Your web presence can get very messy if you don’t have a plan to begin with. From project management to image management, having a plan will make life a lot easier in the long run.
Here I address the differences between various image hosting services, so that you can better decide where to manage your images, and hopefully save you time in the future you may otherwise have spent righting a wrong decision.
The options I’m listing here are in addition to having images hosted with your website. In many instances, hosting images with your website is great (if you don’t, let’s talk.) For example, user interfacial graphics for your website’s design are great to host alongside your website. There are numerous real-world instances where other images need to be hosted though, and for the times where you feel hosting with your website isn’t the way forward, here are some great options that are available along with their respective pros and cons.
Flickr, owned by Yahoo!, describes itself as “the perfect way to share your photos.” Website Link
Pros: Sharing is a focal-point of Flickr, and since it’s specifically designed for photos, you get plenty access to photo-based tools such as printing and image editing.
Flickr allows for huge photo uploads, has a sophisticated image organization interface, allowing for easy management of your photos. This service is hugely popular as an image hosting and sharing site.
Cons: While Flickr is free, free accounts have to struggle along with upload restrictions and a limit on how many of your photos the public can actually see, irrespective of file sizes. The premium “Pro” accounts are only $24.95 per year and give the public full access to all of your images (should you choose) but it’s worth noting that if you want full access to the service, it’s not a free affair.
Flickr won’t share photos with individuals privately unless the recipient also has a Flickr account, however. What’s more, the sharing options are restricted to a few set groups (Everyone, Friends, Family).
Verdict: If you want to share your images with the world and want a broad selection of photo-based tools available to you, Flickr’s the best choice for you.
Picasa Web Albums
Google’s offering to the image hosting foray describes itself as “Fast and easy photo sharing from Google”. Website Link
Pros: Google’s offering is also free in its smallest form, like Flickr. There’s no image display limit like with Flickr, however. You have 1GB to do with as you please. Picasa Web Albums is more like a conventional photo package where you create albums, and put photos in them. It’s easy to organize, and has a slightly better grasp over sharing photos with individuals than Flickr has. There’s a desktop Picasa client that synchronizes with Picasa Web Albums, which can be great if you want to organize everything once, both offline and online.
Cons: The downside to Picasa Web Albums is, if you’re looking to share your photos, there’s not much social activity to speak of. While commenting is available, there’s not the thriving community around the sharing of photos on Picasa Web Albums like there is on Flickr.
Verdict: If you want to store your images in a traditional way, online, and social interaction isn’t something you’re really looking for, Picasa Web Albums has you covered.
Facebook, “The Social Network”, can store your images too. Website Link
Pros: Whether as a user or as a page, images can be held for free on Facebook and shared with the world other Facebook users. Since it’s so hugely popular for things other than image hosting, Facebook is a great way to get your images in front of an audience other than just photo enthusiasts.
Cons: It’s worth remembering that Facebook isn’t inherently an image hosting service. While it has image hosting capabilities, don’t expect the same control over your images as you would find with the previous two offerings. Organization is sparse, and if you hope to share photos with others, expect one big disorganized album of assorted photos encompassing everything you were ever “tagged” with.
Verdict: If you need to get your images in front of an established Facebook audience, and you don’t need much control over those images, Facebook is the best way to go.
Dropbox’s home page states that “Dropbox is software that syncs your files online and across your computers.” Website Link
Pros: Dropbox, like Facebook, isn’t inherently an image hosting service. It’s a File hosting service. This is both a blessing and a curse: you don’t have any image handling facilities available to you, but you do have complete control over the image files themselves. Dropbox integrates with your desktop computer and appears just as any other offline folder would. When you add and edit files in your Dropbox folder, however, all of the changes are automatically synced to the web service. Genius.
With a Shared Folder between yourself and others, you can very quickly and conveniently share files and images with select other users with file control unrivaled by the other packages listed above.
Cons: There is zero social activity around anything you put on Dropbox. It hosts your files, but doesn’t make any effort to be social about them. While there is a Photo Gallery section of Dropbox, it’s fairly basic, and offers no control over who can and can’t view the images.
Verdict: If you need total control over your image files and only need to share them with specific individuals on a private basis, Dropbox is hands down the best way to go.
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