Reality Check Email or Photo Sharing Web Site

The Internet abounds with Web sites for sharing your photos with friends and families. Many of them are free, though some involve some kind of fee. As a rule, your photos are entirely private, viewable only by those people you invite in to see them.

Here are some guidelines on choosing between emailing pictures or using one of these sites:

■ If you want to send a photo large enough for the recipient to be able to get a decent quality print, seriously consider uploading it to a photo-sharing site. Sending such a large file by email would bog down both your system and your friend's.

■ If you want to be able to refer to your photos periodically in communications with friends and business associates, having them reside online on a photo site is much more efficient and professional. This is especially true if you are dealing with either a photographic portfolio or supporting visual information for a business relationship.

■ If you find you are emailing lots of photos, recipients might eventually become annoyed at being bombarded with your pictures so frequently. Besides, with all the problems of viruses and email security settings that limit attachments, emailed photos may be blocked by the recipient's network administrator. Sending an email pointing them to a Web site is certainly less invasive and more likelyto get through security filters.

■ However, emailing provides more immediate gratification.

These Web sites usually also offer the advantage of allowing you and your invited guests to order novelty items with selected photos on them, such as mugs, calendars, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, or even cookies, as well as professional prints and, sometimes, posters. (See Chapter 19 for more about photo-sharing sites.)

Whateveryou do, don't depend on these sites for archiving your photos. Sites have been known to go out of business or periodically purge their systems. Always save your pictures on your own PC or laptop, preferably backing them up on some semi-permanent media. (See Chapter 21 on organizing and archiving your photos.)

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Figure 15-3a: Here is Macromedia Firework's optimizing tool, set at 2-up (that is, showing only the original and one edited version). Our original photo (on the left) is a 4.6MB TIFF file that would take as long as 15 minutes to download on a 56.6 kbps modem (a nonbroadband phone connection to the Internet). As we see in the preview on the right, converting the file to a JPEG and compressing it with a quality setting of 23 percent, we might end up with a download time of only 11 seconds on the same modem. However, at such a high compression, image photo quality is quite poor, showing obvious pixelization (the blocky pixels). By the way, if we had used the 4-up option, we could have seen side-by-side previews of three different settings compared to the original. (Dialog copyright by Macromedia.)

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Figure 15-3b: If we set the JPEG compression to 70 percent quality, the download time is changed to 34 seconds on the same modem, and the image quality only slightly affected. A perfectionist will note, however, that the photo on the right (which is JPEG and compressed at 70 percent) is less sharp than the original TIFF image on the left. Usually, such slight softness is not very noticeable on the Internet. But if it bothers you, you can set the compression to 80 percent quality (1 minute download), 90 percent (2 minutes), or better. (Dialog copyright by Macromedia.)

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Estimated download time

Compressed Image quality

Figure 15-3b: If we set the JPEG compression to 70 percent quality, the download time is changed to 34 seconds on the same modem, and the image quality only slightly affected. A perfectionist will note, however, that the photo on the right (which is JPEG and compressed at 70 percent) is less sharp than the original TIFF image on the left. Usually, such slight softness is not very noticeable on the Internet. But if it bothers you, you can set the compression to 80 percent quality (1 minute download), 90 percent (2 minutes), or better. (Dialog copyright by Macromedia.)

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