Animoto Quickstart Plays Nice With Other Sites and Services

Animoto, the unique, automatic video creation service, has announced a new service at WPPI today, called “Quickstart,” which will allow other photo and video sites or services to integrate seamlessly with Animoto.  White House Custom Colour, ProSelect and SmugMug are some of the key partners to sign on to use the new Quickstart service, and allow their users to initiate Animoto projects from their existing photo and video assets on those sites.

More details in the press release below. [Read more...]

SmugWallet (iPhone App) Review

While I like some apps on my iPhone, I have always stuck to the free apps.  I really hate being nickled and dimed for every little app that comes along.

Maybe it’s just the principle of it; however, I had never purchased an iPhone app until a couple of weeks ago, when a friend showed me some photos on his iPhone by using SmugWallet.  Instantly, I knew I had to get this app.

As you may know, I am an avid SmugMug user/evangelist.  It’s a service that works and is constantly improved upon by the founders.  You can always find someone to return your emails within a few minutes, and the SmugMug staff act like they really care.  SmugMug accounts start at $40/year.  You can get $5 off the first year by using a referral code (mine’s 7jCtURK05RxC if anyone is in need – in the interest of disclosure, I get a credit toward my annual fees as well).

Ok, so you know I like SmugMug and SmugWallet obviously has something to do with SmugMug.

Now, let’s get to the point of this discussion. [Read more...]

JPG Magazine Almost Dead . . . Almost

In a blog post on New Year’s Day, JPG Magazine called it quits:

We’ve spent the last few months trying to make the business behind JPG sustain itself, and we’ve reached the end of the line. We all deeply believe in everything JPG represents, but just weren’t able to raise the money needed to keep JPG alive in these extraordinary economic times. We sought out buyers, spoke with numerous potential investors, and pitched several last-ditch creative efforts, all without success. As a result, jpgmag.com will shut down on Monday, January 5, 2009.

There were several reactions to this news across the online photography community, with many people expressing their sadness to see JPG Magazine go.  However, Don MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug, reached out to JPG Magazine via Twitter, which is a social media communication tool.  This has sparked some reactionary comments and a feeling among many that JPG may be salvageable.  Others, however, would prefer to see it just die.

Today, TechCrunch reported that “the company is in the process of taking bids from interested buyers now, and there are already firm offers on the table which are attractive to the company’s current stockholders.”  It appears, however, that we won’t know the fate of JPG Magazine until some point next week at the earliest. Stay tuned.

SmugMug Announces SmugShot for Apple App Store

The wireless transfer of snapshot just got a whole lot easier.  With SmugShot, you can use your iPhone to seemlessly sync your photos with your SmugMug account as you take them.  We’ve seen similar offerings from the likes of Eye-Fi and even a Panasonic camera that uploads to Picasa via T-Mobile’s network.  This is just the beginning folks.  And, SmugMug just made another big step toward an integrated feature that I expect will become widespread across other devices and networks in the not-to-distant future.

As for the iPhone, I would expect SmugMug won’t be the last photo sharing site to offer this kind of integrated sharing application.  If they haven’t already, I would expect the likes of Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa to follow suit soon.  For more on the SmugShot news, see the press release below.  Additionally, if you’re not a SmugMug user, you can use the following referral code in the “Referred by” field for a $5 discount  ( 7jCtURK05RxCQ ) – there’s also a free trial period available.

Press Release

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – SmugMug today announces availability of SmugShot, a free application that lets you post your adventures online as they happen. SmugShot adds your location to iPhone photos, and sends them to SmugMug’s gorgeous online galleries, where they can be displayed on Google Maps.

It’s your dream trip to Hollywood and you’re dying to show your friends what you just saw, said Chris MacAskill, SmugMug’s co-founder. One click and a few seconds later, your friends see a photo of your gleaming smile onlineand a map that shows them you’re on Hollywood Boulevard.

SmugShot brings instant gratification to digital photography. No more storing photos on memory cards and waiting until your vacation ends to share them. No more wondering where the photos were taken. One click and your adoring fans can see the fun you’re having now, not a week from now when the moment passes. And they can follow the action by knowing where the photos are taken, making them feel a part of it all.

SmugMug to Enable Powerful Syncing

My favorite photo sharing service just got better.  I have been a staple SmugMug user for over 2 years now and have been most happy with their service.  On the few occasions that I needed to get in touch with someone, they have been back to me within hours of my initial email and, usually have any problems resolved without further inquiry on my part.  What’s more, I don’t recall my photos ever being off-line.  Enough of my ranting, check out the release below regarding SmugMug’s integration with MS Sync Framework.  (By the way, if you want to take SmugMug for a spin, you can use the following code for $5 off at sign up: 7jCtURK05RxCQ – as a disclosure, I get a credit against my account renewal too.)

PRESS RELEASE:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 3, 2008–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Online photo sharing site SmugMug announced tools today to make safe backup of photos simple. Now adding or modifying photos in one location, such as a desktop, can automatically add or modify them in many diverse locations and applications, such as SmugMugs online photo albums, laptops and handhelds.

SmugMugs integration with the Microsoft Sync Framework empowers SmugMugs thriving developer community to provide dynamic photo sharing across devices, such as electronic photo frames, and many applications, such as desktop photo editing & online photo sharing. When a customer adds such things as captions and keywords to photos, they can automatically be added wherever customers choose to synchronize.

Everyone loves to flaunt their photos and wants to keep them safe, said SmugMug President Chris MacAskill. Now they can add once and flaunt everywhere. And watch as theyre safely backed up online and copied to all their devices.

Online photo sites are becoming more popular every day. With the multitude of devices that people use to access and modify them, synchronization is a must, said Mark Jewett, Director SQL Server at Microsoft Corp. SmugMug has shown one of the many innovative ways that the Microsoft Sync Framework can be used to make people’s life easier.

For more about SmugMug, point your browser at www.smugmug.com.

About SmugMug

Since 2002, snap-shooters, passionate amateurs, and pro photographers have added more than 300 million photos and videos to SmugMug. Founded by son and father team Don and Chris MacAskill, SmugMug is the largest profitable independent photo sharing site. Its emphasis on beautiful displays and safe backup keep its sales almost doubling each year.

Product and service names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

SmugMug Adds Embedded Video

A few months ago, SmugMug added video capabilities to its repertoire of sharing features.  SmugMug has now followed up with embedding capabilities for a variety of video sizes including HD.  Don MacAskill gives the rundown on the new H.264 embedded format here

I’m a big SmugMug advocate. I’ve been nothing but thrilled with their photo hosting and sharing services. You can read more of my thoughts on an earlier Photography Bay post – 7 Alternatives to Flickr.

While SmugMug “demands video to be awesome”, I ran into a little bit of a lag issue on my aging iMac G5.  I have to say though, that the video quality looks great for a flash-based video. How’s the above video working for you (for both streaming and quality)?

If you decide to give SmugMug a try, you can use this code ( 7jCtURK05RxCQ ) in the ‘Referred by’ field on the signup form to save $5 from whatever account you sign up for. (Disclosure: I get a credit as well.)

7 Alternatives to Flickr

flickr_logo.jpgBefore we talk about what the alternatives to Flickr are, let’s first consider what flickr does for us. Flickr is great for sharing photos for free. It’s definately the biggest photo sharing community on the web.

The community features on Flickr are very deep and part of what makes Flickr so successful. Groups are one of the easy ways to get involved in the Flickr community. Groups revolve around a general topic that’s usually related to the kind of photos that users take or the kind of gear that they use. You can share your photos in the groups’ pools or engage in discussion in forums with the groups.

Still, there are some limitations to Fickr’s free accounts that detract from its usefulness. When you have a free Flickr account, you can upload 100MB worth of photos each calendar month. This is a bandwidth limit, and not an amount of space that you have on Flickr servers.

Flickr also allows you to create sets for photos from a particular event or just photos that you want grouped together. I’ve put together sets for things like the 2007 Tour de Georgia and 2007 NORBA Showdown at Sugar. With a free Flickr account you’re limited to only 3 sets.

If you spring for the pro account at $24.95 per year, you get a whole lot more:

  • Unlimited uploads (10MB per photo)
  • Unlimited storage
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited photosets
  • Archiving of high-resolution original images
  • The ability to replace a photo
  • Post any of your photos in up to 60 group pools
  • Ad-free browsing and sharing

Considering what you get, this is quite a bargain. For some reason, I’ve never upgraded. Perhaps it’s because Smugmug is my service of choice. Before we get into that though, let’s take a look at the other alternatives to Flickr.

deviant-art.jpgDeviantART is probably less like Flickr than any of the other alternatives listed here. Check out what’s been popular lately at DeviantART.

As you can see, DeviantART is more of an art community than a photo sharing site. And it is a very active community with tons of chat rooms and forums to chime in on. You’ll even find a forum dedicated to reports of other’s who ripoff an artist’s work.

Part of DeviantART’s mission:

Most importantly we intend to take our time to do it right. For the first time in history there is connection and communication between artists and fans on a massive scale. deviantART represents a breakthrough for the promotion and exposure of otherwise stranded artists in all corners of the globe. Our job is to make sense of the possibility, and craft it in a responsible manner.

DeviantART offers both free and Choice memberships. The Choice membership is $29.95 per year and offers a number of upgrades:

  • Get up to 120 Deviations per page when browsing
  • Browse with No Ads
  • Browse Way Back all the way to 2000
  • Customize 20 slots on your front page
  • Download art to your Mobile Phone with deviantMOBILE
  • Make journals with Polls, Forum, Shoutbox, and even CSS

If you have crazy Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator skills or you use some other program to manipulate your photos extensively, then the DeviantART community may be for you.

Zooomr reminds me a lot of Flickr. It has many of the same photo sharing features, like SmartSets (think Flickr sets, but smarter) and Groups. Additionally, with Zooomr you get unlimited bandwidth, file storage and uploading and . . . it’s all free. One thing Zooomr does that Flickr doesn’t is the Zipline. Basically, Zipline allows you to keep in touch with what your contacts are doing, as they’re doing it. Uploading is also simpler with Zooomr. The interface is as intuitive as a Mac and you get great and simple visual feedback on your uploads, file by file.

You can also get a pro account with Zooomr. While you can’t do any better than unlimited for your photo sharing options, you’ll get some increased functionality from Zooomr’s social aspects.

Zooomr also has a more liberal stance on censorship issues than we’ve seen in the past at Flickr:

  1. Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
  2. The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
  3. The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
  4. Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
  5. Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
  6. The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.

If Zooomr looks like your thing, add me as a contact when you join.

fotki.jpg Fotki seems like it’s really trying to outdo Flickr, and may be succeeding in some areas. While Fotki is easy to use, it has a lot of different options that can be overwhelming at first. One rather popular feature that’s prominent on the front page is free unlimited photo hosting for websites, blogs, emails and auctions.

For sharing, the free account is a little limited with only 50MB of storage space. Move up to the $30 pro account and you get unlimited storage space for your shared photos. Additionally, premium users can use Fotki as a selling platform, and Fotki only takes a 15% cut from prices that you set. Also, it’s one of the few photo hosting sites to offer its members FTP access.

You can order your own photos from Fotki for as little as $.09 for a 4×6 print. And there’s always an abundance of photo contests going on for members to participate in. Every premium user also gets a Journal, which is essentially a Fotki user’s blog.

pbase.jpgPBase does not offer a free account option. You get 500MB of storage for $23 per year and you can get 1500MB for $60 per year. Additional storage can be added at any time in increments of 500MB. You can create an unlimited number of galleries from your photos stored on PBase’s servers.

PBase offers StatCounter, Google Analytics and Extreme Tracking capabilities for each of your galleries. There is also a PBase forum community that users can participate in. PBase users also publish a professional looking magazine, aptly named PBase Magazine, that has a pretty cool history.

I’ve never used PBase, but I see a number of users in photography forums that are PBase zealots. It strikes me as a cult-ish (in a good, “Apple” kind of way) community that you’ve got to be in to understand. If you’ve got more input on it, please feel free to drop in a comment.

Photobucket is a media management site for photos and video. It allows one click publishing to sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and Xanga. It is clearly geared toward the social media user. You can use Photobucket to create slideshows of photos and video mashups.

There’s a 1GB space limit for images and video clips in free accounts. That’s not much when you consider file sizes of photos these days. Additionally, free accounts are limited to 25GB of monthly bandwidth. That’s quite a lot bandwidth for photos; however, I’m not sure how long that would hold up if you’ve got a lot of video clips on there.

Gotcha’s for free accounts:

Uploaded Image files must be 1 MB or less. Images with a display size up to 17 screen (1024 x 768 pixels) can also be uploaded without a file size limit. Image files will be resized to meet the Photobucket constraints.

Uploaded Videos must be 5 minutes or less in play length and 100 MB or less in file size. Videos longer than 5 minutes will be truncated to meet the Photobucket time constraints.

For the Photobucket strip, show, and collage Slideshows, only 10 images may be loaded at a time per Slideshow. For Photobucket stamps, users may have between 4 and 16 images depending on selected size.

That’s some pretty harsh limitations for anyone serious about photography. However, you can go pro for $25 per year, which gives you 5GB of storage space and “unmetered” bandwidth (presumably, that means unlimited). Pro users also get FTP uploading capabilities. Image size is capped at 5MB for pro users. Canon 5D users need not apply here (Converted RAW images from my Rebel XT frequently exceed 5MB).

In sum, Photobucket is a great site if you’re into posting low-res images on your social media pages or personal blog; however, serious photographers would be better served by paying their annual dues to Flickr or one of the other alternatives.

Photo.net is very different from Flickr. Where Flickr is very much a one-size-fits-all service, Photo.net will likely only appeal to serious photographers. It is a huge community of amateur and professional photographers with a variety of skill levels and photographic experiences.

You can upload your photos and submit them for comment and critique. Likewise, you can comment and critique fellow photographers’ submissions. You get your own gallery to post photos into. You get a few more features by making a $20 donation each year.

Additionally, you can participate in the very active (and moderated) forums. I’ve learned a lot from photo.net over the past couple of years. I still find myself reading the forums and asking the occasional question when I need some advice on a particular matter. If you’re new to photography or you simply want to learn more, photo.net is probably one of the better online resources out there.

smug-mug.jpgSmugMug is my personal favorite for sharing and hosting images on the web. There’s no free plan to choose from; however, it is well worth the price of admission for me. The basic user plan is $39.95 per year. Power user accounts are $59.95 per year. Pro accounts are $149.95 per year. You can see the differences in the features here.

SmugMug keeps 4 backup copies of each photo in 3 states. You get unlimited storage in all plans. Your can see your photos without registering, and without spam. The handful of times that I’ve needed to contact support, they’ve gotten back to me with a real answer within minutes.

Pro users (I’m one) get the ability to sell photos and set their own prices. I don’t sell a lot of photos; however, I share tons. I use SmugMug to share photos on this blog and with friends and family. I can make galleries private or password protected and even limit the size of photos that are viewable by others. SmugMug also allows you to employ right-click protection to keep the pervasive use of downloading curbed. I know there are ways around it, but it’s not as easy to do as Flickr.

The print quality that you get from SmugMug is surprisingly good. Printing is outsourced through EZ Prints and you get the option to use auto-enhancing or your own true color adjustments. It’s not on par with the likes of MyPhotopipe.com, but it beats the heck out of Wal-Mart.

If you think more polished look of SmugMug is your cup of tea, you can use this code ( 7jCtURK05RxCQ ) in the ‘Referred by’ field on the signup form to save $5 from whatever account you sign up for. (Disclosure: I get a credit as well.)

Conclusion

This post isn’t meant to draw Flickr users away, but to share some sites that have a little different take on things. I love Flickr. I’ve had a Flickr account longer than other web-based photo account/membership. That said, I hope this post has opened your eyes to some useful alternatives to Flickr. This is by no means an exhaustive listing of all the photo sharing sites out there. If you’ve got other sites that you use, feel free to drop in a comment and give the rest of us an overview of what makes your site a good alternative to Flickr.