A review of photo-sharing Web sites in the Aug. 7 Business section incorrectly said that Snapfish (www.snapfish.com) does not offer an easy way to copy e-mail addresses out of contact lists on a computer. The site allows users of the Windows version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to copy addresses from Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail programs. (Published 8/18/2005)
It can be difficult to share your photos online -- not because there are so few sites offering picture-sharing services, but because there are so many. And most offer the same basic features, including free uploading of all the photos you want, simple editing tools you can run from within a Web browser and a wide range of print sizes.
But among five of the most popular photo-sharing sites -- Kodak EasyShare Gallery (www.kodakgallery.com), Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com), Snapfish (www.snapfish.com), Webshots (www.webshots.com) and Yahoo Photos (photos.yahoo.com) -- a few key differences emerge in such areas as their prices, how you can upload photos and what sort of photo-based gifts you can create.
Depending on which site you shop at, you can wind up paying more than twice as much for a print as you could have paid elsewhere. A 4-by-6 print goes for 12 cents at Snapfish, 19 cents at Yahoo Photos, 24 cents at Webshots, 25 cents at Kodak and 29 cents at Shutterfly. But an 8-by-10 costs $3.99 at Kodak and Shutterfly, $3.49 at Webshots, $2.99 at Snapfish, and $1.99 at Yahoo. (Even Yahoo's low rate, however, may exceed what you'd pay to print out an 8-by-10 on a color inkjet printer using glossy photo paper.)
All of these sites offer easy and hard ways to get photos from your computer to their servers. The hard way is to transfer one photo at a time via your Web browser; the easy way is to use some downloadable program to send an entire folder of shots at once.
Kodak's EasyShare Gallery -- called Ofoto until recently -- does well in this respect. It offers free picture-upload software for both Windows and Mac OS X. (Mac users can also order Kodak prints through Apple's iPhoto program, although that does not include Kodak's free Web hosting of pictures.)
Shutterfly and Snapfish compare well with EasyShare Gallery, offering almost the same range of uploading options. All three sites double as mail-in processing labs for users of film cameras; you can mail in your exposed roll and get back prints and negatives, with your photos already online.
Webshots' uploading software, however, is suitable only for Windows (given the obsolescence of its Mac version). Some of its features are restricted to users who pay for "Premium Access," which fits in with the way Webshots gets a little pushy with its marketing when you open an account. Yahoo's photo-upload tool runs only in Microsoft Internet Explorer. And mailing in film isn't an option at either site.
Once you have your pictures on one of these sites, you have to decide what to do with them besides order prints that can range from wallet- to wall-size. All these sites allow you to put your photos on such personalized gifts as T-shirts and coffee mugs, but some go a little further. Kodak, Snapfish and Shutterfly, for example, offer coffee-table-size photo books.
Snapfish seems to offer the widest variety overall; we counted almost 80 personalized photo products, from teddy bears to boxer shorts. Yahoo comes close with such options as chef's aprons, jigsaw puzzles, tote bags and coasters.
One of the more interesting aspects of online photo sharing is how many people seem content to view pictures only online, without ordering prints. But if your friends and family don't get an invitation to view your photos, they'll never know to look. So it helps when a site makes it easy to bring over e-mail addresses.
Kodak, Snapfish and Webshots get this wrong, offering no simple mechanism to copy whatever contacts list is on your computer. You'll have to copy over e-mail addresses from your computer's address book to each site, one at a time.
Yahoo is easier to work with. First, it's integrated with Yahoo's other personalized services; if you use Yahoo's free Web-mail service, you get the same address book in Yahoo Photos. Second, it imports three types of standard contacts-list files used by such programs as Outlook, Palm Desktop, Netscape, Mozilla and Thunderbird.
Shutterfly, however, does best of all: It provides directions for copying contacts from Outlook, Outlook Express, Palm Desktop, Mac OS X's Address Book, Microsoft Entourage and the Mac version of Eudora.
So which service to use? Snapfish is the cheapest now, but that could easily change in a month. Yahoo is an easy call if you already use Yahoo's mail service, but feels thin otherwise. Kodak and Shutterfly offer a good balance of features, but charge a bit too much. If one of these services could borrow just a few things from its competitors, this choice would be much easier.
Until then, the decision may come down to something as simple as picking whatever site most of your friends use.