Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Photo sharing dilemma

Random musing for today: I can't decide the best way to share my photos online.
Currently I sometimes use Flickr and sometimes Facebook, and have also considered setting up my own instance of Gallery or some other customisable self hosted solution. Ideally I would like to settle upon just one solution to avoid duplication - But it seems like each option has some advantages and some disadvantages.


  • Effectively unlimited storage, because the allocation is "amount uploaded per month" not in total. This can be increased by upgrading to pro, which is possibly worth the cost
  • Stores much higher resolution images (even higher if you upgrade to pro)
  • People can download images at different resolutions
  • Has some degree of privacy controls - can choose if any given photo or album is viewable by all, or friends only, or family only, or friends and family.
  • No way to download a whole album at once
  • Typically friends/family won't already be on Flickr - so will have to sign up. Although, you can share a particular album with non Flickr members (with no privacy controls)
  • Privacy controls quite coarse grained (can't distinguish between close friends, work colleagues, different friend groups)
  • Can't customise the site appearance


  • Because of the social network mantra "go where your friends are" it turns out Facebook is the best way for me to share some photos and know that many of my friends have a good chance of seeing them. There's something nice about just putting photos out there and knowing they will show up in friend's homepages ("Alex has added new photos") and they can choose to look more or not - rather than me having to purposefully send out links by email which seems a little more intrusive
  • People tagging. It's really nice being able to tag people in photos so that those photos show up to that person, and other people who know that person, without them specifically seeking them out. Again this seems a great way to bring an audience to your photos (the people/social ones anyway)
  • Fine grained privacy controls, can limit to particular groups of contacts or combinations of groups.
  • Some chance of people discovering your photos via flick friend feeds, flickr facebook plugin, but not to same degree as with Facebook
  • Doesn't seem to have an upload quota (although only 60 photos allowed per album)
  • Only a low resolution stored or viewable
  • Can download but not high enough quality to print - seems more for fun/browsing.
  • Can only give the full tagged/organised experience to other people signed up on Facebook (Although, you can share a particular album with non Facebook members (with no privacy controls)
  • Can't download a whole album
  • Can't customise the site appearance
  • No people tagging
Gallery & custom built photo apps
  • fully customisable site appearance
  • can download whole albums
  • can store & download hi-res photos
  • storage only limited by your web hosting capacity
  • full fine grained privacy controls
  • need your own web hosting (not a problem for me as I have some - but space may be more of an issue)
  • no chance of people discovering your photos - they have to come to your site - which means you have to send out links
  • no people tagging
  • to get the full grained privacy controls you need everyone to register for your site - and then recreate your entire social network and the different groups for different levels of privacy, within your gallery app - some people probably won't bother, and this is a lot of work for everyone involved. Not sure I want to put my friends through that.

The ideal system:
  • Would integrate fully with existing social networks, to allow friends to discover the photos and to make privacy controls be able to use existing identities & groups
  • Would have fine grained privacy settings so I can restrict with detail who can see what photos
  • Would allow people tagging to help bring the photos to people's attention, like Facebook
  • Would have storage per month, like Flickr, rather than a finite cap
  • Would allow high res downloads (like Flickr, Gallery)
  • Would allow full album downloads (like Gallery)
  • I would be willing to pay a small fee for such a system, if it existed. I don't think it does.
I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this problem. What system do you use? How do you get around problems I've mentioned? Is there another solution out there that would be closer to the ideal I have described?


Dale Lane said...

I use Picasa for family pics.

It's pretty good:
- plenty of storage
- it's free
- integration with the desktop Picasa app is very good
- it allows people to download whole albums in one go
- it does have some email-based notifications, to gmail users, I think
- the homepage gives you a feed of friends and families new photos
- it's RSS feed is pretty good, so there are Facebook apps and the like for it
- there are privacy controls. I've not played with them, but they look fairly coarse-grained

I use Picasa for family stuff, and Flickr for my own pics, and it seems to work well.

Alex said...

Thanks Dale.

I used to use the Picasa client app and found it very good... These days I've got my Mac and switched to iPhoto so wouldn't get the integration benefits. Sounds like it might be worth a look though.

What would you say the key differences between Flickr & Picasa Web Albums are? How come you use both?