I’m an amateur hack when it comes to photography. I bought my first DSLR last year, and have been shooting away ever since. Thanks to having an amazing toddler at home to whom I gladly dedicate most of my free time, I haven’t had time to really get much better. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it.
One of the first things I did after accumulating some photos was look into options for storing them online. If you’re like me, you quickly discovered that it really fuels your enthusiasm when you get input or even just acknowledgment concerning your photographs. As a result, the five online services in my current arsenal run the gamut from serving as mostly storage, to being replete with sharing and community options. Here’s my take on these services, along with links to my photographs. In the comments below, let me know your favorite services, and feel free to share links to your photographs.
1. The old standby: Flickr
For many people, Flickr is the default photo sharing and photo community site. Flickr lets you store and share your own photos, and also to view and comment on the photographs of other users. You can organize your photographs into sets and galleries, and change privacy and other settings on a very granular level.
I use Flickr for non-private photographs, such as landscape photos. I also weed out most of my photographs before uploading them to Flickr, unlike Picasa Web Albums, which I discuss below. I do have a Pro account, which gives me unlimited photo and video uploads, along with some other extra features. The Pro account cost me $24.95 for one year.
Flickr’s focus is on community. It’s easy to follow other users, comment on their photos, and “favorite” them. Flickr’s iOS app is quite beautiful, too.
You can find my photos on Flickr here.
2. The new kid on the block: 500px
If I’m somewhat selective about what I post on Flickr, I’m reeeeaallllly selective about what I upload to 500px. There are many great photographers there. In fact, I was a bit hesitant to upload anything there, since my stuff isn’t very good, and even a quick visit to the site will leave you dazzled with all sorts of great shots. I just recently bit the bullet, though, and was amazed by the feedback I received. I wasn’t deluged with comments, but I received more feedback than I receive on Flickr, on a much smaller number of photographs.
I think of 500px as a Flickr for the really passionate photographers. While it replicates some of what Flickr does, such as giving users the ability to comment on photos and mark them as favorites, it does so in a much more modern and elegant interface. I have a free account there, but I’m tempted to upgrade to the Awesome account to get unlimited uploads along with custom domain mapping (which would let me use my personal domain name with the site). There’s also a cheaper Plus account that gives you unlimited uploads, without the domain options.
You can find me here on 500px.
3. The obvious fad: Instagram
It’s probably a misnomer to call Instagram a photo storing service, but it certainly counts as a photo sharing service. You do need to upload photos from a device such as your smartphone, but it’s pretty easy to cheat these days. I often transfer a photo to my phone automatically using the Photo Stream built into OS X and iOS. I do this for a reason, though -after listening to an old photography podcast by Lisa Bettany on the TWiT network, I’m trying to upload one photo per day for a year to Instragram (and probably annoying my friends in the process), using the tag #mostly365. Some of those photos end up being very mundane, but the point is to get me at least thinking about photography every day.
I’ve also started following some very talented people, who are indirectly helping me to “see” when I get out my own camera. I look at Instagram as a “quick and dirty” service to get in and get out. There are many great photos to be found, but the focus is more on the social end of things.
You can find me on Instagram here.
4. The bulk locker: Picasa Web Albums / Google+
Google’s Picasa Web Albums, which has been pretty much assimilated into Google+, was the first service that I used. For many years prior to that, I hosted all my photos myself on my web host’s server. That got to be too cumbersome, and I knew that I would start to quickly fill up my space allotment.
I wanted to find a free or cheap service that could work fairly seamlessly with my family WordPress site. I found a great WordPress plugin, PWA+PHP, that displays Picasa albums right on my site, even if those albums are private (i.e. only accessible if you know the link). When my extended family visits the site, it looks to them like the photos are hosted right on my site, when in fact they are being pulled from Picasa. It requires no action on my part, aside from the initial setup of the plugin.
There are a few drawbacks to this approach for me. If I share a photo on Google+, it shows up on my private website. As a result, if you have a thing for sharing funny cat photos on Google+, then beware that those photos will end up on your site. The other drawback is that Picasa limits the size of the photographs you can upload, if you don’t want to pay extra. Those limitations are generous, though, as any photograph that doesn’t exceed 2048 pixels in width or height doesn’t count against your free 5 GB of storage. I simply resize my photos before uploading them. Apple’s Aperture makes it easy to resize an entire set of photos.
Whereas I use the other services discussed below to display all of my photos publicly, I primarily use Picasa / Google+ as a private repository. I do have a few public albums, which you can find here.
5. The king of the hill – Facebook
One service of which most people are already aware is Facebook, which is the king of photo sharing thanks to its massive user base. I figure that most of you are already familiar with Facebook, so I’m only going to mention it in passing. I primarily use Facebook to share photographs of family and friends. While I occasionally post landscape and other photographs there, I figure that my Facebook friends probably aren’t interested in that. I only use Facebook for private photos, so I don’t have a link to share (yes, I know that many of you are laughing that I use “Facebook” and “private” in the same sentence).
There are many other sites out there that I didn’t mention, such as Tumblr. What sites do you use?