If you’re in such a hurry to share your photos online that you rarely edit them first, you’re in luck. Picnik.com may well be the best online photo editing site as well as the newest.
The well-designed beta version of Picnik sets itself apart from the crowd by integrating with three photo-sharing Web sites: Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, and Facebook. Picnik can automatically display thumbnails of all your photos, and then you can edit or share them. (Alternatively, you can grab photos directly from your PC, a Webcam, or an online photo search–or even enter a URL.) If a photo exists online, Picnik can probably open it for you.
There is no download to install, so setup is a breeze; and you don’t have to do anything special to get Picnik working with your favorite photo site, either. After a first-time sign-in to a photo-sharing site via Picnik, you click a ‘connect’ button to access to your photos for editing.
Picnik offers a slew of standard editing tools, including cropping, resizing, exposure adjustments, color fixes, sharpening, and red-eye removal. In many cases, you can auto-adjust or tweak your photo manually. When I explored the site, it offered almost two dozen special effects, including numerous color effects and such add-ons as rounded borders, frames, and darkened, vignette edges. Also noteworthy are several crazy sci-fi-like effects like Heat Map, which makes your photo look as though you were seeing it through the eyes of the creature from the movie Predator, and Goofy, which invites you to push pixels around the photo like wet paint.
The color and exposure auto-fixes are somewhat conservative, so I had to tweak my photos manually to get the exact look I wanted. But if you’re willing to fiddle a bit, you can get great results, whether by adjusting the strength of boost control to increase color saturation or by choosing a specific shade of yellow or brown to use when converting a photo to sepia tone. When you’re done editing, you can save the photo to your PC, upload it to any of the compatible sharing sites, or e-mail it.
While in beta, the entire site is free; but when Picnik officially launches, it will offer a premium account (the subscription fee has not yet been determined) that makes a dozen or so advanced effects and editing tools available, along with batch editing.
The interface is well organized and free of clutter. Four tabs across the top of the screen grant access to key activities, like opening photos, editing, adding effects, and sharing your finished projects. A full-screen button lets you switch between a browser window and the entire display. Picnik remembers what you were doing the last time you visited the site, too, and always asks whether you want to save your changes before opening a new photo in the editing page. A full “undo history” permits you to undo any edit at any time, all the way back to the original photo–even long after you’ve uploaded the photo to a sharing site.
Picnik clearly won’t replace Photoshop. But compared to Picasa, my old favorite for basic editing, Picnik has more to offer–especially if you share most of your photos online and like the idea of editing them from the comfort of your Web browser.