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Jul 30 2007   5:11PM GMT

Picnik: Free web-based photo editing in real-time

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Up until the wonderful moment that my camera was exposed to the wonders of North Atlantic wave action a few weeks ago, I’d enjoyed over half a decade of great digital pictures from my little Coolpix. (For some of my lessons learned, listen to this podcast). Taking pictures, however, was really always just the start of the process of importing, editing, optimizing and uploading them to the Web. While I’ve been using iPhoto and Photoshop for years for that purpose, lately I’ve been using so many different machines and platforms that neither has been as convenient as I might wish.

Last week, however, a friend pointed me to Picnik, which offers a level of functionality and ease that lies somewhere around iPhoto… except that it’s a free Web-based application!

Amazing. It’s a cinch to take a photo from around the Web or one that you’ve uploaded, resize it, flip it, crop it, use the red-eye reduction and even apply some advanced filters and effects.

There are some caveats. First, Picnik is currently in beta, so some of the more advanced functions won’t be free forever.

Second, you’ll need a relatively new PC (from the past few years) and a speedy Internet connection to make use of the application (mimimum 1 Ghz processor and 256 MB of RAM) . The Picnic FAQ also recommends at least Firefox 1.0 or Internet Explorer 5.0, which brought a huge grin to my face… if you haven’t upgraded your browser beyond those two, it may be time! Picnik is also Flash-based, so you’ll need to download and install the player to use it.

There are also other nifty features that Picnik offers. For one, you can pull a picture directly from your hard drive into the application for editing. For another, it’s easy to do the same with the major online photo sharing sites like Flickr or even from MySpace, assuming you’ve been brave enough to post pictures there. Flickr users will especially enjoy the ability to choose to overwrite the original image with an edited version. If you allow Picnik to access your account, you can also add a new photo, as I did for the picture of the waterfall seen on the left.

Sharing photos right from Picnik is easy as well; just edit and click share to email them or send a link.

It’s rare to find free applications that offer such a smooth, well-conceived user experience, combined with a functionality that’s genuinely useful. In a few short years, it seems like we’ve all become photographers. Picnik, ideally, will help take the pain out of the process that takes place after you capture the image.

[Editor's Note: Both photos on this post were edited with the application. One is a bridge in Acadia in Maine, the other a waterfall in Oregon. If you have shots you'd like to share of your own travels and online edits, please feel free to link to them in the comments. Cheers!]

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