facetune makers take aim at Photoshop with Enlight

Facetune is a fixture on the App Store's top 20 paid apps list, currently sitting at No. 11. It has thousands of rave reviews, because it does something that a lot of people want, which is to fix insecurities. The app smooths out your skin, removes blemishes, whitens teeth, applies makeup, fills in bald spots, and generally makes you look like a Glamour Shots version of yourself.

It can seem a little silly, but the engine behind Facetune is incredibly powerful, and the app's fans claim it rivals Photoshop for editing images. But, as its moniker suggests, Facetune is designed just to enhance photos of your face. So for its follow-up, Facetune developer Lightricks is back with what it hopes will be another big hit: Enlight for iOS, which launched today.

Working on Facetune over the last few years helped Lightricks develop the sophisticated imaging software it needed to build Enlight, which is "as powerful as high-end software, but as easy to use as mass-market apps," Lightricks cofounder Itai Tsiddon told me.

Photo-editing apps are either incredibly basic or overly complicated, so I spent a few days with a beta version of Enlight just ahead of its launch to see if it's really is as easy to use as promised.

Complex edits with a simple touch

Enlight has every basic tool that your standard photo app offers, so you can crop, filter, and overlay text to your heart's content. But there are Photoshop-like features you can't find in other smartphone apps, ones that aren't intuitive to use in more complex desktop photo software.

You can shoot a photo in-app or import one from your Camera Roll. Then a hamburger menu gives you a handful of areas to explore: Canvas, Image, Filters, Tools, Artistic, Brushes, and Text. You can add some neat effects to your image with brushes, make your photo look like a painting or sketch, or add an Instagram-like filter. There's something for every budding photo editor. And Enlight is easy to use, letting you reduce or increase the intensity of each effect with a swipe to the left or right.

But then you dig deeper. Canvas gives you a skew tool to change the perspective of an image, like altering the angle of a building, in a split second. You can also bring objects in a photo closer together, essentially cropping dead space, using the Refit tool (which I've never seen in another app). Image > Adjust opens up what Tsiddon called "Lightroom in one feature." It's a whole world of image manipulation, from contrast and saturation to split toning and curve control, that can be molded down to the pixel. Every step of the way, there are preset options and then tools to go beyond them.

One of my favorite features is Mixer, which lets you blend two photos together. I spent way too much time artfully placing myself in front of a variety of backgrounds and then smoothing out the edges so it looked completely, well, Photoshopped. The fact that I could do it on my phone using just my fingertip was impressive.

"You can do really cool stuff, but you don't have to work hard to get results," Tsiddon said.

There are no social or community-related features, so don't think of Enlight as a VSCO Cam or Instagram competitor. You can share the images you create, which even include memes, out to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or send them to friends via WhatsApp or iMessage. Or you can save them to share on the web--the end results are large, high-quality files, not images that have been compressed to bits.

As is common for high-end software that doesn't sell your data to advertisers, Enlight isn't free: The app will cost $4 at launch, though you can expect that price to go up.


Caitlin McGarry

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