Choosing Your Photosharing Site

Choosing the right photo-sharing site can be a daunting task, given how many there are. In the end, it will prove to be personal matter, with a lot of serendipity thrown in.

Your first decision is whether you want to use one of the many free sites or pay for a premium service. The folks who run photo-sharing sites aren't doing it as a charity; they need to generate income one way or another. While all make some money from selling prints of your photos (and often other novelty items), that doesn't usually cover the considerable costs of running the site. They must get additional income either from advertisers or from you. While it seems counterintuitive to pay for something that you could get for free, often the real value isn't about money

Choose a free site if:

■ All you really want or need is to get your photos up on the Internet without much fuss, in any way that works.

You aren't really interested in maintaining a sizable library of your photos online, but just want to get them up there for a while. (Many free sites will keep your photos on their servers for a set number of days or weeks, or only as long as they continue to generate sales of prints.)

Fee-based sites have a number of advantages over the free ones (see Figure 19-4). Consider shopping for a fee-based site if:

■ You are using the site to promote your photos professionally or in some other business-related manner.

■ It bothers you that nearly every page of the free sites will barrage you and your visitors with advertising and pressure to buy prints.

■ You want to drag and drop your pictures so that they are ordered in a particular manner, you want to change the background colors or thumbnail sizes, or otherwise wish to take control over the displaying of your photos beyond the basics.

Figure 19-4: While free photo-sharing sites usually have ads on every page, fee-based sites (such as www.Smugmug.com) tend to avoid them. How much you can customize your pages, removing the site's branding info (such as the Smugmug navigation bar on the top), replacing it with your own, often depends on how much you're willing to pay for the service. Professional photographers and other businesses can pay for the right to fully customize their pages. (Courtesy of Smugmug.com.)

Figure 19-4: While free photo-sharing sites usually have ads on every page, fee-based sites (such as www.Smugmug.com) tend to avoid them. How much you can customize your pages, removing the site's branding info (such as the Smugmug navigation bar on the top), replacing it with your own, often depends on how much you're willing to pay for the service. Professional photographers and other businesses can pay for the right to fully customize their pages. (Courtesy of Smugmug.com.)

■ You want to share (and/or sell) high-resolution images.

■ You wish to maintain your library of photos online for the foreseeable future (or, at least, as long as you pay the annual fees).

■ You require the extra security that some sites offer, including customizable passwords.

■ You want an easy to recognize and remember personal Web address for your photo site.

Not all those options are available at all fee-based sites. So, you'll need to compare services and costs. For example, some may have unlimited storage of as many photos as you wish, while others have sliding scales, with prices dependent on how many photos (or how many megabytes of data) you wish to store. We have even seen free sites offering unlimited storage.

Incidentally, just because you choose one free site this week doesn't mean that you can't try another next week. Photo sharing is like banking (though not with the same level of security). Sure, it can be inconvenient to set up a new account, but that doesn't stop you from changing banks when a new one offers a better deal or a specific service you need or want. We recommend experimenting with various sites, until you find one that fits your personality and needs. Or, do as we do, and use different ones (free and fee-based) for different purposes.

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