offering free online photo services
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
April 15-21, 2008; issue 964
High Tech Office column
Adobe is best known for high-powered (and high-priced) graphics
applications like Photoshop and for the widely used (and free) Flash
plug-in that powers Web animations and video. Recently it premiered a
combination of the two: Photoshop Express, an online photo editing and
storage service built using Flash technologies and available (in beta)
Like long-available online services Flickr
(originally, but no longer Vancouver-based, now owned by Yahoo),
PicasaWeb (owned by Google) and others, Photoshop Express (www.photoshop.com/express
lets users upload and store digital photos, arrange them into albums,
and share them. Adobe is offering users two gigabytes of photo storage.
Picasa offers half that, while Flickr limits users with free accounts
to 100 megabytes of uploads per month (but unlimited uploads and
storage to users for $25 per year). If you’re desperate for unlimited
free online photo storage, check out www.photie.com
other online photo-hosting services typically include bare-bones
photo-editing features. Even in beta, Photoshop Express photo-editing
power stands out. Adobe, after all, makes Photoshop, the standard for
graphics professionals. This free online service doesn’t offer anywhere
near the range of tools included with Photoshop or even with its $99
sibling Photoshop Elements. On the other hand, it features a much
easier to use, jargon-free interface and enough editing power to
satisfy most users.
Tools, which are organized into basics,
tuning and effects, include cropping, red-eye correction, auto-correct
and sharpening. There are a set of features like distortion or
converting a photo into a sketch that are either fun or silly depending
on your age or point of view. Editing is non-destructive. You can
always turn edits and effects off and get back to your original image.
nice feature allows you to access images you’ve uploaded to other
online services such as Facebook or Picasa, and edit them within
Photoshop Express. Afterwards, pop them back to the external site.
Flickr is not supported, but that’s apparently in the works. Users have
more power over who can access their photos than in most similar
Photoshop Express works on any platform with any Web
browser that supports Flash 9.0. I’ve tested it on Windows, Mac and
Linux systems. Its reliance on Flash means it doesn’t work on an iPhone
or iPod Touch, however. There is a 4,000-pixel limit on uploaded
images, which will create problems for users with 12-megapixel cameras.
Images need to be in JPEG format and no more than 10 megabytes each.
And the current beta version is officially only available to U.S.
residents. If the rest of us want to give it a try, we would have to
lie. Non-U.S. countries will be officially supported further down the
As a beta, not surprisingly it’s a bit of a work in
progress, and lacks some of the features of more established services.
Both Flickr and Picasa, for instance, offer tools to simplify photo
uploading. Add-ins to Apple’s iPhoto let me export photos directly from
that widely-used Mac application right to my accounts on those
services. Similarly, there are currently no printing services
available. I expect Adobe’s programmers are hard at work at providing
these sorts of capabilities, but they’re not there yet. A feedback
button on every page lets users tell developers what isn’t working or
what features they’d like to see added.
Adobe has announced that
Photoshop Express will remain a free service even after official
release (sometime later in 2008). The company is expected to announce
paid options for users wanting more sophisticated editing and
presentation features and additional online storage.
to be seen whether Adobe’s photo-editing prowess will draw users and
whether Adobe can turn a free online service into a viable business
model. If you’re prepared to claim to be in the U.S., check it out. •