Why I Don't Like Online Photo Sites

I love the convenience of having my photos online and share-able, and especially having them backed up automatically as I take them, but the problem is that all the major sites seem to have a dream of being the last internet site standing, and want to keep all your photos in their little universe.  Shutterfly, Facebook, Google, Flickr -- they tend to only allow sharing within their little universe (though I am hoping for good things from Google peeling photos out of Google Plus).

Basically, sending your photos to these sites is a bit like sending someone to North Korea - they go in but never come out.  Someone just shared a shutterfly album with me and God forbid you want to actually save some of the full-resolution images rather than just buy prints from them.  At best these sites have some kludgy way to download full resolution photos one at a time, but it is never, ever easy and none have, as far as I have been able to see, a batch download function.  Flickr is the best in several ways due to its API that lets me automatically share albums and photos pretty easily in WordPress, but its core interface is now so ugly with the revamp a few years ago that I can barely stand to open it (and they tend to change names for the same damn thing - set, album, collection, etc - depending on which menu or context you find it).


  1. Isaac:

    You're a lot better off with services you pay for if you want ownership and flexibility for your pictures. Both Dropbox and OneDrive do a really good job IMO. Automatic uploads, easy sharing, and decent looking galleries. OneDrive in particular is a good deal for the money.

  2. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Basically, sending your photos to these sites is a bit like sending someone to North Korea - they go in but never come out."

    This is a bit over the top. When you give these sites your photos, you do give them a perpetual license to use the photos, but it's a non-exclusive license, so unless which ever site you upload them to is your only copy you are free to use the photos elsewhere if you want. An if it is your only copy, sucks to be you, that is on you, not them.

  3. marque2:

    You can use other cloud services. I use Microsoft's Onedrive. I put all my photos and important documents on the drive, and can access them from any computer, tablet and phone in the house. My photos are automatically backed up, and if I want to share, I can request a shareable URL and send it to a friend. I am in complete control. Google has Google drive which is similar. Amazon has Amazon Cloud drive. I don't like the Amazon product as much because the app only allows you to see pictures on your phone, with Onedrive I see all the documents I put in. Dropbox is also in this group, but they are much more expensive than the others. Amazon is fastest.

  4. Philip Ngai:

    I'm using dropbox/carousel to share photos. You can easily create albums and then share an album. The receiver can browse the photos online or download them all with a single click. The receiver does not have to create an account or otherwise register. Cross-platform support is excellent.

  5. FelineCannonball:

    Yes. Other "online photo sites" are distributed social media. It serves a different purpose and the difficulty of downloading is probably considered a feature by many.

    If the point is sharing files/data with family, colleagues, etc. use Dropbox, OneDrive, or other cloud server designed for sharing data.

  6. Duh:

    Way to not read the post, and then comment smugly. Coyote is actually complaining not about who owns fair use right s to the images, but rather the fact that most (if not all) these photo storing sites do not have BATCH DOWNLOAD. You're welcome.

  7. Matthew Slyfield:

    1. If you have your own photos on your own storage, you don't need batch download for your photos.
    2. You shouldn't be able to batch download other peoples photos.

  8. blackbellamy:

    1) What do you mean I don't need batch download for my photos? I batch uploaded them, now I want to download them to a new machine. I don't feel like bringing my "own storage" on every trip I go. So you're wrong there.
    2) If my friend shares his photo album with me, I SHOULD be able to batch download it. It's what my friend wants. So thanks for your input, but you're wrong again.

  9. Matthew Slyfield:

    1. Use straight cloud storage rather than a photo sharing sites for that.
    2. How do you know that's what your friend wants? Maybe he/she just wanted you to see the photos and comment on them (which is what photo sharing sites are for) not for you to be able to download full res copies to use for whatever you want. And if that was what you friend wants, there are better ways to accomplish that then using a photo sharing site.

  10. Mercury:

    I doubt you can take your Facebook life with you or your iTunes or your Kindle "books". I agree with Jaron Lanier here: people have generally been suckered into trading to "Siren Servers" all kinds of personal data and content they created for fake free and fake ownership of stuff that Moore's Law is rapidly making absurdly cheap anyway.
    Honestly, with the price of stoarage going through the floor I don't know why anyone feels compelled to store anything in "the cloud". $24 will buy you 64GB of sturdy flash storage on a usb doo-dad the size of two nickles. It's not that hard to set up your own NAS "personal cloud" either.

  11. marque2:

    No problem with batch download on Onedrive.

  12. marque2:

    Use a cloud drive service and the download is automatic when you log in.

  13. Daublin:

    Google policy is to provide an export facility for their online services. As you say, they are doing this against their short-term interest. They do it because they feel it will generate a good feeling among customers, and thus be better for long-term market share.

    Here's a discussion of the issue for Picasa in particular:


    Google isn't perfect by any means, but it seems important to give credit where it is due. They are playing by big-boy rules. They're working on a brand name that will stand up for many decades, rather than the usual Internet startup thing where they try to get rich fast and then cash out and disappear.

  14. rst1317:

    Which site do you use?

  15. Matthew Slyfield:

    Which site do I use for what?

    Personally I don't use cloud storage, I don't have the need for it.

  16. russnelson:

    Flickr is the best photosharing service, because you can download via their API in bulk.