Photoshop’s New Camera App Makes Instagram’s Filters Look Hopelessly Outdated

Photo: Andrew Liszewski, Gizmodo
Photo: Andrew Liszewski, Gizmodo

Now that posting photos of yourself to social media has become a career for many, Adobe has put some of the powerful photo-editing capabilities of its Photoshop software into a new camera app that uses AI to do all the hard work for you. But the app doesn’t just apply filters you can preview before you snap a pic — Photoshop Camera can even replace unwanted parts of a shot while you’re still framing it.

The new app, available for free on Android and iOS (a paid Adobe Creative Cloud subscription isn’t needed) is part of the company’s recent efforts to make its powerful image-editing and creative tools available and accessible to a wider user base. It’s an approach that, for the most part, hasn’t compromised the advanced capabilities of Adobe’s image-editing tools. That’s thanks to the company’s artificial intelligence system, called Sensei, which automates the editing process for novice users who don’t have hours to spend on a photo, or years to learn and master a piece of software as complex as Photoshop.

Through the clever use of multiple lenses and intelligent software, smartphones are now capable of creating photos that rival shots from expensive digital cameras, but that’s assuming you’ve spent a small chunk of change on the latest and greatest models. One of the bigger appeals of Adobe Photoshop Camera is that it introduces features like background defocusing to older smartphones by leveraging Sensei’s image-processing capabilities. It can automatically and intelligently separate subjects, allowing backgrounds to be blurred, enhanced, colour corrected, or even completely swapped out.

When you first open the app, Adobe Photoshop Camera immediately starts analysing the live feed from your smartphone’s camera and applying enhancements in real-time before you even press the shutter. It also suggests which filters might best be used to improve the shot. If you’re shooting a selfie, for instance, it will suggest using one of several portrait lighting filters to enhance your face by subtly changing how it’s lit.

The original photo (upper left) compared to Adobe Photoshop Camera's enhanced version, and then versions where the sky has been swapped with clouds and stars. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski, Gizmodo)

If you’re instead framing a photo that includes the sky, such as this shot, Photoshop Camera will suggest one of several sky replacement filters. It was a dark, overcast day when I snapped this photo and swapping in a blue sky with white fluffy clouds was a one-click effort — although repositioning and adjusting the scale of the clouds was also an option. The app leans toward automating all of the photo adjustments it makes, but some manual tweaks can be made (which vary from filter to filter), and it also offers integration with the mobile version of Adobe Lightroom if you’re not completely happy with the results.

If a cloudy day is not the aesthetic you’re looking for, Adobe Photoshop Camera can also perform day-to-night transformations, swapping a sunlit sky for one filled with stars, and then automatically colour correcting other parts of the scene so the photo looks like it was snapped at night. The automated edits aren’t always perfect, but the results are often impressive given they require no effort from the user whatsoever.

The original Thanos photo (upper left) compared to Adobe Photoshop Camera's enhanced version, and then various smart filters applied. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski, Gizmodo)

A small assortment of filters are available in the app when you first download and open it, but additional filters can be downloaded and added depending on your tastes. There were several filters I would probably never use, such as comic book filters or ones that replace the backgrounds with cartoony illustrations, but you can remove them as needed, so you’re not always scrolling through a long list looking for your favourites.

Adobe has promised that new filters, including many created by artists associated with the company, will be uploaded on a regular basis. At launch, the available filters tend to lean toward more artistic effects, presumably to show off the app and Sensei’s capabilities, but there are a few that offer more subtle tweaks, like faking portrait photography lighting or enhancing food shots. Adobe also claims Photoshop Camera will work on devices as old as the 4-year-old original iPhone SE (full support on the Apple side includes the old iPhone SE, 6s, 7/7+, 8/8+, X, XR, Xs, Xs Max, and new iPhone SE, as long as they’re running iOS12 or iOS13, while on the Android side support includes the Pixel 3/XL, 4/XL, Samsung S9/S9+, Samsung S10/S10+/S10 5G, Samsung Note 9, Samsung Note 10/10+/10 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 5G/S20+ 5G/S20 Ultra 5G, One Plus 6/6T and above, as long as they’re running Android 9 or 10) but on an iPhone 8 there were occasional slowdowns and stuttering when previewing more complex filters in real-time.

The more horsepower you can throw at it, the smoother the experience you’ll have, but even in its current form, it won’t take long before you find the Instagram filters you’ve long relied on to be boring and uninspired by comparison.