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Photo software focuses on masses

Dan Slavin is confident he has the answer for bringing digital photography to a mainstream audience: photo software for people who don't like to use photo software.

Dan Slavin is confident he has the answer for bringing digital photography to a mainstream audience: photo software for people who don't like to use photo software.

Slavin, CEO of Boston-area start-up Photolightning, has just released the company's inaugural product, a software application that turns the often tedious process of downloading, sharing and printing photos into a quick series of one- or two-click steps.

"We've really looked at how do you give people the benefits of digital photography without the complexity," Slavin said. "The goal is: You've got 24 photos in your camera--give us five minutes and you're done."

The software, which shares the company's name, starts automatically whenever a camera is connected to a PC running the program. The application downloads new images, renames them and can organize them into albums. The application has simple interfaces for printing the downloaded photos via a home printer, online photofinisher or local retailer.

Photolightning also simplifies the sharing of photos, with one-click tools for e-mailing images. A compression option can shrink an image to less than 30kb and embed it in the body of a message, so recipients don't have to fiddle with attachments.

"A lot of people don't know how to send photos, and some photo companies are trying to address that," Slavin said. "But a lot of people don't know how to receive photos, either."

Photolightning also includes one-click tools for correcting common image problems, such as poor backlighting or bad focus.

"You can do that in PhotoShop, but it'll take you an hour," Slavin said. "PhotoShop is the ultimate solution, but not for soccer moms."

Photolightning is currently available as a $40 download. Slavin said he hopes to expand distribution through deals with partners such as online photo site Shutterfly. Unlike other photo-software makers, who pursue bundling deals with camera manufacturers, Slavin's company is more likely to partner with online and retailer print services.

"I don't know whether (a manufacturing) approach is right for us to maximize value," Slavin said. "We're looking at what the obstacles are to getting people to make more prints, so that's where the opportunities lie for us."

Chris Chute, digital imaging analyst for research firm IDC, said that although Photolightning may offer plenty of useful functions for casual photographers, "They face some serious challenges."

The market is already crowded with photo applications, Chute noted, including a number aimed at beginners. And camera makers are busy addressing ease-of-use issues.

"The trend that's been established is that you have an all-in-one-box solution," Chute said. "If there's a tier of users who want an approach without all the complexity and functionality, (that approach is) going to come from Hewlett-Packard and Kodak, who are coming up with strong plays to be the vendor who supplies easy ways to get images where you want them."