As you know, my wife and I just welcomed a little girl into our family. Our families ares hounding us for photos on a daily basis so I set out on a quest to find the best way to share with them our digital photos. Here is what I found.
RAW Image Support
I have a Nikon D40 D-SLR and shoot all of my pictures in RAW (*.NEF) format. I do this because the RAW / NEF format offers much, much more flexibility; you can almost re-shoot the picture if you edit it with the Nikon NX software. Anyway, I was hoping to find a service that supports the uploading of NEF files. I found nothing; I’m going to have convert everything to JPEG before uploading it.
Firefox Support for Multiple Image Uploading
I have little patience for sites s that doesn’t support the Firefox browser; it’s used by at least 1 out of every 5 users now. By support, I don’t mean selecting images 1 at a time and uploading them. I don’t want to waste my time on repetitive tasks.
- If you use Flickr.com, there are two great Firefox addons: Fotofox and Firefox Universal Uploader. Both worked flawlessly and allowed tagging and folders/albums. I can understand why Flickr is the most popular photo sharing site.
- I was happy to see that ShutterFly.com offers Picture Upload Assistant browser plug-in for multi-image upload. It crashed Firefox every time I navigated to the Add Photo page, even after I uninstalled it and rebooted. Thanks for nothing.
- ImageStation.com received a great review from PC Magazine. It’s a Sony company. It offers no Firefox multi-image uploading. Boo. Hiss.
Windows Picture Upload Software
If browser support is lacking, the second choice is to try Windows-based photo upload software. Shutterfly.com and ImageStation.com both have such offerings.
- Easiest: ImageStation XPRESS is super-simple to use. It offers no editing, only uploading and purchasing of prints. I like it.
- Most Full Featured: Shutterfly Studio offers a bunch of image editing options and also allows uploads and sharing by e-mail. The extra features are great, but it’s not as easy to use.
Cost, Quality, Storage, and Print Options
All have the capability to print multiple sizes, ranging from wallet to 20×30 inches. The differences come in printing cost, storage, and online editing.
- Shutterfly.com: $0.19 per 4×6 print, in-store pickup at Target for $0.20, in browser editing of prints (crop, adjust colors, add boarders, etc), unlimited uploads/storage
- ImageStation.com: $0.10 per 4×6 print, in-store pickup a Walgreens and CVS for $0.19, no picture adjustments, unlimited uploads/storage
- Filckr.com: $0.15 per 4×6 print, in-store pickup at Target for $0.20, no picture adjustments, 100 MB/month limit on uploads ($25/year for unlimited uploads), unlimited storage
Quality: PC Magazine said all three were great, but that Image Station prints were the best. Unfortunately, this was also, by far, the slowest and most sluggish of the websites.
All three services offer the ability to share and print photos. Which should you choose? It depends on your situation. Here are my recommendations:
- Flickr is best if you want to share your photos online and are not so worried about printing them. They have, by far, the best online presentation and sharing options. If you and your friends and family are not attached to print photos, this is your best bet.
- Shutterfly is best for people who want to easily edit, share, and print their photos. It has by far the best photo editing, but the price per print is higher and the user interface is more difficult. This is best for people who want to print specific, high quality photos, such as parents who want
- ImageStation.com is best for people who want to easily upload a bunch of photos, share them, and print them as-is. It’s quick, easy and cheap. If the grandparents want a bunch of grandkid pictures and you don’t care about color adjustments, framing, etc, this is your best option to make them happy.
My final recommendation? Go with Shutterfly. The image editor is easy to use, albums are easy to share, and pictures are easy to print. ImageStation is more quantity than quality and the site is extremely slow. Flickr is awesome if you want to share photos with your friends online in any way imaginable, but it’s just not as nice as Shutterfly when you need print pictures.
UPDATE: Sony ImageStation is closing down — so cross them off your list! Shutterfly is the service I’ve gravitated to over time.