Dear Dr. IT,
I need an easy way of sharing our pictures with our friends and family. Let me restate EASY – I am horrible on the computer! I end up with a mess of pictures not knowing who got what or even what photos I have myself. Is there a way we can let everyone have access to our pictures on our laptop? – Summer Bouvier
m/v Good To Go (via email)
Summer, having traveled quite a bit, I have experienced the same problems as you. I was also constantly running into email file size limitations and slow connection delays from my boat, as modern digital pictures are generally large files. Here are a few ideas for you; all are pretty easy and have good visual help if needed.
The first option I would recommend is developing your own personal web page. Yes, I know this sounds complicated and expensive, but many providers are offering generic web pages that would allow basic posting of ships' logs and photos. These "canned" sites offer the reader a simplistic system which can be customized for your look and feel, all while delivering basic web site functionality. To address your need exactly, most of these sites will offer a picture upload feature where you select the photo on your laptop then upload it to the site.
Non maritime-specific examples of free sites that will provide this functionality include Facebook, MySpace, and other mainstream social networking sites. For a maritime version of social networking try sailblogs.com, customized for the mobile mariner with many marine-specific features such as location and track mapping via Google earth.
If you just want to stick with basic photo sharing there is a second plan. Quite a few sites such as Flickr, iPhoto and various cameras manufactures provide online photo albums to their users for various fees. All of these services allow you to select what photos to publish and then automate the upload and organizational process. Once you have uploaded, your friends or family can simply access your album's URL in their web browser to see your current and past photos.
I have used quite a few of these services but keep returning to my favorite, Google Picasa. Picasa allows you to select which local photos are shared to your web albums, then takes care of the details, uploading and organizing your photos in the background. Picasa also includes some neat features allowing you to edit photos and select the quality of photos uploaded, thus reducing your bandwidth needs if you are on a slow connection.
A second benefit of maintaining your albums in Picasa or a like solution is their integration with many of the major photo printing providers. This allows you to send hard copies of photos very easily, usually in a click or two. My favorite print shop is Shutterfly, but I have also used Snapfish, Zazzle and Walmart photo printing with great results.
Summer, the choice is yours; a web site offers more functionality in many ways but may be more costly and more complicated to use. On the other hand, a dedicated photo sharing site may offer better photo-only functionality and could be easier to use for those looking only to share photos and send prints.
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Dustin Norlund has lived aboard his Hylas 49 sailing extensively in the Caribbean and Central America. He has been involved in IT and software solutions and has also worked in the marine electric and electronics trade. Contact Dustin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.