Choosing the Best Photo Sharing Site
By Kristy Holch
It’s never been easier to capture beautiful images that will serve as memories for years to come. But, it’s also become increasingly difficult to manage your photos without becoming overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are many online photo sites to help you manage your stockpile more effectively. The key is to select the type of site the best suits your sharing needs. Your choice depends on your priorities. Here are the types of photo sharing services available and our picks for each.
These sites are all about connecting with people, not about printing photos or preserving memories for posterity. Facebook is the leader here, with MySpace not far behind. Photos are not the main feature, just an adjunct to the networking. Don’t go here for archiving memories, printing photos or sharing robust slideshows — this is where you post last night’s party photos! You'll want to pick the site where you have the most "friends."
Prints and Photo Crafts
These sites are set up to get you to buy prints, albums, greeting cards, and other merchandise with your images printed on them–and the pages are laid out accordingly. You'll see lots of ads to entice you to buy photo crafts and buttons to order prints. Ordering is easy online and you can pick up at a local retail chain, or have photos mailed to you.
But don’t let the name fool you, these sites excel at much more than printing. To attract more users to the profit-generating print features, they offer robust free online sharing and album features, and they’re also expanding their capabilities to include aspects of social networking. Most let you send your photos to a Facebook wall, upload photos from a cellphone and add videos.
Sharing online albums with friends and family is free and you can even customize the look and feel on some sites (though you'll still see ads). Your photos here are private, only viewed by those you invite.
Theses sites are the way to go if you occasionally want something printed, but also want free online sharing of photos, albums and slideshows.
If showcasing your photos is important, Shutterfly is the site for you. Its Site Share section lets you create a custom photo sharing site (with its own Web address) where you can upload photos and videos, share photo crafts you've made on the site, share journal entries and family calendar information and create polls, among other features. You can also allow others to add photos and comments, which makes it great for group collaboration and events.There is no minimum annual purchase required for Shutterfly to continue storing your photos and there's unlimited storage.
If you're looking for online photo backup, Kodak Gallery delivers. You can download individual photos at full resolution for free, upload photos from the iPhone and order a CD of your entire account (although, there’s no picking and choosing: $40/1000 photos). Free storage is limited to 2GB and you must spend $5 per year. For accounts over 2GB, the fee is $20 to maintain your account.
The breadth of options for making prints makes this site stand out. In addition to the photos you upload, you can print from your and your friends' Facebook albums with the Snapfish Facebook app and even send in physical film rolls for digital development. Photo storage is unlimited, but but to maintain your account you must make one purchase per year, which can be as low as $0.09 (for one print).
Photo crafters should look no further than SeeHere. Like other sites, there are templates you can choose to create your craft, but SeeHere then gives you the flexibility and tools to change literally every element of the templates so you can create truly one-of-a-kind crafts. Photo storage is unlimited, but to maintain your account you must make one purchase per year, which can be as low as $0.12 (for one print).
If you’re really into your hobby, whether it’s photography, rock & roll or cross stitch, and you like to share photos with friends and strangers around the world, a Community site is for you. These sites allow you to collaborate with others on collecting and sharing photos.They can also function as a central clearinghouse for your photos, offering many different ways to get photos into or out of the site. By giving each image a unique URL, they let you serve up photos easily to other sites, such eBay, MySpace or Craigslist. Expect total storage and file-size limitations on free memberships–as little as 1MB per file for some, which means you'll have to resize images before you upload them.
Flickr has some of the best tools for organizing your photos, and has partnerships with Getty Images (if you want to sell your photos) and various printing services (like Moo), for getting your images on anything from business cards to coffee mugs. With a free Flickr account, you can upload 100MB of photos and two videos per month (90 seconds and 150MB for each video), but only the most recent 200 images will appear in your list of photos. With a Pro account ($25 per year), you can upload an unlimited number of photos (up to 20MB each) and HD videos (90 seconds and up to 500MB in size), access all of your files and download full-resolution copies.
Google Picasa Web Albums
Picasa offers searchable public images and full resolution downloads (although full-resolution uploads are not the default). Free downloadable Picasa software provides editing tools and a nifty image organizer on the desktop, including the ability to tag images for easy retrieval later. Picasa offers full-screen slide shows and video support. Free accounts get 1GB of storage and paid accounts start at $5 per year for 20GB (more pricing information here).
If you want the most control over sharing and storing your photos, head to one of these sites, where your paid membership will be well worth the price. These sites allow you to customize the look of your albums, have no advertising and include custom Web addresses. They also offer links to other sites for prints, merchandise, archive DVDs and many other connections for importing or exporting. Your membership level determines the storage space and customization available. Enthusiast sites are currently the only ones can be reliably used to back up your photos, plus they enable you to allow friends to download the full-resolution version of your images; saving you from having to burn CDs or email packets of images to groups of people from the wedding weekend.
This site takes sharing up a notch with the ability to create slideshows with your own music from iTunes, determine who sees which photos and whether they can download them, create a drop box for friends to upload photos for your approval and upload directly into Flickr and Facebook photo albums. Phanfare also takes care to preserve your original photos, so if you make edits using the Phanfare tools, you can always revert back to the original at any time. $99 per year for unlimited storage.
SmugMug leans toward the photo hobbyist, with communities, searchable galleries and photo contests. You can create a completely custom sharing site that doesn't have SmugMug name on it and is ad-free. And it's also one of the best HD video sharing services out there, with fast uploads and high-quality playback. A standard membership ($40 per year) delivers all the photo features non-pros need. You'll need to step up to the Power level ($60 per year) for HD video sharing.