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Facetune review: Complicated tools, but makes portraits better

Facetune has a fairly steep learning curve, but once you learn how to use the tools, it can make your portrait and group photos look better.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
5 min read
Facetune is an app that aims to give you professional quality photo editing tools in the palm of your hand. The app is intended to be used with portraits or group photos giving you the tools to improve the overall look of your subjects.

Upon first launching the app, you're immediately given the option to use a demo photo. The demo photos are portraits of individuals who may have exposed blemishes, hair on their faces, freckles or some other attribute that can be removed through the app.

Facetune (iOS)


The Good

<b>Facetune</b> has a steep learning curve, but with excellent built-in tutorials, you'll quickly be coloring, smoothing and reshaping your photos like a pro.

The Bad

The app is better suited for a larger screen, but is not a universal binary, so you'll need to buy the app twice if you want both the iPhone and iPad versions.

The Bottom Line

Facetune brings pro-level photo editing capabilities to your iPhone with great results, but you'll need some patience to learn the ropes.

I suggest starting with a demo photo, as it gives you a chance to get familiar with the app and the tools you'll soon have at your disposal. And what better photos to learn your skills on than those of a complete stranger?

The first time you select a tool you'll be presented with a quick tutorial explaining what exactly the tool does, along with the providing a general idea of how to use it. The part that I like best about this approach is that the tutorial focuses on features in a timely manner, rather than in a short tutorial the first time you launch the app, where it's likely you'll forget what it was you quickly tapped through.

Another nice touch regarding the tool guides is that there's a video at the end of each brief explanation should you want to see how the creators use the tool. This visual demonstration goes a long way.

Facetune has the tools to give your photos a tune-up (pictures)

See all photos

Tuning a photo
Included in Facetune is a total of ten tools to enhance your photos. You'll find tools such as Crop, Whiten, Smooth, Details, Reshape, Patch, Tones, Red Eye, Defocus and of course Filters and Frames.

Each tool is built for a specific task, and while most of the tools have similar traits in terms of how you use them, they all have minor tweaks and nuances you'll need to familiarize yourself with for the best results.

For example, the Patch tool helps you cover up moles, pimples or beauty marks. You start by selecting the spot you want to cover up, and then selecting a portion of skin to copy and replace the unwanted mark with. The end result is you're able to easily cover almost anything up.

You can zoom in on a photo, or increase the size of the area to be covered up with the familiar pinch-to-zoom gesture. In addition to the pinch gesture, you're able to move around the photo simply by dragging your finger across the screen. There is also a "Move" button that disables the editing tool currently selected that would normally apply an edit, so you can move the photo. Although, with the Patch tool, I never found myself accidentally selecting a portion of skin to patch when I had intended to move the photo, making the Move button kind of useless.

In contrast, the Reshape tool allows you to bend and transform a photo to make a nose look smaller, or bring the waist line in a bit. The same principle mentioned above for navigating is applied, but in this case you have to use the Move button in order to let the app know your intention.

I understand different tools have different approaches to the gestures used, but it would be nice to see the developers bring a consistent experience to navigating around a photo without accidentally applying an effect, or accidentally moving the photo when you intend to apply one. For now, I recommend getting into the habit of always using the Move button. This will help (hopefully) prevent any mishaps.

The rest of the tools all follow the same general guidelines.

Nothing is permanent
When you import a photo into Facetune, you'll notice as you make changes you always have the option to undo any of the previously applied enhancements to the photo. This is nice, because you may later decide you don't like an adjustment you made, or you might find a better tool for the job.

On top of the ability to undo any change, you're also able to view what the original photo looked like before you made any changes by touching and holding on an always-present button in the lower-right corner of the photo.

After masking, shaping, coloring, defocusing and framing the photo just right, you're able to share it with a long list of social networks and services. E-mail, camera roll, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram and any other app that's supported (such as Camera+ for even more editing).

When sharing with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr you'll be given the option to upload a before and after version of your photo. On the left side will be the original photo, with the right side containing the spruced up photo. In some cases, it's warranted to show off editing skills, while it might be best you shied away from sharing the original in other instances.

Either way, the ability to upload the before and after photos together is a nice touch the app, one that caught me by surprise; in a good way.

Facetune is an app, that helps you improve photos, but forces you to have some patience. You can't expect to launch it, select a photo and start perfecting blemishes and discoloration on a photo in just a few minutes. Instead, you'll need to take your time with some demo photos, experimenting with each tool to get your feet wet, then start using it on your own photos.

That's not to say you shouldn't try the app if you don't have time or patience, it's possible to achieve small -- but impactful -- edits on a photo (whitening teeth, for example) almost right away, but don't plan on slimming down a subjects neck line or correcting skin tone immediately upon launching the app.

One last word of advice, don't shell out your hard earned money on the iPhone version if you own an iPad. The iPad's larger screen will be a huge benefit when editing photos, but one I unfortunately didn't get to experience when testing the app myself.

Facetune (iOS)


Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 7Interface 7Performance 8