• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


    from Twitter


    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Where are my Pictures?

    The other day I checked my photos on Yahoo photos and was greeted with this sight:

    I'm not a fan of Yahoo!, to be honest, but I was bummed. I do like Yahoo! Photos. Among other things, it was the one free photo host I had that let me make as many albums as I wanted. As you can tell from the screenshot above, Yahoo wants me to move to Flickr (because it owns Flickr), and I almost did it reflexively, since I've had a Flickr account for years (at least 2 B.Y. -- before Yahoo). However, I stopped myself, since I had no clue what the other three suggested photo sites were, and this is my discovery.

    Looking always to do things my own way, I immediately jumped to #2 and was horrified that I would have to download each photo one by one... I don't know how most people only have 20 photos or less, but I can assure you, I am NOT downloading my hundreds of photos one ... by ... one ... I'm stupid, but not that stupid.

    So I moved to the automated services. I started with the least familiar -- Shutterfly.

    The sign up was quick and painless. I was then greeted with the ability to start my own album or use Shutterfly's stock photos to make a demo album. They must understand that people like to test drive first. Already racking up the points. I picked the demo pictures, and was greeted with the first picture. Overall the layout is nice and crisp. Circle 1 shows your thumbnail options: small, medium, large. Large is the only option with names below. Small is REALLY small.

    Working in Shutterfly allows quick movement between albums and pictures. You can see in circle 2, that you can fix red-eye and make a slideshow. Making another album was as simple as pushing a button (picture 2), and should you be inclined to buy prints of your photos through Shutterfly (the real reason why it exists), the ubiquitous "Cart" button is always at the top. The ordering is pretty straight forward -- you just use drop-down boxes to select the # of each size photo you want. You can either have the prints mailed to you, or you can pick them up at the nearest Target.

    However, when looking at my photos, Shutterfly started to lose points. As you can see in the third picture, circle 1, Shutterfly has an easy to use system of doctoring photos. Good! But it doesn't allow you to look at your photos in any greater detail than you see the dog now. No zoom. No tagging of photos for searching. Limited metadata. Limited points in my book.

    I left Shutterfly unimpressed. It failed at the most important of all functions--letting me see my photos. If I just want to upload and print them, I'll just go straight to Target's photo page.

    Next on the list was Snapfish. Again, the sign up was easy, eerily similar to Shutterfly. In fact, almost everything was eerily similar.

    As you can see from circle 1, its main purpose is also to make you print your photos. They did, however, put the slideshow button central to the webpage, which I think is better, seeing how most people using this service will want their stuff simple, and that's as simple as it gets. However, you really can't do anything with the thumbnails (circle 3), and viewing the photos is exactly the same as Shutterfly. Overall, I'd go with Shutterfly, but in reality I think they are just twins separated at birth.

    Unimpressed with Snapfish, and compounded with previous experience of seeing Photobucket slideshows on Facebook pages, I entered Photobucket with very low expectations. Immediately I was hit with advertisements. Aaagghhh, busy webpage....my google-fied mindset cannot process such business. I like my webpages neat and uncluttered, definitely not filled with grinning faces and useless words that my eyes just skim over.

    This, however, is the theme of Photobucket. Advertise everything. If these photo hosting sites were cars, Photobucket would be in Nascar. Definitely geared to the mindless preteen/myspace generation.

    Immediately Photobucket lost more points by asking me for my cell phone number.

    If I don't give this to every person I know, why would I give it to some random website? I seriously almost stopped there, and if it wasn't for my blogging mindset, I would have. However, I pressed on, and am happy to say, you can leave it blank (which I did).

    After clearing that major hurdle, I was actually impressed with its service. Although it started with negative points after the cell phone fiasco, it quickly racked them up. Photobucket is a true photo hosting site. It lets you mess with your photos, share your photos, turn them into soup if you want to. Because of this, it deals with bandwidth and storage issues (picture), so it allows you to choose how you store your photos. It is also the first site I encounter with tiered access: free and paid.

    I had to upload my own files (no gimme demos), so I used the demos that come with Windows XP. Immediately I noticed three things (picture):

    1. The photos show up somewhat unnaturally at the bottom of the page.
    2. It is quite easy to edit data (like titles) in the photos.
    3. It gives you the url, img code, and embed link right up front -- a great boon for bloggers.

    When you click on a photo, you have a nice clean desktop to work with (picture).

    1. Photobucket allows you to see the full size (that you chose to save on their server) photo with a click of the button.
    2. In addition to the REAL photo editing and hosting functionality, it still allows you to give them money by printing your photos.
    3. Conveniently, the url, img, and embed code is situated unobtrusively in the bottom corner of the page while editing.
    4. For true photography junkies, it gives you some metadata to work with.

    Photobucket's coup de grace is it's ability to "Remix," or make a movie (picture). Partnering with Adobe, it allows users to drag video clips and photos to make a collage of sorts -- perfect for weddings where we all sigh at the pics and videos of the bride and groom when they're three. The system is easy to use (drag and drop), intuitive, and FREE. The only setback is the limited space given to movie hosting.

    Finally, you can upgrade to Pro for $25 (picture), but more on that later.

    Next came Flickr, the home team. Flickr's signup is doubly easy, because it's also Yahoo's sign up. If you have a Yahoo acct because of email, Yahoo360, etc., then you can use the same here. Upon entering, the front page is a little crowded, but not like Photobucket. It also has minimal advertising, while most of Photobucket's crowd was advertising.

    Moving to my photos, you can see both the good and the bad right away. The good is the layout. Whereas Photobucket put the photos at the bottom of the page, Flickr has them right there for you to peruse. You can also change the layout if you want. The bad is that you only get three albums in the free version of Flickr. It too is a tiered service.

    1. The slideshow button is clearly but unobtrusively placed (but no Remix!).
    2. Albums are clearly labeled and easy to use, if you have enough.

    Flickr's photo editing/viewing setup is great, mostly due to it's photographer base that made it popular before Yahoo dumbed it down. Looking at your photo (this is one I took of a noonday ceremony at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh) you can see, (picture)

    1. Flickr makes it easy to see all sizes, blog your photo, or order prints. If you order prints, you do it through a company called Qoop, which coincidentally, is the company used by Photobucket.
    2. Tags make Flickr. By tagging your photo, you determine how people find it through searches.
    3. Also due to its photographer background, Flickr gives you all the gory details of the pictures.

    When you look at the other sizes of a photo, Flickr takes you to another page. This is kinda frustrating. I'm so used to javascript functionality that I'd like to see the page think, and then deliver it to me, instead of loading a whole new webpage. What Flickr does right is give you options. You can easily select sizes, and if you pay for the upgraded service you can have the "original" size option available (picture).

    In addition, Flickr clearly gives you the url, img, and embed info necessary to be a good blogger. One issue I have with their "community guidelines" is that my use of lightbox 2.0 doesn't mesh perfectly with Flickr's rules. All of this is extra info I've gained over years of use.

    Finally, Flickr's pro account also costs $25 a year (picture 1, picture 2).

    With all this site hopping, I got thinking. Yahoo left off one other BIG photo hosting site, and coincidentally, it's biggest competitor: Picasaweb by Google.

    So, I thought, why not try it out too? How does it compare to Photobucket and Flickr, which clearly cleaned the clocks of Snapfish and Shutterfly?

    Like Flickr, Picasa's sign in is easy and linked. Everything in the google universe is accessible. Since I am blogging on Blogger, I already have an account with Picasa, because that is the default host for my blog's photos.

    Looking at my blog's album, it is immediately apparent that Picasa follows Google's lust for all things minimalistic and pastel. The thumbnails' sizes are easily changed and laid out for you in a simple manner. Picasa also offers photo mapping and organization that other services do not -- basically you put a pin on a map where the pic is from so people can look at the map and browse photos from that area.

    When looking at a photo, Picasa doesn't give you the size options that Flickr does, but it's pretty comparable to Photobucket. Even when you zoom, you might not always get the original size, if it's a big photo (picture).

    1. It does give you all the photo metadata like Flickr does.
    2. It also makes the url, img, and embed info easy to find and unobtrusive like both Flickr and Photobucket. In fact, maybe a little better, because you can change the size of the picture coded quickly through a drop down menu below the code.

    Interestingly, if you choose to print your photo, Picasa gives you the option of using Shutterfly...so we come full circle! (picture)

    Another thing Picasa offers is Picasa for your computer, which organizes all your photos and basically acts like a mini Adobe photoshop, streamlining your photo organization and uploading. Photobucket has something similar in beta. Flickr doesn't have that, but does have some neat, light-weight uploading tools for your computer (and if you use Firefox, you might like Flock--which is a Firefox based browser that streamlines multimedia use, and has built in Flickr uploading capability).

    And of course, Picasaweb is a tiered service, offering a pro acct starting at $25 (picture).

    "Wait, wait, wait!" you say. "$25!" Yes, Photobucket, Flickr, and Picasaweb all offer more bang for your buck. "How much," you ask? This much:

    So in the end, what am I to do? Clearly, Snapfish and Shutterfly are inferior products. Photobucket is better than Flickr for the free tier because it gives me unlimited albums, but is worse than Flickr because it has those stupid ads. Picasaweb is probably the best for a free tier, but Yahoo didn't give me that option, so I'd have to download every photo one by one, and then upload them to Picasaweb. If I pay money, I think Flickr is hands down the best.

    So, do I go with Picasaweb and downloading, so I stay free?
    Or do I go with Photobucket because no downloading and free?
    Or do I go with Flickr because no downloading, and $25/year gives me great stuff?

    What do you think?

    1 comment:

    Triet said...

    I chose Flickr. I figured Google gave me the best free service, but I didn't want to download all my photos and upload them one by one. Also, if I ever go pro (which Flickr gave me three free months of), Flickr is better than Photobucket and Picasaweb.