There are a lot of websites out there to share photos. They all have different features and prices and everyone has a different favorite that they use to share photos with friends and family. There are a couple of things I look for when I review a photo sharing site. I like to be able to order prints from the site. I like to be able to download the photos I like that aren’t mine. I want to be able to navigate through the pictures and look at them all, whether by slideshow or individually, and it’s also nice if it’s easy and simple for me to upload my own pictures.
Flickr is Yahoo’s photo sharing service, and it’s a popular one. Flickr allows you to friend people and follow their albums and updates as well, which can be interesting if you know someone that regularly takes good pictures. However, Flickr is more of an online photo share site, in that it seems to be designed to show and share pictures and albums across the internet, but no so much for personal albums. You can order prints, but only through a couple of third party sites. These third party sites encompass everything from book and mugs and postcards and prints, but it means having to pick and select from a variety of choices and compare prices. Flickr provides a variety of viewing options. You can sort your photostream into different sets and galleries, and join groups where you can have multiple photographers contributing to an idea, which is a great idea for weddings to have everyone upload their pictures to a common album. If you are looking to download a picture for your own use, Flickr only provides pictures up 1024×768, which is only marginally acceptable. One of my biggest knocks on Flickr is that it limits you to 100mb of photos a month, which is another reason why it’s not great for sharing photos of events. With the rising megapixels of cameras a picture can be multiple megabytes and this limit will limit you to a couple of dozen pictures unless you sacrifice quality and make them smaller. Overall, Flickr is good for online collaboration of different types of photography projects, but if you’re looking to share photos of Grandma’s birthday with family across the country, you’d be better off elsewhere.
Snapfish is Hewlett Packard’s photo site. HP is known for printers, and as would be expected it’s easy to order prints from Snapfish. They provide a variety of sizes as well as borders. They have poster prints if you need to blow up a picture. Mousepads, mugs, ornaments and clothing are just some of the different things you can get printed with Snapfish. Most of the complex stuff you need to have shipped, but for basic prints and posters you order them online and pick them up at a local Walgreens, which saves on shipping costs and allows you to pick up your pictures in less than a day. Viewing is a simple enough process, as photos get uploaded to albums and you can scroll through each picture or view them via the slideshow. Snapfish also has it’s own program you can download to aid in uploading pictures directly from your camera or memory card. However it’s not possible to download photos on Snapfish without paying a fee per download. It’s not much, but if you’re talking about an album of 300 pictures, it can add up, especially when you can ask the person who uploaded them to email them to you for free. Snapfish is a great service to use when you plan on printing physical copies of photos or ordering mugs or calendars, but if you actually want to share your photos over the internet with friends and family there are better services.
Shutterfly is perhaps a less commonly used service than some of the others, but it does have what you need to share pictures. Once you upload the pictures onto their site, it is organized into albums, and then you can share specified photos out of that album with friends. When your friends and family view the photos you’ve shared they have the option of saving them to their own album. The printing process is also pretty easy with Shutterfly. You can select which photos you want, with a variety of size options, and have them either mailed or pick them up at Target. They also have some photo books, calendars, and other products. The website itself feels a little older than most of the other sites, and it runs that way too. If you’re looking for a digital copy of a photo in an album, whether a friends or your own, you are out of luck. The only way is to right click and save it, but that gives you the photo in a rather small size. Shutterfly is an okay service, but it feels like it hasn’t changed in years or grown with the times. This definitely wouldn’t be my first choice of photo sharing services.
Google has their hands in everything, photo sharing on the internet included. Picasa Web Albums blows the other services away, offering more in just about every area. They offer up to one gigabyte of photo uploads per Google/gmail account, and you can upload them at the original photo size, or a streamlined version. There is a downloadable app that will upload and organize your pictures for you, and it’ll even search your hard drive and update albums as you put more pictures on your computer. You can then use it to upload to a web album viewable to friends and family, just you, or everyone. It’s a static URL so it’s easy to find all the albums by one user, and everyone that has access to view the file can also save it, at the size it was uploaded. After you upload the photo to the web, you can tag it, link to to it, embed it and caption it as needed. You can also print the photos in your Picasa albums. You can funnel them through Snapfish, Shutterfly or a couple of other sites, or you can print directly to Walgreens. If you’re going to print to a mug or something it’d probably make sense to upload directly to Snapfish, but otherwise Google’s Picasa is the way to go. It also has a tab where you can search through recently uploaded photos as well as search by tag for any public image across all of Picasa.
Of all the photo sharing services I’ve used over the years, Google’s Picasa is definitely the best. Snapfish and even Flickr have their uses as well, but Picasa is my first choice.