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Online Photo Websites

February 12, 2009

Finding just the right place to put my photos has been a real hassle.

Facebook is great for putting up photos you want your friends to see, and is the first place I’ll upload my photos.  But Facebook scales the images down and their rescaling causes a noticeable degradation in quality.  So for fun pics its great, but the loss in quality is too high.  Also, there’s no practical way to then make certain albums world visible to non-Facebook users (sure, there’s those public urls, but they expire and you can’t provide a convenient public url for a collection of albums.

Flickr is popular and I used it a bit, but it’s hard to customize the layout to anything close to what I think I want my photo albums to look like.

Smugmug makes promises about beautiful albums, but I found it to be buggy and could never get things the way I wanted there.

PicasaWeb comes close to what I’m looking for, but it’s robots.txt excludes all search engines, which seems rather odd.  Also, there’s no way to really customize anything.

After bouncing around from site to site (I’ve also tried Snapfish and Shutterfly, which also weren’t quite what I wanted), I decided to host my photos on my own server, running Gallery.  (Again, which photo gallery software to use presents another series of choices, made easier by the fact that only Gallery and Zenphoto had “easy install” options on my webhost.  Coppermine-Gallery is supposed to be another good choice.  I ended up going with Gallery (partly after realizing a former coworker is the one that wrote it).

One tool I found useful when I was comparing all of the above choices against their peers was Google Trends, so that I could measure their relative popularities (e.g., what’s more popular, Shutterfly or Snapfish?  Just make sure to look at websites data, not searches).  I don’t want to be stuck with either a service or software that isn’t popular enough to show up in the Trends data.  Sometimes going with the flow is best if you want to minimize ongoing maintenance and setup hassle.

My public albums are at

I had to fiddle with the css and template files, but it wasn’t too hard to get close to the look & feel I wanted.  I’ll have to fiddle with it more to get it how I want, but it’s close enough, and certainly closer to what I want than any of the online photo websites I looked at.  Note that I am not the kind of person (anymore) that wants to fiddle around with installing custom apps — I would much rather have just used picasaweb or flickr and have been done with it.  It’s just that for some bizarre reason, there just weren’t any photo album websites out there that didn’t have at least one showstopper.

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One Comment
  1. I noticed that as of recently, Picasaweb no longer blocks normal search crawling via robots.txt, so it now comes pretty close to meeting my basic criteria for a usable photo-sharing website.

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