Katherine Boehret

How the Big Photo-Sharing Sites Stack Up

Yahoo’s recent announcement that it would be closing its Yahoo Photos division on Sept. 20 forced its users to decide what to do with their photos. The site’s photo-storage and sharing service, which has been around for about seven years, is bowing to its hipper counterpart, chart for more details.

This is a solid site for sharing albums with friends in a few straightforward steps. Though its options for editing photos tend to feel a bit clumsy, they’re probably the best out of the five sites. Most sites expect users to edit images before sharing them. Earlier this year, Kodak introduced a new version of its EasyShare desktop software program with richer editing features, such as images that expand to almost the entire screen.

In addition to its $25 a year Gallery Premier account, you can opt to pay twice as much for the account and a discount on Kodak prints — 10 cents each rather than 15 cents. Paid accounts let you download high-resolution versions of each photo and give you a unique Web address for sharing photos that can be password protected. But the other four sites offer personal Web sites as free features, rather than just with paid accounts.

Shutterfly seemed to be the simplest site, though it isn’t the most attractive or user friendly. All of its features are free. Shutterfly does away with two conditions that Kodak Gallery and Snapfish have: It doesn’t require any purchases in order to keep your account from being deleted nor does it ever require your friends to sign in before viewing a shared album.

But Shutterfly’s simplicity can also be a hindrance. It doesn’t let you upload videos to share, nor can you download high-resolution versions of each photo or send photos to the site via email or mobile device; the other sites do these things either for free or with a paid account.

Snapfish is Hewlett-Packard Co.’s photo-sharing site, and it stands out because it has the most restrictions. Along with its requirement that you purchase something at least once a year to keep your account, guests who view your albums must always sign in; you can’t change this setting like on the other sites. To skirt this issue, Snapfish emphasizes its Group Rooms, or personalized sharing Web sites that users view with a specific URL and a password (if you choose to have one).

Snapfish and Shutterfly both have Web sites on which photos appear too small for my taste, though Snapfish does offer generously sized images in photo slideshows — a plus. I’d prefer the site itself showed larger images in other instances. High-resolution version of photos can be downloaded for a fee of 25 cents for one and five cents for more than one.

Of the two community sharing sites, I preferred Flickr over Photobucket. The site felt cleaner, with fewer distractions and one less advertisement than Photobucket. For people who aren’t used to these more progressive sites, Photobucket and Flickr may seem extreme. They offer things like tagging and use terms that can be confusing. Flickr uses “sets” in place of “albums,” and photos are organized within “batches.” Photobucket organizes albums, but then lets you create sub albums within an album.

Neither site requires annual purchases, and both allow free high-resolution downloads of photos. Instead of one-time sharing, the sites use photostreams, or constantly updated photo blogs that friends can check.

Flickr and Photobucket make it easy to post photos to blogs in one step, including Blogger and Typepad. Photobucket also lets you post to MySpace and Facebook in one step.

In Flickr, you can meet people who have interests similar to yours by searching through Groups. I joined a group that shared photos of tennis courts around the world. Digital photos suddenly offered ways to socialize online without chatting or leaving overused messages for strangers.

Among other things, Photobucket lets you create a Remix — a presentation made of your photos and/or videos after they’re dragged into a storyline and mixed in with music, transitions and graphics. The result was entertaining and professional, though it took just seconds to make.

Ideally, I’d like to combine a favorite feature from each of these sites to make one great photo-sharing Web site. I found something wrong with each one, but Kodak Gallery and its EasyShare software program offer a good combination of editing and sharing. Flickr was my preferred community photo site, though it and Photobucket both offer fresh ways to share digital photos.

Edited by Walter S. Mossberg


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