Flickr and Online Photos – The Basics

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Sharing your favorite photos has come a long way from vacation slide shows and sticky-paged photo albums. Web-based photo sites like Flickr will store your digital photos and other images online and let you arrange them for easy viewing, but there’s so much more you can do.

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What Is It?

Online photo hosting is just like online video hosting – people sign up for accounts and then upload their photos to store and share. Photos can be linked to individually or in sets; can be embedded into blogs and shared through social media; and can be searched by tags or any other information about the photo (like camera type or the date it was taken).

Photo hosting is different than the software you use to get your photos off of your digital camera. Those photos are still only available on your personal computer – you can then upload them to a sharing site to let others see them remotely. In addition, both Windows and Mac computers also provide photo sharing if you sign up for their online accounts. Also, many photo processing services offer some kind of online viewing: Kodak Gallery and Snapfish (Walgreens & Duane Reed) are just two examples.

How Is It Useful?

Storage and sharing: As we all know, emailing photos to friends and family one by one can be a real pain. By using an online photo hosting service, you can quickly upload your photos, set privacy levels (for public view or limited to only the people you send the link to), and then share your excellent photography with the world. Professional photographers and everyday snapshooters are obvious users of these tools, but so are libraries. The Boston Public Library is in the process of putting its collections of images online. NASA, the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History all use Flickr to showcase fascinating images and rare objects too fragile to be put on display.

Search: If you’re looking for images to use for whatever purpose, try searching the public photos in any of the services below. Searching for “sunsets” in Flickr will find you some truly stunning photos. Photobucket has grouped their public photos into categories based on the image style or content, including effects like vintage, tilt shift and Holgas.

In Flickr, you can limit your search to Creative Commons licensed photos to comply with a photographer’s copyright when you use their image. Just use the Advanced Search and click on “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.”

Try It Out

Choose one of the photo sites below and run a few searches for things you enjoy. Try searching for a travel destination you’re eager to visit, or for your hometown.

  • Take a tour of Flickr’s features to see exactly how flexible this tool can be.
  • Google’s photo tool comes in two parts: Picasa is photo editing and organizing software you can download onto your computer, while Picasa Web Albums lets you store and share images online.
  • SmugMug is a paid photo-hosting service that provides more security and stability for a low annual fee.
  • Photobucket is a free site that targets bloggers and social networkers, with one-click posting and tons of special effects for your pics.
  • And, of course, there are many, many more to choose from.
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