My favorite stand-alone, free photo-editing service is closing its doors April 19, 2012!
Although I use Photoshop for most image creation and editing, I’ve been known to do some simple editing using Picnik (www.picnik.com). Picnik is … er … was a website to which you could upload an image and do some basic editing such as cropping, resizing, overlaying text, and adding borders…for FREE. You could then re-save the edited version back to your computer and insert the new image into your blog post, Facebook update, e-newsletter, or whatever. This was the image editing solution I liked to recommend because it was free and easy to use.
Google technical execs also liked what they saw with Picnik and apparently made an offer the development staff couldn’t refuse. Picnik R&D is now contributing to the image sharing feature of Google+. I suppose that’s a feather in their (Picnik’s) hat.
Why Should You Care, You Say?
If you weren’t using Picnik, you should be using some image editing program. There are numerous free online services, which I’ll tell you about shortly.
Why You Should Edit Your Images Before Posting
- Large image files take longer to load and display on the web, especially if the viewer has a slow internet connection.
- Photos downloaded from your digital camera are very large, which is fine for printing so you don’t get grainy-looking prints. However, these images should always be resized and re-saved for web viewing. (Some platforms, e.g., Facebook, do a certain amount of image resizing for you, but it’s always better for you to be in control of your images.)
- What’s the focal point of your photo? You can enhance the image’s quality by cropping out the extraneous stuff. You can also re-center the contents of the image by cropping.
- Does the image need to be 3072 pixels by 2304 pixels? Probably not. Resize the image to fit nicely into your blog post or newsletter.
- Is the image a bit dark? Would the faces be more distinct if the lighting was adjusted a bit? Image editors typically have something comparable to “fill-in flash” that can help this.
- Is the image a bit blurry? Some image editors have a feature to sharpen the image that might improve it a bit.
- You can further enhance your images with text, borders, frames, and other special effects.
- Overall, view your images and photos with a critical eye. Make sure they enhance your message or appeal to the viewer.
Online or Offline Editing?
There are a fair number of online image editors, many offering their services for free. To use them, you need to be connected to the internet.
If, on the other hand, you’d rather have an editing program resident on your computer so you can work anytime without the need for a web connection, there’s an app for that. I’ve listed several of each type below to give you some ideas.
Online Image Editors
Notes about online editors:
- Most allow you to upload photos or images from various photo libraries such as Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and others.
- Editing is cumulative. That is to say, for example, if you add a thought bubble, then add some text placed inside the bubble, then discover the bubble isn’t big enough, you can’t go back and make the bubble larger to accommodate the text without undoing the text and the bubble and recreating a larger bubble. Did that make sense?
- The online editors listed here are free and vary in the whizzy extras they offer. Some require you to upgrade to get more add-ons, but usually the basics are enough to do what you need to do.
- Some are quite easy to use, and others, not so much.
My opinion is based on working with each of the editors below for 10-15 minutes:
PicMonkey – my new favorite, free, online editor (If you use Constant Contact for emailing, PicMonkey is taking Picnik’s place as their image editor of choice, accessible from your account.) All the images in this blog post were edited using PicMonkey.
BeFunky – lots of effects (some require upgrade); not as easy to use
FotoFlexer – not nearly as many whizzy extras, but easy to use
iPiccy – not bad; fairly easy
Pixlr – not easy to use; a watered-down version of Photoshop, for free; if you’re familiar with Photoshop, you might be able to figure out how to use it; no whizzy extras
LunaPic – a really different interface; refreshes image after each change which gets annoying; fonts are nothing you’ve ever heard of before
Phixr – ok interface; transfer your picture onto a T-shirt or mug or other article
ImageEditor – a different interface, but not bad; doesn’t have many whizzy extras
Snipshot – subscription required; don’t really get much for free
Image Editing Desktop Software
These applications load onto and execute from your computer. I’m really only familiar with Photoshop and Paintshop Pro as I use them regularly. Here’s a short list, but I’m sure you could find others:
- For Windows users, try Microsoft Paint (Start > All Programs > Accessories >Paint) – comes with all Windows systems; some basic image editing
- For Macintosh users, try Preview (Macintosh HD > Applications > Preview)
- GIMP – a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages.
- Paint.NET – free (donations appreciated); fairly good reviews by industry
- Picasa – free from Google; downloads onto your Windows PC and allows not only photo editing but tagging and photo sharing
- Serif PhotoPlus – basic version is available free for Windows systems; several users gave it very good reviews
- Adobe Photoshop – pricing starts at $80 for Photoshop Elements; available for Mac and Windows
- Corel PaintShop Pro Photo – downloadable version for $70; Windows only
Choose an image-editing solution that works for you. If you haven’t used one before, you’ll probably find a new way to channel your creativity besides improving your images.
I’ll miss Picnik. It was fresh and original with a sense of humor. I wish them well with their new partnership with Google.
You might also enjoy reading “Everything You Need to Know About Image Compression.”
Help out your fellow readers by telling us what image editing program you use. Leave your comments below.