My cousin in Scotland is the most recent person to send me an email
saying “I’m going to try to get the family pictures on the web like
yours soon.” He might be feeling inspired by my 77 year old father who
finally succeeded this year in
posting travel photos on Flickr,
but like so many others had delayed for years before diving
in. With so many
ways to share photos available, choosing the right method and service
at a reasonable cost is daunting. This guide will help you
figure out where to start by following these three steps:
When we put our first photos online, we automatically used an old
website we had because it was free and it was what we were used to. We
didn’t even consider that there were other options available to us.
Today, there are several classes of photo sharing sites, many of them
with impressive free options. So before you can pick a site you need
some idea of the type of site that’s best. Answering these three main
questions should get you to the right type of site:
How will my photos be used?
My cousin referred to our site, and you
might also have a site in mind that you’d like to copy. Before you get
too set on that, though, it pays to spend some time thinking about
how your online photos will be used before choosing a method. Our
site might not be the best model since we have a pro
photographer in the family who hopes eventually to sell photos online.
in mind, our set up is a bit more complicated than my cousin
need. The site you admire could be lacking basic features that are
important to you.
So what are some of the ways photos can be used? It helps to think
about this compared to typical offline uses:
Photo Album- you plan to pass them around to friends and
your latest pack of prints
Doubleprints- you want to simplify sending the
grandparents copies of
the latest antics of the grandkids
Slideshow- you hope to present them in order with a
narrative like a
Art Show- you’re a bit of a whiz with the camera, if
you do say so
yourself, and you want to share the gems with your friends and
Gallery- you’re reaching pro level and want to
quality images for viewing by
total strangers, hoping to get some feedback and/or sales
Illustration- you’d like to use your images to
articles or stories, like here on BrewZone
Hobbyist- you have hundreds of photos to share and
discuss with other
of your prize Pomeranian or your model train collection
You might have one or more purposes in mind. To pick the right
method, you’ll want to prioritize and be very clear on what’s a
necessary feature and what would just be nice to have. In this process,
you might discover that you want to handle some pictures one way and
others differently, so there’s no reason you can’t split them into
different projects and post them using different methods.
Whether you are using a film camera or a digital, you have probably
been either sharing prints or emailing. These photos are privately
owned by you and typically
specifically with whomever you chose, but once you go on the web you
to consider many new ways in which they can become public. It becomes
much easier to intentionally or accidentally share them with complete
whether you want them to be public, or whether you want to keep them as
private as possible. How do you feel about personal privacy,
the intellectual property of your images? Will all of the
pictures be public or private or a mix?
Once you’ve sorted out those
decisions, it will be a lot easier to pick the right posting method.
How much money am I going to spend?
Another element to sort out right away is how much you are willing to
spend. You will have options ranging from free all the way up to
hundreds of dollars per year. Many of the free sites have one
more upgrade options for more storage or more features. If you
currently spend about
$20/month on prints, are you hoping to eliminate that cost
or to apply that amount
to posting online? Keep in mind that many online options have
ongoing costs, so unlike the
one-time cost of printing, you might have to pay month after month to
maintain old pictures you keep online.
The costs of a photo site depend on several factors. One will be the
features offered, so you might be charged for more convenience or for
more choices. For example, many free sites display ads on your pages,
offer an ad-free upgrade. Another cost factor is storage space, and the
amount of space
you will need will be based on the number of photos you share
the quality of the images, as well as how long you want to keep them
posted. A free site like Flikr might let you keep the equivalent
several packs of 4 x
6 prints. Having dozens of top quality images ready
for sale on SmugMug can be $150/year or more. Posting all
slideshows from the past ten years might cost more than you expect. And
while most photo sites these days allow unlimited traffic for people
viewing your photos, you could
have to pay for high viewership if you display them on your own website.
good news is that once you know the features you are looking for,
you will only pay for what you really need.
How much time am I going to spend?
The third factor in picking the right site is complexity.
We each have
different levels of technical confidence and competence. Some people
are able to build a whole website devoted to their pictures,
others are really hoping to find a one-click solution. Even if you are
pretty tech savvy, you still might only have an hour a month or so to
devote to posting your photos. Some methods will take a bit of time to
set up, but then very little time to maintain. Others will go up in a
flash, but then might require regular maintenance to
costs down. As you consider the various options available, assess how
time you think it will take you to learn and how much to maintain. Be
realistic about how much time you really want to spend on this each
time you post pictures, and on a monthly basis.
Also, it’s important to be aware that posting photos online can be a
little like scrapbooking. Know that when you look at someone’s really
nifty photo page, they might have put a considerable amount of time
into captioning, commenting and designing the page. If you’ve never
actually arranged your prints into an album because you never had the
time, you probably won’t suddenly start cropping and captioning each
photo just because it’s online. You don’t want to select a posting
method that’s so time consuming that you end up never posting, or that
charges for cool extras you will never use.