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Facebook: Free, Simple Photosharing for the Average Person

When I first signed up for Facebook (this was back in 2007, when it was still reserved for college students), I didn’t really have much use for it. I had a few friends from grad school, and we occasionally used it to get in touch and set up get togethers.

Then, after I started teaching, I suddenly found a great use for Facebook. I had literally thousands of pictures of my students (from doing the yearbook), and I needed a way to share some of these pictures in a simple but meaningful way. The best solution I’ve found yet?  Facebook.

Some Basics of Facebook Photos

Here’s the basic run down on Facebook Photos, for the purposes of comparing it to other photo sharing sites.

Limits. As far as I can tell, you can share an unlimited number of photos on Facebook. There are per album limits (currently 200 pictures per album), but I don’t think there is a limit on the number of albums. I currently have 30 albums and counting.

Facebook does limit the size of your images, though. In terms of viewing, the max image size is 720 pixels on the long edge. Facebook recently made a change that allows you to upload and store a higher resolution image (up to 2,048 pixels on the long edge). Although Facebook says it stores these images at “high resolutions,” it still compresses the picture, albeit without changing the resolution.

I exported an original image from Lightroom as a JPEG that was 2,048 pixels tall and 85% compression. This jpeg was ~850kb. After uploading the image to Facebook and re-downloading the high resolution image, the file had been shrunk to ~350kb. Comparing the two pictures on screen revealed little to no difference, but the fact remains that the image isn’t saved in the original high quality format in which you might upload it.

Sharing. Facebook makes it really simple to share the images with people you know, as long as they are your Facebook friends. You can publish the pictures on your wall or tag people in the pictures (my preferred method).

I typically upload pictures of people, and I want to share them with those people and their friends. After I upload an album, I go through and tag all of the people in the album. This instantly sends a notification to each of those people, and it also makes the picture appear in their newsfeed… which in turn lets all of their friends know that new pictures have been uploaded. I don’t have to worry about knowing people’s e-mail addresses, I just tag a name on a picture and Facebook gets the word out.

Although this can be problematic if you’re not friends with someone, you can solve that by having someone else tag the subjects. For example, if I’m friends with one basketball player and I upload a set of pictures from the basketball game, I can tag that one basketball player in all of his pictures. When he’s notified of the pictures, he’ll log on, look through the album, and tag most of his teammates.

Discussion. It’s Facebook. It’s social media. It’s all about discussing and talking about things. The normal Facebook commenting applies to pictures, and it’s a great way for people to talk about an image. And, if things get out of hand, the publisher of the image can easily delete any and all offending comments.

Printing. By default, there’s no built-in option to print pictures that you see/share on Facebook. It seems like a no-brainer for Facebook to pair up with an online printer and use print orders to further monetize a very valuable website, but thus far no dice.

Part of the reason for this may be that the old size limits made printing rather pointless. A high quality, 4×6 photo requires about 1,800 pixels on the long edge (300 ppi). When the size limits were 6-700 pixels on the long edge, images were being resized too small to be effectively printed. However, now that you can upload/store high resolution images (up to 2,048 pixels on the long edge), the high resolution images are just large enough to make great 4×6 prints.

You can download the high resolution prints, upload them to your favorite printer, and be on your merry way… but this seems like an area that is ripe for improvement.

Privacy. Facebook has myriad privacy settings that you can use to restrict access to your photos. Of course, these privacy settings have changed a lot over the past year or two, and it can be confusing to make sure that you have them set exactly the way you want.

In general, I set most of my albums to “Friends of Friends.” This lets me share the pictures with my own friends (the subjects) and with their friends. I’m not overly concerned about privacy, but once you learn your way around making lists and setting restrictions, it seems like you can get pretty specific about who can and can’t see your pictures.

Some Initial Thoughts

This was part one in a six part series on free photo sharing websites. I’m going to come back and compare Facebook with the other four photo sharing sites at the end of the week, but here are some initial thoughts on who Facebook is good for and who it isn’t.

First off, I love sharing pictures on Facebook. It is without a doubt the site that I use the most for sharing pictures.

That said, this isn’t the best way to share/publish all kinds of photos. Almost all of the photos that I share on Facebook are of people that I know. The pictures are part of the social experience and part of the social interaction that takes place on the site. I don’t share a lot of “artistic” photos, scenic shots, or the like. When I want to practice my lighting skills and share pictures of still lifes, Facebook doesn’t seem like the place to go.

Finally, everyone and their grandmother has a Facebook account. In fact my own grandmother created a Facebook account so that she could keep up with the family and see pictures of her grand children and their children. This makes it all the more appealing, because you can actually get your pictures into the hands of the people that want to see them.

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.

You can connect with him directly on Google Plus.