Three Approaches to Photo Sharing
There are basically three approaches to sharing your photos online. You can upload your photos to a online photo sharing service, you can create your own galleries to be loaded onto your own website, or you might sign up for a blogging service and create a photo blog.
For the first category there are many options, both free and fee based. One of the most popular photo service is Flickr, operated by Yahoo. It offers free, but limited accounts and is supported by many programs. My only comment about Flickr is that I find it to be difficult to view images on it and does not have the best user interface. Personally I prefer the offering from SmugMug, which charges an annual fee but offers unlimited photo uploads.
If you would rather post your photos on your own website there are many tools that allow you to create galleries of your photos. What tool you might use depends on how you manage your photos on your computer. This artile is written for those who use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you use a Mac and the iPhoto program, I will write about those options in a seperate article.
If you wish to create a photo blog then you have the option of either installing blogging software, such as WordPress, on your own webiste or sign up for a free blog account at a place such as blogspot, operated by Google. This article is created on my own website using the WordPress software. I will not be covering photo blogs futher in this article but will focus on the online photo sharing sites and creating your own photo gallery for hosting on your own site.
Previously I wrote about the Web feature in Lightroom and how easy it is to create a web gallery. I decided to also try a program that I had used previously, JAlbum, and compare those two approaches with what I usually use, SmugMug.
I should also note that I shoot all my photos in RAW. I previously wrote about why you should shoot in RAW. The reason I mentioned this aspect is that any photos that are placed on a website need to be converted to another format, such as JPEG, before they are posted. That step has some bearing on the effort required to build a web gallery using Lightroom with RAW images.
Let’s start with the common things. I use Lightroom to import the photos and do some post processing. Some things I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 for, but in all cases, I am also using Lightroom for managing my photo library. Lightroom has some nice features to help you sort out which photos you wan to use, including marking a photo as a pick, assigning a rating, or creating a quick set.
Once I have the group of photos I want to publish to a website, then the different methods I could use include the following.
Online Photo Gallery
The simplest approach is to upload your photos to one of the online photo services. There are several advantages of using an online photo gallery:
- No need to have a website
- Offsite backup of your photos
- Easy access since such sites have built in navigation to select you individual galleries and to navigate wthin each gallery
- Easy sharing of images in items such as blogs or email.
- Visitors can not only view your photos but can order prints if you allow them to.
I have an account with SmugMug which allows me unlimitted uploads. There are also free services including the popular Flickr as well as many other services. There is a Lightroom plugin that works with SmugMug. So all I need to do in Lightroom is to exported my images directly to SmugMug. See the dialog box below on who that is done.
The process handles any temporary conversion to JPEG files, using my Lightroom post processing, before uploading. Inside the dialog box I can create the album where to put the photos. Like othere services such as Flickr, SmugMug handles all the gallery creation and menuing system. So in a matter of less than a minute I am finished and can go walk away while the images are uploaded.
You Own Hosted Photo Gallery
Some do not want to use a online photo sharing site and would prefer to host on thier own webstie. There are some advantages to this approach including:
- You can use your own identify
- Extensive customization can be achieved on the gallery interface
But this approach also has many disadvantages:
- You must have a website and use some of your disk space.
- It usually requires several steps to first create the gallery and then upload it
- It may be difficult to get a link of a particular photo to use in something like an email or blog
- You have to create some way for users to navigate to your individual galleries, which might mean creating a HTML page with hard coded links.
- Viewers can not usually order printes and may not be able to download the images, even if you want them to be able to.
Lightroom Generated Gallery
As I previously mentioned Ligthroom has a Web feature. This is also simple to use because once I have the photos selected, Ligthroom will create all the files needed for an online gallery, including JPEG files with the post processing, and the navigation for the website, and then upload them using FTP to my personal website.
There are limited templates to pick from and that galleries are rather straightforward. It takes a bit of extra effort compared with SmugMug, but when I am finished I have a stand alone gallery. It is not tied in with my other galleries so I would need to have my own index page I would need to edit so others can find my photos.
JAlbum Generated Gallery
The last method is the most time consuming and in many ways the one with the least desirable results. JAlubm is a free and excellent program. Because it is an open source program, developers have written many templates to choose from. I just picked one that came with the program. Starting with my selected photos in Ligthroom I had to first export the images to a JPEG file, saving them in a temporary location on my hard drive. I then needed to start JAlbum and import those same images. Creating the gallery is rather straightforward and once I am done the program will even FTP them to my website. But as was true with the Ligthroom created gallery, I end up with a stand alone gallery and it would be up to me to create some index page so people could find the gallery
Click on the links below to see how each gallery looks, all using the same group of photos.
Ease of Use
|Photo Sharing Tools
||Yes, SmugMug handles all navigation
||Excellent, using in blogs, slideshows, ligthbox
||Excellent, well integrated with other galleries
||No, stand alone gallery
||Very good, but limited templates
||No, stand alone gallery
||Great selection of templates but many are quirky.
So when I look at what SmugMug offers me the easiest path to publishing my photos and provides a lot of other support such as the menuing system and ways to share individual photos in things such as a blog. So that is what I will continue to use. For those occasions where I feel the need to place a gallery on my own website I will use the Web feature in Lightroom.