If you're a Flickr user, you might be unaware there's a whole world of tools that take advantage of Flickr's API to let you tweak and repurpose your shots. This morning I've been enjoying BigHugeLabs, a site that's home to about 40 tools that let you play with Flickr photos--yours and everyone else's. Several provide simple ways to add text, or a filter to your photo. Others dig deep into the heart of service to let you turn your photos into desk kitsch and conversation starters. I've picked five of my favorites.
In a Guardian column earlier this year, Andrew Brown lamented the hard times that have befallen professional photographers. What caused the "death of an honorable profession," he argues, is an army of mostly mediocre shooters posting millions of shots at Flickr and selling to advertising agencies via "microstock" sites. Few make a living at the latter, but their gravy is "bread taken from the mouths of professionals," Brown said.
I think he has a point. But I think he misses another, less gloom-and-doom aspect of the digital photography revolution: the innumerable amateurs who are … Read more
Update, 3 September: I have learned that Jason Bentley is Director of Community Development at Scribd. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "disingenuous" as "Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating." I'd say that definition applies to this kind of astroturfing. So someone from Scribd is seeking to deflect attention away from the massive piracy going on at his company by throwing mud at Flickr. Interesting. But anyway, Bentley's points deserve to be addressed.
I suppose I was making a point by declining… Read more
The update to Digg yesterday brought with it a handful of tweaks, although notably absent was the much anticipated photos section. Keep in mind that you'll still find Digg saturated in photos, there's just not a bona fide section for them, or way to view pictures on-site. While confirmed on the official Digg blog that a special photo section is on track for October (two months from now), there's already a handful of sites to get your fix for photos made popular by real people. Here are seven of my favorites:
If you've ever used Picnik (review) before, you have an idea of how far online photo editing has come. Similarly, there's Fotoflexer, a user-friendly photo editor that offers one-click tweaks, along with some advanced tools on par with desktop class photo editing software. The service has been around since late last year, and is launching version two this morning.
Like several other online photo editors, Fotoflexer integrates major services like Flickr, MySpace, Picasa, and Facebook to pull your photos down for editing. Short of MySpace (which doesn't have an open API), you can send your edited photos back to all of them if you've plugged in your login credentials. Once you've found a photo you want to "flex," the app will jump you out to a full-screen editing canvas, where you have quick tabbed controls for all the usual editing goodies like rotation, a cropping tool and a resizer. You'll also find some fun distortion effects similar to the liquefy tool in Photoshop (as seen in the screenshot below). This is probably the most enjoyable of the bunch, since it processes the effect in real-time.
The real claim to fame however, is Fotoflexer's Smart Cutout and Recolor effects, which can help you cut out various pieces of a photo, or recolor them to match the tone of your choice. The cutout is the more useful of the two, and lets you cut people or objects out from a shot without having to trace their outline. If you've ever used Photoshop's magnetic lasso or masking tool, you'll know full well how tedious a process this can be. Instead, you use a small paintbrush to "tag" objects you'd like to keep or remove. One click later, and the app will do its best to single out those parts of the photo. If it makes slight mistakes, you can then go back in and remove or replace bits and pieces manually.
Once you've got a cutout, you can add it into another photo, or bring another shot in to the workspace. Fotoflexer lets you have as many layers as you want, and you can move them up and down, or merge them by simply right-clicking. Again, it's probably one of the few Web apps for photo editing that offers contextual menus.
Despite its beauty, there are a few snags here and there. For one thing, even in full screen, the editor remains the same size, which looks and feels very odd if you're using a wide screen monitor. The feature is being added as early as this week according to the Fotoflexer team, although in the meantime, if you're working with a landscape shot, things feel a bit cramped. There's also a lack of some of the advanced editing controls on the quick color effects. For example, clicking the "stamp" button will do its best to make your shot black and white shot with an excess of contrast, however there's no slider or option to tweak it. You either like it or you don't. Luckily, if you know what you're doing, you can achieve similar effects by using the advanced options to recreate each effect manually.
All in all, Fotoflexer is a really well put together app that could make a solid piece of standalone software. The fact that it's free and runs in your browser makes it even better.
FreeWebs has officially launched the WYSIWYG Site Builder tool we blogged about last month. In short, it lets anyone build a site without any knowledge of HTML, or having to refresh the page to see changes. The service soft-launched the tool early last week, and I took it for a spin this morning.
Site Builder emulates a desktop app, with a small floating tool bar, and context-sensitive menus that will serve up different actions depending on what tool you're using. For example, if you've inserted an image, the menu will give you options to align it with text, … Read more
Camera makers long have sponsored workshops, camera clubs and other activities to try to nurture new generations of camera buffs with time and money to spend on a hobby. Now Nikon is adapting the principle to one of Flickr, the social-networking, photo-sharing powerhouse.
Flickr on Wednesday announced Nikon's sponsorship of a Flickr site, the Nikon Digital Learning Center. The site provides online tips and tutorials and lets photographers chat live with pro shooters Rosanne Pennella and Cliff Mautner as well as Nikon School instructors Reed Hoffman and Bill Durrence.
The Nikon effort grafts onto Flickr social-networking tools such as … Read more
iPhone has its touch Safari browser, ZenZui will have its tiles, and Yahoo has Yahoo Go 2.0 Beta, a free service that also seeks to give users a novel Internet experience--especially if the users in question are Yahoo groupies.
Essentially a buffed and polished vehicle for its products and services, Yahoo Go groups its search bar, calendar, e-mail, news feed, and Flickr photo services in a single, well-proportioned design. Rotating carousel icons launch each service and keep the interface snappy. The app stays on top of frequently refreshing the page.
Yahoo Go avoids the problem of overcrowding suffered by Yahoo's Web portal by limiting its quick-launch services to maps, e-mail, photos, entertainment, weather, news, sports, and finance headline feeds. It sounds like a hefty load until you skim Yahoo.com's landing page and realize the leagues of content left behind, including auto, auction, Answers, personals, travel, tech, groups, and games; not to mention the new OMG! gossip headlines leveled at teenage it-girls. … Read more
Flickr updated its Web uploader yesterday, adding a slew of improvements to what for many is their primary way of adding photos to the popular hosting service. The biggest update is that the upload cap of six photos at a time has been lifted. I was able to send off about 40 high-resolution shots (at about 3MB a pop), all at once, and without a hitch. Also new is a status bar for each photo, as well as a "master" bar to show you how far along you are on the entire upload--these were things you previously needed … Read more
Vuvox was one of the few services that wasn't quite ready for the public after showing off its wares at Demo 2007. Like Flektor, Good Widgets, RockYou, Slide, Mixercast, and other mashup services, Vuvox lets users pull in media content from the Web or a hard drive, and put that content together using a Web-based editor. The end result is something that's visually engaging and can be shared via e-mail, or embedded on blogs, Web sites, and social networking profiles. The service is officially opening its doors to everyone as of today.
Vuvox grabs your media in two places. The first is from Web services such as YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and Google. The other place is your hard drive. You can upload files one at a time, or in batches after installing Vuvox's small browser plug-in. Once you've added your media, it's a simple drag-and-drop process. You can reorder, combine, or delete pictures or video in a simple queue. When you're done creating, you can apply one of Vuvox's 11 different themes. Each is unique, and has various visual styles that enhance, or in some cases stylize, your media. You can also use some advanced editing tools, like a cropper and layer mask, to tweak your shots.
Once published, each user gets their own channel. Other users can come by and comment on slide shows, and then share the slide shows with others either by e-mail, embedded link, or a URL. The service also has a featured section, showing off some of the more popular, or notable, works by users.
Like most services these days, Vuvox also has a Facebook application. Similar to the full version of the site, you can grab content from Flickr and Picasa. Since it's Facebook, you're also able to pick photos from your Facebook albums. When finished, you have the option to share the content with friends, and post it to your profile. The only downside here is that the Vuvox editor has been tweaked slightly, both in size and features, to accommodate the Facebook crowd. The results look just as good, but the editing experience isn't nearly as enjoyable.
Is Vuvox worth using over the competition? It's pretty impressive for a new service, and quite polished. The one snag is that it can be a little slow, and you don't have a lot of control over the way some of the themes play with the presentation of your shots. If you're looking for a similar media mashup tool that offers stylization but also a little more user control, check out SplashCast (also a Demo 2007 launch) and Flektor (review).
For more screen shots of the interface and an example of the embedded application, click the Read More link below.