Remember that promise you made to send out copies of your photos from last year’s family reunion? But there they are, months later, still sitting on your hard drive—along with photos from your cousin’s wedding, the company holiday party, and your best friend’s birthday blowout. Isn’t it about time to start sharing some of these digital keepsakes?
Finding a good way to get your digital files—some of which can be as large as several megabytes—to family and friends can be challenging. Sure, you could e-mail them. But e-mail attachments can be large and inconvenient to download—especially when you want to share a large collection of shots.
A much better solution is to publish them on a Web site. With the right software, it takes only a couple of minutes to set up an online slide show. Then you simply send a URL to friends and family, who can view your shots at their convenience. You can also enhance your Web album with captions, high-resolution images, and other embellishments.
Simple Sharing with .Mac
The easiest way to create Web albums is with Apple’s .Mac service ($99 per year), which includes an e-mail account, online storage, and other useful features.
If you use Apple’s iPhoto to manage your image library, uploading photo slide shows to your .Mac HomePage account is a cinch. Place the photos you want to share into a new album, and arrange them in the order you want them to appear in.
To have a short caption appear beneath a photo, select the photo and type the text in the Title box near the lower left corner of the iPhoto window. (Your published home page will display only the first 60 to 75 characters. So keep it short.) If you don’t want to change the photo’s title in iPhoto—for example, maybe you’ve already assigned titles that you’re using in a smart album—then skip this part for now.
Once you’ve prepared your album, click on the HomePage button at the bottom of the iPhoto window. In the Publish HomePage dialog box, choose a design for your album from the Theme drawer and then select a Layout option. You can also now replace each photo’s title with a short caption if you didn’t do so in iPhoto.
When you click on Publish, iPhoto uploads a small thumbnail version of each photo, as well as a larger version. When iPhoto is finished, it displays a message containing the album’s Web address. To send this address to friends and family, simply copy it and paste it into a new e-mail message.
Tip: If your photo album’s viewers will be using slow, dial-up connections, choose HomePage’s three-column layout instead of the two-column format. It creates smaller thumbnail images that load faster. To create the fastest-loading album possible, choose the Frameless album theme—it lacks thumbnail frames and other visual gewgaws.
When You Want More Control
HomePage albums are easy to create, but you don’t have much control over their appearance. Maybe you’d like longer captions—a paragraph or two describing each vacation photo. Or maybe you’d like more options for colors, fonts, and other design elements. If so, there are several inexpensive utilities that will give you the flexibility you crave.
Although using one of these programs to get your photos online requires slightly more effort, they offer many more personalization opportunities. And if you’re not a .Mac subscriber, these third-party utilities will help you create HTML photo albums that you can upload to a Web site hosted by someone else. Here are two of my favorites:
BetterHTMLExport Drooling Cat Software’s BetterHTMLExport ($20) is an iPhoto plug-in that lets you create Web albums with far more control than iPhoto’s built-in tools provide. You can specify exact dimensions for your thumbnail and full-size images, and you can add a variety of handy navigation links. And if you’ve assigned titles and comments to your photos, you can opt to have them appear in your album’s page. Download the companion Template Manager utility (it’s free) to choose from more than two dozen album designs.
Image Rodeo Clyde McQueen’s Image Rodeo ($30) is a stand-alone utility; you must drag and drop photos from iPhoto (or elsewhere) into the Image Rodeo window to create your Web galleries. However, the program’s design templates look great, and many of them even provide buttons that let your album’s viewers order prints from Shutterfly, a major online photo service.
Publishing Your Album
When producing a Web gallery, most third-party utilities create a folder on your hard drive that contains your site’s HTML pages, as well as folders for your thumbnail and full-size images.
When you save your album, don’t use spaces or punctuation symbols in the album’s folder name. These confuse Web servers and prevent your site from loading. So instead of paris trip, name the folder paris_trip.
To .Mac So how do you get that album folder from your hard drive to the Internet? If you’re a .Mac subscriber, it’s easy: open your iDisk (in the Finder, press Command-shift-I) and drag the entire album folder from your hard drive to iDisk’s Sites folder. Your album’s final Web address will be your .Mac account address plus the folder’s name—for example, http://homepage.mac .com/jimheid/paris_trip.
Serve Yourself If you aren’t a .Mac subscriber, you’ll need to transfer your finished album to an Internet provider’s Web server. Many Internet providers offer free Web space as a part of their service packages.
Use a Photo-Sharing Service
If you aren’t a .Mac subscriber and you don’t want to fuss with Web servers, there are other options for sharing photos over the Web. Most online photo services, for example, provide free Web-album features. But since the primary focus of these sites is selling prints and photo gifts, albums tend to be surrounded by ads and e-commerce clutter.
A better choice is a site designed specifically for online photo sharing. I’m fond of two:
Smugmug For clean, ad-free album layouts and print-ordering options, check out Smugmug. Unlike most services, Smugmug lets you store full-resolution images that other people can download—with your permission, of course. You can upload photos either by using the service’s free OS X utility or by e-mailing them as attachments. If you organize your photos in iPhoto or a similar program, you can use Holocore’s $8 PictureSync utility to upload images directly from that program. You can even upload movie clips—a feature other services don’t provide. Pricing begins at $29 per year for unlimited photo storage and a monthly 2GB bandwidth limit, which translates to roughly 30,000 photo views.
Flickr Packed with slick features you won’t find anywhere else, Flickr has quickly become one of my favorite photo sites. Flickr offers an uploading tool that lets you transfer photos directly from iPhoto’s Export dialog box. It also displays albums in iPhoto-like slide shows—complete with cross-dissolve transitions (see find.macworld .com/0252 for an example). If you assign descriptive tags to your photos, other Flickr users can search for images based on those tags.
Best of all is Flickr’s support for RSS news feeds. Subscribe to another user’s photo stream, and small thumbnails will appear in your news reader whenever that user uploads new photos. Have a new baby in the family? Instead of e-mailing photo attachments to everyone you know, upload images to Flickr and tell the world to subscribe to your photo feed.
Flickr can automatically publish your recent photos to your blog, creating a happy marriage between photography and the latest geek technologies. A Flickr account is free. But if you upload a lot of photos, you’ll quickly reach the 10MB-per-month bandwidth limit. A Pro account costs $59 per year and boosts the upload limit to 1GB per month.
[ Contributing Editor Jim Heid is the author of The Macintosh iLife ’05 (Peachpit Press/Avondale Media, 2005) and www.macilife.com. ]Unlike many other Web-album programs, Image Rodeo allows for lengthy text captions.The online photo service Smugmug offers attractive photo albums and the ability to download full-resolution images.