Author’s Note: Sadly, Picnik was acquired by Google in 2010 and subsequently shut down in 2013. Click the following link to read more about what happened to Picnik.com and why. The author also provides links to six alternative free photo editing tools.
Because I blog about my travels, I carry a lot of equipment with me when I am on the road. Most of this equipment stays in my backpack, where I can keep a close eye on it, and with a laptop, camera, lenses, cell phone, iPod, AirCard, cords, etc., the pack can get pretty heavy.
I have often thought about traveling without my laptop and blogging on computers in Internet Cafes, but the problem has always been what to do about my photos. I shoot high quality, large format photos because they are sometimes used in printed publications, so I need a photo processing software to reduce the size of the photos for use on the blog. Since I prefer taking shots with saturated colors and high contrast, when I shrink them down to blog size, my photos often ‘block up’ – the blacks become too dense and the colors too intense – so I also need to do some post processing to tinker with the levels in the photos before I use them on the blog. When I carry my laptop, that’s not a problem, as I simply use Photoshop.
Without a laptop, I’d have to find a way to do post processing on the Internet, but I’d never found any online software that offers the tools I need. Until yesterday, that is. Yesterday I discovered Picnik.com, an online photo editing program that works in your browser. I tried it and it is AWESOME! It does almost everything Photoshop can do and you can use most of its tools for free. There are a few advanced tools that require a fee – things like curves and levels – but even those are only $24.95 per year.
Try it for yourself. You can eliminate red eye, fix exposure, rotate, crop, resize, and sharpen your photos. There are scores of effects to choose from (sepia, neon, posterization, etc.); a text tool with dozens of fonts; a large collection of shapes, including seasonal shapes for holidays and events; and even some customizable frames.
Picnik can pull photos straight from any of several photo sharing sites including Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Facebook, Photobucket, and Webshots. With Picnik you can also enter the URL for any website (your blog, MySpace page, etc.) and pull photos from there as well. You can even upload photos straight from your computerâ€™s hard drive. In my case, since I wouldn’t be carrying the laptop, I would insert the memory card from my camera into my portable card reader, and plug that into a computer in any Internet Cafe. The computer would just see it as another external storage device and – Bingo! – I could upload the photo I want to work on, make the changes, and then save it to my blog’s media library.
The truth of the matter is that I will probably continue to carry the laptop most places because I am basically addicted to it. But the next time I travel to some remote place where a laptop might not be welcome (Burma, for example), or someplace where I can’t lug the extra weight (climbing up to Kathmandu in Nepal or Lhasa in Tibet, for instance) Picnik provides me with a ready solution.