Want to Look More Professional?

Have you outgrown Flickr? Feel you're a bit too good for Photobucket? Recently I've been trying out a couple of alternatives for showing off your shots.

First up is SmugMug. They claim "Your photos look better here." and actually there might be some truth to that statement. A SmugMug gallery looks very slick and professional. Here's what one I made earlier looks like in editing mode (visitors to the site can't see all the option bars at the top of the page):

RDavis_SmugMug

You can choose from a variety of themes depending on your asthetic preferences and make photos available to be viewed in sizes ranging from small to X3 large (plus the original size). One feature I really like, if you go for the slightly more expensive "power" account, is the option to disable visitors from right-clicking and saving your photos. A nice, simple deterrent to help keep your photos a bit safer online. You can also password protect galleries or hide urls so only people you sent the link to will be able to access them.

So far I've found the website easy to use and if you're technically-challenged there's a video to help you get started. There are free uploaders to work with Aperture, iPhoto, Picasa, Lightroom, and your browser. At $39.95/year it is a bit more expensive than Flickr ($24.95/year) but with around 300, 000 users compared to Flickr's more than 32 million there's more personal service on offer at SmugMug, in fact they have a team of SmugMug Super Heroes waiting to help users out. And you'll stand out from the crowd a bit more too! To sign up, or try out a 14-day free trial, click here.

If you prefer to move away from photo sharing sites altogether then Showit might be for you. They provide free software (for Mac or Windows) that allows you to make your own photography website and publish up to 5 pages free (storing up to 30MB). A pro account will allow you to publish unlimited pages, have a custom url, and store up to 10GB but will set you back $39/month. The free account is pretty good though, the software is easier to use and has a nice variety of layouts for you to choose from. You need prettty much zero technical, clever, internet-type knowledge and you can still make a nice looking photography site. Here's what one I created looks like in the preview stage:

RDavis_showitsiteRDavis_showitsite

I have found that the software crashes quite easily, which is irritating, although so far it has always managed to start up again without losing any of my work. The level of customisation available is great and the software is fun to play with, hours of endless fiddling to get your site "just right"! For some more example sites have a look here, or to download the software click here.

How to Share That Perfect Picture

So you've followed our tips for photographing children and got some gorgeous shots of little Madison with birthday cake on her nose. Now you want to share them with Granny and Aunt Maud on the other side of the country because you know they'll find the cake-nose thing just too cute for words! So what's the best way to share your photographic masterpieces with family and friends? Well, guess what here at Photodoto we've made a handy little guide to some of your online photo sharing options just for you, and Granny, and Aunt Maud. Here it is:

Flickr It's the big one, everyone's heard of it and the site has over 3 billion photos (here's the 3 billionth). Back in the day when I first joined Flickr as a gangly teenager it was just Flickr but now it's owned by Yahoo! so you do need a Yahoo! account to join.

A basic account is free and allows you to upload 2 videos and 100MB of photos per month, however even if you upload the original high-res shot only smaller sizes will be accessible. A Pro account costs $24.95/year and allows unlimited photo & video uploading and unlimited storage, plus you can upload high-res originals and use Flickr to archive them.

You can make your photos public, visible to family & friends, visible to only family, or completely private (i.e. no one but you can see them, which does somewhat defeat the photo sharing idea). You can share photos, videos, & slideshows. Videos are limited to 90 seconds though. If you have a family member who doesn't want to sign up for an account you can send them a guest pass to view some of your family & friends only photos.

Photobucket Probably better known for it's photo gifts and prints Photobucket has been around since 2003 and boasts 25 million unique visitors per month in the US alone. It's free account offers up to 1GB of space for photos & videos combined & up to 25GB of traffic per month. Photobucket also resize photos on free accounts (so no high-res images) and limit video to 5 minutes on all accounts. A Pro account costs $29.95/year and allows up to 10GB of or storage and unlimited uploading, plus 10% of photobucket products.

Photobucket offers public and private accounts and allow the use of guest passwords so your less-technologically minded family members don't have to sign up for an account of their own to view your photos. There is also the option to have a mixed public and private account by making sub-albums on a public account private.

SmugMug Certainly one of the best looking photo sharing sites out there, SmugMug is aimed at a more professional crowd but it's still great for private sharing. You can make individual photos, galleries, or your entire site private and add passwords to galleries or the whole site. Storage & uploading are unlimited and high-res sizes are allowed and the site will act as a back-up system too. SmugMug also offers the ability to make slideshows and adds the option of adding themes to your galleries.

It does all look really good, however there is no free account but three levels of paid account; standard for $39.95/year, power for $59.95/year, or Pro for $149.95/year. They do offer a free 14-day trial which does not require any credit card information so is genuinely risk-free.

Picasa Web Albums If you use Picasa (which I personally think is a great free photo editing program) then Web Albums may well be your easiest option. The site offers 1GB of storage on a free account and you can publish photos from Picasa to your web album with one click of the mouse. Uploading of videos, slideshows, and collages is also available.

A good feature for sharing with family and friends is the "Shared with" list which allows you to e-mail invitations to view your online albums. The recipient of the e-mail can then view the albums you've invited them to regardless of the privacy settings so no need for them to sign up for an account. Plus you can view the list of who you've shared an album with so you won't leave Aunt Maud out by mistake!

Create Your Own Website If you want to make things a little more personal or perhaps post a lot of text with a photo then a blog may be your best bet. Most blogs offer three basic privacy levels; public and visible in search engines, public and not visible to search engines (so in theory only visible to people you give the url to), and private with password protection. Photoblog offers free accounts and is, obviously specifically aimed at photo bloggers. WordPress and Blogger offer free blogs with easy-to-use design tools and if you're not planning to upload hundreds of photos (or large file sizes) could easily be used to create your own photo blogging corner of the internet.

Facebook It's free, you can upload photos and videos to your hearts content and can restrict them as visible to all facebook users, all your facebook friends, or certain facebook friends. Choosing Facebook does mean that all the family and friends you want to see the photos will need their own account. But it's free and with all the other Facebook features you may soon find yourself with your own little online family community! And it's clearly a popular way to share photos, Facebook has more photos (over 4 billion) than Flickr.

The Library of Congress… on Flickr?!

Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American [Aviation, Inc.]’s Inglewood, Calif., plant (LOC)In a post titled "My Friend Flickr: A Match Made in Photo Heaven" on the Library of Congress blog (who knew the Library of Congress had a blog?), the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world and research arm of the United States Congress, announced today (January 16th 2008) that they have posted over 3,000 photos to Flickr from their most popular collections. And all of the photos have no known copyright restrictions.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

How cool is that? But there's more! This is a pilot project created in partnership with the Library of Congress called The Commons. The Flickr blog describes it best:

There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing content currently held in the public collections of civic institutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the collection of general knowledge about these collections, with the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogues, making them richer and easier to search.

So far, the photos are grouped into two sets: The 1930s-40s in color and News in the 1910s. Both amazing collections, but don't take my word for it, go check it out!

Library of Congress on Flickr

The Commons

PhotoWorks Offers Retail Outlet for Photographers

PhotoWorks, which began life as Seattle Film Works, started out decades ago using movie film to make prints and slides. Today, many know them as an online photo sharing site, which offers prints and custom photo items, such as books, calendars, cards, and other gift items. I’ve often used this company. I buy prints from them, and last year, I made a book from old scanned family pictures.

Photoworks StorefrontNow this company offer Storefronts, a retail outlet for photographers, where the photographers can create and sell their own photo-related gifts. Right now, you can sell only books from this site. Soon you’ll be able to sell all sorts of products, including images and items that use images, such as coffee mugs, calendars, and so forth. In addition, PhotoWorks plans to offer widgets that will allow users to display their products on their personal websites.

You choose a user name, which gets incorporated into the URL. Choose carefully, since you cannot change this name later. PhotoWorks will take care of hosting your images, payments, and shipping. You can then have the proceeds either deposited into a Paypal account, or credited to your PhotoWorks account.

Make sure you read the terms and conditions of use. For example, you must supply a taxpayer i.d. or the company will withhold part of your proceeds. PhotoWorks will pay you monthly if amount you have earned is over $50. If your proceeds are less than $50, they will pay you when the amount reaches that number. If you don’t sell $50 worth of products in a year’s time, you will be charged a small fee. One interesting touch is the Storefront will allow shoppers to fill a cart from several different stores, so it will be a bit like an online mall.

Although this is not a totally unique notion, it does have some interesting features. Clearly, this site has big plans. Keep an eye on them to see how these plans develop.

To learn more, go to their FAQ.

Embed a Flickr slideshow into your blog or website

Photodoto reader Ed Fladung writes in with this tutorial for embedding Flickr slideshows directly into your blog or website. He uses WordPress in his tutorial but the technique can be adapted to any platform.

I stumbled upon a Lightbox implementation called Lightwindow. It’s author is wicked smaht, it supports every kind of media (images, flash, webpages, external webpages, etc..), it uses scriptaculous and protoype (2 standard js script libraries), it’s skinnable, it works in most browsers and platforms, yada yada… For my uses, I needed to be able to load external web pages from Flickr and make the whole thing look good without being intrusive. Lightwindow did the trick, perfectly.

Read the rest of the tutorial here. Thanks, Ed.

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