Putting your photos online
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 16, 2005
Two weeks ago, we looked at using Photoshop's Web Photo Gallery to create slide shows you can post to your Web site. With the growth of digital photography, the days of having everyone over to look at your vacation slides are over. Now, you can put those slides online and send everyone the link. (Of course, this doesn't guarantee that they'll actually look at your pictures from Pago-Pago, but neither did having them over for cocktails as soon as you killed the lights to start the slide show, you just know that was Aunt Edna you heard softly snoring in the darkness.)
But as powerful and easy to use as the Photoshop option is, not everyone will want to shell out the kind of cash even an older version of Photoshop can cost.
For those who have a Web site but not Photoshop, there is now Gallery. A server-side utility, Gallery runs on your Linux, Unix or Windows 2K/XP Web server. You also need to have PHP. But since PHP and Gallery are both free, if you already have a Web site, there's no additional cost in adding this utility to your site.
Once installed, Gallery is a Web-based photo slideshow utility you'll create and manage your photo galleries from within your Web browser.
From the looks of the sample galleries at the above Web site, there are plenty of classy looking templates to choose from. If you know HTML and can edit the PHP templates, I'm presuming you can get in there and tweak them. But even if not, Gallery seems to contain enough options to please almost any aesthetic far more templates than Photoshop offers, anyway. And users can upload their templates to the Gallery Web site to share with others, so the number of templates is constantly growing.
Other, even easier options
As with Photoshop, Gallery is useless if you don't have a Web site to put it on.
For those who are into digital photography, but have no desire to have their own Web site, there are now plentiful options in terms of online photo hosting.
Most seem to offer the same features: Your own online space (so you can share pictures with family and friends), the ability to set up slideshows and/or galleries, and the ability for visitors to make prints of your photos. Some of these sites allow you to put your pictures behind a password, so only those you want in can see your photos a useful option.
But photo hosting sites are in a huge state of flux right now much as Web mail or free Web hosting were five years ago. There is no guarantee that if you upload all your photos to a site that it will still be around in six months or a year.
Searching for "photo hosting" or "image hosting" on Yahoo or Google will bring up some of the more popular sites; visiting a half-dozen and looking over their features will help you decide which one is best for you.
A cautionary note: If you are looking for a long-term solution, your best bet is to put your pictures up on your own site. This will allow you to control costs and ensure that your pictures don't simply disappear with the next wave of dot.com busts and/or mergers and takeovers. However, this will unless you are a programming genius not include the ability for your visitors to purchase glossy prints of your pictures. You can, of course, link high-res versions of your photos to your slide shows/galleries, so that your visitors can make their own prints. Short of that, a free service may not be your best bet it may sound great, but how are they going to generate income to pay their bills? Paying a small storage fee may actually be a better investment in your photo collection long-term as a company that's generating regular income is probably a company more likely to survive.
On to a quick survey of some of the photo sharing sites:
SnapFish.com is one of the better-known photo sharing sites. This site is free for hosting but they do have a clever business plan: They offer print-making services, so if your folks live on the East Coast and can't make baby's first birthday party, if you post the photos of that party here, your folks are likely to purchase prints from SnapFish. SnapFish will also develop your film and post the photos to your account for a reasonable price.
Another well-known site is flickr.com. They have free basic accounts, and paid subscriptions for power users. flickr seems to cater more to bloggers with an emphasis on camera phones.
MyPhotoAlbum.com offers free photo sharing, with income generated from selling prints.
Another is PictureTrail.com. They also offer free memberships, and generate income from selling prints. You can also put your galleries behind a password here.
No doubt, many of you have favorites you've used, and we may revisit this down the road a bit. But the above, and a search on Yahoo or Google, is enough to get started on seeing what's out sthere.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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