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An easy way to post photos online


Three times in the past week, people have posted photos to Picasa Web Albums after I've mentioned it to them, and in each case they've said nice things about it. So I figured it was time to repeat my plug for the service.

There are actually three separate pieces here:

  • Picasa is Google's Windows-only photo-organizing software. It runs on your local computer, not on the web. It lets you organize and label and search among the photos that are on your own hard drive. It also lets you upload photos to Picasa Web Albums.
  • Picasa Web Albums is Google's online photo-hosting service. You can post up to a gigabyte of photos there for free, and you can pay a small annual subscription fee to get extra storage space. You can organize photos into groupings called "albums." You can decide whether to make each of your albums publicly listed or not; for a non-publicly-listed album, you can still share it with friends by sending out the album's URL. You can change the order of photos in an album, relabel them, delete them, and/or move them from one album to another. Visitors to your album can post comments on the photos. Which is to say, it's much like various other photo-hosting services--except that I personally like the interface better than most such services. (I do also rather like SmugMug, where Kam posts her photos, but they don't have a free option.)
  • If you have a Mac (and Mac OS X 10.4 or later), you can't use Picasa, but you can still use Picasa Web Albums, by downloading the free Picasa Web Albums Mac tools. That download includes two pieces of software: if you use iPhoto to organize your photos on your Mac, then you can use the Picasa Web Albums Exporter to seamlessly upload photos directly from iPhoto; if you don't use iPhoto, then you can use the Picasa Web Albums Uploader to upload photos from the Finder.

All of these items are free, fast to download (for the parts that are downloadable), and easy to use, with nicely designed and simple interfaces. If you have photos on your computer, you can have some of them online ten minutes from now, with a minimum of hassle.

I'm sorry to sound so much like an ad, and I realize that my promoting these products may be suspect, given that I work for the company that makes them. But I only promote the stuff that I honestly like and use. I don't love Picasa Web Albums as much as I love Google Maps, or Google web search, but I do like it a lot, and use it all the time, and highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for a quick easy free way to share photos with others.

I particularly recommend this approach if your other option is to share your photos via email. Photos are big, and sending out lots of copies of multiple photos to a bunch of people, some of whom may be stuck using dialup, is probably not the best use of bandwidth. Instead, upload your photos to the web, then send out the URL. Anyone who wants to do so can then download the photos they like.


It's bad branding, making the desktop app the main brand and the web app a spinoff, even if that's how it happened.

(Sorry, that was me.)

I'm sorry this is not a comment, just a question. I don't want visiting people copy my photos. I want to post them on the other web, but don't want anyone copy them either. Is there any way I can do? Thanks in advance for your kind reply.

sugar: alas, it's not possible to prevent people from downloading your photos if you put them on the web.

However, there are various options that might help in various ways:

A. You can post a copyright notice and a request that people not copy the photos. That won't prevent people from copying, but some or most people will go along with your request. This is one area where I don't think Picasa Web Albums has yet caught up to some other photo-hosting services--I think that Flickr, for example, lets you pick from among a bunch of licensing options.

B. If you control your own site, you can hide your photos from search engines; search online for the term [robots.txt] for more info.

C. You can post relatively low-resolution versions of your photos, and keep the high-res versions offline.

D. In some sites, including Picasa Web Albums, you can keep the URLs of your albums secret, and just tell the people you want to tell. That lets you share photos with trusted friends and family, but if any of them link to your album publicly, then everyone can see the photos. And it doesn't prevent your friends and family from downloading the photos.

E. Some sites (usually professional photo sites) use various tricks, usually having to do with JavaScript, to make it very difficult to download a photo directly. They disable the right-click "download this photo" option in the browser, and they obscure the photo's URL, and so on. Someone who's determined to download the photo can always get around this, because the photo has to be sent to the browser in order to be displayed, so a determined downloader can pretend to be a browser and obtain the photo the same way the browser does. But this definitely prevents casual downloading. I don't actually know how to do this--I always get annoyed when I see people doing it, and have no interest in doing it myself--and I suspect it doesn't work in all browsers. But it's probably as close as you can get to what you're looking for.

Of course, another option--which clearly isn't for everyone, but I think is worth mentioning--is to put a Creative Commons license on your photos and not worry about people downloading them. In most cases, someone who downloads your photo does so because they like it; so you could consider just letting them do that. I'm not saying you should; there are plenty of good reasons not to take this option. Just saying that it can be a useful paradigm in some contexts, to think about it in terms of letting people use your work in interesting new ways.


I will thoroughly read your reply and see what I can do. Thanks again for your prompt reply.