Polarr: A Great Free Photo Editor For The Web & More

POLARR Editor for the web

With more and more companies harnessing the power of the web, our reliance on traditional desktop software is not always what it used to be. Photo editors are a great example of that. Photoshop is amazing, but infinitely more powerful than 90% of us need. That’s why free apps like Polarr are becoming so popular. It is available for iPhone, iPad, Android and the web, and it is easy enough for anyone to use. Here’s how it works.

The web version is available at www.polarr.co. It works in all modern browsers, as well as Chrome OS. You can upload images from your computer, or connect cloud accounts like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Flickr or Instagram and grab images from those accounts. There’s even a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that lets you open any image on the web into the Polarr editor. While this is great for free images, it does have some obvious opportunities for abuse. However,  Polarr does remind you to respect the intellectual property of copyright holders.

The editor is very intuitive if you have used any kind of image editors in the past. In fact, if you have used Lightroom before, you will be right at home and be up and running in no time. It may be a little daunting for beginners, but it is easy to navigate and quick to get used to.

The left panel has a selection of image filters, as well as a History tab that lets you step back in time to reverse any edits you make. The right panel has a wealth of image adjustments. On the Basic tab you get access to sliders for temperature, tint, exposure, highlights, shadows, saturation and more. Further down, you will find a tone curve, HSL adjustments, split toning, sharpening, and other effects like vignettes and film grain.

polarr editor interface

There are also a number of tools available to help optimize your image to your liking. The cropping tool will be familiar to most people, but the radial or graduated filters are usually reserved for premium photo editors. With Polarr, you get those for free. There is even a histogram to help you see the true effect of the adjustments you make.

Not sure what the clarity slider is for? Need some help understanding curves? Fear not. Polarr has you covered. A simple help guide is available with jargon free explanations on each of the sliders and features that area available to you. There are before and after examples as well as a live preview of what happens when you apply a given effect. See the Polarr guide here.

vignette help

Is Polarr good for schools? Absolutely. It’s free, doesn’t require you to set up an account in order to use it, and it interfaces seamlessly with all your favorite cloud services. It is also available for iOS and Android devices, as well as the web, so the chances are very high that you will be able to use it in some form or another regardless of your device. Here’s a video of Polarr in action…

 

Unsplash: Free, High-Resolution, Royalty-Free Images

UNSPLASH royalty free images

There are numerous places on the web where teachers can go to find royalty-free images that they and their students can use in the classroom as part of educational projects. However, I don’t often hear many educators talk about Unsplash.com. So, if you haven’t heard of it before, pay attention, because this is a good one! 🙂

Unsplash has a very unique business model. Every 10 days they upload 10 free photos to their website. All of the images are free, high-resolution photos that have been submitted, free of any usage restrictions, by established and aspiring photographers. All the images are stunning examples of photography, and you can do whatever you want with these photos with a completely clear conscience.

house on a dock

Not convinced? Here’s what the Unsplash license says:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

This is what photographers are agreeing to when they submit a photo to Unsplash.com. So, why would they do such a thing? Each image includes the name of the photographer when you hover over it with your mouse, and when you click on it you will often find a link to their website or online portfolio. Seems fair, right? Not all photographers are a fan of this idea, but everyone that submits photos knows what they are giving up, and it is in return for more publicity.

Of course, even though you don’t need to cite an Unsplash image, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Citing your sources is always the best habit to develop with students, and absolutely one that should be taught in school as part of a digital citizenship program. Kathy Schrock wrote about this recently for eSchool News, so take a look at that article if you need a refresher or some tips on how to properly cite images found online.

plane from upsplash

The only real downside to Unsplash for educators is that the images are NOT sorted, categorized or searchable. However, that need not be a deal breaker. The images are handpicked because they are interesting, tell a story, or capture the attention of the viewer with strong visual elements. Photos like these are still very useful for writing prompts, classroom discussions, presentations, blog posts, artistic reinterpretations, app smashing, and more.

On an iPad, you can also save them to the camera roll and bring them into Canva for creative graphic design challenges. Mac, PC or Chromebook users can save them to their hard drive and do the same on Canva.com. What’s more, you can subscribe to the Unsplash website and receive ten new images in your inbox every ten days. See something you like? Save it to a Google Drive folder, an album in your camera roll, or a folder in OneDrive where you can tag it, organize it, and use it over and over again.

bench from unsplash.com

Recently I have been spending some time looking at Morguefile and Pixabay, but Unsplash is definitely one of my new favorite sites for images, despite the lack of search options, simply due to the variety  and quality of images that are on display. Oh, and in case you were wondering, all the images in this post were sourced from unsplash.com! See how many you can spot in future posts. 🙂

BONUS: If you are looking for more sources for free images, check out this post that the Buffer team put together – 53+ Free Image Sources for Your Blog and Social Media Posts.

UPDATE: Ingo Joseph (@IngoJoseph) told me about Pexels.com. It works the same way as UnSplash. Images on Pexels.com include submissions from Unsplash and other sources, and all photos are licensed under the same Creative Commons Zero license.

How to Add Clip Art to Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms & Drawings

At a recent Google Drive training, a participant asked me if there was a way to insert clip art into a Google Doc. They knew how to insert images, but they wanted an image bank of those cartoon-like clip art images, just like in Microsoft Word. Can it be done? Indeed it can. Here’s how.

Start by opening the document of your choice and going to Insert > Image to open the Google Image browser. Then select “Search” from the menu on the right-hand side.

insert image

Next, enter the type of image you are looking for in the Google search box. Results that are shown are labelled for commercial use with modification, so they are perfect for classroom use. In this example I am going to search for a picture of a dog.

dog image search

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