The boom in online photo editors

Cool new trend: everybody is launching online photo editors. The cool startups specializing in online image manipulation, storage, enhancement, conversion etc. are reaching astronomous numbers.

In a few weeks time, Adobe will be entering the arena with an online version of Photoshop Elements. Expect an interesting struggle, with – for us users – a very interesting outcome! Let the bidding of the features begin!

Here’s a quick comparison of my favourite online photo editors:

Online photo editors compared


tagline: edit photos the easy way, online in your browser


  • Slick interface. As web 2.0 as they get. Feels fresh and sexy!
  • Picasa-inspired tool set (autofixes and such)
  • Very nice integration with the PC environment (firefox extension, widgets)
  • Cool Flickr browser. Save into Flickr at the end as a new copy, of replacement of the original pic


  • Loads of cheesy clipart, there to entice you into ruining your photos
  • Pricing structure: Piknik Premium costs 24$ a year, and will get you “a huge library of new fonts and shapes (over 200 and added to all the time), touch up tools, and 20 more gorgeous effects and frames.“. A dumb policy if you ask me, as positions on the field are now being taken.
  • If you opt for the free version, the interface constantly reminds you of the “cool” things you could be doing had you opted for the Premium product.
  • You can’t work on more than one image at once


tagline: sports the most powerful toolset of any online photo editor.


  • Free
  • Amazing number of tools indeed: effects, distortions, beautify, cut-outs, morphing …
  • Does layers
  • You can work on multiple pictures at the same time
  • They have a good API, meaning you could see Fotoflexer popping up everywhere where a photo is near. E.g. It would be relatively simple to build it into a WordPress plugin, that would let you do photo-uploading and manipulation right from within the admin interface of this (or any other WordPress-powered) blog.


  • The cut-out could do with a better interface
  • No precision tools
  • I sometimes had errors when uploading an image
  • Morphing or any of the advanced effect takes a loooooooot of time. And locked up my browser in the meantime. What’s up with that? Weren’t online services about the processes being on the server and so?


tagline: “Splashup, formerly Fauxto, is a powerful editing tool and photo manager. With all the features professionals use and novices want, it’s easy to use, works in real-time and allows you to edit many images at once. Splashup runs in all browsers, integrates seamlessly with top photosharing sites, and even has its own file format so you can save your work in progress.”


  • Familiar interface (they mimicked a pc program – not to name Photoshop): you know where to look for what right away
  • Best layers implementation of the lot
  • Free


  • Brushes, delete etc… lack precision
  • Opening from Flickr, Picasa etc… requires an account at Splashup
  • Slow opening of local pictures
  • The interface feels familiar right away, but also a little bit clumsy (they can’t match speed, responsiveness of a local program yet)
  • Capturing from webcam failed (looked for DV video)


These are the three best I’ve found so far.
Other sites just behind these are

  • Phixr (clumsy interface, cluttered with ads),
  • Snipshot (lacking a bit in functionality, but opens RAW – paying customers only, opens PDF …) and
  • Wiredness (Ajax instead of Flex makes for a less polished interface and more roundtrips to the server, but they offer a good mix of image enhancement tools).

A special mention goes to Vectormagic: this site allows you to “trace” uploaded images, rendering them in a resolution-independent vector format. Insanely useful for logo’s etc, but still a little bit rough around the edges.


Just try them out. It’s amazing what progress is being made in this field. The days of installed software are indeed numbered, if you see what amazing user experience can be accomplished in these ajax-ified or “built in Flex”-interfaces. Mind you, all these softwares are in their version 1.0 (or even better for a web 2.0-company, in their eternal beta), so they might become a lot less elegant if the bloaters, ad-sellers and excess-functionality seekers lay their greasy hands on these elegant and simple solutions.

Adobe recently pretty much ruled the universe of photo editing on its own (GIMP notwithstanding), with the flagship Adobe Photoshop (and family). Since the price of that is quite steep (or because a .torrent with a reliable crack can be too hard too find), there also was a market for a simplified version of it: “Photoshop Elements”. But that is being surpassed by all kinds of cool online offerings now.
It’ll be interesting to see if Adobe can get a product online, that has enough features to compete with the dozens of online competitors, and yet has few enough features not to cannibalize on its own products.

Don’t take my word for it: here are some other comparisons of online photo editing tools: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Your own opinion on any of these or other programs is welcome in the comments!

4 gedachten over “The boom in online photo editors

  1. I’ve been wasting my time this afternoon on these apps, and my conclusion is, that for me they are no more than that: a waste of time.
    Maybe they come in handy when you only need a few quick fixes to an already scaled down picture, but I like to work on the high resolution copy of a photograph, and I didn’t succeed in uploading one in a realistic time span.
    Picnik made my browser crash every time I tried to upload a picture (Firefox on Ubuntu 7.10).
    Fotoflexer: an upload error every time I tried…
    splash up: upload succeeded, but for me it takes to long…

    I rather stick with the Gimp instead… although I work on several computers, I do my phot editing only on one of them, so I don’t need a slow webbased app when I can use the gimp…


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