Disclaimer: I went to university with Natalie who owns Photolate.com, and had a sneak preview, but this is still an honest review.
Photolate.com (short for Photo Manipulation) is a new service that offers professional photo retouching for your own photos. The homepage is bright and cheerful and clearly shows what they offer with the simple claim “We retouch everyday photos”. The three packages “Natural”, “Rejuvenate”, and “Party Glam” start at just £4 per photo (£5 for Party Glam) and are described well with plenty of “Before and After” examples. They also offer addons for just £1.50
All packages offer basics like red-eye removal, colour and exposure correction, and blemish removal, as well as many more. Add ons offer to change eye colour, straighten teeth, blur the background or a bespoke add on which lets you ask them to do anything (although I’m sure there are limits?)!
I decided to try the service out with a photo and Abby and I at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich last year. As you can see, in the original we both have redeye, I have spots, and I’m very red (click for larger).
To place an order you must first sign up for an account. This is a pretty easy pain-free process (although you have to wait for a confirmation email), and once you have signed in to you new account you need to upload your photos. When I placed my order this was through a standard upload form, but now it’s been replaced with a fancy flash multi-file upload thingy – it seems to work very nicely. The size limit (when I ordered) was 10MB, which should be no problem for most resolutions.
Once uploaded, you’re shown thumbnails of your photos. These aren’t very good quality, but they’re good enough to chose your photo. Select your photo and you’re given the choice of which package to apply to your picture. If you can’t remember which is which, a handy help popup is provided to remind you – with more examples. You can also add any of the addons to your order.
I went for the Natural Package, with a bespoke treatment to get rid of the bandages on my fingers.
From here it’s very much like any other online shop: add to basket and checkout. At the checkout there’s a handy ‘special instructions’ box to tell them what you would or wouldn’t like retouching (this is where I specified I wanted the bandages removing). Payment is made through Paypal (which I don’t personally like, but it is widely trusted, and ideal for a startup such as this).
They claim to retouch your photos (all by a real person) within 48 hours. I had to wait longer than this, but when I chased it up I got a prompt reply saying she wasn’t happy with the results so had to get it re-done. Quality control is certainly a good reason for a delay, and I am pretty confident this is just a teething problem.
A short while later I got an email telling me my photo was ready (“You`ve been photolated!”). I logged in to my account and downloaded the photo from the “My Orders” page. They only store the finished products for 2 weeks, so you have to make sure you are able to “collect” your order within this time. The finished result is below (click for larger):
My first reaction was “That’s not been retouched”, but that’s the whole point of the natural package – a natural look! The red-eye has been removed (on both of us and the random guy behind). My complexion is much improved, and the overall colour balance is better. The bandages on my fingers have been expertly removed. I still look slightly red, but I’d been in the sun, and I would probably look too strange pale or artificially brown.
Technically, the photo was the same resolution (2MP – this was taken on my old camera), and the EXIF data had been retained. The image was actually less compressed, although obviously this wouldn’t ‘bring back’ information lost in my camera’s original compression.
Here are some before and after closeups at full resolution (click for larger):
Overall a pretty good service at an amazing price. A few teething problems but they’re improving bits all the time. I would highly recommend this service.
Photolate are currently offering a limited offer of a free retouched photo for a limited time only (not sure how long for), so you’ve got no excuse not to try them out (enter free0805R at the checkout).