Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Picnik is closed, but PicMonkey is here!

Ugh! The dreaded picture taking process! I spend so much time on my pictures, although, you probably wouldn't think so, because they are still not that great. They have improved since I started selling online, but it has been an uphill struggle. A new camera, as well as a Photoshop program,  is on my list of investments, but for now I have to rely on my old camera and the free photo editing programs available online. That is why I was so sad to learn that Picnik was closing. I have been relying on Picnik, to edit nearly every photo I have taken this past year. Thankfully, they didn't leave us hanging, before the site closed, they posted a link to a cool site called Pic Monkey.
Pic Monkey is very similar to Picnik, but it offers more options and effects for your pictures. They have a free version and premium packages. The free version offers everything that I need to edit my photos. I use it to brighten the photo and reduce the gray backgrounds. It also lets me crop and re-size my pictures. Pic Monkey is great for adding a watermark or other text to your photos as well.

Here is an example of what you can do with Pic Monkey. I took this photo in my home made light box set up- the photo is still dark and gray, even though I took the picture during the day with as much light as I had available. 
Photo before editing

After tweaking the brightness, highlights and contrast, under the exposure tab, I have a photo that you can actually see. The colors are true to the item, and the background is not dull and gray. It looks like someone turned the lights on.

Photo after editing

There are a few other free photo editing tools on the web that I use. Sometimes, I can't get the backgrounds white enough without really distorting the photo so I may use Photoshop Online to help clean up the background. I usually run my picture through Pic Monkey first, then upload it to Photoshop Express Editor and use the "white balance" tab. Here is that same photo from above, after running it through Photoshop.

After Photoshop

The photo is still clear and the background is even whiter. It removed some of the shadow on the bottom of the photo. 

Now maybe you are wondering how to get your picture to stand off the page and look light it is floating on a white background. There is an online tool for that too.  It is called FotoFuze. They have a free version and a premium version as well. The only complaint I have about the free version, is that the photos are re-sized and are smaller than I want to upload to Etsy, so I have to go back to Pic Monkey and re-size them. This ends up being a lot of work, I guess eventually to save time, I will break down and pay for the premium version to get a larger picture. With fotofuze, you highlight the part of the photo you want to show up and everything else is turned to white. So if you miss something, your photo can look funny. It is great for single items without a busy background. Here is an example.

Before Fotofuze

After Fotofuze

With Fotofuze, there is no need to run my photo through any other editor first. It is very effective and simple to use.
I am not a photo expert and I still have a lot to learn about taking great photos, but these tools are useful in improving the photos I have to work with. Maybe some day I can afford to hire a professional and then I will be photo stress free, but until then, I will continue to use these tools and try my best.

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