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.
Thanks for this post – I was looking into online photo sites that allow me to upload NEF files and I can’t find any either. I’ve been using Flickr for some time now and that’s my biggest feature request. What is your pipeline like for uploading and printing photos? Do you batch-convert them to JPGs locally and then upload them to one of these services?
Rob: I was surprised that even Nikon’s photo sharing service did not support NEF. So I’m doing exactly as you mentioned; I adjust/edit the photos in RAW/NEF format and then batch-convert the JPEG, saving them in a temporary directory, before uploading them to ShutterFly. It’s an unfortunate draw-back of shooting in RAW.
That’s unfortunate news. I will confess, I went back to shooting JPG recently, and only shooting NEF on “special” occasions. I found the process too much hassle. It’s immensely frustrating that there isn’t a site that allows you to upload NEF files natively and perform conversions on them!
I stumble upon your blog post and I thought to leave you a note to tell you about the new printing service that we just released in our website picwing.com
With this service you email your pictures from your mobile phone or computer to your Picwing account. Then every 2 weeks, we’ll automatically print the pictures you sent and mail them to anyone you like. We think this is very convenient way to share pictures with the people that may not use a computer or prefer printed pictures.
I hope you can check it out and tell us what you think.
Enrique, will picwing support raw (NEF) files?
I’m back to shooting RAW. I wish my pipeline was better.
Unfortunately we don’t suport NEF files yet. Most of our users take pictures with cell phones and share them through email. I just added it to our list of requested features though.
Let us know if you have comments or suggestions about our site.
Since you wrote this post, Picasa Web Albums seems to have become a contender for ease-of-use. The business model is slightly different from Flickr, because it’s not a single annual fee, but based on storage space. The printing provider is Snapfish, which may work for people not resident in the U.S. better than Shutterfly (or other Flickr associates).
I’ve recently documented my workflow for digital photos (capturing, archiving, printing, web sharing and photoblogging), and haven’t gone to the point of sharing to the grandparents. I am still negotiating with my wife, who would prefer to print to the local drug store or grocery store, but the workflow from an online photo archive (i.e. in the cloud) isn’t supported by retailers who use pnimedia.com .
Thanks David. Fantastic article. I’ve ended up with a similar solution to yours: Picasa for general image management and xnView for more fine-level control. Picasa support for Nikon RAW (*.NEF) is the addition I was looking for. I purchased full Nikon software, but find Picasa easier and better suited to the limited amount of time I have to devote to photo maintenance.