A Short Course Book
Displaying & Sharing
Your Digital Photos

Publishing Your Photos—Photo Sharing Sites

When you want to share your photos with the largest possible audience, you post them on-line. There are a number of ways to do so ranging from photo sharing sites discussed here, to web blogs and elaborate, beautifully designed gallery sites discussed in the sections that follow. When it's time to put your images on the Web, there are a few questions you should first ask yourself:

  • How much effort am I willing to put into this?
  • How much do I know, or want to know, about HTML—the Web's authoring language?
  • How much am I willing to spend both for software and monthly fees?
  • What features do I want the site to have? Are any of them beyond me?

If you are not interested in investing a lot of time, effort, and money, photo sharing sites are probably the best solution. All you do is open an account and upload your images. Some services let you customize the look of the site, but your control is minimal.

Photo sharing sites are often free, but some charge a monthly or annual subscription fee. These designations are not hard and fast and some subscription sites have a limited free version. Free sites use photo sharing as a means to get users to order prints or other photo-embellished merchandise such as mouse pads and coffee mugs. These sites also raise money by displaying ads on gallery pages and spamming their users with offers. Paid sites typically dispense with advertisements and sometimes the sale of other goods. If they do sell photos and other products they probably have an arrangement with one of the large photo printers such as Shutterfly, Kodak, and SnapFish. Since paid sites are not dependent on print sales, they also let visitors download full-size images so they can print them themselves.

There are variations in the way these programs work. For example, Pando lets you browse your system for images to send and adds any you select to a list called a package. You then specify one or more e-mail addresses and click the Send button. Pando then sends an e-mail with a small file attachment to your recipients and uploads the full contents of your Package to the Pando network. When the recipient opens the e-mail and clicks a thumbnail image, the files are transferred to them simultaneously from your computer and Pando's. No one, including Pando, has access to your encrypted files except for you and your intended e-mail recipients.

Uploading Images

After opening an account you can upload your images to an album or gallery that you can make public or password-protected. If you protect an album it can only be viewed by people with whom you share the password. Since your main interaction with a site is when you upload images to it, this phase should be as easy as possible. There are a number of methods in use and some services offer more than one.
  • Desktop software. Some services offer free software you use to organize and edit images on your desktop and then upload to your albums. This is the best way to go if you're sending a lot of pictures or plan on using a service on a regular basis.
  • Browsers. Many services have a Browse button on the site that you click when you want to upload files from your computer. After clicking the button, you search for image files on your system just as you would search for other files. When you find an image you want to upload, click its filename and then click the Upload button.
  • Applets. A few services launch an applet or browser plug-in that you then use to select images on your system for uploading. In many cases they are just a window into which you drag and drop image files. These applets let you upload multiple images without having to download and install software on your system.
  • Partnerships. Some photo-editing applications have established partnerships with photo sharing sites so you can upload your image without leaving the application. For example, Photoshop Elements lets you upload to their own gallery, the Kodak EasyShare Gallery, or SmugMug.
  • Synchronization. Most photographers create a folder for each album they are going to upload to a photo sharing site, then select the folder to upload all of the images in it. If they later decide to add photos to the Web album they have to add them to a folder on their own system then upload them, indicating as they do so which album on the Web they are to go to. If they want to delete a photo from an album on the Web, they have to go to the Web site to do so. All of this effort isn't necessary with sites that synchronize your albums on the Web with folders on your desktop system. Any time you add, delete or move photos in or between folders on your system, the changes are reflected in the companion albums on the Web. The concept is much the same as the one iTunes uses to synchronize its contents with your iPod. At the moment there are at least two sites exploring this concept—Phanfare and Sharpcast.
No matter which approach your sharing site uses, it is expecting your images to be sRGB.

Taxonomy and Folksonomy

When you post your images on a photo sharing site, they are often grouped into folders. This kind of organization is called a taxonomy. Some sites also allow you and your visitors to classify images using tags to build a folksonomy (folk taxonomy). Folksonomies can be narrow or broad. A folksonomy such as Atpic's is broad because there are no restriction on who can tag and what tags they can use. When there are restrictions, as there are at Flickr, the folksonomy is narrow. Atpic also couples taxonomy and folksonomy so tags associated with galleries and artists are cascaded to the galleries and artist's pictures.
Don't use photo sharing and printing sites for your only image storage. Keep the originals in your possession in case something happens to the site.

SmugMug is one of the leaders in the subscription-based photo sharing arena. It has great designs, and innovative new features such as mapping your photos keeps the site alive and interesting.

Flickr is a leader in the free photo sharing space. It introduced the idea of tagging photos and has built a huge and loyal audience.

Selecting a site

When selecting a photo sharing site, here are some things to think about:
  • Do visitors have to register so they can be spammed to death by the site's owner?
  • Is the site and its albums well designed?
  • If it's a subscription site do they offer a free trial period so you can see how you like the site?
  • Does the service give you a unique address such as denny.smugmug.com so visitors can go directly to your albums? If not, how hard is it for others to find your images?
  • Can you change the layout or theme of the site?
  • How easy is it to manage your photos and albums? Are the controls intuitive or frustrating?
  • Can visitors leave comments on an album or individual photos.
  • Can you display your images as a slide show?
  • Does the service reduce the size of your images? If so by how much? Can visitors view and download full-sized images?
  • Does the service crop your images?
  • Can you upload video clips? YouTube has demonstrated how popular short video clips can be and many digital still cameras have a movie mode.
  • Can you add captions?
  • Can you edit you images on-line, perhaps to remove red-eye, rotate and crop, lighten and darken?
  • Can you and your visitors order prints and photo-embellished products?
  • Can you organize images into albums? Can you specify that they are public or private? How easy is it to reorganize, add and delete images in albums.
  • Can you organize images into albums? Can you specify that they are public or private? How easy is it to reorganize, add and delete images in albums.
  • Does the site display ads or pop-ups on your gallery pages?
  • Can you and your visitors tag images so others can find them more easily?
  • Does the site let you view statistics to see how many people are viewing your images?
  • Can you upload images from your phone?
  • Does the service keep adding new features such as photo tagging, photo mapping and RSS feeds?

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