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Net Gains

Seven things you're not doing on the Internet (but should be)
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004

(continued from page 3)

Share Your Photos
Potentially, one of the most useful benefits gained by switching from film to digital photography is easily sharing your pictures with far-flung family and friends. After all, it's much faster and simpler to send a file electronically than to have prints made and mail them, right? And for those of us who are chea… er, frugal types, it's certainly more appealing to let Aunt Gladys print pictures on her own dime.

Because sharing photos efficiently by e-mail is not quite so easy—picture files can be large, making them difficult to send in any quantity, and virus-phobic recipients may be afraid to open any documents attached to an e-mail—printing-oriented Web sites, such as Shutterfly, Ofoto and Snapfish, have become popular. These services are easy to use and access, as well as being free—a concept I embrace. The online albums you create are a bit stripped down but functional, and you can make basic image fixes (crop, brighten up a shot and remove red-eye) right online. You or the folks you invite to share the photos can order prints from a simple 4 x 6 to a customized jigsaw puzzle or a mug emblazoned with your mug, all of reliably high quality.

There are limitations, though. The images you see on your computer screen when visiting these sites are pretty small. More important, even if you own a photo-quality printer, you can't download a high-resolution version of the images to print at home.

That's why I started exploring the new paid photo-sharing services, with very good results. One easy-to-use choice is Photosite, which offers a free account (limited to 150 photos), 1,000-photo capacity for $39.99 or unlimited storage for $70 a year. To share pictures, you download the Album Builder program (Windows users only), which lets you manage your photo files, tweak the color, brightness, etc., and decide on the page design for your site, then upload the whole shebang to Photosite. It's easy for folks to find your pictures—you can create a simple site name, such as yourname.photosite.com, at no additional charge. Your friends can download image files suitable for printing at home up to 5 x 7 inches, or order prints online. You can even view the pictures you've saved to your Photosite on a Web-enabled cell phone.

Another option that's reasonably priced and sleekly styled is SmugMug. For $29.99 a year you can store an unlimited number of photos on the site and display them on-screen in a variety of formats (I especially like the Journal style, which lets you run photos and detailed text side by side). Unlike Photosite, visitors can download the full original-resolution files for home printing (if you choose to let them). Auction sellers can easily store pictures on SmugMug and link to them when creating eBay listings. Plus, you get a seven-day free trial and the option (for $49.95 annually) to share both photo and video files, making SmugMug a top pick.

Finally, OurPictures Network is building a service that should satisfy both the tech-savvy and the digitally impaired. It adds the option to order prints online and pick them up at a photo lab in your neighborhood. Share your account with Grandma (up to four users get access for $50 a year) and you can send photos right to her computer—she doesn't have to fuss with finding and downloading them herself. Even those who aren't OurPictures members can receive your photos easily enough, by following a link in an e-mail notification you send them. Either way, recipients can order professional prints online or easily make prints on their own computer printers (the software does a nice job of formatting photos and optimizing settings to suit particular printer models). The company's working on additional consumer-friendly photo-sharing options, including viewing images on your TV set. A free preview version, with basic photo-sharing capability up and running, is available on the company Web site.

Site Seeing
Shutterfly www.shutterfly.com
Ofoto www.ofoto.com
Snapfish www.snapfish.com
Photosite www.photosite.com
SmugMug www.smugmug.com
OurPictures www.ourpictures.com

Steve Morgenstern is a freelance writer living in New York.


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