Resizing images made simple

With so many new Web tools popping up, it’s easier than ever for student journalists to work from home — or from anywhere with an Internet connection. Although you likely use Adobe Photoshop at school for editing digital images, it’s easy to do basic resizing without it, which enables students to post to your site without being anywhere near campus.

When or why would resizing images be helpful?

Using the smallest possible size is always good for optimal performance, whether you’re e-mailing an image or posting it to a site. You won’t want to use up bandwidth to send a large photo that will be resized for use anyway. Resizing images for your website will decrease the amount of time it takes to download the photo. And sometimes you’re working with a theme or special design that requires a specific size or cropping ratio.

Here’s a quick comparison of some free, easy websites for resizing images.
This site is easy to use and has three basic steps. One of its best features is the ability to resize using custom dimensions. With help tips available, the site offers single and multi-photo options, and even large images upload easily. For cropping, you can click and drag but cannot enter dimensions as you would in Photoshop. Effects include grayscale, sharpen, gaussian blur, etc. The site saves your image as JPG, GIF, PNG or BMP format. Bottom line: Great for non-techies.
Be careful using this site. The Login and Register fields looks as if they’re required — sneaky. The front page also has an option called “Share with the world” as the default setting and unless you uncheck this box, the images you load will be public. The site has only preset dimensions for resizing (no custom fields), but you can also get embed code or a URL. Overall, this was the slowest of related sites and not as user-friendly. Bottom line: You can do better.
While this site is mostly intended for use with Facebook and for profile pictures and avatars, it’s easy to use and has a video tutorial. Everything breaks down into five steps and even non-photo types will be comfortable. Your original image can be up to 6 MB, which is nice since some sites limit you to small file uploads (which generally defeats the purpose because if you could reduce the file size you wouldn’t likely be using their site). Some limitations: the only effects are grayscale and sepia, and the output for your resized or edited image is JPG only. Users can choose from preset width options or custom up to 1000 px. Bottom line: Use for large images.
This site is full of ads and has a clunky design, but it works, and users can resize up to five images at a time. The downfall is that the site only accepts uploads up to 3 MB and does not offer a traditional cropping tool. One of the nice features here is that the screen shows the width at each setting and provides a comparison for users who know how the image should look but might not know dimensions. You can determine custom height or width (whereas most sites just offer width), and you can save the finished product as JPG, GIF or PNG with quality options, too. Photos on this site are stored on their servers for 20 minutes and then deleted. Bottom line: Ignore aesthetics; the site works.
On this site, you can preview everything without actually applying or saving the changes, so it’s great for experimentation. Users can crop, rotate, resize to custom dimensions and share (websites, Myspace code, etc) for free with unlimited use. Uploading each image is slow because it appears in full size on screen before you begin editing. The site is generally the same as others in terms of effects and output (JPG, GIF, PNG and different quality settings) but also has a slider so you can scrub across the screen and preview the image at all different sizes. Another fun feature is the option to send your edited images directly to your mobile device. Bottom line: May be a tad slow but does it all. Personal favorite.

So, you may wonder why this post doesn’t simply recommend which site is “best.”

Two reasons:
(1) What’s best for one user will rarely be “best” for everyone.
(2) Exploring and comparing different options like this can be a great learning experience and problem-solving exercise for students. CLASS ACTIVITY: If there’s something your staff is looking to do better or differently, divide into groups and have each group find a free online solution. Groups analyze and evaluate the website, app or tool and share with the class. It leads to great discussion and can incorporate writing or design assignments (ask students to review multiple sites or to design a chart, table or other graphic comparing the different options).