I have a problem–a couple, actually. I’m terrible at getting pictures off my camera’s memory card and even worse at uploading them to the web. This problem has existed as long as I’ve owned a camera. That’s not what I need advice on.
I’m looking for online photo hosts don’t suck. Over the past couple of years my photo hosting has entered a fuzzy state of transition. The obvious answer is to do it myself, but I don’t have the technical chops and hosting all those images myself might not be practical. I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, the list of things I want in my dream photo host, whether it’s in the cloud or self-provided.
1. Unlimited photo storage, both in photo size and quantity, or at least a limit large enough that I don’t have to worry for a very long time. Example: I have a folder from my trip to France in 2008 that contains nearly a gigabyte of photos. Those alone would shatter uploading and storage limits on many sites.
2. The ability to group photos into sets, sets of sets, etc.
3. The ability to tag photos.
4. A user-friendly interface in uploading photos, modifying photo information, and site navigation.
5. A way to batch-upload photos. If there’s a way to do it from the command line I will love it forever.
6. Ways to search your photos by tag, date uploaded, date taken, and security level. More on the last part in the next point.
7. Security settings for photos. I want to be able to use my photo collection as a personal archive and a backup system. Ideally the following security levels would exist: public (viewable to everyone), private (viewable only to me), and viewable only to those with the URL. If the ideal photo host is a website that I don’t own, then I’m open to more security levels. Those three are essential.
8. The ability to upload and download photos easily. Easy sharing, basically.
9. Photo URLs of reasonable length.
Those are the big things. There are small things, but as I haven’t thought of them by this point, I can probably live without them until I think of them.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Get a Flickr Pro account and use it.” I have a Flickr account, and it was a pro account for awhile. Then the lack of job meant that the twenty-five bucks per year for a Flickr Pro account became too much to justify. In many ways, Flickr is what I’ve been modeling my perfect photo host after, but there are several I’m keeping my options open. If you don’t have a pro account, your options are limited. I have over a thousand photos in my account now, but you can’t see all of them since I don’t have a pro account. If I upgrade again you’ll be able to see them. Flickr is also owned by Yahoo. I’m not sure if I want to trust a company on shaky grounds with my archives, especially after accidentally deleted an entire account with 4,000 photos. Sure, the account was restored, but do I really want to put all my trust there, knowing this could happen?
Most online photo hosts are terrible, whether in terms of how much you can host or usability. I have a Photobucket account and a Twitpic account, but Photobucket’s limits are way less than what I’m looking for and Twitpic is designed for sharing pictures for Twitter (another thing I’m trying to consolidate). And before you ask, I’m not using Picasa or Facebook. Both Picasa and Facebook have URLs of ridiculous length, Picasa’s storage limit is combined with Gmail’s (and I already store a lot in Gmail), and I refuse to use Facebook photos for a number of reasons, among them a desire to separate my online and offline identities to some degree.
Another option that doesn’t involve doing it myself is using LiveJournal’s scrapbook service. I have fifteen gigabytes of space to spare there, and I’ve hardly put a dent in it. Besides the fact that the interface is mediocre at best and frustrating at worst, there are several cons to this:
1. The connection. Yes, my username is exactly what you think it is, but the site is more personal for me. Why connect what doesn’t need to be?
2. What will happen to the site in the future? There’s currently no easy way to back up the photos that I know of, though I haven’t looked too hard.
3. Who’s going to remember pics.livejournal.com?
Then there’s doing it myself. Coppermine is the main method for self-hosting unless anyone knows a great way of letting WordPress do the heavy lifting. A neutral point is having to maintain it myself, which is only a little more work than I’m doing now. The big con is that I’m currently using a pay for what you use webhost, and the storage fees for the number of photos I’d be storing would make moving to a new (and probably more costly) webhost more practical. This isn’t financially practical at this point. One big con for Coppermine based on my limited browsing is that the URLs are ugly. This may or may not be fixable, but I’d much have pretty and stable URLs. I’m also not sure if Coppermine supports tags and custom security levels, among other things.
Advice, dear Internet?