Quick Look : Fotor

Last week Daniel Zhang from Fotor pinged me to see if I would be willing to have a look at what they do over at Fotor.  With such a gracious request, how could I say no?  I had not been familiar with Fotor, and offer this quick look as they do some very cool offerings.

Fotor is an online photo editor that is platform independent, and is also offered as a locally installed application for iOS and for Android.  The idea here is to use templates to create some useful artwork quickly without having to get deep into the nuts and bolts of a rich photo editor.

Edit

The Edit pane of the browser solution is quite robust.  You do upload your photos to a Fotor account and the basic account is Free.  There are three levels of subscriptions with an increasing level of services available.  The screen shot herein is from my Basic account.

As you can see, the service delivers the Basic editing functionality as we will find in most editing applications, but without the need for a downloaded application.  You can however download a self contained application.  The basic service is funded by embedded advertising and to get rid of the annoying adware, you need to upgrade to a formal subscription.  While there are ads in the Mac application, they are not so numerous or annoying as in the web instance. 

 You can see a wide range of editing tools in the toolbar on the right, along with multiple presets

You can see a wide range of editing tools in the toolbar on the right, along with multiple presets

The edit window on the Mac is quite robust with a strong selection of editing tools as well as a number of presets for people to use quickly or as a starting point.  Loading up on presets has become sort of a table stakes thing for software developers and while I don't use presets, many folks do.  If your use case has a need for speed, or a standardized look, you'll like what Fotor offers you.  You can export your edited image in a variety of formats including JPG, PNG, BMP and TIF.  There is an Export to iPhoto menu option, but Apple killed off iPhoto some time ago and replaced it with Photos.  I am not a Photos user, I find the user interface to be confusing and horrible.  I did try the Export to iPhoto.  The image from Fotor went somewhere, but did not appear in Photos so I have no idea where it went.  This is probably not Fotor's fault since Apple Photos is such a mess. 

Collage

This option in the Fotor application is the one that I think has huge capacity for growth and acceptance.  While I have no real interest in collages in general, being a professional printer, I know all to well what a pain in the butt it can be to set up a collage in Lightroom or similar tools.  Fotor provides a true drag and drop capability to make collages and delivers a stack of templates that are really nicely done.  If you want to create a really elegant collage to share with friends or family in very little time, Fotor is definitely worth downloading and installing.  If you don't want to install an application, the same functionality is available through their web application.

 Creating lovely collages is dead simple in Fotor

Creating lovely collages is dead simple in Fotor

Batch

Fotor's application also offers a batch processing mode, suitable if you want to put the same border, or the same resizing on a number of images.  Put them all in the same place and point Fotor Batch at that location, select what you want done and specify an output path and you're done.  Very simple and well laid out.

 Load your batch, select your alterations, pick a destination and let it rip

Load your batch, select your alterations, pick a destination and let it rip

Fotor delivers a great deal for a small initial investment.  You can add packs of effects, borders, and treatments to the application for additional cost, basically like an in-app purchase on your smartphone.  The Fotor application is available on the iPhone, for Android, for the Macintosh, for older versions of Windows and Windows 8.  I did do a download of Fotor's Windows 8 version to Windows 10 Professional (yes regular readers, I actually do have a Windows machine, it just spends most of its time off when it comes to photography and videography),   It installs fine from the Microsoft Store, but Fotor is very honest that the app has the look and feel of that fugly Windows 8 interface.  Once past that, it's quite usable.

The Macintosh version is quite snappy but I did have a couple of crashes when trying to save stuff I was testing out.  This could be because the testing machine was running a coming version of OS X El Capitan, or maybe the application was just unstable.  I cannot cast stones, because I cannot say that my own system is completely vanilla.

The web interface adds a value proposition not found in the standalone apps.  It provides for the creation of banners or cards specific to a number of social networks that can be used as page covers or post headers.

It actually works pretty well, and is reasonably straightforward to do.  I tried making a Google+ cover and it was very easy, a simple set of layers for photo, graphic elements and text.  The UI is not completely intuitive that the model is layers based but once you figure that out, it's pretty straightforward.  I confess it's not something that I would use all that much, and as I have a reasonable level of competence with Photoshop, I would likely do the work there, this could really appeal to people who want a fairly structured experience and a number of nice looking templates to call upon.

There are promos running as I write this for the subscriptions.  Photographer is running at $2.68 per month, Designer at $4.49 per month and Graphic Professional at $4.99 per month.

The apps download for free and while you must put up with ad insertion, they work.  The web application is chock-a-block with adware, so if one were using it all the time, I can certainly see the value proposition behind a subscription.  It looks to me like the Fotor folks have put together a decent service that will definitely appeal to people whose use cases have these needs.  As a professional creative, there is nothing here that I cannot do with the tools I already have, and I am not personally enthused about paying for a subscription to remove adware and nagware.  That's me.  Take a look at Fotor at www.fotor.com it may suit your needs.

UPDATE JULY 19, 2017

A reader has contacted me to advise that since I looked at the product over a year ago, things have changed and I am advised that the install now adds a dedicated browser and a ton of adware.  I warned against the free version in my original review, but adware in a full version is unacceptable and I cannot suggest in any way using any product that installs adware without your explicit permission, and doesn't make it easy to opt out.

No longer recommended.