This is the second post in a two-part series on photo editing. In part I, I discussed the results of an informal survey of PhotoBookGirl Facebook fans on whether they do any photo editing. Most respondents did do some editing and the most commonly used program was Adobe Photoshop Elements.
This post is about FREE online editing tools (you know how I love free!). What’s great is that many of these free programs have so many features, you don’t have to spend any money at all to do some key tweaking to your photos. If you want to sound like a pro – the term is post-processing 🙂
I’ll do a quick rundown of what I’ve seen online. In no particular order…
I’ve written about Picasa’s collage tools, but haven’t discussed the software’s editing tools. To use Picasa, you download it to your computer. So, you can use it even when you’re not connected to the Internet. Most of what you’ll probably need for editing purposes, you’ll find in the first tab (auto contrast, auto color etc.)
and in the second tab as shown below in the screenshot. You just use your mouse to drag the sliders to the left or right and stop when you get the desired adjustments to your photo.
The other tabs are the “fun” stuff – filters that can significantly alter your photos.
I found PicMonkey after it was mentioned by the folks at Picnik a few weeks back (since that time, the suggestion to try PicMonkey is no longer there when visiting the Picnik site). Picnik was a free online photo editor that I had mentioned in an earlier post. PicMonkey works online. You start by dragging and dropping the photo you want to edit onto the main page. It then opens your photo and gives you a menu of options. The most likely tool you’ll use here are the ones that control brightness and contrast. As I’ve mentioned before, most of my photos only need a little brightening and contrast adjustment. Takes just a few seconds.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fun stuff. PicMonkey has lots of interesting filters which seem to be very popular now, most likely due to Instagram. So, for those of you who can’t use Instagram, this is a good alternative. I found these filters more unique than the ones Picasa offers.
Other features worth mentioning are the Advanced features. Including the curves and dodge and burn tools. The latter two I remember from photo class, way back when folks developed film and used an enlarger and chemicals to print on real photo paper. Dodging and burning allows you to make very specific edits to your photo, lightening some areas and darkening others. It’s helpful when you don’t need to lighten the whole photo, but just a part of it that’s too dark or lost its detail. I don’t know how long PicMonkey’s advanced tools and any tool that is marked “Royale” will be free but for now, there’s no charge so take advantage of these tools while you can!
The last feature of PicMonkey I want to highlight is the “teeth whitening” tool. Yes, you heard me – teeth whitening! I took one of my photos and tried out some of the makeup tools and I was very surprised how subtle the tools were. The teeth whitening actually did the job pretty well! (Sorry but I’m not going to show you my personal before and after – you can check that out with one of your own photos.)
According to the site, a collage function is coming soon for all you collage fans like me. After you apply your edits, you can save your completed version to your computer.
For the Adobe Photoshop fans out there, Pixlr is the most similar to Photoshop. It allows you to work on your photos in layers that you can turn on and off to view the adjustments you’ve made as well as easily discard any unwanted edits. Because it has the most features, it probably is harder to learn how to use. But if you need to make more complex edits, Pixlr may be for you.
For those of you who want the quick fix however, Pixlr has another version called Pixlr Express that is much easier to navigate. The icons below give you easy access to the most common editing tools. If you’re just trying to adjust brightness and other basic tweaks, I’d definitely recommend you choose the Express version.
Pixlr has also joined in on the filter craze. If you like Instagram, color shifting and other effects, you may want to check out Pixlr-o-matic. In terms of significantly transforming photos, I’d say this tool had the most altering effects.
This is my original fireworks photo taken on the 4th of July on Lake Union in Seattle. I like how the silhouette of the boat is visible.
Here’s what it looks like after applying one of Pixlr-o-matic’s effects. The interface is fun – an old school developer tray complete with simulation of the chemicals moving in the pan.
You can add a border and other overlays to create the desired effect. Here’s my finished product hanging to dry. I’d have to say, these effects were the most fun out of the programs I tried and you can see there’s a significant difference from the original to the final version. It could be fun to put the before and after versions in a photo book side-by-side. This tool could also make you an interesting cover photo for your photo book don’t you think?
FotoFlexer is another online tool you can play with. The interface isn’t as flashy as PicMonkey or Pixlr, but it does the job. The various tabs at the top show you the main categories of tools available. Again, most folks will just need to check out the “Basic” tab for lightening tools.
This online program has a very similar interface to Adobe Photoshop as well in terms of the way the tools are displayed on the left in a grid. You can also do layers with Sumopaint as well. You’ll find the brightness and contrast tools under the “Adjustments” pull down menu.
Phoenix is a layer-based photo editing tool. You’ll find the brightness and contrast tools under the “Image” menu.
As you can see, you have a number of excellent free options that will get the job done. No need to spend any money at all! Out of the ones I reviewed for this post, I’d say my favorites are PicMonkey and Pixlr. Mostly for the interface and the “fun factor” – the interesting filters and effects.
Do you have any favorites that I haven’t listed here? Please comment below!