Picnik is launching a new premium subscription service tomorrow morning. $24.95 gets you a year of access to a slew of advanced effects and fonts. Many of the premium effects have been available during the service's beta testing period, but there are some new ones that do a pretty incredible job of taking a drab photo and making it look special.
The biggest thing premium users will notice is over a dozen effects that aren't available in the standard version, and seven brand-new ones. According to CEO Jonathan Sposato, the No. 1 request from users is more effects to play with, and there are now plenty to choose from. My personal favorite is the new "cross process," which emulates the real-life technique of developing photographs in the wrong chemical solution. In most photos, the effect is just stunning.
As a value-added feature to users, Picnik will be releasing one or more new effects every month. I asked Sposato if premium effects would eventually make their way into the free version as a result of this, and the answer is yes--although not right away.
The second biggest user request is annotation, which the service has addressed with a brand new feature called shapes. Shapes offers things like speech bubbles, geometric shapes, and even licensing shapes in case you want to add watermarks as part of a copyright or trademark notice. To complement the feature, the text tool is getting "super fonts." Premium users will soon be getting a much larger library at their disposal. Sposato thinks it's a great hook to get power users who expect a similarly large repository of fonts to choose from when comparing Picnik to a desktop photo app.
Also new are three ways to frame your shots, which is the third most requested user feature. Two of these are new since the open beta, with the coolest being a faux Polaroid creator that lets you fake the look of the iconic instant photographs. There's also a museum matte tool that puts a slick-looking two-colored frame around your shot.
Besides the new premium features, Picnik is now connected to Photobucket to let you edit your shots, or those of other Photobucket users. You can do the same thing with Facebook. I originally saw this functionality on Fotoflexer (hands-on), and there's really nothing more fun than being able to browse and edit your friend's shots, especially if they're a good photographer.
So is $24.95 a year worth it for a Web photo editor? I think so. The free version should be just fine for most folks, but if you're looking for a little more power and versatility, the Premium service is a pretty good offering--especially considering you'll be getting additional features on a monthly basis. If you store your photos on Web services like Flickr, and now Photobucket, Picnik is great for editing them without having to edit a local copy, and then reupload it. Likewise, the service is fast and a whole lot of fun to use.
If you want to give the premium service a spin, Picnik is offering users a one-week free trial. Starting tomorrow, you'll be able to sign up for it on Picnik's front page.