The Imaging Resource
By MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
It was just after Thanksgiving dinner. We leaned back in our chair. Too experienced to actually tilt it back on its hind legs we just slumped and, as Billy Collins the poet says, "the lion of contentment ... placed a warm, heavy paw on my chest." Big smile and nobody to take our picture.
C O N T E N T S
But it doesn't take long for that lion to stir. About the time it takes coffee to brew, actually.
"Cream? Sugar?" our adorable sister-in-law asked.
"Black," we tried to thwart her. "Hey, let me do the dishes," we despaired.
You know what we were avoiding. Promising pictures. We like to see our shots on our monitor, but when it comes to sharing, there's only one chair.
According to the market research firm InfoTrends, the median number of prints made at home per month is just 10. For two reasons. It isn't automatic or quick. And with only three percent of consumers using retailers to process prints, according to the Photo Marketing Association, dropping your images off for photo finishing isn't the solution either.
With the holidays upon us, what's to save us from the lions?
PROBLEM, SOLUTION | Back to Contents
As long as we've been doing this digitally (1998), we've only known two ways out.
The first is a circus act. You put on a CD (it was Louis Prima belting out "Please No Squeeza Da Banana" this time) and run a slide show on the TV or your laptop. Enlarge certain noses. Linger on embarrassing moments. Once is usually enough to scare everybody off. Especially when they realize there are 128 pictures (or so), not to mention movies.
But the best way to handle this (for everybody) is to outsource it. Online photo sharing, we mean, where you upload images and interested parties view them and order their own prints without ever having to bug you about them. And that isn't a secret (as we wrote a year ago last June when we were attending graduations every weekend).
So we're a little surprised online photo sharing hasn't turned into a way of life. In fact, we can count on a couple of knuckles the family members who indulge. Far more of them email their pictures to us -- which requires rescheduling the rest of our day while we wait for the download. One of them intermittently puts up images on a personal Web site, but that's a chore for the weekend (after all the other chores).
"Uncle Mike!" came a cry from the living room from the resident MP3 importer. "Can we upload your pix to Club Photo?"
"Bless you," we blubbered or something as sentimental. "But, Joey, why don't you show everybody how easy it is?" Teach a man to fish and he won't bother you at Thanksgiving.
FISHING 101 | Back to Contents
Subscriber Karen Pierce recently shared an interesting chart comparing online photofinishers (http://www.andromeda.com/people/ddyer/photo/albums.html) at the Andromeda site. There are quite a few to choose from.
And they tend to resemble each other in just how you make use of them. To distinguish them, we recommend you pay attention to print quality (which you can judge for yourself with their free offers) and extra services.
It would be, well, injudicious to try to tour all of them now (like wine tastings, come to think of it), so we'll just take the Club Photo tour. We like Club Photo for its very clean interface and its incomparable output options (which include jewelry and baked goods). They also let you keep an email address book online.
So bring your camera over here and let's do it.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST | Back to Contents
Once you've copied your images from your camera (or scanned them) to your Web-enabled computer (which you do all the time anyway), you're ready for step one. You can also send film to Club Photo for processing and digitizing.
Decide which images you want to, well, publish.
Yes, publish. You're sending these babies out into the world for other people to have printed. So choose carefully. This isn't a roll of film, after all. You get to apply a little intelligence. Skip the bad ones.
Once you know what you want to put online, take a second look at them. Any red-eye? Would a crop save the image?
Don't get too picky here because you're really into mass production, assembly-line photo finishing. If you have a special image, certainly do give it the time it deserves, but don't think you have to edit every single shot.
Most firms provide some editing tools you can use either remotely or locally, but use the tool you can always use: your image editor. What good is it to learn how to eliminate red-eye at Ofoto when you decide you really want to make chocolate squares at Club Photo? Using your own software gives you that freedom.
UPSTREAM TO SPAWN | Back to Contents
The most difficult step in the process is uploading your images. And only because it takes a while. So multi-task. Plan something else to do while you are uploading. And remind yourself that once you've endured the tedium of uploading, you're almost finished.
To upload to Club Photo, visit the home page using this special link (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?fcp). If you're new, register. Otherwise, log in by typing your email address and password. Club Photo sets a cookie to remember you the next time you visit.
Club Photo's Home Page
There's no cost to upload your photos for others to view, incidentally. But if you don't upgrade your membership (http://www.clubphoto.com/memberservices/premium_info.php for details), your online album will expire in 90 days. A status line accompanying each album tells you exactly how many days it will remain on the server.
Notice that you can also get an overview of the service by clicking on the Learn More button. And the Help option at the top of the screen leads you to extensive Frequently Asked Questions pages.
The Help Menu
IN LIKE FLYNN | Back to Contents
Once in, you'll see the My Albums page. Albums are simply folders or directories on the server in which you store your images and their thumbnails.
My Albums Page
To create an album, click on the New Album option, give it a name and decide whether or not it should have password protection. Since a password is one more impediment to seeing your images, don't bother unless the subject matter is somehow sensitive.
Create an Album
Use Club Photo's Add Pictures upload page to tag your local image files for transfer to your new online album. The Browse button saves you from typing the filename.
Upload Pictures From Your Browser
There are many different ways to transmit images to a remote host. Most online photofinishers provide one or another alternate method for transmitting images, including Photoshop plug-ins and standalone software. Club Photo offers both.
Club Photo Software
But unless you are going to do business with just one firm, it can be counterproductive to learn proprietary software for transmitting images. Nothing is much faster, anyway and speed is the real problem. So we prefer to simply suffer with the browser method. Mac users tend not to have much choice in the matter, but Windows users can do much of their organizing off line.
PRESENTATION | Back to Contents
Your album is what visitors will see, so give it some attention. That may involve no more than reordering images (chronologically or in family groups, for example). Club Photo makes it easy to move an image. Just select it and click on the position you want it to appear.
Editing an Album
Rotate any images with the wrong orientation (although this is something that you should already have done).
And caption your images. A brief caption can make visitors feel at home, introducing them to people they may not know or have forgotten. Who knows, years from now your caption may be the only identification of some of the people in your shots.
Eschew fancy borders and backgrounds. The image is the thing everyone should be interested in. But you can often do better than the default font.
And, remember, nothing is final. You can always change things by clicking on the Edit Album option on your My Albums page. You can add pictures or change the album title, style or password. You can also edit the captions any time you like.
NOTIFICATION | Back to Contents
Once you've set up your album, it's time to tell everyone about it. And to tell anyone, you need their email address.
Club Photo makes it painless to import your address book from your browser or email application. It can read Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express and Yahoo Mail formats. And soon Palm Desktop, too, we're told. You can also add names one at a time.
Import Your Email Addresses
Then just visit the Share with Family & Friends page. One simple note can be sent to everyone on the list, sparing them long downloads of emailed images.
Import Your Email Addresses
Just fill in an individual email address or tell Club Photo to use your Address Book. Your name and email address are automatically entered. Edit the subject, if you like and add a short message describing the subject of your album.
You can also tell Club Photo to email a link to a particular photo.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON | Back to Contents
Sites vary in how they present your album. Some use a slide show presentation. Others use a lightbox motif. Whatever they do, make sure it works. Can't tell you how many Java slide shows simply hang, frustrating everyone.
Dave has set up a couple of sample albums. Take a look at his page at: http://www.clubphoto.com/reward.php?id=132313&mid=members4_david72827&pwd=
Note that the link fits in a single line, so email programs won't break it, making it impossible for some people to use. Not all sites are as bright as Club Photo about that.
Inside Dave's Album
Screen display is wonderful, but it should also be easy for your visitors to get prints. After all, your album may not always be online. And, no, they can't just capture your image from their browser, which is only displaying a low-res version.
PRINTS | Back to Contents
Club Photo gives you and your guests the widest range of possible print options we've ever seen. Whether you want single or multiple prints in any of several sizes, they've got it. And inexpensively. A 4x6 for 45 cents, a 5x7 for 99 cents or an 8x10 for $3.99.
You can even have it framed and shipped anywhere you like.
And if you want to outsource your custom gift making, they can put your image on clothing, jewelry, office products like mouse pads and even baked goods.
... and More
ARCHIVE | Back to Contents
As the owner of your album you have one special privilege not granted ordinary mortals. You can order an Archive CD.
Put Your Albums on CD
Your high-resolution images, their thumbnails and album pages (including album descriptions and image captions) are all stored on the CD, organizing your images for quick retrieval long after your online album expires. And just in case you don't have any other offsite backup.
A WIDER AUDIENCE | Back to Contents
Club Photo also encourages album creators to publish their work in their Gallery. Drop by the Gallery to see what other digital imagers are doing these days.
CONCLUSION | Back to Contents
So upload, organize, email and in a day or two your inbox will be full of thank you notes for making your wonderful pictures available. And you can tilt back in your chair and purr like that lion of contentment yourself.
Images and text copyright © 2001 by The Imaging Resource unless otherwise noted