Spruced Up: Meet the app that will make our photos perfect

Just when you thought life was filtered enough, a new tool comes along to set the bar for photo perfection even higher.

Unlike the usual amateur apps, Spruced Up! offers the chance to have your photos retouched by professionals. Founded by photographer Rob Willingham, the team behind the screen claim to have had a hand in campaigns for the likes of Christian Dior and Calvin Klein – and now they’ll work their glossy magic on your holiday snaps too.

“WHERE WILL IT END?” you cry. I know, I know. If we keep things up at this rate it’ll only be a matter of years before a double chin or red-eye is an offence punishable by law. So when I was offered a trial of the app, at first I was smugly ambivalent. “Not for me thank you,” I thought. “I’m simply not vain enough to care that much about society’s narrow limits of aesthetic perfecti- OH NO WAIT, I AM.” Suddenly I recalled a photo that could definitely benefit from professional intervention. Just a little bit. Then another one. And another one.

It starts off innocently, noticing unfortunate photobombs or mistimed blinks, but before I knew it, a quick trawl through Facebook became a catalogue of suddenly grotesque imperfections. Could I… get rid of that spot? Erase my crow’s feet? Reconfigure my features into those of a young Michelle Pfeiffer? To be fair to Spruced Up!, their angle is definitely more ‘remove the drunk uncle from your wedding photo’ than ‘airbrush half your thighs away’, but it’s easy to see how one falls down the hole.

In the interests of not throwing all my self esteem out a window, I tried to concentrate on correcting the photography rather than my face. First up, a photo of my boyfriend and I at the top of Berlin Cathedral – the only non-selfie of the two of us from that particular holiday, which we’d taken through the old fashioned method of “asking the least sinister-looking stranger”. Being that strangers at tourist hotspots are rarely David Bailey, it’s not the word best photo, but with a few tweaks it could be much better.

Original photo - Berliner Dom
The original

So with Spruced Up! I set about marking and circling the problem areas I want fixing, picking from a list of options and adding notes as I go. “Can you make it look sunnier?” I request (brighten photo: £0.49). “Please remove forehead and under-eye wrinkles, and sharpen our fuzzy faces,” I add (smooth wrinkles: £0.99; sharpen photo: £0.49). Then the biggie that will really give our photo that glamorous, holiday feel – “Please remove this lady and her adorable children”, with a big red circle around the offending items (remove: £1.99). Sorry, not items. People.

Spruced Up! editing

With a handling fee on top, my total for the one photo comes to £7.45. Which is a lot of pick’n’mix, even in a London Odeon. It’s much less than paying a professional would normally be, true – but then, I was never going to pay a professional to fix my holiday photos because I am not a Kardashian or minor member of European royalty. In the interests of fairness I decided to edit the photos myself using Snapseed or Instagram as well, to see what could be achieved for free.

Next, a more indulgent challenge – a photo of me on a winter’s walk in Regents Park, with a tree coming out of my head. The light is nice, my hair is behaving, but there is a large column of topiary rising majestically straight up from my head head like… well, you can do your own metaphors. “REMOVE THE TREE!” I bid Spruced Up!, for by this point I am giddy on power like a high tech Queen of Narnia (£1.99). Then I throw in “SHADOWs BE GONE!” for good measure (£1.99), and finish with a little facial brightening (£0.49). I can easily crop out the offending tree and brighten things up on Instagram too of course, but not without losing half the photo.

Spruced Up! photo editing
Treehead be gone!

It can take up to 48 hours to receive your photos, but mine arrived in a few hours – I was pleasantly surprised. Blue skies, bright smiles and the adorable family BANISHED FOREVER with some clever trickery in my holiday photo, while the tree and my head have parted ways amicably in the park snap. What’s more, they don’t look messed around with – no telltale blurring or unnatural contrast to give the game away. There’s something a bit weird about a real life human being on the other end of the app, beavering away on my photos, but this just shows that sometimes it pays to get the professionals involved.

The finished product

For old photos in need of repair, or a one-off picture to give as a present, I can definitely see Spruced Up’s appeal. Likewise if you had a nosebleed down your wedding dress or a hairdresser’s revenge fringe on the day of your graduation. But if this marks the dawning of a new era where everyone gives their selfies a tenner-worth of airbrushing as standard, I’d rather we spent our cash on more fun and less filtering instead. Let’s not be treeheads about it.

Lauren Bravo