If you haven’t tried sharing your family photographs online yet, now is the time. In just two years, the number of companies offering photo processing and online albums has grown exponentially, with no end in sight.
Sharing photographs has never been so easy. With just a few mouse clicks, you can show off pictures taken with either film or digital cameras, even your scanned historical images. Most photo-sharing Web sites let you e-mail images to others, order reprints, do basic photo editing and create free online albums. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation. Competition between the multitude of sites means you’ll find lots of special offers, including free or reduced photo processing, reprints and online storage. The competition also has led to fast and furious partnering: Traditional photo companies are forming alliances with new sites to provide consumers with an unprecedented range of services.
Before uploading your digital images or sending your film to a photo-sharing site, become an educated user by trying several sites to see if they offer the features you’re looking for. Since some companies charge fees for their services, pay particular attention to each site’s terms and conditions. For instance, one site maintains your images only if you stay an active member, while another limits the number of images you can store for free. If you’re still shooting with traditional 35 mm film, make sure the company returns your negatives and posts the images online — not all do. Compare reprint prices and storage capacity to scout for the best deals. And unless you want strangers to be able to sneak a peek at Mom and Aunt Enid battling it out at last summer’s watermelon seed-spitting contest, guard your photos’ online privacy: Carefully read privacy statements and password-protect your albums. It’s also a good idea to read about system requirements — especially if you’re a Mac user, since you may be left out of the picture by Windows-centric sites.
Start exploring the possibilities of photo sharing at this sampling of top sites — they’re all free to sign up, flexible and easy to use. Also take note of the partnerships between sites to see where you’ll get the best deals and features to fit your needs.
<www.activeshare.com>: PC Photo magazine calls this site from Adobe (maker of the powerful Photoshop software) “fun and effortless.” ActiveShare.com allows users to manipulate images using Adobe’s free downloadable software, and has partnerships with Shutterfly and Ecircles.com.
<www.albumsonline.com>: This unusual site from Triadigm Technology has public albums in categories such as corporate, nonprofit, personal and interactive learning available for all to view, including virtual exhibits from the Los Angeles Public Library.
<www.cartogra.com>: Hewlett Packard’s site allows members to schedule automatic uploads at any time of day using downloadable free software called Photo Manager. Create e-postcards or e-greeting cards from your images, view your albums as thumbnails or order products with your images on them. Ofoto (see below) produces the prints from digital images. You choose the privacy option: public, personal or shared.
<www.ebaraza.com>: European photo site that offers a choice of text in French, German or English. Ebaraza has essentially the same features as American sites, but it’s interesting because of the international angle. Check out its public albums.
<www.gatherround.com>: This Intel-backed site launched in November 1999. It allows users to create password-protected albums, use free photo-editing software, organize pictures, and create panoramics and picture e-mails. You can purchase prints here through Gatherround.com’s partnership with Ofoto.com.
<www.ofoto.com>: Here’s a great example of the partnering trend: Ofoto has teamed up with Gatherround.com and Cartogra.com as an online print supplier using Kodak paper. Ofoto’s own site features unlimited storage space and a free welcome kit that includes free developing with the first roll and a nominal fee after that. You can create password-protected albums, organize your images and add captions using photo-editing tools. Digital photos can be uploaded using the free Ofoto Now 2.0 Upload Assistant Software. Ofoto returns your negatives; you choose which images to print.
Remember these tips when shopping for a photo-sharing site:
• Try out several sites. Remember, membership is free.
• Read company policies to learn about privacy statements, password protection and fees.
• Look for user-friendly features that don’t overwhelm.
• Find out if the site compresses your images — it can affect the final product.
<photoworks.com>: Formerly Seattle Film Works, this company changed its name and venue by becoming an online photo-sharing and photo-processing site. Sign up online for a free starter kit. Traditional film users get their first roll developed free, as well as the negatives, a set of prints and an e-mail link to the images online. Digital-camera users can upload their images and receive up to 24 free prints. You can personalize your pictures with a Talking Picture voice mail and create a mailing list of family and friends. Customize your albums by combining images from any of your albums. You can e-mail entire albums. To store photos on this site, you must continue as an active customer.
<www.shutterfly.com>: Film processing, prints and photo-editing software to manipulate images, add attractive prints and even captions to your photos before printing. Picture sharing is either online or through prints shipped to other family members you specify.
<www.zing.com>: Unique features here are the ability to create mailing lists, online photo albums with covers and a guest book for visitors to write comments. The site accepts only digital photo uploads. Zing.com has the distinction of being named a favorite site by Forbes magazine, as well as offering photo tools for Mac users.
The Bigger Picture
A snapshot of more online photo options:
• ClubPhoto <www.clubphoto.com>: Online photo processing and sharing. Returns negatives and index print. You choose prints online and pay for them separately.
• Digital Fridge
<www.digitalfridge.com>: Share your pictures and videos publicly or privately.
<www.ecircles.com>: Start a circle of family and friends in which to share photographs and information.
<www.ememories.com>: Unlimited online captioned albums.
<www.homestead.com>: With the help of Shutterfly, you can now create online photo albums and share them at this site for creating personal home pages.
<www.photoloft.com>: Multiple upload options. Send an e-invitation to invite friends and family to your albums.
<www.photopoint.com>: Oldest photo-sharing site with millions of members, unlimited storage.
<printroom.com>: Upload digital images and order real photographic prints from images in your albums.
<www.snapfish.com>: Photo-processing site with pricing incentives to bring users to its service.
So what’s a family photographer to do? Take advantage of all the free offers to see if the products live up to the claims before you settle with one company. To find out more about online photo communities and keep up with new developments, look at photo-sharing sites regularly, use search engines to find up-to-date industry information, and read computer and digital photography magazines.
From the April 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine