Pics.io – In-Browser RAW Image Processing

Aside from various online portfolio solutions, there aren’t many online services that photographers can use for their work. Well, this may change soon. With technology of in-browser RAW processing, Pics.io aims to become an all-in-one photo management and editing solution in the cloud or, as they call it, “Google Docs of photo editing”. We spent some time checking out what Pics.io is all about and we are excited about where this project might take us in the future. Although it is at an early stage of development, some interesting and useful tools have already been released for beta testing. For example, the newly announced online raw converter, raw.pics.io works with Canon and Nikon RAW images. And despite our initial thoughts and doubts, it turns out that the converter opens images locally from your computer, without uploading any data to the Internet. Basically, you open the site raw.pics.io in your browser, drop a raw file (nef/cr2/dng) and save a processed JPEG file. At this point it is not anything amazing, but that’s just the first step. Imagine what this platform could potentially do when it is built with a complete set of controls and various presets, similar to what you see in Lightroom.

raw.pics.io

Why Pics.io Matters

Today we have more than a billion cameras that can shoot in RAW (out of which approximately 200 million are DSLRs). And only 20-30 million people have Photoshop or some other RAW-capable photo editor to work with such files. There are several reasons for such a low adoption: almost all apps are paid (with good ones being expensive), have a steep learning curve and require setup. As a result, most people don’t bother shooting in RAW format, since they want to avoid all these hassles and pains. When nothing needs to be installed to work with a file and what you see doesn’t depend on the platform, file format becomes ubiquitous. PDF is a nice example of this: once support for this format was added to every browser, it became the dominating format for digital documents.

The big idea is to move all your photos to the cloud. It’s not so new, a number of startups approached this holy grail, but more or less failed. Adobe and its Creative Cloud moved a bit forward with this, but got plenty of resistance from unhappy users that did not like the idea of a subscription-based license and rented cloud storage. It turns out that people don’t really want to trust their photos to the same company that provides tools to access them. TopTechPhoto, the company behind the Pics.io project knows this well and they offer a pretty smart solution – you can put your files on Google Drive (or a different online storage provider that is cheap and reliable) and simply connect the app with the storage. Thus, you always have the choice to switch to a different image processing solution and your files are safe. This approach is the cornerstone of pics.io, the main service of the company.

How people use it today

Although the technology behind Pics.io is still in development, at its early stage, there are numerous cases when services like raw.pics.io (RAW processing) and edit.pics.io (online photo editor) come in handy. If you ever found yourself in a situation when you have a RAW file from your favorite DSLR and need to save it to a JPEG format on a computer with no RAW converter software installed in a matter of seconds, then the in-browser conversion tool could be quite useful. Once the file is converted, you can edit it in edit.pics.io, which accepts common image file formats like JPEG, PNG and BMP. It has a number of basic corrections, curves and a pretty cool gradient tool.

The biggest advantage of such a system is its future possibilities for a true group collaboration platform. The ability to edit images from the same catalog simultaneously by multiple people is something that we have been asking Adobe for a long time now. With important announcements coming up tomorrow, our team at PL actually took part in Adobe’s presentation, where we specifically asked about the possibility of developing a workgroup edition of Lightroom. The answer was short and vague, with no particular information on whether it is something that Adobe is even considering to develop. If Pics.io challenges Adobe in this regard, some healthy competition could potentially move us in the right direction, with solid potential product offers in the future. Check out the below video for more information:

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Lee
    June 18, 2014 at 6:03 am

    It is a great idea to begin with. But I can’t help worry if my original RAW files uploaded to the cyberworld where it is likely the files get intercepted.

    • 3
      ) Konstantin Shtondenko
      June 18, 2014 at 7:07 am

      To some extent cloud is more safer than a local storage on a laptop. I have a friend that lost 3 laptops (theft). I bet you nailed it: no one ever saw his photos in the cloud (because they are under password).

      • 12
        ) Richard D
        June 18, 2014 at 11:20 am

        I think it depends upon how you use local storage or the cloud. I personally do not trust the cloud. I have tried and used it……there have been services over time where you can get a number of gigabytes of storage for free….but, first, it just takes time to upload all of your photos. And, the only photos I have uploaded so far have been small JPEGs, not RAW.

        But I just don’t trust the security. I backup all of my images, RAW, JPEG, and otherwise locally on multiple hard drives. I have at least 2 copies of every pictures on separate external hard drives, and, in some cases, I have at least 4 copies at my place on 4 separate hard drives. Further, I also keep another copy on hard drives off site. Sure, it’s a little more work for me to keep up with all of this, but I’m happy with what I’m doing. The cloud may be “safer” in the regard you mention, and, I also once had a laptop stolen from me, but I just don’t keep most of my images on a laptop. Even if I do, I have them backed up on my home system and off site hard drives.

        The other thing I don’t like about the cloud is the following. As mentioned, I have signed up for a few of the “free” storage sites over the past few years. One of them, can’t remember which one, went belly-up. I actually had never used that one, so I don’t know what happened with any files on that system. I am also concerned with cloud systems in that while they may be “free” to start with, or have minimal cost, what would prevent service providers from just imposing a stiff increase in subscriber costs on very short notice?

        I only do some freelance photography on the side, but I know a couple of full time professional photographers who also do not like using the cloud, precisely for the reasons I have cited.

        • 16
          ) Konstantin Shtondenko
          June 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

          >As mentioned, I have signed up for a few of the “free” storage sites over the past few years. One of them, can’t remember which one, went belly-up.
          It’s true. You’ve got to be careful with cloud storage provider. And, in fact, Google Drive will never go anywhere. It’s a cornerstone of Chrome platform. And it is only getting cheaper over the years. That’s a trend.

          >photographers who also do not like using the cloud, precisely for the reasons I have cited.
          There are always people that adopt new slower for various reasons. I bet you’ll find them in the crowd very easily by a cellphone with buttons :) It’s not a big deal, each comes at its own pace. But I think this trend won’t go anywhere. In fact, it’ll get stronger with faster and cheaper mobile Internet.

          • 18
            ) Richard Doyle
            June 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

            I am an electrical engineer and have loved computers for a long time. In fact, I spent well over 25 years in the cellphone network design business! I love new technology, but I am also very well aware of security issues. I have never adopted Facebook, Twitter, or the like, and I don’t plan to use the Cloud for very much, although I will say that I actually do use it with a photo website I subscribe to. I post pictures on that site, but I have far, far more images that I don’t post; I have never tried to post RAW files because from those, one can make a very large picture that he could try to sell, something that I actually created!

            I really do think this security thing is an issue. It seems like every week or so, you hear about a credit card company or a retail company whose database has been hacked. (Yes, I do pay all of my bills, except one, via internet!) Just a few days ago, I saw on the news that Facebook is now going to be doing targeted advertising to their users, based on websites they visit. I wouldn’t want that. I get too many emails as is, too many phone calls from people trying to sell me things to take surveys.

            I’m working on some of the info you asked in your other reply…..get it to you soon.

  2. Avatar of Mike Banks
    2
    ) Mike Banks
    June 18, 2014 at 6:45 am

    I agree with Lee and you Nasim, I think this might be a great idea but I too am afraid of cloud storage. I use Drop Box on a limited basis to share photos with family and friends but not with clients. I am only marginally computer literate so I don’t trust what I don’t understand. Problem with being pre-computer age.

  3. 4
    ) Adam
    June 18, 2014 at 8:08 am

    I can see some use for this but I think it is limited just as my use of cloud storage is limited. It can not compete with local storage in terms of cost or performance. Maybe in the future when storage is free and bandwidth to the masses exceeds 100 MBs and is readily available everywhere.

    Perhaps for the casual users who shoots less than a 1000 images per year?

    Remember mainframe computing? Cloud computing is not appropriate for all things anymore than its predecessor Mainframe Computing was.

    • 5
      ) Konstantin Shtondenko
      June 18, 2014 at 8:18 am

      >It can not compete with local storage in terms of cost or performance.
      I disagree with both statements.

      First, local storage isn’t cheaper if we compare them with parity in mind (for example, cloud makes 2-3 copies of each file, so it wouldn’t be fair to compare it with one HDD, at least two). I have a post that compares cloud and NAS from pure economical standpoint here (http://blog.pics.io/photo-talks/nas-network-attached-storage-vs-cloud-what-to-choose/). Cloud is already cheaper.

      Second, performance. As you know from the article, Pics.io works with both cloud and local storage.

      >Perhaps for the casual users who shoots less than a 1000 images per year?
      Do you stream HD videos?

  4. 6
    ) Jiim Curtis
    June 18, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Sure, it’s a good idea. Or it would be if it only worked. After I read this post, I tried it. I let it run for over two hours, and it still said ‘converting.” If a progrm can’t convert one image in two hours, then it’s worthless.

    • 9
      ) Konstantin Shtondenko
      June 18, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Clearly, it’s a bug. Can you, please, provide us a file you’re trying to convert. I’ll appreciate a link to download at konstantin@toptechphoto.com
      Also, info about your OS and browser version will help. Thanks.

      • 13
        ) Richard D
        June 18, 2014 at 11:44 am

        Konstantin, I seem to be having a similar problem. About 10 minutes ago, I tried the RAW converter. It is still sitting there, saying “decompressing data.” I’ve tried a few times to download a JPEG, just to see what happens, and it seems to be stuck on a JPG that is only 280 kb in size….obviously, it’s highly pixelated.

        One thing I also have noticed is that it appears as if you cannot change the image dimensions. My RAW file I have attempted to upload is close to 30 MB in size, and its dimensions are roughly 4000×6000 pixels. The program looks to be fixed at 1500 x 1001 (for the JPEG).

        Anyway, another 5 minutes have gone by (total of maybe 15), and the interface is still showing “decompressing data.”

        I unfortunately cannot email you the RAW file. My ISP will not allow me to send attachments greater than 10 Mb in total.

        • 15
          ) Konstantin Shtondenko
          June 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm

          Can you please tell me the model of your camera and information about OS and browser (version). If you can make a screenshot of browser console (Shift+Ctrl+I, console tab) with errors, that would help us a hell.

          The reason you get 1500-1000 file is that’s the size of embedded JPEG in that file.

          • 19
            ) Richard D
            June 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm

            Hi, Konstantin.

            I sent you some info via email.

            I use a Nikon D600. My desktop uses Vista, with the latest fixes and updates; I use Firefox, also with the latest updates.

  5. 7
    ) Lee
    June 18, 2014 at 8:29 am

    It would be good in some ways, eg, if you have a fast internet connection. However if one is on the roads w/o internet connectivity that’s where the current photo editors still work though, as long as there’s sufficient battery juice to run that laptop.

  6. 8
    ) Paul
    June 18, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Nice idea but I wonder how long before they’ll offer support for Fuji Raw images.

    I also have misgivings about storing my photos in the Cloud. But, hey, I use Dropbox and Flickr for work, so why not grasp this idea with both hands.

    • 11
      ) Konstantin Shtondenko
      June 18, 2014 at 9:04 am

      We’ll soon enable Fuji Raw viewing. The editing won’t be available soon for Fuji b/c it has a non-Bayer matrix.

  7. 14
    ) Phillip M Jones
    June 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Another issue is the issue of quality of Internet Service. About 85% of the US currently:

    1) either Don’t have Internet because of Location or can not afford.
    2) currently uses PPP (Old standard Internet over Plain old Telephone system -POTS) using copper lines originally put in just after WWII, and patched and re-patched over years.
    3) DSL over Copper Using same lines as described above in number 2)
    4) Cable over systems that haven’t be updated since the 70′s.

    I fall into number four. Although currently owned by Comcast and using there fastest Consumer Service (Blast) a up to 35mb bandwidth. I constantly am losing signal and have to reset the modem from 3-5 times a day. The reset consist of Unplugging Power to modem and unscrewing the cable from modem. Then plug power in first, then screw cable back in and wait up to 5 minutes or more for it to go through reset cycle. The cable wiring attached from house modem and the TV’s in the house, was installed in the early 1970′s. Originally used RG-59 wire in 60′s when RG-6 came out (uses RG-56 connectors) it was rewired by the cable company at the time. That was in the 70′s. I made two appointment to have rewired twice. And the Tech never showed up.

    Until the Internet and and government Mandate. Force, require that all cable companies to switch to underground FOIS and write from inside House, Building to main circuits. Cloud and other services will never be able to work to their maximum potential. And many people will miss out.

    Only the top 15 that live in Urban areas Like Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, Huston-Fort Worth Texas, California, etc. All have top notch Service. As soon as you get in to suburbs and Rural areas people suffer.

    I noticed I one said he tried and after 2 hours trying on just one NEF file he gave up. Odds are it was the internet

    • 17
      ) Konstantin Shtondenko
      June 18, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      No, it’s not Internet. That was a bug, clearly. How about mobile Internet?

      • 20
        ) Paul
        June 19, 2014 at 3:46 am

        I live in Johannesburg, the richest city in Africa, and rely on 3G mobile to access the web at home because I refuse to give money to the state-owned telephone company for an expensive ADSL line.

        But mobile Internet is also insanely expensive here.

        Internet penetration in South Africa is light years behind the developed world, a situation made worse by serious bandwidth issues.

  8. 21
    ) Colin Adams
    June 22, 2014 at 2:57 am

    For Linux users like me, this is good news. Photoshop and Lightroom just aren’t available for the platform. I use Darktable, and it’s good, and the GIMP for editing. Good value for money (zero money), but it doesn’t give you all the editing power of photoshop. It’s enough for me, because I have few photography-editing needs, but if I were a professional, Linux would not be an option.

    Browser-based technology is good for the future.

  9. 22
    ) Realitypremedia.com
    July 23, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Wow! great idea Nasim, But I have poor internet connection and I am using though data card only. While some comments are for internet, converting, formatetc.. So,is this working on my lappy?

  10. 23
    ) Phillip M Jones
    July 24, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I do as well despite having a Cable connection. If you check with about 85%-90% of the US you’ll find all have poor Internet connections. You see the Cable and DSL operator find maintaining infrastructure in Rural and suburban areas is a liability they are un interested in fixing. Only the Big cities, like New York , Chicago, Dc, all of California, Oregon and Washington and Big cities in Texas. Are Constantly updated. I am constantly having to reset my cable Modem 3-5 times a Day because of lost signal. My system now on by Comcast hasn’t been updated since 1980. And DSL is often delivered over phone lines and switching equipment that was put in just after WWII. And Many people are still using PPP. Until all the players are forced to go to FOIS a Lot of good ideas will have to wait 10-30 years.

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