The market for photo editing and image manipulation solutions has changed dramatically in the past 5 or 6 years, with a clear trend away from standalone desktop software for Windows and Mac computers and towards more flexible, web-based applications. Traditionally, photo editing was the exclusive domain of professional photographers and graphic designers, while casual holiday snapshots would just be used “as is” without applying too many effects to them. Compared to a few years ago, photo editing has
a) opened itself up to a wider audience
b) become a lot more accessible as most hardware is powerful enough to run image editing software without hiccups.
The Web is the new Desktop
Just like most people a few years ago made the jump from desktop-based, POP3-email clients to webmail, in other fields, more and more web apps have been replacing traditional desktop software due to their greater flexibility, and due to the fact that most of them are free or have free versions and are easy to use and intuitive, even if functionality is sometimes greatly reduced. When it comes to photo editing, it is fair to say that there are a great number of tools out there which have clear advantages over desktop programs: You don’t have to install any software, they are cheaper, and they are available from anywhere no matter which devices you are using, if you are at home or in the office or using a friend’s computer.
While such tools are great, and we do not hesitate to recommend them to casual photographers, bloggers, or web designers for some quick-and-dirty image editing, it should be noted that most of them have a great number of restrictions, and anyone who has greater, more professional requirements, will indeed quickly run into this barrier. First of all, let us look at what solutions are available in this category: Examples for elegant, more or less sophisticated solutions which satisfy basic needs are Pixlr.com, freeonlinephotoeditor.com, Aviary photo editor, and there is no shortage of alternative solutions.
These tools have managed to successfully carve out a market for themselves by building up a great perception of their brands and by publishing mobile apps for all the common platforms, or, in the case of Aviary, creating tools that can be implemented in existing apps. Their abilities stretch as far as histograms, color change, lens correction, noise reduction, and even layers.
However, they just fall short compared to professional software and are certainly not a viable option for someone who uses image editing tools on a daily basis or as an important part of their work. Most certainly, RAW image processing is beyond the power of these tools. This is easily recognizable when you look at the advertising slogans on the respective websites: “Make fun photographs to post on Facebook, Twitter etc.” At best, these tools can be used to quickly crop images in order to insert them into a blog post, but compared to top-of-the-range desktop software they are like Lego houses compared to real buildings. Easy and nice to look at, but just not capable enough.
The real dilemma for pro designers and photographers is that while they could just stick to tried-and-trusted desktop programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, which are capable of producing great, polished results, and certainly do not know any limits in terms of their functionality, this is just not as practical for today’s multi-device lifestyle where the same tools have to be constantly available on a number of devices, ideally without downloading them each time. They also do not offer pay-as-you-go pricing models like real SaaS solutions, making them a lot more inflexible to purchase and use.
Pics.io offers the best of both worlds
For those interested in the benefits of cloud-based photo editors, such as flexibility, accessibility from everywhere, multi-device support, but who need the power and functionality of more complete offerings, Pics.io might be the light at the end of the tunnel. This online photo editor will have a completely free plan, which has no time limit and offers full editing functionality for a certain number of images per month. Combined with the online storage services integration, Pics.io makes for a handy, cloud-based tool that even uses the processor power of your device. So you can benefit from powerful hardware without having to install anything.