Q: On last week’s radio show, you mentioned free Web photo-storage and sharing sites. Which ones are the best? — Kurt
A: Uploading your images to a photo-sharing site is a great idea for anyone with a digital camera for a variety of reasons:
• It becomes an off-site backup of your precious photos.
• It eliminates the complications of e-mailing photos.
• It allows you to share your memories with others, publicly or privately.
• And it allows you an easy way to keep your photos organized.
The popularity of digital photography spawned the popularity of photo-sharing sites, which has created a logjam of companies offering to store and share your photos.
At face value they all seem to provide the same service, but a little digging will reveal some significant differences. Your objectives for the service will have the most to do with which one is right for you.
For instance, some services will only store your images for free if you buy something from them periodically. Some may require that anyone wishing to view your photos has to register (usually for free) before they can see your images.
Some sites allow others to download your original high-resolution images while others only allow visitors to download a compressed image. They want to encourage visitors to buy prints or CDs instead.
For those with a small library of images that want a simple interface, Flickr (www.flickr.com) is a good choice, especially if you are interested in the social side of photo sharing. There is an upload limit of 100MB per month for free accounts, and only pay accounts will allow the downloading of high resolution originals. So if you have a large library you should look elsewhere.
For those with large libraries of images that want to make it easy for others to access, there is Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com). There are no storage limitations, and you don’t have to ever buy anything to keep your free account active. Your visitors will not be forced to create an account to see your albums, and you can create lots of gifts with your images.
The only downside to Shutterfly is that you can’t download the high-resolution originals. But what you can download is reasonable if want to cut and paste in a standard document.
For those who are completely overwhelmed by their digital photo libraries, Google has come up with a nice one-two punch with Picasa software (http://picasa.google.com) and Picasa Web Albums.
I’ve been installing Picasa as a photo managing platform for my friends, families and customers for years. It has a very easy to understand and use interface as well as automatic scanning of your existing photos to create logical albums.
Its editing tools are very easy to use (especially the red eye removal tool), and if you do want to e-mail images, Picasa will compress them on the fly.
Another great reason to install Picasa is to avoid all of the junk that most digital camera manufacturers force on their unsuspecting customers when they install the included software.
Picasa can transfer your pictures from your camera to your computer’s hard drive and, with a Web Albums account, up to the Internet all in one program.
Picasa Web Albums free accounts have a 1Gb storage limit (you can pay for more if you need it), which translates to three to four thousand high resolution images, allows downloading of the high resolution originals and works in concert with the Picasa software on your computer.
Once you have Picasa installed on your computer and running, click on the Web Albums icon at the bottom to get your account set up.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.