Send photos online

With the advances made in digital photography and the Internet the past few months, it has never been faster, cheaper or easier to share pictures with your loved ones around the world.

You’ll need to buy or rent some basic equipment, such as a digital camera or a scanner. You can also use the facilities of an Internet café or a photo shop. Here’s what you need to get started:

Digital camera
Digital cameras are the cheapest, fastest way to take pictures to share via the Internet. Prices have been plummeting while quality improves with every passing month.

While prices average around $600 to $800 dollars for medium-quality digital cameras, there are some low-resolution digital cameras that can be purchased for as little as a hundred dollars. While the images these cameras take aren’t capable of producing true photo-quality prints like their more expensive cousins, they do produce images that are the perfect size for sharing through the Internet.

Scanner
Even if you don’t have a digital camera, you can still start sharing pictures online right away. You can buy a flatbed scanner, a device that you ho up to your computer, which ‘scans’ or converts your printed picture into digital images that you store on your computer. Good quality flatbed scanners are widely available for around one hundred dollars.

You can also step out to a local ‘Internet Café’ and rent a computer with a scanner for a few dollars per hour. Your children or grandchildren may have access to one at school. There are even online services that will develop your film, scan your pictures and put them online for you.

Sending pictures
There are a number of options, but the smartest solution is to join a web-based ‘photo-community”. These are web pages that give away free space where you can share and store your photos.

Once you upload your files, you can set them to be shared with the public, or just with friends and family. Black’s Photography has a photo-community section on its web site, for example.
 
The best feature of the photo-community is that you don’t have to know a thing about making web pages. They do the work for you. You don’t have to download any special software. All you have to do is fill out a form, upload the file right through the form on the web page, and you immediately have a beautiful online photo gallery you can share with your loved ones.

When you sign up with a photo-community, you’ll be able to share pictures with your family members no matter where they live in the world, and regardless of the kind of Internet service they use.

Special effects
At the PhotoIsland site you don’t even need to have imaging software installed on your home computer. You can use their software right on the web site to edit, modify or add special effects to your pictures.

If you don’t have an expensive program like PhotoShop (or the time to learn to use it), you can use their easy image manipulation tools right on the web site.

There are photo-montage, warp, morphing, painting, correction and other special effects tools. PhotoIsland also offers a wide range of novelty gifts you can make with your pictures. You can have a T-shirt, cap, mug, photo note-cube, puzzles, clocks, photo cards and other gifts made to order.

Some of these sites, like eCircles, allow you to set up a whole little community including chat boards, electronic greeting cards and message centres. Many sites like Ofoto offer you the ability to order photo-quality prints from your digital images – or to arrange for film developing that includes a set of digital pictures.

CafePress lets you put your photos put on t-shirts, cups, and mousepads that you can sell to others online. Zing.com even has shortbread cookies with your photo sprayed on in edible ink!

Some caution
No matter how many heart-warming examples you see on TV commercials of people emailing pictures of new babies, don’t try to send digital photos as e-mail attachments. With all the talk about e-mail viruses these days, you may find that your loved ones don’t want to open your pictures.

Even though picture files cannot transmit a virus, many people now erase all unsolicited attachments just to be on the safe side.

There are other problems with e-mailing photos. If your friends and family are using a free web-based e-mail system like Hotmail or WebTV, they have small storage spaces for incoming email.

One large picture can crash their storage space, and corrupt or even destroy their email. Sometimes, you may have incompatible e-mail readers. Your file could end up being converted into something that looks like a long ugly text file at the other end.

Many photo-communities offer gifts you can make with your digital photos, but be careful when you order. Many sites only ship within the United States. Remember to check around.

Resources
There are dozens of new photo-community sites and they all offer different features, including vastly different amounts of free storage space. There is no reason why you can’t join two or three different sites if the features you want are not all available on one site.

  • Blacks Photography: http://www.blackphoto.com/start.html
  • CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/
  • eCircles: http://www.ecircles.com/
  • oPhoto.com: http://www.ophoto.com
  • PhotoIsland: http://www.photoisland.com
  • Zing.com: http://www.zing.com/