Photoshop has always been the go-to tool for any kind of retouching and it’s not hard to see why. With advanced features like the Content Aware Fill, it can perform photographic magic, not just removing blemishes, but inventing whole potions of a photo out of the ether. There’s no two ways about it – it’s an incredible app – it’s also bloody expensive.

If all you want to do is remove blemishes from your photographs then it’s difficult to justify Photoshop’s hefty price-tag and that’s where an app like SnapHeal (currently only available on Mac) comes in. It doesn’t offer the feature-set of Photoshop and it doesn’t pretend to either – this is a product aimed squarely at ordinary Mac users who want to tidy up their photos.

SnapHeal 2 is the ideal software for someone who’d love to get the same results as a Photoshop user, only without the cost. It focuses squarely on the task of removing stuff from photos, whether that’s a few zits on someone faces or a whole person that’s in the way. But that does not mean that it is any less capable, in this regard, as Photoshop.

To be honest I was amazed at how well SnapHeal 2 performed – in fact in several instances it did a far better job of removing elements of a photograph than Photoshop. It did particularly well at removing items and restoring the background. In Photoshop the Content Aware Fill often uses an obvious source area which can sometimes look like crude cloning, but I had no such issues with SnapHeal.

There are three removal tools available and the one you choose depends on the item(s) you’re trying to get rid of. These have been given the exotic names Shapeshifter, Wormhole and Twister. You deploy each based on different removal critera – Shapeshifter is used when you have large objects to remove, Wormhole for things like small skin blemishes and Twister for things like clouds and small tree branches.

To get rid of a troublesome object in the photo, you can either brush over the affected region or drag the marching ants around it. The area is then highlighted in red and you can choose your removal tool. I tested it on my three year old Macbook Pro and it was speedy even with multiple selections. I didn’t have to wait for more than a minute no matter how complex the scene.

Certain removal scenarios worked out far better with Snapheal than Photoshop – in particular the removal of smaller fiddly objects like twigs. You have to be realistic about it though and if you try remove a massive bulk from your image then it may be obvious where the source pixels were taken from.

In addition to its excellent removal tools, Snapheal also has a selection of traditional retouching tools such as a clone stamp, image adjustment sliders (contrast, saturation etc) and crop and rotate tools. It can access photos in your Aperture or iPhoto libraries and can export back to them or share directly on the main social networks.

I feel there’s a very strong case for the addition of Snapheal to any photographers software library. If you regularly take family photos and get frustrated by imperfections in your photos then it’s definitely worth buying. In fact given the quality of the removal tols, I think there’s a very strong case for existing Photoshop users to have Snapheal on hand too – I’ve certainly come to rely on it when Content Aware Fill’s not cutting it. Recommended.