Whether you got a new camera over the holiday period or you're a seasoned vet', everyone enjoys sharing their photos for other to see. For some, a social network will be enough. However such sites are often plagued with auto image resizing and will minimise your audience to your 'friends' list. If you really want to share your images I suggest checking out my pick of the top 3 photo sharing sites & web albums (in no particular order).
Flickr, owned by Yahoo, offers both a free and paid service, the former having just a few limitations. These include a 200 visible image limit, 300mb worth of photo uploads per month and 2 150mb videos of 90 seconds.
The 'pro' account, paid service, offers more flexibility with one's images allowing for unlimited uploads and storage, HD video playback (720p), high-res images, and detailed statistics.This is at the cost of £15.83 per year apprx, that's about 30 pence per week. The best value service on the internet?
Flickr has some great publicly viewable statistics. You can view Camera EXIF data, image location data and also some broader stats such as camera and lens popularity across the entire user base.
In spite of being owned by Yahoo, Flickr is surprisingly easy to sign up to: Google and Facebook logins can be used to set up an account in no time at all.
Flickr is renowned for having a strong community which is more than eager to provide feedback. Upon joining these smaller communities, you can submit your images to their galleries (the images retain in your space too). This means that everybody in the group will be notified of new additions to the group - cool huh?
When uploading Flickr users can benefit from the desktop client. It simplifies uploading; allowing drag and drop and mass tag editing right on your desktop - available for Windows and Mac OS.
Picasa is Google's answer to Flickr. It's especially useful for those who use Google services: the images can be used across pretty much all of them without copying URL's or special embed code - it's all integrated!
Android users also benefit too, with the Google+ image storage being linked to your Picasa account, Android devices with Google+ installed can instant upload to a private album on the users Picasa account.
Another benefit to Picasa is the built in image editor supplied by Picnik. While fairly basic, it will have enough for most people: sharpen, crop, rotate, resize etc. Anyone 'in the know' will already be using a desktop editing package to manipulate their images.
Compared to Flickr, I find the gallery UI slightly cluttered and not as minimal. Fortunately there is lightbox/full screen mode, which hides everything but the image.
Picasa too offers a premium service. Unlike Flickr, this is offered in storage space based tiers. There is no unlimited, but I highly doubt even the most obsessive photographer will need more than 80GB of upload storage (£13 apprx). The 'standard' consumer storage available for purchase go up to a staggering 1TB!
Picasa is also well known for it's photo organisation software which also acts as a basic editing suite - available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
SmugMug is a 'premium' site which is aimed at processionals, surprising since the UI is beautifully designed and perfect for the casual user.
Each album can be individually customised, with different layouts, themes, sharing options and more. If you're feeling exceptionally creative, you can even take full control by editing the CSS or HTML. Furthermore, if you have no coding experience, professionals are available to hire to create your unique gallery. It's all any photographer could ever want.
SmugMug has by far the best gallery layout from the 3 services (there are multiple styles available too). It perfectly manages the thumbnails on one side and a preview on the other, with 'scroll over' viewing size (amongst other options) selection just a click away. Scroll over meaning that these settings hidden unless summoned by the user, providing a cleaner UI.
Options to share on Twitter and Facebook are easy to access too. While this could obviously be improved with a few more sharing options (sites), it's a better implemented here than anywhere else.
SumgMug's professional aspect is key with its retail options, images can be easily bought right from the gallery view and a basket can be created for multiple image purchases. SmugMug offers all sorts of merchandise.Images can be printed on traditional canvas, greeting cards, book, business cards, mugs, luggage tags, etc. - the list goes on!
All of this fantastic service comes at a price. 3 price plans are available: Basic, Power and Pro. Each one offers sophisticated features. Realistically there are too many to name (some of the most commendable include 1080p video, custom URLs, and the 'pro lab') however trust me, you get far more than Flickr or Picasa are offering. The basic plan costs £26 apprx per year which is just under Flickr's yearly cost, so it's down to personal preference and whether you need the additional, advanced features. Aside from the 14 day free trial, there is no free account service, so ensure you try before you buy.
While I've tried all 3 of these services, I can't decide which is the best for you because it is all down to preference. I suggest you try them all and find which has the best features and functionality for you. Remember, the most expensive might not be the best.