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.
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: