Choosing an Online Photo Service

Crowded Kid's MuseumYou want to put photos online. Which of the many services in this crowded space do you use?

This post was prompted by a recent conversations with friends who are considering this question, and by a recent post by Frederic at ReadWriteWeb. Frederic compares 10 services, while acknowledging that there are many more. He provides a good comparison between the 10, with a service/feature table and a couple of paragraphs on each of the 10.

I’ll complement Frederic’s post by focusing on user actions and priorities, rather than on services and features. I’ll start with the question: what do you want to do? I suggest that the following are among the most important actions for many of us.

  • Get started quickly, and then be able easily to work with the service, rather than having to spend time and effort working the service out. I’ve put ease of use at the top of the list, but it ease of use should flow down to the other items; in other words, everything else on the list should be easy, not just possible.
  • Share photos with others.
  • Specify who should, or should not, be able to see particular photos. This is the other side of the sharing coin. Sharing is important, and should be easy. But not sharing everything with everyone may also be important, and should also be easy.
  • Create stuff, such as prints and books, from the online photos.

Central to this list are the second and third points: the two sides of the sharing coin. If we take these as our twin starting points, we might quickly arrive at the conclusion that the service you should use is the one your friends and family use. If the service already knows about them, you can identify them as people with whom you want to share. Hence you can share photos of, say, your kids, with them, without having to make them visible to everyone on the web.

That suggests that, if you’re looking for an online photo service, you should use the one your community already uses. It may of course be more complicated than that. You probably have multiple communities; to take the example of one friend, I’m on Flickr, but the childcare we used to send our daughters to has a “room” on Snapfish.

I won’t even mention some of the other complications. Frederic covers some of them. Having contrasted his post with mine, I’ll finish on a note we can sing together. Flickr is the one to beat, and, for many of us, it has yet to be beaten.