Online Photos Can Be a Snap!

Your kid ought to be in pictures. And music videos and business cards and books.


There is so much that parents can do now with digital photography, from sharing pictures with friends across the globe to publishing a custom hardcover book. Much of it has also become easier than ever to navigate as the technology powering it has become more sophisticated. Whereas a few years ago editing photos might have required expensive software – and years of training – nowadays it’s simply a few clicks, no tutorial needed.


And who better to benefit from these advances than time-strapped parents?


“They’re growing up so fast,” says Erica Smith, mother of twin 28-month-old boys in Crockett. She uses her iPhone and applications such as Cropulator and Rotator to take photos of her children, edit them immediately on her phone and upload and share them on Facebook, which, incidentally, is one of the most popular photo-sharing sites, even though it doesn’t bill itself as one. “I’m trying to capture the absolute essence of their joy and emotion at this age, since six months down the line, it’s going to be totally different.”


Online photo sites that help parents organize and display their photos are a big hit with parents. According to comScore, a marketing research company that tracks Web sites, these sites drew 91 million views in May. Sites such as Kodak Gallery, Snapfish and Shutterfly draw users who want to upload their photos and turn them into prints, personalized mugs, books and other gifts. Members can also share their albums online with friends, though their friends need to join to see the pictures. 


A newer crop of Web 2.0 sites such as Flickr, SmugMug and Photobucket have also emerged, allowing users to easily share photos with the online community and do even more, such as create professional-looking photo montages set to music and post them on their blogs. One True Media even lets parents put together a slide show that they can share through TiVo, so that friends and family can watch it on their televisions hundreds of miles away. 


Louis Gray, father of 1-year-old twins in Sunnyvale, shares photos of his children on SmugMug and Flickr. He’s integrated them with another service called FriendFeed so that each time he adds a new photo, it alerts his friends on a number of sites such as Facebook and his blog.


Through Moo, an online printing service that works with Flickr, Facebook and other sites, Gray also made customized business cards with a photo of his children on the back. “Now the big race is to give the cards away,” he says, before his children become older and change.


Here are a few sites to consider:


Web site:


Cost: Free for a 30-second video, $3 for a longer, single video or $30 for the year, additional $5 per DVD-quality download.


How it works: Animoto takes the guesswork out of producing a photo slide show. Upload an album of photos from your computer or direct Animoto to your online photos (Flickr, Photobucket and SmugMug are among its partners) and select a song from its library or upload your own tune. Animoto takes it from there.


Using what it calls “cinematic artificial intelligence,” Animoto creates a video with your photos, matching the pace and presentation of the pictures with the music. Brad Jefferson, CEO and co-founder of Animoto and a father of a 17-month-old in Oakland, says its technology analyzes the song’s tempo, dynamics and other factors to customize the video. Those who have painstakingly edited a slide show by hand can appreciate how Animoto’s technology automates the process. “We do the heavy lifting,” Jefferson says.


Once it’s completed, you can share the video online on your blog, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. You can also download it and burn it onto a DVD for an additional $5 per video.


For now, Animoto only produces photo montages, but it plans to introduce the ability to incorporate video clips later this year. It also has an iPhone application that lets users create short slide shows directly on their cell phone. 


Web site:


Cost: Free for the basic service, $3.99 a month or $39.99 per year for a premium membership and access to more special effects, a larger music library and additional storage.


How it works: Like Animoto, One True Media lets you create a slide show with music that you can share online and on a DVD. The service puts together the basic video for you but hands you the tools to customize it further, such as adding special effects and animation and picking how you transition from one photo to the next.


Parents have used the site to produce video party invitations and video greeting cards. The site offers themed templates – birthdays, birth announcements and so forth – that you can personalize.


Web site:


Cost: Free for two videos and 100 MB of photos per month; $24.95 a year for unlimited uploads and additional sharing privileges.


How it works: Flickr, owned by Yahoo, is an active online photo community. Once you upload a photo, you can tag it with keywords so that it comes up in a search or add it to a pool of photos about the same subject. If you throw your child a birthday party, you can also create an online group to collect all the photos in one place. Parenting blogs such as ParentDish and Rice Daddies also have a Flickr group that readers can join and share pictures of their children with other readers. And you can comment on photos and add headlines and captions. 


Like other photo-hosting sites, you can store and organize your photos on Flickr, as well as chose to share them only with friends and family. Through partnerships with printing services such as Moo, Blurb and Qoop, you can also publish assorted business cards, wrapping paper, stickers and books.


What stands out about Flickr is just how many other Web sites incorporate it. Many blogging and social-networking sites, for example, let you grab photos from Flickr so that you don’t have to upload a photo over and over again.


Web site:


Cost: Free.


How it works: Picasa is part of Google’s growing empire of online tools. There is an online component that lets you share your album of photos on the Web, as well as software that you download onto your computer that lets you edit and organize your photos and video clips. It partners with outside companies such as Snapfish and Walgreens to print your photos and collages.    


Web site:


Cost: Free for 1 GB of storage, $3.95 a month or $39.95 a year for 10 GB of storage, higher photo resolutions and longer slide shows.


How it works: Photobucket is a popular photo-sharing site owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Interactive Media, the same company that owns MySpace. Like other photo sites, you can store, organize and share your photos online.


You can also tweak your photos, decorating them with stickers, drawing on them or distorting them as though you’re looking into a fun-house mirror. 


Photobucket has also added other features such as creating an online scrapbook or montage with your photos that you can publish elsewhere online.


With all these photo tools at our disposal, it’s now up to us to actually take the pictures!


Ellen Lee is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and mother of a 10-month-old daughter.




Most Popular Photo Sites


  1. Facebook
  2. Photobucket
  3. Flickr
  4. Picasa Network
  6. Kodak Gallery
  7. Shutterfly
  8. SnapFish
  9. ImageShack
  10. Windows Live Photos

 Source: comScore Media Metrix

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