Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Where do you want your photos?

...everywhere you go, people are taking snapshots on their handy smart phones (even on some not-so-smart phones).

If you want to see the photos your friends are taking, there are several places they might appear.

There are a number of common places that people use, and if you haven't explored them all, you may want to hear about your choices.
One of the obvious and popular places is Facebook since so many people use it, and the path to getting your photo online there is pretty well smoothed. Most phones offer an app that will allow you to get your photo there with almost no effort. Management of the photos online is a little tricky, but the upside is that you and your friends can tag yourselves in the photo pretty easily.  This is a good choice for ad-hoc photos.

Another very easy way to share photos when you have them on the one-off basis is posterous.com.  On this site, you establish an account, and then you can email the photo to a special address they will give you. It will appear at your Posterous page. (mine is agentv.posterous.com) If you wish, you can have the new Posterous page that results also appear in your Facebook stream and your Twitter updates.

For collections of photos, and specially curated sets, there are three places I see in use a lot.

Here are the questions I think you have to ask when you choose one of these to be the home base for your photos.

 1) Does it display my photos well, and give me good choices for display?
 2) Do my friends have to join up or be a member in order to see my photos?
 3) Does it offer me control over visibility of the photos? Can I have public, group only, and invitation only photos?
 4) Can I easily link to the photos I display on this platform?
 5) Is the site's privacy policy tolerable?

A quick disclaimer: I have varying experience with each of these, so my perspective may not be informed by extensive use.  I'm just telling you what I know and what I've heard from my peers and colleagues.

The first (and apparently most popular) is Flickr. I think it scores well on all of these questions.  While I have an account, I must confess that I don't use it as heavily as I use my first choice.  I believe it offers the ability to show the photos to people you know without requiring them to get a Flikr account. (or now, a Yahoo! account)  I know that it allows the viewer to choose from several sizes for each photo, and I believe it offers the photo owner some control over who can see, download, and otherwise interact with the photo content.

Not as common (in my experience) but equally powerful and flexible, Picasa Web from Google is another place where photos are often exhibited. I can tell you from my own use of the site that it does offer a lot of power and flexibility. It scores well on the test questions above.  You can show photos to someone who is not logged in to anything, or you can limit visibility for an album to people you designate.  The companion software for the PC or Mac (Picasa - free to download from Google) makes management of your photos and your albums easy, but you don't need it at all.  I found that photos displayed on Picasa Web are easy to embed and use in other content.

One choice that I sometimes see is Photobucket. I've not used it or been moved to create an account, but from what I can see in a cursory search, it does appear to allow contributors to tag photos for public view, and it does seem to have some mechanism to allow for search. A quick peek at its privacy policy yields no alarms or worries. It seems like it might be a reasonable choice.

I do have to say though, that when I went to create an account, I found the process to be tedious and error-prone.  I finally abandoned my efforts when I kept getting a "invalid length for zipcode" error when I had not put in a zipcode, nor had I seen any place to supply one.  Your mileage may vary -- but for me, if it takes that much trouble to log in, I have to wonder what else will be difficult about using the system.

In summary: I personally favor Picasa Web for my own photo exhibition and organization in the cloud. I use poterous.com and Facebook for some of the transient snapshots I want to show off.  From what I can see, Flikr and Photobucket offer nice features and don't intrude too much.