Digital Photos: Print Them, Share Them, Perfect Them
Some of the sites offer free downloadable software that ties in to their services but also works in stand-alone use. We compare the software in our next section, and consider the site features here.
We liked how most of the sites let you drag and drop images from Windows Explorer, but we weren't big fans of having to browse for files with Snapfish's interface. Shutterfly speeds the process by starting an upload as soon as you select an image, allowing you to browse for more while it's working; the other services wait until you've chosen a batch of images and clicked a start button. All the sites also offer browser plug-ins for uploading multiple files at once.
Once your pics are stored, you can label them with captions, organize them into albums, and view them as slide shows. We liked that AOL and Yahoo let you assign keywords for searching and viewing photos across albums. Kodak and Snapfish lack search capabilities entirely, which could be a problem as you build up a trove of pictures over the years. However, you can mark your favorites at all the sites, so they're easy to find again.
Retrieve Full-Size Pics
Until recently you couldn't freely download a full-size image once it was on a site. Both AOL and Yahoo now allow you to pull down the full image, essentially turning both sites into free online photo storage and backup. You can pay for full-size downloads with Snapfish and get them with Kodak's premium service, but if you want them from Shutterfly, you must order an archive CD. In addition, AOL, Kodak, and Snapfish each provide a browser plug-in that outputs the full images directly to a home printer without downloading the original photo.
AOL, Shutterfly, and Yahoo keep your pics indefinitely, but you'll need to order at least one item a year from Kodak and Snapfish or they'll delete your collection.
Two sites make limited use of the EXIF information that digital cameras embed into their images to record when and how you took them. Shutterfly uses the date in its initial caption, and you can search for photos taken in a given date range. Yahoo shows you the camera make and model, and some of the settings used, but tends to screw up the date: Sometimes it's a particular day in 1969, for instance.
For editing, each site lets you rotate and crop, remove red-eye, and apply effects such as black-and-white or sepia. Shutterfly is the only one without an online auto-fix tool for balancing contrast and color. You can apply decorative borders to your images with all except AOL; however, AOL does display a full-size image to make editing easier, and its one-click red-eye removal worked well.
You'll need to direct Shutterfly to the right part of the picture to fix red-eye, but it helps by enlarging the area you initially select for more-precise work. Kodak, Snapfish, and Yahoo are trickier, because you must select the area to correct on a small, unzoomed copy of the image.
Show the World
To share your shots, you can e-mail invites to view certain albums from any of the sites, and AOL, Shutterfly, and Yahoo also let you designate public albums for everyone to see. Kodak no longer forces invitees to log in, but you will need to deselect the option when you send invite e-mail. With Shutterfly and Snapfish you can make free personalized URLs along the lines of "smithfamily.shutterfly.com." Kodak offers the same feature, but only in its premium service.
- See the most current Top Photo Sharing Sites chart, or click the icon below to see the photo sites chart from the January 2007 issue of PC World magazine.