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Choosing from Five Photo and Image Sharing Websites

Over the past week, we took a look at five different image sharing websites. Some of these sites I’ve used extensively in the past; others, I just learned about this week. It was nice to take a deep look at these different options, though, because some real differences emerged between the different websites that I think will help you make a good choice about which of these photo sharing websites is best for you.

Run Down by Features

I looked at some similar features at each site – things like storage/bandwidth limits, privacy controls, copyright protection. Here’s a run down of each of these major features and a summary of where each site sits.

Storage/Bandwidth Limits. The clear loser, here, is Photobucket. You can only store 500mb of photos. Facebook is great because you can store a virtually unlimited number of photos, but you are restricted in terms of image resolution. Photoshop Tools is another great option; 2gb of storage is pretty good for a free account. Flickr and Picasa are both kind of middle of the road. Picasa has a 1gb storage limit, which is nice but not great. Flickr offers a monthly upload limit instead, and the 300mb per month is quite a lot.

Privacy Controls. Oddly enough, I think Facebook wins. It can be monotonous to groom your friends list and organize people into specific lists, but it pays off if you want to tightly control who can see what images. There’s some built in control (only friends of friends, or only your friends can see pictures), and you can tighten that as much as you want. You have to be proactive, but it’s got the best set of tools available.  I like the way Picasa lets you share an album with a unique link but not publish it, and Photoshop Tools has a similar feature. Flickr is ok, but only having three lists (public, friends, and family) is kind of restrictive if you have an extensive contact list. Photobucket is definitely a loser here, since I didn’t see a way to control who can and cannot see your photos.

Copyright. This issue is clearly won by Flickr and Picasa. They give you the ability to set specific rights – either all rights reserved or a version of Creative Commons.  Flickr has a bit of an edge, in that it has a variety of different creative commons licenses available.  The other sites (Facebook, Photoshop Tools and Photobucket) don’t seem to care too much about rights. Ah well.

Style. I’d say this is a clear win for Photoshop Tools. I love the Adobe styling; it’s got the same sexy elegance that Apple stuff does. Facebook, Picasa, and Flickr are each similar, with their own version of the uncluttered minimalist approach. Photobucket, for me, is a clear loss with its gaudy themes. They may appeal to some people, but they definitely don’t appeal to me.

Sharing. Maybe this is the most important part of a “photo sharing” site… If you’re talking about sharing pictures of people with people, then I think Facebook wins hands down. The tagging system combined with your friends list is unbeatable. Flickr and Picasa are both good at categorizing other types of photos (artistic stuff, abstract stuff, non-people stuff) with tags and letting you browse. However, I wouldn’t use any of them to share pictures of my students with my students. Photobucket is decent at categorizing and browsing, too, but Photoshop Tools seems to place very little emphasis on this. It seems like there is or should be a mechanism to browse other photos on the network… but it’s definitely not easy to find.

So Who Should Use What?

Hmm… Good question.

Facebook. For the average user, I think this is a great option. If you are taking pictures of your friends and family, this is the easiest way to get them on the web and get them into the hands of the people who want to see those pictures. You don’t have to worry about limits, you can easily tag people in the photos, and you can have a lively discussion in the comments section. This is my site of choice for sharing school pictures with my students.

Flickr. For other types of photos (not centered around your friends and family) and for photographers looking to share their artistic work, I’d give Flickr the edge. Their respect for the artist’s rights (either to maintain ownership or share things) is laudable, and Flickr has a vibrant community of photographers that regularly browse and peruse the body of work.

Photoshop. Want to store some high-quality, high resolution pictures? I’d go with Photoshop Tools. This seems like a good choice for someone that wants to share a high-resolution portfolio on the Internet and wants something sexier than Picasa. The 2gb is a nice, big limit, and the slideshows are all pretty well themed.

Picasa. If you’re a Google person, then you might want to choose Picasa over Flickr. But… I think more photographers prefer Flickr to share their work. It’s kind of a community thing. Picasa offers great features, in many ways similar to Flickr, but if the photographers are already on Flickr that’s where you’d go. If someone made a social networking site with all the same features as Facebook but with a fraction of the users… would you leave Facebook and go there?

Photobucket. Umm… at this point I’m not sure why you would use this. I did in the early days, because it was one of few options. Now, it’s beat out in pretty much every way by all of the other websites that I looked at.

So there you have it. Five free photosharing websites for your perusal… four of them worth something. Go check them out for yourself, and carve out your own little photographic home.

Within the next few months, I think I’ll revisit this topic and compare paid photo sharing websites. But, for the time being, let’s just stick with free options.

Filed Under: How to Use Your Photos

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About Digital Photography How To

Digital Photography How To is intended to be a guide to people learning how to use their digital SLR cameras. Three years ago, I had never picked up a camera; now, I produce a yearbook every year and I moonlight as a professional photographer.

I write this website to share what I've learned in that time. The topics will range from truly beginners topics, to tutorials for post processing, to resources for yearbook and graphic design, to thoughts on transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional. Keep up to date by subscribing to the RSS feed.

About the Author

Digital Photography How To is written by Brian Rock. In addition to being a photographer, he's an educator. He teaches high school history, he's the advisor of the school yearbook, and he trains his kids to do all of the photography for the yearbook.

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