7 Free Online Photo Editors

by on November 6, 2007

in Photoshop,Software

Interested in taking your photo editing workflow online? Well, don’t get ahead of yourself, we’re not quite there yet. However, if you want to share some family photos or do some fun stuff with photos online, there are plenty of editors out there that can suit your needs. I’m taking a look at seven of the popular editors out there and giving you my short take on their functionality and results. I’ve also included sample images that each editor produced from the same base image.

I’m no expert at post-processing, but I think these images will give you a representative sample of what you can produce with relatively little experience on the particular program. I had never used any of these before this review and I probably didn’t put more than 10-12 minutes of time into each edit (some much less). I got what I thought was the best image out of each program and then saved it. Enjoy!

The Base Image:

Base Test

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FotoFlexer

FotoFlexer functions quite well. It reminded me that I needed the latest version of Flash to make things happen and allowed me to download directly from FotoFlexer’s site. Additionally, once I restarted my browser my image was up on the site and ready for me to edit. In order to get my image off, I had to register, which was surprisingly painless. FotoFlexer didn’t make me go to my email and click a confirming link, so I got to keep working with my photo.

The editing tool, however, leaves something to be desired. If you want to simply convert something to black and white or do something fun with a photo for your Myspace page, then go for it. It’s an OpenSocial launch partner, so it’s integrated well with Flickr, MySpace, Facebook and Photobucket. The sharpen tool, among others, made my photo look like crap. If you’re used to Lightroom, Photoshop or even iPhoto, take a pass on FotoFlexer.

picnik

The first great thing I noticed about picnik was that there’s no registration required. Next, the site is simply beautiful. The menus are where they should be and even the load screens make sense.

Editing options? Check. The editing tools are great. There are plenty of basic editing tools and many advanced tools that I didn’t expect to see, like exposure and temperature adjustments. In fact, for $25 you can upgrade to the Advanced version and get some fancy highlight and shadow adjustments, fine tuning exposure and sharpening and more. It can really chew up some bandwidth though, so no dial up! Even the save and download features are more than you’d expect. Save in .jpg, .tiff, .png, .gif, .bmp or .pdf and adjust your .jpg compression quality. It also has great integration tools for flickr, facebook, picasa and more.

Phixr

Like picnik, phixr let’s you get right to uploading and editing without any registration hassle. It has a familiar feel if you’re used to Photoshop, with a handy little tool pallete on the left; however, you’ve still got to mouseover the icons to see what each does. Making adjustments is a little clunky though.

Click on an icon and you get a popup window with two thumbnail sized images. When you move sliders inside the popup, the new version only changes after you release the slider – it’s not really “real time” editing. Even the percentages and numbers on the sliders don’t change until you release the sliders. If you can make out the changes on the thumbnails, you click “execute” to update the photo and the popup disappears.

Though Phixr has cool features like sharpen and noise reduction, the preview thumbnails are worthless. Simply put, it’s too complicated for something that should be simple. I actually liked the final results of the photo. It’s just that getting there was not quite as fun as some of the other editors.

Splashup

“Jump right in” – the invitation I received from Slashup. Again, no registration hassle to try it out. Splashup opens in a separate popup window and right off the bat has a very familiar Photoshop-esque layout. You can open an image by uploading from your computer, picking a flickr image or picking one from any other location on the web. The menu has a title bar that will be familiar to you Windows users out there.

Splashup’s editing tools are very powerful for a web-based photo editing platform. It even offers layers. Several of the tools are equipped with sliders that move and edit the image in real-time preview. Unfortunately, the sharpen tool is not one of those. This is where layers came in handy. I merely duped the background layer and then lowered the opacity of the new layer with sharpening applied. If you’re used to Photoshop and need something quick and handy online, Splashup is for you.

Pixenate

Pixenate shocked me with it’s auto-enhance feature – not in a good way though. Most of the photo editors have a much milder auto-enhancer. Pixenate went crazy with saturation and contrast though. Unfortunately, fine tuning the image on my own didn’t really produce the results and experience I was hoping for. Pixenate seems very clunky to me – much like Phixr. Editing options are limited, slow and lack fine tuning. There’s better stuff out there. Keep looking.

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Snipshots

Fast and easy. That sums up Snipshots for me. It’s like iPhoto on the web. The slider tools have a very iPhoto feel and the edits are super fast. I got to where I wanted to be in about 40 seconds. Uploading and saving is very simple. You can get the Pro version and edit RAW files, which is a rarity in an online app. Did I mention it’s fast? Another cool feature is the ability to use shortcut keys, which surprisingly is not a common feature in the photo editors I’ve seen online. Take minute (seriously, a minute) and try it out.

pixer.us

I couldn’t get pixer to work after I uploaded my image on my iMac using Firefox or Safari. After trying it on a Windows machine, I should’ve just taken the Mac incompatibility as a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Pixer.us produced the worst results for basic editing functions of any of the editors I tried. The interface first appeared to be rather slick. However, upon the first move of the slider tools, I came to realize that I’ve got yet another preview window that doesn’t show adustments in real time, so you’ve got to release the slider to see what you’re going to get for every edit that you do. Additionally, you can only undo one previous action and there’s no way to start over short of uploading the image again. (I thought clicking “Original” in the “Undo” menu would do this, but it just took me back to the start page.) The contrast adjustment goes overboard with just a slight adjustment of the slider. I just couldn’t get it to work the way that it should. I’ll pass on pixer.us.

Conclusion

In short, I’m amazed at the quality results you can get from editing your images online. Even the worst of the editors did an okay job of producing a usable image (pixer.us is on thin ice here though). My picks of the litter are picnik and Snipshots. I expect I’ll find the opportunity to use these again.

We’ve come a long way and I expect this market will be booming right along with the social networking boom of late. Google’s OpenSocial will help to prod this movement along. We’ll keep checking up on these tools and eagerly await to see what technology ultimately brings us.

[tags]photo, editor, online, photoshop, post-process[/tags]

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{ 3 comments }

1 Anthea November 6, 2007 at 7:24 pm

Thanks for writing about these online tools, I had no idea there are so many out there! Snipshot definitely has an iPhoto feel to it and I am keen to try it out on my own photos. I used the option to experiment with the sample photos to get more of an idea of what the editing features can do.

2 Jason February 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm
3 Anthony April 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

Here is also another free online image editor. Unlike most of them, the images are not uploaded whether it is the source image of the finished image. It’s also more oriented to treat several images at once than one by one.
Run online at http://decoration.japplis.com/applet.html

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