As any iPhone photographer can tell you, adding fun filters to your images can be addicting. With the click of a button, you can turn mediocre snapshots into vintage-looking images. Photo Effect Studio is made to keep the interest of even the most filter-obsessed photographer, bringing some of the iPhone and iPad editing tools to OS X. It has a huge library of more than 80 filter, 15 vignette, and 20 frame options. Granted, some are cheesy: You can add colorful hearts, bright fireworks, or an all-over netting filter to your images.
The application offers more advanced photo-editing options than iPhoto, though you shouldn’t expect Photoshop Elements ($100)-level capabilities. It falls between the more advanced Pixelmator ($30) and the clever Flare app ($10), which is just for adding filters. With Photo Effect Studio, users can adjust basic features such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and exposure. It also includes tone, color, detail, chromatic aberration, vignette, and noise reduction adjustment sliders, along with a histogram and a curves adjustment. The program also supports a wide range of image formats, including more than 100 raw file formats.
Photo Effect Studio’s interface is intuitive and visually pleasing. The photo being edited fills the large center column, making it easy to see changes as they happen. Below the image you’ll find buttons and sliders to easily rotate, move, and zoom in and out of the image. All the necessary Open, Save, Save As, Redo, and Undo buttons are located at the top of the app, as well as a useful Compare button that allows you to switch between the original and edited photo.
To the left of the photo is a single, scrollable column showing effect, vignette, or frame choices. On the right is a similarly sized column that contains the photo editing sliders. A simple Preferences button on the top right corner makes it easy to change basic exporting options such as JPEG quality. Photo Effect Studio also integrates a Flickr upload button, so users can share completed images on photo sharing site, if they have an account.
While the app is easy to use, there are some glaring drawbacks. You can only have one image open at a time, making it impossible to compare photos to each other or to edit multiple photos simultaneously in the app. And there’s no way to save a set of filters or adjustments if you want to use the same settings on a batch of images. It also lacks cropping and straightening tools.
Though Photo Effect Studio’s photo filters are plentiful, they don’t always have the desired effect—for instance, the Hearts filter only shows up on nighttime shots, while the Black&White filters (01 and 02) render night scenes unrecognizable. Several other filters also don’t turn out well on photos with white backgrounds.
Overall, Photo Effect Studio offers fun photo-filter play with a few flexible image editing options. At $20, it’s a respectable and fun program for the price. The app is available on the Mac App Store and requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later. There is also a light version of the application available for $6 in the Mac App Store.