Reported by Jessica Ripley
I remember when I first started Scrapbooking. I would search through the few photos I had (before I became a paparazzi at family events, of course), find a few cute ones that I felt deserving of a page in my latest album, crop them in cute shapes (don’t worry I’ve learned the lesson not to do that anymore to originals), and glued them to a page in all their badly lit, red-eyed, fuzzy, out-of-focus glory.
And then I started to get involved in online Scrapbooking communities, and started to notice their pictures looked a whole lot better than mine. This also happened to make their layouts look amazing! Long story short, I was introduced to the wonderful world of photo editing, and immediately dove headfirst into Photoshop Elements. Much of the PSE language is still a little Greek to me, but it truly has opened up new worlds with my photos that I had previously not known possible. Not to mention it is the most well-known photo editing software out there.
Problem is, it’s expensive.
Solution is, there are now many free photo-editing sites available on the web, making the capability to take your photos to the next level available to anyone with an Internet connection. Picnik is just one of those, but one I enjoy working with immensely.
On its website, Picnik is described,
“Fast, fun, easy to use and powerful set of photo editing tools for editing, sharing and printing images using any Internet browser on any computer platform… also integrated with a wide variety of websites like Picasa Web Albums, Facebook, Flickr, Yahoo! Mail and Photobucket. With Picnik, you can edit your photos wherever they are from wherever you are.”
Sounds awesome right? I completely agree that it is. Great news as well, Picnik was recently acquired by Google, so to me that means they will have the power to get bigger and better, and be around for a long time.
Like other websites of the same genre, one can also pay for “premium” features. However, I wanted to focus on the free aspects of this fun site. You can get all of this on Picnik for free (their descriptions):
- Fix your photos in just one click
- Use advanced controls to fine-tune your results
- Crop, re-size, and rotate in real-time
- Tons of special effects, from artsy to fun
- Astoundingly fast, right in your browser
- Awesome fonts and top-quality type tool
- Basketfulls of shapes from hand-picked designers
- Works on Mac, Windows, and Linux
- No download required, nothing to install
That last one is a big plus for me… nothing to install on my computer, meaning I can just go online and play without bogging down my hard drive.
I find the site not only easy to navigate, but extremely fun too. There are five tabs on the Picnik; Home, Library, Edit, Create, and Save & Share.
The Home tab is your first stop for everything: latest news, developments, opportunity to upgrade, etc.
The Library tab is where you upload photos for editing. As mentioned above, you can not only upload photos directly from your computer, but can also access photo libraries you have elsewhere on the web like Flickr or Facebook. With 2 simple clicks I was able to connect Picnik to my Flickr account, and immediately all my photos on Flickr were displayed for browsing.
I was able to do so just as quickly to my Facebook account. There is a quick blurb when doing so that with the free version you are only able to connect to one outside website at a time, but I found the loading time between switching back and forth to be so minimal (like a snap of the fingers) that this isn’t something I found to be a hindrance at all.
The Edit tab is where you are able to perform basic functions of photo editing which include Auto-fix, Rotate, Crop, Re size (a good one for those of us that post to online galleries often), Exposure, Colors, Sharpen, and Red-Eye. To start, I picked a photo that I felt was in need of some serious TLC. This one is a little dark, and the color is definitely off:
I tried the “Auto-Fix” button first… and I don’t really see a difference, do you?
But “auto-fixes” in most photo editing programs are notorious for being not so great, so I decided to try a few manual corrections instead. First playing with the exposure like light and darkness, contrast, and even advanced options for playing with highlights and shadows. This was as easy as sliding a bar back and forth until I found an exposure level I was happier with:
Still, the color is a little off. I’m red but I’m not that red, so next I played with the color levels. Here, you are able to adjust the saturation of colors in your photo as well as the temperature. This time upon clicking the auto-colors option, I was actually quite pleased with the auto-fix and decided to keep it. Quick and easy.
Better, but it’s still not my favorite photo of myself. It was taken in a dark restaurant, and let’s face it, probably won’t be edited with just light and color to make it truly keep-worthy. Enter Picnik’s Create tab, where you can truly (and super easily) take your photos from blah to bam!
Here you can choose from numerous effects to add to your photos. Everything from simply converting to black and white:
To color boost:
To just being completely silly:
And, they even have one of my favorite photo editing techniques, The Orton Effect, which softens and lightens photos in just one click. This is the one I decided to stick with to ultimately take this photo from “trash” to “yeah maybe I’ll keep it after all”.
There are of course many additional features that you can only use after upgrading to the Premium package, however you can try them for free (a “premium” banner will appear at the bottom of your photo when you do) so you can decide whether or not you wish to live without them for a small price ($24.95 per year).
Finally, Picnik supplies you with their very handy Save and Share tab, which allows you to save your new creation in all the places you can access your existing photos from (Flickr, Facebook, your hard-drive, etc), email your photo, and even order prints or one of many photo gifts directly from Picnik. Prints are reasonable, starting at 19 cents per 4″ x 6″ up to $3.99 for an 8″x 12″. Gifts range from calendars to books, greeting cards to even wrapping paper!
I had so much fun test driving Picnik’s free photo editing software, and I highly encourage you to give it a try. My favorite feature are the one-click options in the Create section, but a close second is being able to easily access all the photos I have online in 2 easy steps. Here’s a few other examples of my playing around:
All of these were edited using the free features.
- Free. Free. Free.
- Truly easy program to not only perform basic editing functions on your photos such as cropping and resizing, but adding cool effects and objects with just a click.
- Access your photos from wherever they are, including your computer and online sites such as Flickr and Facebook (no need to spend time uploading photos to Picnik).
- The site is fun and easy to navigate, complete with explanations of edits and tips along the way.
- To get all the site has to offer, you do have to upgrade to their Premium package for $24.95 per year. (but you can try out many of these upgrades first)
- Requires your photos be in digital format and a fairly fast Internet connection. Dial-up users may experience it takes a long time to load.
- The upgraded features are pretty darn tempting and may lead you to spend!
Even with the cons, I have to admit that I’ll go back again and again to Picnik to edit my photos, even though I own other programs to do so; the one click options are just too much fun!
Have you used Picnik or another online free program to edit your photos? Tell us your experiences and what you think!