Photo sharing sites are competing for our attention by offering free accounts with a wide array of features. The following are six of the most popular. For more tips on using photo sharing sites, check out the MatadorU Travel Photography program.
Flickr

Out of all the photo sharing sites, Flickr‘s community is the best. Most photos are public, and it is tempting to spend hours exploring the groups and reading discussions about photos .

The user interface is excellent, with drag and drop organizing, online photo editing, and easy linking. You can even plot your whole trip by dragging your photos onto a map.

Flickr limits you to 100 MB of uploads each calendar month. That can be frustrating if you want to upload your entire back catalog, but it allows steady portfolio growth. However, only the 200 most recent images will be displayed on your Flickr page.

Don’t expect to clear up your memory card by uploading on the road, unless you are satisfied with lower image sizes. You cannot download your photos in their original sizes. If you upload a large photo (10MB limit), the largest downloadable file is still less than 1 megapixel.

Picasa

Picasa has a simple interface with no ads cluttering the screen. Embedding slideshows and linking to photos is painless. Albums are organized by drag and drop. The only thing missing is online photo editing ability.

You get 1GB storage. A 20MB image size limit leaves plenty of room for most users. Unlike many other sites, you can download large photos at their original sizes.

Some of the newer features include uploading videos (100MB maximum file size) and mapping the location of a photo. If you use Blogger, your Picasa account is tied to it, giving you easy access to every photo ever posted on your blog.

Picasa allows you to browse and comment on public photos, but the sharing community isn’t as vibrant as Flickr’s.

Shutterfly

Unlimited storage, easy drag and drop organizing, and online photo editing tools make Shutterfly a good choice. However, the actual photo sharing is frustrating. The community section allows you to browse slideshows, but not individual photos. You can only comment on the entire slideshow.

Even though there is no limit to the photo size that you can upload, it will be reduced and you will not be able to access the original file size.

Finally, Shutterfly has no features for creating links to a picture from another website.

Photo by kainet

Webshots

I like Webshots for many of the same reasons I like Flickr. It is easy to browse and search other peoples photos and comment on them to your heart’s content.

They also are very handy if you want to use your account as an archive for linking to your website. Beside each picture you can easily click on the size image you want and the html code is generated automatically.

The storage limit rewards long time members. It starts at 1000 images and adds another 100 each month.

Where Webshots falls behind is in excessive ad clutter. Also, there are few options for online photo editing. You can crop and rotate, but not much more.

Kodak Gallery

Unlimited storage makes Kodak Gallery tempting, but there are numerous catches. They only accept JPEG format and you have to make a purchase from them at least every 12 months to maintain your free storage. If you need a personalized mouse pad, then this is place is for you.

Kodak Gallery doesn’t have a sharing community. You can post your photos and invite specific people to look at them, but you cannot browse through groups of other people’s photos. And, of course, you can’t download your original high resolution images.

This is one of the websites that is offering video as well, but they are so restrictive that I wouldn’t use them. They only accept one format (mov) and they only promise to keep it available for 30 days.

Photobucket

Photobucket has some of the best online photo editing — useful for travelers on public computers. Photobucket also offers easy linking and the ability to send photos to MySpace, Blogger, Facebook, Friendster, and others.

On Photobucket, a free account has 1 GB of storage. The maximum photo size is 1MB or 1024 by 768. A few odd limitations – a maximum of 30 photos per slideshow and 25GB of traffic per month. If there are a lot of popular links to your photos, you might reach this limit and your photos will no longer display on those other websites.

Photobucket has also joined those sites that allow videos. The video must be less than 5 minutes and less than 100MB.

The Bottom Line

To get the best features out of these photo sharing sites, I have to compromise. From now on, I am using Picasa for my online photo storage. However, until Picasa’s community grows in features and users, I will be spending my free time roaming around the photo groups over at Flickr.

* Get access to paid freelance travel photography jobs and an active community of travel journalists through the travel photography program from MatadorU.

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