Forget about the scrapbook — you won’t be spending hours pasting photos into albums anymore. From Apple to Zing, the Web is bursting with sites that let you manage your photographs and share them with friends and family practically anywhere in the world. We took a look at Club Photo, ArcSoft’s Photo Island, Zing, PhotoLoft, GatherRound.com, PhotoPoint.com, and Apple’s iTools. Each site offers a wide variety of features, including Web-based photo editing and virtual albums, as well as a number of non-Web-based options such as film processing, photo reproduction, and nifty photo-gimmicks. Also, each site offers about 50MB of free storage space.
From Camera to Web
To make Web-based photo management worthwhile, you need to get your images from your Mac to the Web. All the sites provide a relatively standard interface for uploading your pictures: you click on a browse button, locate the photos on your hard drive or CD-ROM, and then click on an upload button to get the images from your Mac to the Web. Three of the sites– PhotoPoint, Zing, and GatherRound — let you e-mail images to your album. With Apple’s iTools, all you need to do is open your iDisk and drop your images into the Photos folder. As soon as the copy is complete, they’re available for use in an iTools photo album.
Zing adds an incredibly innovative and easy uploading option: a browser plug-in that allows you to drag and drop photos onto a bullseye-shaped area that Zing calls a target . As soon as you let go of the images they’re uploaded to the Zing Web site. This feature alone made Zing the easiest site to add photos to.
JPEGs are the defacto standard for images on virtually every photo site. So, if you typically get your pictures on PhotoCD (.pcd files), you’re going to need to convert them before they can be uploaded. PhotoPoint does add support for GIF and BMP files, and PhotoLoft and GatherRound add PNG and PCD files to the mix. Typically, you’ll use an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop to convert your images from one format to another, but you can also use Graphics Converter (
www.lemkesoft.de ), which is an excellent shareware image editor.
With image-editing software, you can also adjust the color and size of your images, as well as make many other adjustments. And some of these sites also offer some online image-editing tools. But when it comes to editing your photos on the Web, there’s a huge difference between the haves and the have-nots. The majority of the sites have very limited image-editing features, and Apple and PhotoLoft don’t have any facilities for online-editing. Club Photo provides some simple features such as rotation and cropping, but Zing and PhotoIsland actually include some powerful online tools. Zing’s editing tools — which are powered by Adobe — allow you to change your photo’s tint, distort the images, remove red-eye, crop, and rotate your images. This is all done in a single browser window that doesn’t require a complete refresh between changes and also displays a thumbnail of your original image so you can compare it to the newly edited photo. PhotoIsland’s editing tools, while nowhere near as polished as Zing’s, also include red-eye reduction, cropping, and an automatic photo-enhancement tool. But unlike Zing, PhotoIsland will bounce you through a multitude of new Web pages in order to complete your changes.
Zing provides some excellent online-editing tools.
Creating Digital Albums
Without question, iTools offers the easiest means of setting up your albums. Apple provides you with a wide variety of album options and makes editing those albums from within your browser as easy as dragging and dropping your images. Zing adds a nearly equal number of album types but provides a far better format for organizing and displaying your images once you’ve put them into albums. Zing’s albums actually behave like a typical photo album, displaying full-sized pictures on individual pages. Viewers can also browse thumbnails of all their images at once, allowing them to see full-size views of only the pictures they select. All the sites made simple work of sending your album’s URL to your mailing list.
One of the slickest, and relatively cheap, add-on features of these photo sites comes from PhotoPoint. PhotoPoint has an arrangement with AmazingMail.com that lets you take your photos and put them on real postcards for as little as 84 cents each. This price includes U.S. Postal Service mailing and a rather large message; that’s a very good deal for a novelty item like personalized postcards. Each site lets you take your personal photographs and put them on e-postcards, which can be sent to a multitude of people over the Web. Photographs can also be put on just about any object you can imagine, from calendars and chocolate lollipops to coffee mugs. But beware: what you pay for these items may be quite a bit more than what you’d pay at your local mall.
Club Photo offers extraordinarily inexpensive photo processing — one dollar for a roll of film. But there’s a catch: if you want prints they’re going to cost you 45 cents each. That’s much more expensive than what you’ll pay to have your pictures developed by Kodak at Costco and put on PhotoCD. The upside is that your pictures are available on the Web as soon as they’re developed.
Point and Shoot, Click and Drag
So, it’s time to get started. With a digital camera, a Mac, and an Internet connection, you can easily share your photos with the world at large.