Photographer seeking photo hosting site

23Apr08

‘m looking for a photo hosting site.

I’ve been using Flickr for the few photos I’ve uploaded, but due to the limited number of sets (three) for the free version, I’m quite limited in what I can do there. I’m willing to pay the $25 it takes to upgrade to Pro status, but rather than jump in there now, I’ve started looking around for other alternatives before I get too entrenched.

So what am I looking for? Off the top of my head, this is what I’ve come up with in no particular order:

  • Good user rights — such that the photographer owns the rights to the photos
  • Nice professional looking site layout
  • Some level of interactivity by others — comments, etc.
  • Ease of use
  • Good slideshow feature
  • Good pricing

Should I consider anything else? These are things I’m looking for, which might be different from your own needs.

So far this is what I’ve looked at:

Flickr

  • Excellent user rights. User has full control of rights to published photos, although Flickr can use them for advertising the service, as long as the photos are made public
  • I don’t quite like the layout. Tries to appeal to the general consumer rather than trying to be professional looking. Would’ve liked it to have a darker layout, and not quite as “kid-ish”.
  • Good interactivity. Probably one of the best
  • Easy to use. Has links to different sizes, which works wells, since this blog can use the medium sizes. Easy uploading and tagging. Has a standalone uploader software for dragging and dropping from the desktop.
  • Relatively good full screen slideshows with black backgrounds
  • Fairly priced at $25 a year for unlimited photos, sets, etc. Free version is a little miserly at only 3 sets

Adobe Photoshop Express

  • Bad user rights
  • Very nice layout with dark grey backgrounds and neat animations. More geared towards online editing then as a photo display site based on the way things are linked
  • Not sure about interactivity
  • Relatively easy to use for uploading but only have one size. Has very nice editing features, but I’m not looking for those
  • Very nice slideshow features
  • Only 2GB of space provided. No paid version (yet)

Photo.net

  • Excellent user rights. Very similar to Flickr, if not better
  • OK layout, although a little difficult to navigate to see large versions of images, metadata, etc.
  • Good interactivity with fields for comments
  • Relatively easy to use, but only have the size of image uploaded. JPEG only and long dimension of up to 1024, which is quite small.
  • What’s up with the slideshow feature to display photos of a fixed larger dimension? This means that your slideshow could be displaying images smaller than the original! This put me off. Not full screen
  • The free version provides space for 5 photos+ (the final number is determined by how much you participate), mainly for the purpose of allowing others to critique. The paid version is $25 and gives you “increased storage space (enough for hundreds of photos)”, fewer ads, and a <yourname>@photo.net email address
  • Good site with a group of true photo enthusiasts rather than for the general public

I’ll keep looking and will be updating this page with more sites as I find them. That doesn’t quite fit in the blogging concept, but it’ll help keep things together rather over several days.

If you have any suggestions of what to check out, do let me know. I’m considering checking these other sites:

Any other sites I shouldn’t miss? That’s a lot to try out, so it’ll take a while before I’m done.

I haven’t done a whole lot of research yet, but I found a good starting point for my investigation on this blog.

Apr 27 Update:

Picasa Web

  • Generally good user rights (see #11) — the photographer still owns the rights, but Google can use the photos at their discretion for the Service. This is similar to Flickr’s user rights
  • The layout is not quite as attractive as Flickr’s
  • The Picasa website provides fields for user comments, allows for different sizes of thumbnails, but it’s hard to be a general navigator. The only way to find photos is to search. There’s no discovery of new photos.
  • Provides links to different sizes, including a medium size at 400 pixels wide. The Flickr width of 500 pixels is better, but this ain’t bad. Easy uploading through Picasa software (see below), and tagging through the software
  • Nothing to complain about the slideshow feature. It occupies the full screen, has the basic controls and black background
  • Free with 1GB space with no limitations on number of albums you can create. You can upgrade storage space to 10GB for $20 a year, 40GB for $75, etc. See here.
  • However, it does seem there’s no way to make your albums completely private — the album won’t be published on your webpage, but anyone can directly access the URL is they’re aware of it

The biggest difference with Picasa is the usage of Picasa software to more easily interact with the web site. While I don’t need another software to manage my images since I’m already using Lightroom, the ease of uploading images to Picasa’s website is nice. The software has good features for editing images, geotagging photos through Google Earth (into a separate ini file, but not directly into the image’s metadata), but I’ve found problems with it. Through the software, you can see metadata for JPEGs but apparently not for TIF or my NEF files, even though they’re there. The uploaded images are converted to JPEG and the metadata remain missing. So it seems that you should mainly stick with JPEGs with the software if this limitation affects you. Also, it doesn’t seem to be color managed, so what you see may not be what you get.

So far I think Picasa and the software is a contender for now for my specific needs.

May 6 Update:

Zooomr

  • Good user rights. Same as what you’d get with Flickr — the “Service” can use your photos for advertising and display, but it’s still yours
  • The main page is rather blah and offputting, but once you register and login to your site, it’s a little confusing to navigate around.Geotagged photos can be viewed on Google Maps. This is nicer than Flickr, which uses Yahoo! and doesn’t have the level of satellite detail. In particular, the individual photo pages themselves are oddly reminiscent of Flickr’s pages. Overall, the site gives a not-quite-polished feel to it.
  • The website provides a lot of interactive features similar to what Flickr provides, such as user tagging, and comments.
  • Provides links to different sizes, including a medium size at 500 pixels wide. It has basic uploading from the website, but JPEG, GIF and PNG only (Flickr allows upload of TIF as well), and general tagging through the website. One major issue for me is that Lightroom keywords stored in the photo metadata isn’t extracted as tags, unlike Flickr. I’d rather not have to retag my photos.
  • No slideshow feature yet! What’s up with this??
  • Has “no upload limit, bandwidth limit, download limit, file size limit, set limit, or number of photo limits” for free, if you don’t mind ads, although I’ve yet to see any. To privilege of not seeing ads will cost $20 a year. You also get to use their Zipline feature (see next).
  • Zooomr seem to position itself as a Flickr on steriods. They have some other feature such as Zipline, which is a sort of notification feature for those interested to know what a particular photographer is doing, Smartsets, for creating photo groupings based on tags, dates, etc., Marketplace, which allows users to put a price on their photos, but doesn’t seem to go the extra step to put in a purchasing system, etc.

My feeling from trying it out for several days is that it needs more work. It needs to be a little more polished, and it needs to get the basics working, like the slideshow feature. I did come across an entry by the developers that they have a slideshow feature in the works, but what was demo’ed only showed a smaller version of the photos. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find that page any more.

I need a photo site that covers all the basic features, and it needs to work well with Lightroom as well. Needing to retag my photos after I’ve already tagged them in Lightroom is a deal breaker.

May 11 Update:

Fotki

  • Excellent user rights! It’s Terms of Service Agreement actually indicates that it claims no ownership rights to your images and that they will not use your images for marketing purposes or any other purposes without obtaining the Member’s express permission. Now that’s something to cheer about.
  • The main white-backgrounded Fotki page is particularly busy. There’s way too much going on, and lacks a sense of polish-ness to the site. Also the name of the service doesn’t help to make it professional-like.
  • Not quite as interactive as Flickr. It has fields for comments, but you cannot add your own tags, for instance. You can view EXIF data of images, but not all metadata embedded in the image. It also shows GPS data as part of the EXIF info, but there are no provisions to see geotagged photos on a map. The non-full-sized images have their EXIF data striped from the images themselves. Only the original images retain the EXIF data.
  • Not the most intuitive because options are both on the left-hand pane, and associated with the item (album/photo). You need to look at both to see what you can do. Too many ways to upload photos (JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIF, PSD!) . You can use their website to upload individual photos, a desktop software to upload photos with right-click context menu per photo or per directory, FTP uploading (premium membership only), fetching from another site, etc. Nice. Very basic editing features, such as rotating, or flipping horizontally or vertically. No link to different sized photos, only the original size. Uses keywords from Lightroom exported photos as tags.
  • Another site with subpar slidehow feature. Only displays a smaller image regardless of original size. Makes me appreciate how Flickr automatically scales the slideshow images based on the size of the browser and the original photo.
  • Free with miserly 50MB of space with ads. The premium membership gives unlimited space with no ads, and provides seller features as well, at a 15% commission.
  • Beyond being a photo site, each member also has space for videos (not a whole lot given the 50MB free space), a guestbook (why have this?), and a journal (for photo blogging).

Here’s a case of taking the right steps forwards — excellent user rights, PSD and TIF uploading, seller features, multiple ways to upload photos, but many steps back as well — small 50MB free space, sad slideshow features, no geotagging features, overly busy and unintuitive site, which is really too bad as it had potential.

May 28 Update:

PBase

  • Excellent user rights! PBase clearly states that the images uploaded by a member is owned by the member. It even indicates that the images uploaded should be the member’s own work.
  • Nice professional layout. And that’s just the main page. Once you get to your own site, you can design it pretty much in any way you like. I see member sites with different backgrounds, changing images, welcome messages, etc. It’s very configurable!
  • Visitors can add comments, vote for the images (though I didn’t search hard enough to figure out what that actually does…), and they’ve just enabled map display of geotagged images, although it’s not that well integrated into the rest of the site yet since it’s in beta testing. PBase doesn’t retain the metadata of the original images in any of the versions except if you view the original size in it’s own window. The site does have a “full exif” link but the list of data is hardly the full set.
  • The website is sometimes very slow, and it’s really annoying. Occasionally, when trying to get into one of my galleries, it’ll just keep trying to load but it doesn’t get there. And I’m on FIOS with 15Mbs down. Maybe it’s the particular gallery since it doesn’t seem to be site wide, but that’s inexcusable. It provides different sized images, making it easier for blogging, etc. Doesn’t have any way to easily geotag your photos from the website, and it also lacks editing features of other sites like Flickr, but that’s low on my priority list. No support for tagging either! Support for uploading single images or batch of zipped or tarred archive of images. However it has limitations such as not being able to handle zipped files on Opera, etc. Supports uploads of JPEGs, GIFs, TIFs. Might support others, but I couldn’t find any documentation on it.
  • Slideshow features are OK. It’s not as good as Flickr’s as it only uses a fixed image size, regardless of the size of your browser, but at least it uses a nice black background.
  • No free lunch here. It’s either $23 yearly for a measly 500MB or $60 for 1500MB. Ouch, considering what you get nowadays for free.

While PBase does give you lots of flexibility to control the look of your site, the cost and lack of features hurts PBase some when compared to other sites.

June 8 Update:

Photobucket

  • Bad user rights. On its terms of use page, you’ll see:

    By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services.

    The emphasis is mine, and the sentence means that anyone can use your photos for any purpose. And that’s a BIG no-go for me.

    If you don’t care about losing all rights to your photos, read on for the rest of my brief review…

  • The main user page is littered with ads (for non-paying customers). My page has three relatively large ads and they’re all animated. That’s rather annoying. Still if you’re willing to pay (see below), you won’t be bothered by them. Otherwise, the site is functional, though is catered more to the MySpace crowd — MySpace actually bought out Photobucket, so this isn’t surprising.
  • User interactivity? I don’t see any. No fields for comments, no voting on good images, no user tagging, etc. Full sized images do maintain the full metadata, and while the default display doesn’t show the metadata, there’s a “show details” link at the bottom of each image to display the basic EXIF stuff. No geotagging display or ways to geotag your photos.
  • Only has online uploading, though paid version has an FTP upload. The bulk uploading page on Firefox 2 was messed up — my directory structure wasn’t displayed correctly. No support for TIF, only GIF, JPG, PNG and BMP. Doesn’t seem to have different sizes for use in different media (blogs, etc.). You need to create separate sizes or let your browser do the resize, which is generally quite bad. Has “tagging”, which is really not the normal tag definition that’s used. It’s more similar to the “add note” feature in Flickr, which allows you to identify and comment on specific parts of the photo.
  • The slideshow feature is good, just like Flickr, which auto-sizes your images based on browser size. Photobucket also has this other feature of creating custom slideshows from any photos in all your albums, which is nice. However, where’s the basic transition of fade in/fade out or even the switch-from-slide-to-slide transition? It has all these fancy I-want-to-be-unique transitions, but I couldn’t find the simple professional ones.
  • The free version has lots of ads on every page and provides 1GB of space and 200GB bandwidth per month. You also have a 1024×768 pixel limit to your images. The pro version is $25 a year with 5GB of space, unlimited bandwidth, and best of all, no ads. You have a image size limit of 2240×1680.

Bottomline, Photobucket isn’t a site for serious photographers. It’s aimed at the MySpace teenage crowd who wants unique 3D avatars, and fancy slideshows. You can get a feel for what Photobucket is just from looking at the list of new photos that were recently uploaded.

August 20 Update:

I had enough searching and trying out sites, and have decided.

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15 Responses to “Photographer seeking photo hosting site”

  1. 1 Eichenbaum

    I just went through this excercise and selected Flickr. I also use Picasa as my local application and found a great api that is easily installed that allows you to upload to Flickr from Picasa. The best of both tools. Best of all Flickr has unlimited storage which allows you to post your PP high res files.

  2. 2 TopL

    Thanks for the feedback, Eichenbaum. I have a feeling I may end up with Flickr, but I want to quell those “what if’s” by doing this, especially when compared to Zooomr, which is supposed to be Flickr on steriod. What other sites have you looked at and how do you feel about them?

  3. 3 Al

    You should check out the online photo service Joomeo : http://www.joomeo.com
    I am always willing to try new options, thanks for this updated list, before paying a service your post is very helpful to decide which one is the best that works for you.

  4. 4 Thomas Seiden

    Hi,
    have you looked at phanfare? They have the best slide show of any of the photo sharing sites I’ve seen. Good upload facilities. Up to 1 GB of storage is free, unlimited at $55 is a bit on the expensive side.

  5. I have the Flickr Pro account free with my ISP – but I don’t use it. It does not compare to the robust features and menu driven galleries on my SmugMug account.

    You can have drop-down custom menus, custom headers, customize a slideshow, automatic water-marks, and you can even get paid for your photos without worrying about credit cards and paypal.

    For the serious or the professional, I have not seen any better.

  6. I have been very impressed with zenfolio.com. Check it out


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