imagecheflogo.bmpImageChef, a four-year-old startup in San Francisco lets users simply add text within an image.

Anyone who has tried to do serious image editing know just how tedious it can get. Though the capabilities are currently limited (you can only choose from a pre-set selection of image templates), it’s great for the average blogger or MySpace user.

You pick from a selection of ImageChef templates (see below). Then all it takes is typing in the text you want and one click later it’s ready to go.
While ImageChef doesn’t let you do anything you couldn’t do in Photoshop or some other image editor, it’s much easier, taking just seconds to customize a template.

The next step is moving into video editing and mobile applications, but a lot of other people are doing that already; ImageChef is releasing what they’re calling “some major new tools” in March.

At the same time, ImageChef CEO Rolf Rando says they plan to steer away services that require high server and bandwidth capacity, such as video and photo slideshow hosting. This has allowed them to self-fund themselves far, and they don’t plan to raise VC money.

It’s also possible to use ImageChef capabilities through Friendster, SixApart, and RockYou. ImageChef is a good example of a company that found a way to get one particular task right — in this case putting custom text in stock images. To support the free image hosting, they sell customized mobile phone wallpapers in about 10 countries (mostly in the US, Europe, and Latin America). The company says it has sold several million to date.

photocranklogo.bmpUpdate: We should also mention PhotoCrank, which does something similar — letting you add graphics and captions to mobile photos. It recently released Mobile Monograms, which lets users monogram their phone. See image below. The company is looking to raise a first round of capital.