The Mac itself has never been thinner, lighter, or faster, and a newly minted MacBook with iMovie and Garageband needs only an iPhone and a good microphone to become a high quality better-than-broadcast video production house. While iPhoto was good and Photos is better, the Mac has plenty of third party photo enhancement editors to produce stunning photos on any Mac. Here’s yet another one.
Crowded Field, Priced Right
Through the years we’ve written much about Photoshop and Aperture and Lightroom and a dozen or so photo apps which improve upon the original with little more than a few clicks. We’ve looked at a Photoshop Killer, a portrait app for pros, a Swiss Army Knife-like Photoshop wannabe, a free Photoshop-like app, and one which is more like Photoshop Lite.
These are all great for enhancing photos on your Mac but they come with a steep price and a steeper learning curve. If you prefer less of each there’s a new Creative Kit package, a suite of apps just for photo enhancements. But if you’re really on a budget and you love point and click, you’re likely to enjoy using Polarr on your Mac.
Polarr is a relatively new Mac app for photos that has improved quickly. It comes loaded up with point and click filters and effects; presets which can get you started, but also form the basis of customized filters. The interface is straightforward, mostly self-explanatory, but with enough options to ensure than changes to your photo will be unique.
See the presets in the lefthand sidebar? What could be easier. Click to apply to the photo of your choice, but then customize the settings with the individual tools in the righthand sidebar for more granular controls.
That includes easy-to-adjust slider bars for color, light, details– sliders which are reminiscent of what you find in Photos and Photos for iPhone and iPad. As you slide, for example, the bar for Temperature, Tint, Vibrance and Saturation, you’ll see the changes instantly on the photo.
Unfortunately, the Before and After displayed side-by-side requires an extra click. Otherwise, making customizations to a preset using the Color, Light, Detail, and Optics settings are simple and actually fun to trial and error.
All the basic tools that most average Mac photographers will appreciate are in Polarr. Crop and tilt and zoom (even custom cropping controls). Multi-channel HSL adjustments, and options to alter highlight and shadow toning, blending and mixing filters, even grain simulation– all a click or two away.
Polarr is a good photo citizen, too, and can handle JPG and most RAW images (up to about 40-megabytes in size. Photos can be dropped into Polarr from other apps. The built-in guide is a good place to start when you’re ready to edit beyond the presets. It even has an option to add a custom watermark when exporting a JPG photo.
All I can see is that Polarr is a sweet surprise. It goes well beyond Photos and most inexpensive photo editors, but, of course, does not have the tools or complexities or learning curve (or the expensive) of Photoshop or Pixelmator and other general graphic design apps which are used by photographers.
The latest version has more controls and options, a try-before-you-buy version to compliment the Mac App Store purchase, a highly customizable workspace, and an extension for Photos on your Mac. There’s a Windows version, too. The free version is quite useful, but the Pro version adds more effects, filters, and options.