Few people in the modern world don't have some kind of digital camera these days, whether it be one inside their mobile phone or a standalone high-end DSLR. But there's little point in ever taking a single photo if no-one else ever sees it. Enter, the Internet! Some people just want to show their occasional pictures to friends and family, while others want the attention of a community of serious photographers. The traditional way to handle the first option has been through email, but Facebook is rapidly replacing that mode of photo sharing.
For those who want more than Facebook's limited presentation, photo specific sites like Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and SmugMug are better choices. Flickr is the mother of all photo sharing sites, with a huge community of users and tons of ways to interact with them. Or you can just use it to store all you digital photos privately - for $25 (£16) a year, you get unlimited highest resolution photo uploading. 500px takes a different tack - the site only wants your very best photos, and gives you the opportunity to sell your work.
Another benefit of uploading to a photo-sharing site is the ability to send your images to professional photo finishers. Even more ambitious than this is to create a book from your photos, something Blurb.com excels at. Most photo hosting sites can send your pictures to the local pharmacy chain where you can pick up prints, and it's not uncommon to find them offering services that print photos on mugs and t-shirts, calendars and greeting cards.
iPhone apps that double as social networks have become a craze of late, with Instagram the prime mover. So much so, that Facebook paid $1 billion (£629 million) for Instagram. The reigning social network recently released an iPhone camera app that makes use of some Instagram features - filters for making photos look old, tinted, black and white, or in some other way interesting. But those aren't the only apps that let you share and edit photos: Adobe Photoshop Express, Path, and Tumblr have apps suited to sharing photos online.
Whatever your photo sharing needs, you'll find a site or app that suits your needs from the group below. Happy snapping.
Price: Free (7 uploads/week) / $49.95 (£32.30) per year
A photo site that's about uploading only your best photos and discovering those of others (and possibly purchasing them), 500px looks great, and offers an excellent way to find and display beautiful images. But its lovely interface sometimes perplexes, and it trails Flickr by far in number of users and community features.
Price: 2GB Free
Edit, store, and share your images online using this service from the best-known digital image editing company of all. Photoshop Express also lets you share edited photos to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. iOS and Android apps work seamlessly with the service. You get 2GB of online storage free.
Sure, it's not a photo sharing site like the others here, but Blurb does indeed host photos online, but just in the form of a preview of a photo book you've designed for the service to print. Of course, creating a photo book using an online photo service is online photo sharing in a broad sense, so indulge us here. The site where people can view full size previews of your photo books even has Facebook commenting.
Price: Free / $24.95 (approx. £16) per year
The largest photo-focused community on the web has just undergone some welcome overhauls, with larger and better photo views, and a slick new HTML5-based photo uploader. This is where you'll find the most options for interacting with photos and photographers. A rich ecosystem of apps and third-party plugins adds to an already rich set of tools, like maps for geotagging. The £16-a-year Pro account gets you unlimited full-resolution online storage for your photos.
Price: 3GB Free - $24 (£15.50) per year
Fotki is a good place to host your craigslist or eBay listing photo/s. It also offers a photocentric social network and photo contests, and you can sell prints of your artistry. But other photo services offer more tools. A free account gets you 3GB online storage, while a £15.50-a-year premium account gets you unlimited storage and the ability to customise galleries and sell photos online.
Price: 1GB Free - from $29.88 (£19.30) per year for 25GB
Picasa brings simple yet powerful editing tools to a local app that syncs well with online galleries. Its geo-tagging works with Maps and its Face recognition works with People tags, offering new and exciting ways to organise and share your photo collections. The service also features an abundance of output methods, including collages and video slideshows.
Instagram is a new kind of community that has been restricted to the iPhone until recently. Now Android users can take part, and sites like Pinstagram let you view your photos in any web browser. The app/service can be addictive in the way it lets you discover new photo contacts' work. It's few and simple image enhancements can add a surprising amount of interest to otherwise pedestrian snapshots. You can also share your work to email, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.
If you want a simple, elegant, and intuitive way to share your photos with your closest friends, Path is worth taking. You get a streamlined interface, but less functionality. You'll need an iPhone to play, preferably the iPhone 4.
Of course, it's not just about photos, but Pinterest is certainly an effective way to share photos. With commenting, sharing to Facebook, email, and Twitter, Pinterest does a respectable job of online photo sharing. But you don't get bulk uploaders and photo editors the way you do with some of the other services listed here.
Price: Free - Pro Account: $24.95 (approx. £16) per year
The Photobucket sharing site should appeal to people who like to jazz up their images and get lots of free photo hosting. It even offers tolerable video mixing. But free accounts feature tons of ads and also downsize images and videos.
Taking your photos from Instagram and presenting them on the web is what this hybrid service is all about. You don't upload photos in Pinstagram, but rather through Instagram. The site does let you share to Facebook and Twitter, as well as offering a web-based way of using Instagram's core and its commenting.
Price: $40 - $150 (approx £25.80 - £96.80) per year
SmugMug can do a lot with your photos, and if you want to customise your online gallery appearance and sell photos and merchandise, it's a good choice. But for better interfaces and stronger online photo communities, look to Flickr or Picasa.
Although it's technically a blogging platform, Tumblr can be considered a social network, falling somewhere between Twitter and Facebook's full-featured platform. But it's largely about the photos. You can upload multiple images in a single post and share your images with a large audience and maybe even attract a following.