It's the Season for Sharing! Plus, it's that time of year where seeing spots will become a frequent occurrence. Pictures of the kids with Santa. Videos with family members. So, what do you do with those pictures and videos after they are taken? Some people opt to leave them on the card in their camera for a few months and let them collect into the hundreds. Others will download them to their computer before bed every night. But then what happens to them?
I have been doing a little research to help solve these questions. Personally, we download all our pictures and videos; then save them to a massive external hard drive that is conveniently placed on the floor under the coffee table, next to my couch. I keep copies on my computer of things from the last few months so that way I have something to cycle through my screen saver. I also love Facebook. It is a great way to store and share...yet we have many family members who do not use Facebook, or at least not often. I have many family members who use different internet sites for storage and sharing. So I thought that I would research what they are and how they work.
The first that I want to talk about are free public sites. Specifically, Snapfish and Shutterfly.
Snapfish is not my favorite. Although it is easy to upload pictures to store, I do not like their requirements for sharing. To share, you have to have the actual email addresses of the people that you want to share with so that Snapfish will send them an 'invite'. There are no links for you to use. Also, I personally do not like getting Snapfish invites because in order to just view the pictures, you have to sign in to Snapfish's service. They do, however, offer video share and storage for a $2.99 a month/ $24.99 a year subscription fee. The picture share and store is free and because of this, there is a lot of emphasis on ordering products.
Out of the free sites, I'd have to say that I prefer Shutterfly. It is also easy to upload pictures, but the best part is that they give you links to your albums. That way, you can add your link to your email, blog, or even Facebook. The other reason why I prefer Shutterfly is because to view photos, you are not obligated to sign into their service; you just simply click on the link! Shutterfly does not store or share video though, so that is one thing that is missing compared to Snapfish. Since it is also a free site, they also have a large emphasis on purchasing their products. They do offer good deals on some of their products though, and sometimes they have freebie offers.
The last site that I am going to talk about is my absolute favorite. It is SmugMug. Now, the biggest difference between SmugMug and the previous two is that it is a pay for service site (they do have a free trial going on now). But please don't let this deter you. I think that there are definitely positive points in using it. Basic service has no video storage, but you can customize your albums in many different ways to showcase your online scrapbooks. The cost is $5 a month or $40 a year. Power service includes unlimited video storage and sharing along with the Basic service too. It costs $8 a month or $60 a year. They also include easy to share links that you can put in emails, embed into your blog, or add to your Facebook wall. You can link a single picture or an entire gallery. There are no registrations for visitors, again you can just click on the link. Also, viewers can easily share or download the pictures to their own computer! There is also no resolution reduction when you download your pictures, which is a huge bonus in my opinion. This is great for videos too because they will store HD compatible videos. This means that your iPad or iPhone can play what is stored on your SmugMug account! Because this is a pay for service site, there are no ads! Yep, that's right...no pesky ads asking you to buy anything! But they do offer a very easy to use service to print and send pictures or products, just like the free sites. They also provide full customer support including email and phone support groups.
Another big plus for SmugMug is that they also offer a Pro package. This includes everything in the Basic and Power services, but it is made specifically for Professional Photographers. I think that this is a great opportunity for those Amateur photographers who want to get more serious about their hobby. With the Pro service, you can create a fully customizable webstore, where you have your own domain name and you can edit the HTML. You are allowed assistant passwords so multiple people can use your account. You can have image watermarks to help secure your photos. You can set your galleries. Plus, you can sell your products online....you set the price and have control of your profits! This service costs $20 a month or $150 a year. There is really so much more with each of the packages, I am just mentioning the things that I think are great about it.
So, even though they all seem fairly user friendly to use for storage; the biggest difference is in the sharing and the visual set up of each site. I guess that if you are planning on just sharing a few photo albums or galleries here and there, then a free site might just be up your alley. But if you have lots of pictures and videos to share with many people throughout the year, I would strongly suggest a pay for site.