Ask the MACist - Sharing Your Photos Online

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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask the MACist, the column where I answer your Mac and Mac-related questions with hopefully more clarity and insight than you could ever need. As always, I want to thank those of you who sent in questions this week. They are much appreciated. Please, keep it up!

And remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about other technology like TiVo, cell phones, Blackberry or even Windows, send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com. Ok, let's get to it.

Our question this time around comes from Jennifer in Los Feliz. She asks: "Hi, I'm looking for some online places to post photos for my friends and family to see. Which ones do you like?"

With the advent of affordable and high-quality digital cameras, the need arose for places online to display photos for friends and family to see, enjoy or, in some cases, print. In the old days you would have a film camera and you would shoot your pictures, drop your exposed film off at a local drug store or perhaps even a one-hour photo place and then you would get some nice prints for your efforts. These prints then went into various photo albums which were only pulled out during various holidays or when you were feeling particularly nostalgic.


macist2.jpgNow that digital is so big and has pretty much taken over for film, at least in the consumer market, you most likely don't get prints made of your photos anymore. Instead, most people use on of the dozens of photo websites on the internet to display and share their photos. With so many to choose from, which one is the right one? Fortunately, as its my job to try and answer these questions, I’ve done the work already and tried out most of the most popular ones available including Flickr, SmugMug, Google’s Picasa, Fotki, Buzznet, Photo Bucket and Zooomr.

All of these sites allow you to upload photos so other people can look at them and see how great a photographer you are. But after using all of these sites and testing them, I’ve narrowed it down to three that I feel offer the most in terms of features, ease of use, value and that other thing that's really important these days when being online -- a sense of community. Also, these sites work equally well if you're using a Mac or a Windows PC. Plus, they also work fine with Firefox, Internet Explorer and even Safari so don't worry about your browser getting in the way either. Ok, here are my favorites:

Flickr -- Even though it was recently acquired by Yahoo this photo sharing site offers a great deal of features including multiple ways of uploading and unlimited storage. There's a free account, which gives you a 100 mb per month limit as well as other limitations. Of course, there's also a "Pro" account as well, which pretty much removes all limitations of storage, uploading and ads many other features.

This is the site that I personally use for my photos, as do several other LAist-ers. Plus, this site also has one other major thing going for it -- that community thing I mentioned before. People are eager to share photos, comment on other people's work and generally are pretty supportive and generous. In fact, I recently went to my first meetup of Flickr members here in LA and it was great to meet 50 or so other local photographers united by their love of photography and use of a particular photo site.

SmugMug - This site is similar to Flickr in that it offers different levels of accounts only in this case, all of the account levels require a fee. Still, it is very reasonably priced and offers unlimited storage, uploads, bandwidth and many other features that make it attractive. SmugMug also offers something Flickr and other sites don't -- a professional account.

If you happen to be a professional photographer, or just think you are, SmugMug's pro-level account might be right for you. This account offers everything the other levels do plus features for the pro like proof-delayed shipping, custom watermarking, selling of digital downloads and the use of your own website name so potential customers can find your work easier. So, while this site is definitely geared to the pro, it also offers many attractive features that make it appeal to amateurs and semi-pros as well.

Zooomr -- This site is also similar in many ways to Flickr. It's the new kid on the block and is still in its Beta form but so far has shown it has great potential to become one of the premiere photo sharing sites on the internet. Although it has a rather annoying (at least to me) account generation and login process, after you get through that the site is relatively easy to navigate and upload photos to. Its come along way since I started working with it many months ago but it still has a ways to go as evidenced by its rather rough edges in some areas.

Still, it has many attractive features, including a pretty comprehensive free account, and also is one of those projects I like to support due to the fact that the people who started it did so out of the desire to do something good for the online community instead of for other more monetary reasons. Sure, they want to make money, that's why Zooomr has a pay account, but that's not the sole reason for their being in business. They just like photography and have a passion to do something to help others experience photography as well. That's something I feel that should be supported.

As I said before, there are dozens more places to share your photos on the internet. However, I think if you give one of these sites a try, especially Flickr, you’ll find that your needs are being met very well, no matter what level of photographer you happen to be. Happy shooting.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is the Technology Editor at LAist as well as a frequent contributor to other sites like Cinematical and Comic Book Resources. He also consults with clients in entertainment and related industries about how technology can best help them exceed their goals.

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