Buyer's Guide 2009: Online Sharing & Services
A few stars in the universe of web-based options for photographers
What's the best way to share, print and store your digital images? For millions of photographers—from casual shooters to pros—the answer can be summed up in one word: online. Over the past 10 years, web-based photo services have honed their skills and become an essential part of many photographers' workflow. Even pros who routinely perform all of these tasks on their own can benefit from the efficiencies of using online experts.
Photo community websites are great when it's time to share images with friends and family. You can create albums, control access rights to assure privacy and then e-mail links to people anywhere in the world. That's much easier than any other sharing method. Recipients can order prints, make comments and even add their own images in some cases.
When it comes to routine printing, your desktop inkjet is often the best choice for control and speed. But for projects like custom photo gifts, or when you need a large quantity of prints, online services are the way to go. Upload your image files to your online account and enjoy high quality and convenience at competitive prices delivered right to your door.
As for permanent, archival storage, online services are the rock-solid option. All major vendors engage multiple redundancies to ensure reliability. Costs are very low because of the high volume and heavy competition, and full access is available 24/7. It's also simple; archival backup often is as easy as dragging a folder to a desktop icon.
While some online purveyors offer a version of all three services—sharing, printing and long-term storage—most tend to specialize and excel in one particular area. Check out this sampling carefully, and you're sure to find at least one website that matches your interests and needs.
Sharing & Storage
When your name begins with Photoshop, you have a lot to live up to. Adobe Photoshop Express doesn't disappoint. Membership is free and comes with 2 GB of storage space. Members can perform sophisticated editing functions, create compelling slide presentations complete with music and decide which groups of images they wish to share with the world. It's also a great place to check out other photographers' galleries-and that's the point. Uploading is quick and painless, and printing is powered by Shutterfly. Photoshop Express also provides seamless access to Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa login pages.
Apple MobileMe allows subscribers to keep their e-mail, calendars and contacts in sync and accessible whenever they're near a Mac, PC, iPhone or iPod touch. The slick GUI, cross-platform compatibility (Firefox or Safari only with Windows) and ultra-friendly me.com applications combine to create a media asset-management package that's hard to resist. Of more importance to photographers, MobileMe makes it simple to build, store and share an online image gallery that friends can view using any web browser. Once granted access, visitors to your album pages can be allowed to download images and even upload some of their own. You also can archive photos and other files online using the iDisk feature. A one-year individual subscription is $99 and includes 20 GB of combined e-mail and file storage and a 200 GB monthly data-transfer allowance. Storage capacity upgrades and a Family Pack for up to five users are available.