A few years ago when photo modification software were not in vogue, I got the news that one of my friends was making quite a decent money every month by creatively modifying photos for customers.

For instance, he said, women came to him with their photos to make their faces ‘presentable' for submission to matchmaking companies. Several school children were also his regular customers — they usually brought their friends' photos and wanted him to make them look funny.

I knew he wasn't rich enough to invest in Photoshop. I wondered whether he was using a pirated edition. I discovered he wasn't. He was using GimpShop, based on Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program), an open source image (and free) editing program.

Gimpshop is based on Gimp, but looks like Photoshop, and those who are used to working in Photoshop can use Gimpshop.

I knew that though Gimp and Gimpshop were excellent free programs, there were some features he offered his customers that were not available in Gimpshop. He said he would change normal pictures to sepia or black and white or add vintage effects.

For this, he used sites such as Picnic. He scanned and uploaded pictures to Picnic, modified them, and made prints after downloading the modified pictures.

Then came the news that Picnic was shutting shop, but he was unfazed. There were other sites, some even better than Picnic, he said, and reeled out the names. So, he should be happy he had so many alternatives. No, he said. The new photo sites were so easy to use (and free) that his customers were discovering that it was easier to do it themselves.

All of them were free. All one had to do was to upload a picture and start manipulating it. Only those who did not have access to computers or did not have the time to do it came to him. Business was bleak, he said.

What he said was true. Photoshop is a great software, but photo enthusiasts are discovering that there are enough software — downloadable and web-based — that can do a decent job.

Picnic was the best known of the lot. Ironically, Photoshop itself has an online version at www.photoshop.com, but this cannot be compared with the desktop software. It can crop, resize, do colour correction, or add extra effects, such as converting to black and white or sepia. Photoshop may have lesser features when compared with other online photo editing sites, but it is more than enough for doing a decent photo correction job.

Photoshop requires registration, and you have to log in to use the site, but there are other sites that require no log-in. Sites such as Pixlr, Lunapic or Sumopaint also allow you to create fresh pictures. Sumopaint's editing tool also looks similar to Photoshop's. Those who have used Photoshop will find it easy to manipulate images or create fresh ones using Sumopaint or Pixlr.

The editing tools of Sumopaint and Pixlr are almost similar, and are quite easy to use. They do almost everything Photoshop does — for free. Then there are sites such as Picmonkey — totally different (almost like Picnic) and are a breeze to use. Users of traditional-looking programs such as Photoshop, Pixlr or Sumopaint may not be really enamoured by Picmonkey, but if you want quick manipulation and ease of use, it is well ahead of the others. You can start editing images by just dragging them from your computer into the Picmonkey screen.

The other editing tools in Picmonkey are also uncomplicated and easy to understand for the first-time user. It is almost like using Instagram, Pixlr-o-matic or Streamzoo in Phones.

If you are intimidated by Photoshop-like editing tools, Picmonkey is for you. Interestingly, Pixlr also gives the option of using a Picnic/Picmonkey-like editing tool. Pixlr-o-matic (for phones) is also by Pixlr. The picture editing software came to the limelight with programs such as Instagram, Pixlr-o-matic and Streamzoo. With the ever-growing list of web-based programs, photo editing is now open for everybody. All you require is a computer, an Internet connection — and some creativity.

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