Here's a look at a few of the new photo-oriented programs and services that
we think are cool and useful.
This Photoshop plug-in implements Nik's U Point technology to provide a highly intuitive alternative to working with layers, selections, and masks in order to make adjustments to specific elements of a photograph. To alter the brightness, contrast, saturation, or color in an area of an image with Viveza, you click on a color or an object to create a Color Control Point. Sliders then appear right on the image so that you can make fine adjustments and see their effects in real time. The program automatically generates layers and masks to preserve the adjustments you've made. You can also use Viveza's Selective Tool to brush light and color changes onto an image with Photoshop brushes.
Available in April 2008 for use with Mac and Windows versions of Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
Frame Media FrameChannel
Between the CES and PMA trade shows, we've already seen enough digital frame introductions this year to choke a horse. Frame Media has made this onslaught a little easier to take by coming out with a new software/service combination for WiFi-enabled digital photo frames. FrameChannel lets you break the eternal slideshow loop by adding content from online sources to the mix. So, for example, you can have weather, news, and your favorite blog show up on your frame along with your photos. To display photos, you create a photo channel and add images to it, or set a channel up to stream photos from your online gallery. You can subscribe to other people's photo channels or let them subscribe to yours. Samsung, PhotoVu, Digital Spectrum, Momento Live, and D-Link currently offer WiFi frames with FrameChannel installed (you can't download and install it on just any digital frame). You can also download the FrameChannel software for free and run it on your computer.
This online service lets you put your photos on a large selection of items, from calendars and mugs to photo books and t-shirts. It automatically generates designs and book layouts, incorporating background graphics and other design elements. Then it shows you a preview of the finished product and lets you make a wide range of adjustments while showing you your changes in real time on the product preview. Rocketlife recently redesigned its interface to be both more attractive and more intuitive to use, and added numerous photo editing and touch-up tools. The result is an efficient way to create highly customizable photo products -- and without having to go through an online gallery registration process. Rocketlife's automatic layout technology can also create multiple products with the same design and images. So if you want to make a matching calendar, mug, and mousepad set, it's a piece of cake.
Requires Windows Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, and installs a browser plug-in.
Swiss Picture Bank
This service is pretty much exactly what it says: a Swiss bank account for your pictures -- a data bank, that is. When you upload your image files to Swiss Picture Bank, they are stored on Swisscom IT Services's data servers, which is where many Swiss banks store their data. The Windows-compatible Swiss Picture Bank software includes a "Photobot Guardian" automatic uploader, which can be set to automatically send your JPEG files to their second home in the Alps as soon as they're added to a designated desktop folder. Photos can be stored in a compressed format for 30 years at a rate of 3 cents per file, or uncompressed for 15 cents per file. For 6 cents per compressed file or 30 cents per uncompressed, the system will save your images for 99 years. All of the fees are charged on a one-time basis, with no ongoing maintenance charges.