- Simple to use
- Important tools are kept free
- Huge range of filters/effects
- Intuitive app
- Unique beautification options for portraits
- Additional graphic design features
- Certain tools are frustrating to use
- Limited tutorials and explanation
- Poor native apps
When software tries to cover a broad range of needs, it can often become bogged down in excessive features and unnecessary complication. Fotor is a browser-based image editing suite that aims to touch on any reason to use it, but with an emphasis on keeping things intuitive and easy-to-use. It features a robust selection of tools that you’d expect from any image editing software, as well as extras such as HDR editing, countless filters and effects, and numerous stickers and customization options to round out the package. It includes three core aspects, though: image editing, collage creation, and graphic design for more specialized needs. Though subscribing for as low as $3.33 a month will unlock a number of extras, crucially it can be used completely free with only a handful of limitations – making it a worthy contender as a go-to editing suite, whatever your needs are.
While Fotor provides three separate functions – edit, collage and design – they’re all inter-compatible with one another. Unsurprisingly it’s the editing section that is the most integral, and includes every major tool found in Photoshop. This means balancing brightness, contrast and saturation among other key features likes cropping, rotation and the ability to apply one of an incredible number of filters and effects.
The software even includes the option to add in stickers, text, frames, and even some unique beautification tools – perfect for editing images before they’re put into a photo book intended as a gift. It’s all laid out very simply, too, so any level of user can hop into the software without any prior experience. The software is very much tailored towards the beginner, but that doesn’t mean it can’t suffice as an image editor for social media channels – there are even templates in the designer section for exactly that reason.
There’s very little learning needed to make the most of Fotor. Where most programs require playing around with dialog windows or figuring out what every change does, Fotor sticks to the most important parts of image editing – sliders for brightness, contrast, exposure, and even vignettes – and, at its most complex, includes tools like a cloning brush and a “Curves” option for quickly and effectively adjusting RGB values.
And since every change takes place directly on the image itself, there’s no need to move dialog boxes out of the way or wait for slider adjustments to actually take effect to follow the results of your handiwork. There can be some issues surrounding the few brush-based effects in that they will slow the system down, but otherwise it’s impeccably simple to jump in with.
Tools and Effects
The basic stuff all works as should be expected, though the “1-Tap Enhance” typically produces rather poor, oversaturated, and overexposed results. The most interesting category is the Beauty tab, where unique adjustments can be made to really make your photo’s victim look the best that they can. It’s here that you’ll quickly and effortlessly remove wrinkles or red-eye, tweak makeup to perfection, or even squeeze the width of the image (and therefore the subject’s apparent body weight).
There are a wide number of effects available to make use of, though not all of them are entirely distinct. They’re separated into respective submenus to help you better navigate the wealth of options available, but it could be said that there are perhaps too many filters available. They’re incredibly simple to add to an image, however: just slide the “Intensity” bar to the desired strength. There’s also the GoArt section of Fotor, where fun, AI-driven artistic effects replicating certain art styles can be applied to your photo. More of these are premium features than not, but it’s still a great, unique addition.
Then there are the stickers, frames, and the ability to add in any amount of text. Caution should be used here to avoid crowding your beautiful photo, but if you’re editing holiday or festive snaps then this is a great extra for adding a bit of spice to your photography.
There is also the Snapshot function, which helpfully saves the current version of an edited image to switch back to – whether for experimenting or keeping two distinctly different versions.
This Snapshot can be handy for reasons the developers perhaps didn’t anticipate. The problem with software trying to keep things simple is that it often fails to perfect other integral elements, and sadly Fotor is no different. The biggest offender here are the undo/redo tools, which can be erratic at best. Most irritating is how some changed elements can be undone one step at a time (for example when using sliders) while others are wiped completely when only the last action was unwanted (such as when using the cloning tool).
In fact, the cloning tool is really quite limited, and something of a disappointment. Not only is it awkward to reselect a new cloning area due to the lack of keyboard shortcuts, but it blurs a lot of what it copies over. Little things – such as how the cursor turns into a cloning stamp and makes it impossible to align – restrict this tool. When so much effort has been spent on beautification options, it’s unfortunate that such a significant (and common) feature like this should let the rest of the editing tools down so much.
Import & Export
It’s rare for online editing software to accept a broad range of file types, and the same is true for Fotor, too. It only accepts the basics of .JPG, .PNG, .TIFF and .GIF, though it does also allow the importing of the standard camera raw file type .RAW. It’s unlikely that many more will be needed, admittedly, but if any image has first been created with a more specific file type – such as Adobe Photoshop’s .PSD – then it’ll need to be converted.
When saving the edited photo there’s only a choice between either .JPG or .PNG, and in keeping with the rest of the simplified nature of the software Fotor only offers three quality types – which helps to remove any confusion of the exportation process of image editing. There is an extra option, however; when creating a collage or design image, then the file can be saved as a PDF.
With so many ways of quickly tweaking your photos through Fotor, you’ll no doubt want to get them out there just as hastily. Fotor has a number of built-in sharing capabilities, and are offered up the moment the “Save” button is clicked. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr are all integrated into the software, meaning your edits can be online as soon as you’re ready. There’s even an option to simply copy the link, while the mobile app has in-built compatibility with the Messenger app too.
There’s online cloud storage available as well but sadly this is only reserved for when creating a collage or a graphic design image, which is weird since image editing can take up a lot more time and effort than the simple collage tool.
Since Fotor comes from Everimaging, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that its software is available for a number of platforms – the company has been making various editing tools since 2009 after all, many of which have been built into Fotor. While the HTML5-compatible browser version is the main platform, there is also a mobile app for Android and iOS that provides almost the same level of customization. As an app it resembles Instagram, its sleek-looking left-to-right interface immediately familiar to anyone who has opened Instagram in the last five years. It’s not quite as robust and a little trickier to navigate and edit, but includes many more options than Instagram and so could be considered an upgrade in this regard.
There is also native programs for Windows and Mac, which are hidden away on Fotor’s website. There’s seemingly a reason for doing so, however; though the software means it’s possible to edit photos offline, for some reason it lacks a lot of the browser version’s feature set. If offline editing is important, Fotor isn’t an option for you.
This running theme of simplicity flows through into the pricing of Fotor, too, with only two options: pay or do not pay. The free version includes the core toolset, so access to everything you might need to edit your photos is unrestricted. There are some limitations, of course, such as quickly sharing content via social media or many Instagram-like filters being blocked from use. With that said, however, there are so many filters that in a weird way this restriction is a blessing; there’s such thing as too much choice, and Fotor’s selection of filters can be overwhelming, especially since it’s hard to tell the difference between many of them.
But by using the free version you’ll also be subjected to adverts either side of your photo editing; not only is this irritating, but it reduces the size of the canvas, too. This – combined with the lack of certain beautification tools – may well tempt some into paying the monthly fee of $9.99, or only $3.33 per month when opting for a full year up front.
By now it’s pretty clear that Fotor is primarily for beginners, and so it’s important that there are a number of contact methods for complete novices. In that regard Fotor is doing right by its customers, with means of contacting the company via email, over Twitter and Facebook or by adding them to Skype for live support.
These may well be your only options if you have a question about the software, however. There is a help center available, but it has a very limited number of answers in its FAQ. There are video tutorials and blog posts to help guide the user to specific uses of the software, but with no option to search or filter the posts it is frustratingly difficult to get a particular answer.
When it comes down to it, Fotor is perfect for a very specific novice audience. It doesn’t have the capabilities to compete with more professional software, but it isn’t trying to either. It has some frustrations – such as the flawed cloning tool – but its simple to use toolset means anyone can get to grips with quick and easy edits in no time. The fact that its main features are ad-funded and therefore can be used completely free is actually an added bonus, too, since infrequent image editors will have access to the things that they might need the most without having to pay. The low cost of the annual subscription is perfectly balanced with its extras, too, tempting enough for those using Fotor more often.