Okay, so you don’t have the time to sit down at your computer, reading what seems to be never-ending pages of reference and tutorials books to simply figure out and understand how to use all those tedious photo editing programs. Likewise, you don’t have the extra cash to indulge yourself in that Adobe Suite that has been enticing your creative mind molecules for awhile. Fear not my friends, Picnik is about to help change all that. Picnik is an online photo editing program, completely powered by Flash, and includes a notable abundance of helpful attributes within its simplistic core. Grabbing images from either your computer, your Flickr account, a desired website, Yahoo! search, or even your web cam (if you have it conveniently installed), are just of the few accommodating features Picnik delivers to its users. Oh, by the way, it’s free. Nice. You actually don’t even have to create an account if you’re one of those people who’s just eager to jump right in and get their hands dirty.
So let’s roll. Like I mentioned previously, Picnik is able to snag images from numerous sources. When you import your photos from Flickr it organizes them and allows you to sort them by date taken/posted and interestingness in ascending and descending order. One of the other neat ways it gets images is its ability to capture them from other websites. Simply input a befitting website of your choice and Picnik will then grab all the images from that designated website. It will retrieve and list all the images that it found on that website and allow you to edit, email to a friend, or download any of them. Unfortunately, you can only have one site’s image listing open at a given time, but this small downfall is adequately compensated by the amount of photo editing features at your disposal for each image.
Once in the Edit portion of the website, you’ll be introduced to your tool palette. Simplified as it might look for all you design gurus, it bears favorable results. The main tool set consists of the following: Auto-fix, Rotate, Crop, Exposure, Colors, Sharpen and Red-Eye. Clicking each tool brings up a sub menu that will assist you further in editing. The Auto-fix function repairs color quality if you come across an images with less-than-par color characteristics to it. In the Rotate menu you’ll be able to adjust any noticeable uneven horizons in photos using the Fine Rotate tool. Additionally, you can freely rotate the image left or right 90 degrees. The Crop tool allows you to, obviously, crop your image to the proportions you wish. They have default preset dimensions of cropping for you to choose from, or you can choose to custom crop by inputting the measurements you want.
Moving on, the Exposure tool allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast in your photo. An Auto-fix function is found in the Exposure menu as well, for those who just want the quickest fix for exposure problems. This menu also has an Advanced setting attached to it displaying a graph of color tone changes to the users as they edit their photo in real-time. Next, the Color option enables users to manage the color balance of their images. Saturation helps add emphasis on primary colors in a photo when increased and will, adversely, strip all colors from your image and eventually gray scale it if fully reduced. As can be implied, the temperature slider helps add or subtract warmth to a photo. For those who have studied and understand camera lighting and filming, know that the warm feeling in video and still images is portrayed as an orange hue, while on the contrary, cold is depicted as a blueish shade. The temperature control is similar to that. Excuse the brief lighting lesson, I digress. Again, you’ll find an auto function for the color tool if you so desire to use it. There is a Neutral Picker which is similar to what people in the film industry may refer to as white balancing, which generally speaking is, the act of identifying what is the true white color of a photo or piece of film while taking into account environmental lighting and natural shadows. Picnik’s Neutral Picker compares closely to this term.
Next on the list is Sharpening. Nothing too substantial in this menu, the slider adjusts how sharp an image is and can naturally come in handy to counteract slightly blurred photos. Last on the palette is the Red Eye tool for all those photos of yours that were marred by the infamous red eye defect. Click on the center of each affected eye to help restore proper color to infected areas. Of course like all editing software, you’re able to undo any unwanted mistakes that might happen while editing, or redo admired effects if that’s the case.
Picnik currently has a limited amount of features in the Special Effects category, however still respectively consists of general filter distortion such as: Sepia, Matte, Black and White, Vignette, Soften and Boost effects. Zooming in and out is also easy via a small slider at the bottom right hand corner of your project while you’re in the Edit and Creative Tools modes. Though you are able to resize a photo once you’re ready to save it to your computer, it would’ve been nice to have a real-time resize function within the interface. Nevertheless, combined with the site’s other components, you should should be able to find an outcome that you can pleasantly appreciate.
After all your tweaking is finished and you’re satisfied with the results, you can save your work to either: your computer, your normal Flickr gallery, your Flickr slide show, or even save to a website. Websites that you are able to save directly to include: Image Shack, Photo Bucket, Live Journal, and Walmart Photos, just to name a few. Furthermore, you can also print out your work and email it to a friend. Pertaining to their printing function, you have the option to print in a full page format or half page format. As for saving to your Flickr slide show, it’s easy and straight forward. Simply authenticate that you agree that Picnik will directly connect to your Flickr account and you’re done! The embedded HTML code and direct link to your Flickr slide show will be displayed for you in Picnik. You’re also able to change the background color and size of your slide show through Picnik. Prior to saving the image directly to your own computer, you’re brought to a settings page that includes the dimensions of the image, desired format (.jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .pdf, .tiff), and a slider that controls image quality.
On a personal note, I believe they presented Picnik clearly and I think it will appeal to a large audience. The site design is clean, as well as being constructed and organized in a focused manner. Think Apple’s iPhoto, but online. Granted, Picnik isn’t Photoshop by far, or close to most other image editing and manipulation programs out there. It doesn’t include freehand tools like brushes, cloning, or fills. It’s not meant to. It’s meant to simply enhance the decency of already taken photos, not totally give them an extensive make-over. However for being strictly online, being entirely generated by Flash, being flexible enough to obtain images from literally anywhere, and above all, being free, it unquestionably earns my vote as being one of the best values for a near instantaneous, presentable, online photo editor. Looking for examples of what Picnik can do? Visit the Picnik tag or Picnik group on Flickr, both hosting a nice inventory of work using Picnik. And hey, it’s still in beta. Only good things await on the horizon for this credible application. I tip my hat you Picnik.
Update: Picnik now supports image resizing. (Thanks Darrin!)