Sharing your photos online
I think that one of the biggest differences between digital and film photography has been the ability to share images online. No more keeping those kid birthday pictures in the drugstore envelope until two weeks from now to show them to grandma. No more buying more album inserts and trying to fit 4X6 inch prints on to and 8 1/2 by 11 page. No more slide trays and screens and projectors.
I’ve been sharing images online since 1998 when I first went digital and I’ve tried dozens of sites and methods. I had all my photos on a major photosharing site that went out of business overnight. I’ve also suffered through getting emails from friends with huge picture file attachments that brought my internet connection to a crawl. So I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly of sharing images in cyber space.
First the bad and the ugly:
I read somewhere that Facebook is now the #1 photo sharing site at least by number of pictures uploaded. It is also the worst. Clearly the people who run Facebook treat photo sharing as a minor add-on to the mission. Facebook shrinks your photos and displays them in a miserable narrow format. I recently uploaded a panorama and this is what it looks like on Facebook
My 8000 pixel wide image is displayed in a tiny 604 X 204 pixel version. It keeps getting worse; a few weeks ago Facebook display 720 pixel wide images. Now they are even smaller!
So the bottom line is don’t upload many pictures to Facebook. The occasional humorous picture of a sign or your new puppy or something you just can’t wait to have all your friends see right away, maybe. But don’t go to all the trouble of taking good (or great) pictures and uploading them to Facebook. It sucks for photographers. A much better way to share with your Facebook friends is to upload your pictures to a site that handles photos well and then put a link to those pictures on Facebook.
Real photo sharing sites
There are lots and lots of them. Your camera manufacturer has one. Adobe has one. Kodak has one. You can see a list of the major ones here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_photo_sharing_websites
I suggest that only four are worth talking about.
This one is the best. Run by a family of passionate photographers it is great. I’ve been using it for years – I signed up in January 2004. I’ve got 65,000 images stored there. If you’re a serious photographer this is the place for you. It costs money, $40 a year for a basic membership, more for Power or Pro. You can save $5 with this link https://secure.smugmug.com/signup.mg?Coupon=qM2NMiCheGNbM . Smugmug has “communities” but that’s not really the focus. It simply does a great job of storing and displaying your photos. You share them by sending out links or using the built-in integration to Facebook.
An excellent photo sharing site with an emphasis on communities. There are groups on Flickr for everything. You upload your pictures and then add them to groups. Group members comment on each others photos. Of course you can just use it to store photos and send out links to your family and friends or share them on Facebook but Flickr is more about developing a network of Flickr “friends” and sharing with them. It’s not much about critiques – all the comments are over the top positive. There are lots of good photographs out there and lots of really lousy stuff. Flickr has a pretty limited free membership so you can at least try it out. To really use it you’ll need to pay $24.95 a year. Flickr integrates with Facebook.
From the 800 pound gorilla at Google. Free for 1 gig of storage. Graduated pricing for more
20 GB ($5.00 USD per year)
80 GB ($20.00 USD per year)
200 GB ($50.00 USD per year)
400 GB ($100.00 USD per year)
1 TB ($256.00 USD per year)
If you’re using Picasa it’s very easy to upload your photos to your Picasa Web Albums. You can limit the size of your uploads to keep that storage size down. Works well with Google Mail. Has good sharing features although I haven’t seen any Facebook integration.
You get 25 gig of free storage if you have a live, hotmail or msn id. (If you have a hotmail, live or msn email address then you already have a Windows Live ID.) Very convenient to use with Windows Live Photo Gallery.
I highly recommend that you set up your free accounts at Picasa Web and Windows Live even if your “main” photosharing site is somewhere else.
Photo printing sites
There are a slew of online sites which are aimed at making prints and other merchandise from your photos. Most of them also tout an online sharing feature. It’s basically free although you may be required to make periodic purchases to keep your photos online. Check out www.shutterfly.com and www.snapfish.com . Snapfish has two annoying features – your friend or relative needs to have and account and log on to view your pictures. They charge for downloading originals (how dumb is that?)
For years I’ve tried to talk friends and relatives out of emailing photos. But the story has gotten a bit better. I still think that your main focus should be on photo sharing sites but there are times when emailing a few photos just seems like the best thing to do. Both of the 800 pound gorillas have nice options but my favorite is Microsoft’s solution.
Using Windows Live Mail or just the web browser hotmail interface you can easily send a photo email
The great thing about this is that only small photos are in the email itself; the larger versions are automatically stored on your free account at Microsoft. And it expires after 90 days so you don’t have all of those old albums sitting there forever.
Google does a nice job too though with Picasa. You just select the photos you want to send and click the email button at the bottom. You can choose which email to use
and you can control the size
Well, that’s it for today. Feedback via Comment is much appreciated. And while you’re here, please use the tool at the top right to sign up for email notifications of new posts.