Your Guide to Online Photo Sharing

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By Candice Choi -- AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — When it comes to sharing your photos online, the expectations are usually pretty basic: The service should be free.

So it might've been a rude awakening for members of KodakGallery.com who recently got word that their albums could be deleted unless they make a minimum annual purchase of $5. Those storing more than about 2,000 photos would need to spend $20 a year.

The good news is there's no shortage of alternatives. But sorting out the different features and extra costs can be confusing. As with Kodak Gallery, it turns out most sites charge fees for certain privileges. For instance, it's common for sites to resize images for online display, then charge to access photos in their original resolution.

As you prepare for Memorial Day festivities, here's a rundown of a few popular photo sharing sites and how they stack up.

Flickr

The Basics: With 38 million members, Flickr stands out for its strong social networking component. Photos can be made private or public and posted in community groups.

The groups cover a variety of topics that can be fun to browse. One called "In Numerical Order," for instance, challenges members to upload photos of numbers around the world in sequential order.

Costs: A free account lets you view 200 photos at a time and upload about 100 new photos (100 megabytes), a month. For $25 a year, you get unlimited storage space and uploads, the ability to post video and no ads.

A 4x6 print costs 15 cents plus shipping, or 20 cents per print for pickup at a nearby Target department store.

Resolution: You need to pay for the $25 membership to access original resolution photos.

Special Features: Members can drag and drop photos onto a map to show where they were snapped. So seasoned travelers might have fun populating a world map with photos of all the places they've been.

If you're going on vacation to London, you could search the map to find other people's photos of Big Ben.

"You can see what the best angle is, and what the picture looks like," said Heather Champ, a Flickr spokeswoman.

You can also search mapped photos for particular objects, whether it's tulips, lighthouses or street art.


Kodak Gallery

The Basics: The primary use is for sharing albums between friends and family, or purchasing prints and other gifts. The public gallery is only available to those who pay a $25 yearly fee for a premiere account.

Costs: An account storing about 2,000 photos (2 gigabytes) requires annual purchases totaling $5. An account storing more than that requires annual purchases of $20.

A 4x6 print costs 15 cents; orders over $5 get free shipping. Photo pickup is available at CVS drug stores for 23 cents a print and at Target stores for 20 cents a print.

Resolution: Photos can be downloaded in their original resolution.

Special Feature: While the new purchase requirements might upset longtime users, the price includes access to original resolution photos. Many sites charge for this service. And if you regularly order prints and other products, the annual purchase requirement won't be a problem.

Photoworks

The Basics: There is no public community component; the site is intended for sharing between friends and family.

While it's free right now, that might not be the case forever. Sally Babcock, general manager of the site, said the trend in the industry is to charge a fee. It's not the case for PhotoWorks yet, but she notes that "everyone is looking to monetize. We have to be realistic."

A redesign is planned for sometime in early fall.

Costs:
Accounts are free with unlimited space; 50 free prints for signing up. Every order comes with a coupon for 15 percent to 20 percent off the next order.

A 4x6 print costs 9 cents to 15 cents plus shipping. You need to order 1,000 prints on an order to qualify for the 9-cent price. There is no pickup option.

Resolution:
Photos can be downloaded in their original resolution for free.

Unique Features:
As a unit of American Greetings, the site says it offers a higher caliber of greeting cards than the more generic greeting cards that might be found on other sites. PhotoWorks also partners with wedding planning site The Knot to offer products such as save-the-dates and wedding programs.


Shutterfly

The Basics: The site is primarily for sharing between friends and family, but you can also post photo books you create onto a public online gallery for others to browse and comment on.

If you see a photo book you like in the gallery, there's a "Make one like this" option that lets you substitute in your own photos into a similar format.

Costs: Accounts are free and storage is unlimited; 25 free prints for signing up.

A 4x6 print costs 15 cents plus shipping. Prints can be picked up at Target stores for 20 cents each.

Resolution: Photos in their original resolution are available on archive DVDs starting at $9.99.

Special Features: Members can create personalized Web sites with easy to use editing tools. Visitors to the sites can order prints and other products, such as key rings and posters, based on your photos. Photos can also be personalized for free with a short message on the reverse side.

Smugmug

The Basics: While pricey, the site might attract the more serious photographer who doesn't want ads and appreciates viewing photos in high resolution online.

Cost:
A basic subscription costs $40 a year and comes with unlimited storage, no ads and the option to create personal Web pages. A Pro account costs $150 a year, allows for video uploading, and the ability to charge visitors to buy photos.

A 4x6 print costs 19 cents.

Resolution: Photos can be downloaded in their original resolution. Members can specify a size for viewing online; the default display is for the highest resolution.

Unique Features: The Pro account lets you set up a Web page where visitors can buy your prints. You decide the price, and SmugMug gets 15 percent of your profit. Photos can be protected by watermarks.

"It's one of our fastest growing areas. Professionals are coming to us so they can have a site that's customized, where they can upload photos quickly," said Andy Williams, the site's chief operating officer.


Facebook

The Basics: While not the primary purpose of Facebook, the site is fast becoming an avenue for sharing photos. The company says 850 million photos are uploaded each month.

Cost: Available to anyone with a Facebook account, which is free.

Resolution: Photos can't be accessed in their original resolution.

Unique Features: Photos can be made public or private. You can "tag" photos, meaning you can name the people in each photo. That will link to their profile on the site if they have one.

The site also partners with Qoop to let users print photos and create personalized items available on most photo sharing sites.

The desktop application of iPhoto lets you access your Facebook friend list to use face recognition to identify friends for tagging. You can also import photo streams onto your Facebook profile from certain photo sharing sites.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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