Photoshop Alternatives

I am a fan of Adobe Photoshop, the powerful image-editing software that graphic designers love. But I find myself using it less often than I used to. In fact, my usage has fallen off dramatically. The main reason is that I find I often don't need all the firepower it has to offer.

Most of the time, I am just doing some simple cropping and resizing of photos. To use Photoshop, which takes (what feels like) a long time to load, seems like overkill. Besides, I often need to do some image editing while I am away from my main office computer, the only one of my three computers that even has Photoshop on it. And the reason most of my computers don't have the program is that, at $649, it's too expensive. Even the much cheaper and less powerful Photoshop Elements, at $99, feels like overkill most of the time.

I have been increasingly relying on free, Web-based photo editors that require no downloads and can be easily accessed just about anywhere in the world. They mostly work the same way: You go to the site, upload the photo you want to edit (or put in the photo's URL if it's already online somewhere) and then make the changes to the photo right away on the screen. You can then download the photo or e-mail it. They almost all allow you to crop, resize, adjust brightness and contrast, etc.

Just yesterday, I was asked to e-mail a certain-sized mug shot for something, and I was easily able to do so. You don't have to be a Web producer or photojournalist to find this useful. In fact, some Web producers and photojournalists will find these tools too simplistic for their more sophisticated work.

There are plenty of free, Web-based photo editors, and I haven't quite settled on one just yet. I jump around the following:

Here are some blog posts that compare several of the programs: on SmileyCat and Digital Inspiration.

I would love your help in assessing which of these is the best. I am leaning toward Picnik and Snipshot right now, but please send in your comments and thoughts here.

If you like using a desktop-based editing program, but can't afford Photoshop, here are some alternatives:

UPDATE: Several folks wrote in via e-mail to suggest that I also alert you to Picasa, a free, desktop-based editing software program, owned by Google (no Mac version yet).

YOUR TURN: Send me sites you like at poynter@sree.net (include your name, affiliation and city), and I just might run it in a future column.

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