More about online photo storage

Well I told you a couple of months ago that I would give you some additional information regarding online photo storage and there has been a little movement in the market as prices have come down a little bit and services have become easier to use and access. So let’s review my top five online digital photography storage sites.

First let’s review my criteria for selecting someplace to store your images online:

  1. Provides you with tools to upload multiple images off of your PC/Camera at one time
  2. Provides you with access to your images regardless of platform (PC/Phone/etc)
  3. Provides you with quality service around the clock
  4. Provides you the ability to have backups of your image collection
  5. The service does not automatically resize your images or provides you with tools to restore their original size
  6. The service gives you control over who looks at and downloads your images

With that in mind, here are my top 7 online image hosting services. These are in no particular order. I do this because I want you to go to each site and maybe look up one or two of your own and see which ones you will think can work best for your needs.

  1. Adobe Photoshop.com starts you with 2GB of storage for free but that’s not this site’s strength. Oh no…this site’s strength is in its editting
    tools. These tools allow you to make basic image edits like remove red eye, crop the image, or make some basic changes. For $20/year, you
    can buy 20GB of space. And you can expect to pay $1/GB for each increase above that.
  2. Flickr’s free account provides you with a monthly upload/download limit which has changed and continues to change. For $25/year you get
    unlimited photo and video storage.
  3. Smugmug is service geared at semi-professional and professional photographers. For $40/$60/$150 a year you can have more control over the
    site that presents your images. All plans have unlimited storage and allow you universal access to your images. The high end plan gives you
    complete control over the page that displays your images plus the way you sell your photographs.
  4. Photobucket is an Internet staple. Free accounts get 500 MB of online storage and you are allowed up to 10GB of downloadable bandwidth per
    month. There is a 1MB size limit per photo so if you use a Canon Mark V with the 77MB raw files, this is not going to be the solution for
    you. However for $25 a year, those limitations are removed and you get to post images up to 4000×3000 plus access to their technical support
    team
  5. Webshots by American Greetings, is a service that comes with the ability to use your images or the predefined images of other photographers
    into your projects. What this means is that there is also a likelihood for others to have access to your images for things like calendars, coffee
    mugs, and the like. They give you a 1000 image limit and then boost that with 100 extra images for every month that you remain a member of
    their free plan. For $20/year, those restrictions are limited but this offering is among the least favorable ones for photographers looking to post
    the thousands of images they generate a year.

Now there are some prominent sites that I left out. I left them out for a reason. Either I am not a fan of their policies or I do not like the software they ask the user to use for their site. However everyone is different and I urge you to research these other sites as well.

If you have any additional questions, just ask.

Are you finding flowers?

Honeybee atop a bluebonnet
Bee atop bluebonnet found in local park

The flowers are out and it’s time to gas up and head to some quiet country road with your trusty camera and shoot some shots.

Please remember your common sense…never stop in a dark and isolated place. One reason is that you may get really bad shots there and you also run a greater risk for something bad happening to you.
But please use the side roads and stay off of the roadway and make sure you keep yours eyes open. Do not let yourself get caught up in the moment, and lose track of where you are.
Take your time, take as many shots as you want but do not take any of these flowers with you. Remember, under Texas law, certain plants are protected and taking one or two is considered a criminal offense.
Also, I can’t state this enough, please check the ground thoroughly before placing a child down in a flower patch. Ants and other bugs love flowers too.
Finally…send me your best shots and tell us what you did and used to get this shot. Some of the best things in photography are the stories in how you got that perfect shot.

Wild Flowers are popping up

Wildflowers are blooming-Sandia Cemetary

Wildflowers blooming in the cemetary in Sandia, TX

It’s time to prepare your cameras and your bug spray and venture out to your nearest patch of wildflowers. Here are some basic tips for finding and shooting those winning flower pictures.

1)Finding the right patch is easy. TxDOT actually does something right by publishing a list of where the best wildflower patches can be found. There may be more and you may want to do a Google search on Texas Wildflowers and find the list. This season is expected to be one of the best ever and it’s a good chance for you to take those cameras that you got at Christmas and go get some experience. Here is a link to the Texas Department of Transportation list

2) Take your children but please LOOK AT THE GROUND before you put them down. It’s borderline cruelty to drop small children on top of ant hills and ask them to hold still while you take their photograph.

3) Frame your shots. Do not just point your camera at the field and get the whole field alone. If you feel like that is a great photo, certainly take it.  But in addition to that shot, you should walk around look for exceptional shots or flowers with brilliant color.  and then follow the basic rules of thirds in taking your shot.

4) Add something different to the shot to break up  the floral scene. Notice the cemetary shot that I have posted with this. It uses a grave marker as a piece to break up the scene and to also give the viewer some idea of the relationships between  the flowers, the graves, and the cemetary.  You might use your dog, your child, an old broken down tractor, or something else all-together.

5) Do not simply take the photo and upload it. Bring it home and spend some time with it on a computer. Adjust the lighting, play with the settings. Every camera comes with basic software to do the most basic editing functions. Please do not take this to mean to go out, buy a $1,000 overpriced copy of Adobe Photoshop.  There are are many free image editing solutions that go beyond the basic features of the software that came with your camera. Google search them or try a search on Download.com but be careful. Malware takes on many forms and you should only download from sites you trust or that come recommended. If you have questions about software packages, feel free to ask me or check out DPReview.com, About.com, Photoshop.com or any other photocentric site.

6) Have fun. This should be enjoyable and not a hassle. If you find yourself struggling or inconvenienced by taking the time to take these shots, perhaps this is not for you.

Happy shooting!

Online Photo Storage solutions–use them or else

 jackrabbits-5
I had this talk with the students both in my hardware and in my networking classes this week and feel it’s an important enough thing to warrant its own post. I have a student, who had an issue with his hard drive, for those technically saavy amongst you, his hard drive lost its partition table and hence all of the contents of that drive. For the uninitiated let me explain; the partition table is like a giant database that gives the operating system a map of where things are. So when the system loses this map, it loses everything and all you can do is reinstall Windows, Linux, or whatever operating system that you use and start all over.

You can see how easy it is to lose everything…all those special moments and all those memories…gone.

So let’s talk about backups…the hard part is choosing a service. There are many free services available to help you store your images online. What you are looking for is a service that is reliable, does not change your image sizes (and there are many that do), provides you plenty of free space online and makes it easy for you to upload and access your content.

For simplicity’s sake, I will put these in a list for you:

Windows Live SkyDrive–This is probably the largest online storage site that you can find for free. If you use Windows and Internet Explorer (and that’s most of you), this is real simple. You simply sign up and begin using this. You get 25GB of storage on their servers to use as you see fit.

Windows Live Photo is another free service from Microsoft. The Skydrive is designed for your documents and photos while Photos Live is a cross between social networking and photo storage.  You get the same 25GB that is in your SkyDrive account. This is simply branded under a different name.

Flickr is a free service from Yahoo. Your access is limited and you need to check their site as the terms may change. http://www.flickr.com/help/limits/#28 will explain the details. (Please note–I have an upgraded account with Flickr and it works well for my purposes).

Photobucket is pretty much a mirror image of Flickr. They allow you to store up to 5,000 images on their site for free.

Imageshack is another free service that I am not that familiar with. I know they provide you with URL’s to your images much like Flickr and Photobucket so that you can embed them in webpages, emails, or online posts. They also have some limitations.

Photoshop.com is the site I reviewed in my last post. In addition to giving you editting tools, it also provides you with 2GB of free space and 20 GB will cost you $20/year. Now most sites give you access to some sort of photo editting software. Flickr provides you with access to online editor Picnik and  Microsoft’s Live tools give you access to a Microsoft’s Live Photo Gallery.

Picasa  is the free image hosting service from Google. Picasa lets you store up to 1GB of web albums on their servers. Now this is the smallest I’ve seen however, if you use Firefox and have a Gmail account, you can download a plugin which will allow you to use the 8GB of email space Google has given you for file storage. There are some limited editting tools which will suffice for most purposes.

Now the one thing to remember is that if you are uploading very large files (the Canon Mark V raw file is about 77MB in size) these sites may alter them and convert them to JPG or it may simply shrink them in size. Flickr’s free service restricts the image size that you or your users can download and others may do the same. Your mileage may vary.

But remember that even if you lost you original version of that special pic, any sized backup is better than nothing. I am writing this in the hopes of encouraging you to save your history and to save artifacts for those who will follow us; our children, grandchildren, great-great-great grandchildren plus who knows which descendant of ours will be famous one day and a cousin can point to an old photo and say “See? we are too related!”

Next time…we’ll talk about pay image hosting sites.

Using Adobe Photoshop online

Sunflower in my backyard editted in Adobe Photoshop.com

With some mild fear I decided to try out Adobe’s online image editting solution, Photoshop.com. Now this is a nicely crafted site. It has many of the features that sites like Piknik and Picasa offer with something that are decidedly Adobe.

The first thing you should know is that the basic account is free. It’ll cost you an email account but that email account that I used to sign up with has yet to see one single piece of spam from Adobe or Photoshop.com. The basic account will let you hold up to 2GB worth of images. That sounds like a lot and it is for most point and shoot camera users.
If you are using a high end Canon Mark V with the default 77MB file sizes, then you know what your limits are and you probably are not looking for free online storage solutions for your photos.
Now let’s talk about free solutions for a minute. It is important that you do not store precious and rare photographs only on your home PC. Heaven forbid that a catastrophe strike, you will lose those memories. It is okay to do backups of your home pc files, pictures, and video on to DVD’s or some other onsite storage solution however, you should also make use of Flickr, Picasa, Photoshop.com, Photobucket, SmugMug or the plethora of online storage offerings.
So now that we have established that it is wise to move your photos off of your home PC and on to a storage site where backups are done routinely, let me add that you should have a copy at home too.
Now Photoshop.com gives you many tools for editting, cropping, and in many other ways manipulating your images. It does not give you all of the tools that you would get with Photoshop CS4, CS3, or any other Adobe Photoshop boxed software offering. It does however give you just enough tools to take a plain image and spice it up a little or maybe get rid of those demon eyes your puppy gets from the flash bulb.
It also lets you integrate your images with Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook and possibly more coming soon. You can choose to share photos on Photoshop.com with friends or ban outsiders from viewing your work.
Adobe also makes available paid versions of this site which offer you more storage. You should check the site for pricing as it may change from the time I write this and the time you read this.
I really cannot applaud this product properly. You will have to try it for yourself.

If a spammer needs a reliable image hoster–Picoodle

For the past week, I and a friend, have been trying to reach someone, anyone at image hosting site Picoodle and surprise…no one ever replies and they do tell you that it may take them 3 weeks to reply to any inquiry.

So with that attitude, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a malware purveyor or spammer, this is a great site to post your stuff. If it does take them three weeks to remove a post, think of all the infected/conned people you can generate.

For reference, Picoodle is part of Funky Llama Productions. Funky Llama has many sites and is one of the companies responsible for many MySpace layouts. They no doubt provide Picoodle to help MySpacers with their image hosting needs which isn’t a bad thing.

However, the number of spam posters on Craigslist and other major board sites whose images are tied to Picoodle are no greater than the number that come from Flickr, ImageBucket, and other image hosting sites. Picoodle’s advantage to spammers is how slow they are to act to remove spam images.

So spammer, malware purveyor, and other ne’er do’wells…if you want to have your images hosted and not removed for at least a month, I suggest you try Picoodle. They don’t seem to want to remove anything.

I have spent the last 10 years devoted to fighting people who abuse the internet for their own personal gain. I cannot stand people who protect them.