Before the advent of digital photography, if you wanted to share your photos with your friends you either had to make expensive copies of your prints, invite your friends over to look through your photo album, or even set up the slide projector and subject them all to a couple of hours of upside-down and out-of-focus holiday snaps.
Rather than printing your photos out or emailing them to friends individually, you upload your photos to a website where they are displayed in an online gallery and can be viewed and downloaded by other people. You then simply send your friends a link to the website gallery, which they can visit to see your photos. To use one of these sites you will normally have to register for an account, but in most cases, you will get the basic service free of charge, although most sites offer premium accounts with extra features on payment of a small fee.
Picture sharing sites
More and more people are getting hooked up to highspeed broadband Internet connections and many websites have sprung up offering to store, display and share your photos, often for free or at minimal cost. One of the most popular of these is Flickr, first launched in 2004. Its popularity stems from being extremely easy to use, with a very simple interface that lets users upload, sort and share photos with anyone else in the Flickr community, as well as hosting images for display on other websites.
Uploaded photos can be grouped into sets and collections, and can be set to be private or publicly viewable. Text tags can be added to pictures; to make searching for them easier, and comments can be added, either by the person uploading the photo, or in the case of public photos, by any other user. A recent addition is the ability to place photos on a zoomable map of the world, in what is becoming known as ‘geotagging’.
Users of Macintosh computers will be familiar with the Photo app, installed as standard (as part of the OS) on all new Mac computers. It shares many features with programs like Google Photos, including basic image editing, the ability to organise photos into albums and slide shows, as well as the option to upload images to the web, where they can be shared with your friends and family. If you’re mainly looking for somewhere to upload your photos for inclusion on a message board, or Internet forum, there are many other photo-hosting sites available, some offering a basic stripped-down service, while others offer more features, including shareable albums and a range of copy-and-paste tags for showing your pictures on web pages.
One popular image hosting site is Photobucket, which, like most, offers a basic free service with limited image sizes and storage capacity, as well as a premium account with unlimited uploads and larger file sizes. Sites of this type will often limit the length of time for which they will host images on free accounts and may also limit the bandwidth available for viewing each image, so if a lot of people view a particular photo it may suddenly disappear when the bandwidth limit is reached.
As the gap between cameras and other mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, grows ever narrower, more and more cameras are featuring the capability to upload pictures to social networking and image sharing sites directly from the camera itself, by connecting to a Wi-Fi network.
This is a great way to instantly share your pictures and offers the additional security that even if you are unfortunate enough to lose your camera, at least your pictures will be safe, backed up instantly and automatically via the web. It also means that you never have to worry about running out of storage space on your memory card.
Some manufacturers even provide a free image-sharing service as part of the package when you buy your camera. As free public Wi-Fi becomes widespread in city centres and other popular areas, this feature will become even more useful.
Your own web gallery
An increasing number of people are opting for a more permanent presence on the web, with their own personal website and photo gallery. Most Internet accounts come with an amount of free hosting space for a personal site and many also include basic tools to help get you started. As well as this there are a number of off-the-shelf programs available for home users, designed to take a lot of the hard work out of designing and uploading your own website.
Most popular photo-editing programs, including Photoshop Elements and Lightroom Classic CC have automated facilities for creating web albums, re-sizing and compressing images for faster uploading and viewing, and even creating interactive thumbnail galleries. When finished, the programs can export the HTML code (the programming language used to create web pages) and images in a format that can be uploaded to your web space.
While these programs aren’t as easy to use as ready-made image sharing solutions, such as Facebook, if you’re prepared to put in the effort to learn how to use them they do allow you to create a truly personal online gallery, which you can tailor to your own, needs, with results you can feel proud of.
Sharing in Facebook Albums
The past few years has seen an explosive growth in the popularity of social networking sites, particularly the ubiquitous Facebook, which has a well-designed and easy-to-use photo gallery section with a fast, browser-friendly, Java-based file uploader.
Photos on Facebook can be organised into albums and shared with your friends and other members of your social network, who can leave comments on them. Photos are automatically resized to approximately 600 x 450 and a file size of around 200KB for faster uploading and viewing, but prints can be ordered online via an optional Facebook app.