Web businesses broaden appeal as they target the gamut of photographers from amateurs to pros
Without ever leaving home, you can do everything from finding a camera, ordering images and processing film to taking photo workshops, encrypting images and creating a storefront.
Even for people using 35mm film, the online world has plenty to offer. It's pretty commonplace now for online photography websites to offer film processing, a place to store images and a way to create and share an online photo album with special effects and personal messages—all for free.
Community-building websites such as Robert Farber's Photoworkshop.com offer a wide range of product reviews, discussion boards and portfolio applications.
Most sites use the above services as a way to draw customers in and get them to buy other items, such as frames. They usually charge only for prints or to send an electronic card. At least one site, Snapfish.com, even offers a free set of prints and relies on advertising to make up its costs.
Customers typically can request a postage-paid photo mailer for sending in their 35mm or APS film or single-use camera. They then receive an e-mail when their photos are ready, and the developed negatives are returned by e-mail. With digital images, customers use downloadable software. Orders are usually processed and sent within 24 hours. Once a user's images are stored at the site, reprints, enlargements and photo merchandise such as T-shirts, coffee mugs and puzzles can be ordered online. Most of the sites allow customers 24-hour access to their photos with a password.
Some differences between the various sites include whether they develop black-and-white or just color and the quality of their images. Last month, PC Magazine looked at seven of the sites:
• Shutterfly.com , and
In a recent survey by InfoTrends, a Boston-based research firm, Ofoto.com was rated No. 1 in customer satisfaction for online photography. Ofoto.com also has one of the largest collections of photo frames.
Each site has something to offer, though. PhotoWorks.com has formed a number of interesting partnerships with firms like Senada.com, which creates invitations and announcements, and BirthdayExpress, which creates birthday invitations. Its partnership with RealNetworks allows customers to create a slide show with music and commentary. Other partnerships include Yahoo!, Amazon.com and AT&T Worldnet. At PhotoChannel.com, customers can get the latest photography news along with their order, as well as tips and techniques on using a digital camera.
PrimeShot.com, meanwhile, is going after the event niche by combining a photographer-booking service with password-protected galleries. The booking service, targeted at those planning large events such as marathons, corporate functions, fundraisers, reunions and weddings, offers guests an easy way to view, share and purchase photos including print images. Its impressive client list includes the U.S. Tennis Association, the Make-a-Wish-Foundation, Georgetown University and the Chicago White Sox. PrimeShot.com photographers use both traditional and digital equipment. To book a photographer, users can search by type of event and location.
PhotoReflect.com targets both consumers and professional photographers. For consumers, it provides a photo album, ideas on dealing with photos, and a marketplace where photography-related items can be purchased. For professionals, it offers more extensive links, such as software for putting photos online, an Internet storefront, classifieds and advice.
In a different vein, web portal PhotoHighway.com is dedicated to being a one-stop center for digital photographers—both casual and professional. It allows users to create an online photo album, but that service is just a small part of the site, which offers contests, camera reviews, the latest articles on digital photography (from the site's PhotoTimes service) and a marketplace.
PhotoTrust.com occupies a whole different niche. The site is positioning itself as a place where serious photographers can measure and market their works as well as learn about all things pertaining to photography—workshops, organizations and other information. The site includes galleries where photographers can showcase their work as well as classifieds. PhotoTrust.com is also one of the premier sources of online photo contests, and its contests are used on a number of sites.
For the photographer who simply wants to learn, photoworkshop.com —the Robert Farber Interactive Photography Workshop—brings photographers from around the world to share their work, their ideas and their knowledge. With this site, Farber, who has taught workshops for many years, takes his knowledge to the web. Members are given regular photo assignments every 60 days. The assignments are then judged, exhibited and critiqued, and prizes are awarded.
To protect those award-winning images on your website from theft, Alchemedia.com offers software that encrypts images so they cannot be reused without permission. If you're just looking for images, PhotosToGo.com has a database of 400,000 photographs that can be used for personal, small business and graphic design use. Prices start at $5 an image.
Customers simply search for the image they want, by using words or phrases or by looking at one of the broad categories. All the images are processed Ofoto.com.