New Developments in Online Photo Processing - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, Florida-

New Developments in Online Photo Processing

By PlanetFeedback Staff

Last year, Todd and Robyn Hall spent the better part of a week picking, sorting, stuffing and mailing photos of their wedding to relatives and friends. "By the time we were done, I was sick of looking at my face!" says Todd.

Lesson learned.

This year, they saved themselves the aggravation by sharing their summer vacation photos online. "It was great," says Robyn. "Not only did everyone get to see the pictures, but we were able to get feedback and comments right away."

No more sorting through bins at Wal-Mart

Online film processors work basically the same across the board.

The Halls used a service through their local grocery store. They dropped off the film. The processor developed the film and put the pictures on the Internet. The prints were shipped through the mail.

Just three days after dropping off their film, the couple received an e-mail alerting them to the Internet address and a password to view their pictures. Thumbnails (miniatures) of all the pictures in each roll are shown in one page. The user simply clicks on a thumbnail to view the full-size photo. The service usually allows users to enter a caption.

Most companies offer additional services, such as placing photos on coffee mugs or T-shirts and reprints.

The Halls e-mailed friends and relatives the Internet address and password for the pictures…and voila! They were done.

Everyone wants your pictures

There is a boom going on in the online film processing business. Companies are stepping all over each other to convince you to develop your film with them. Prices have gone down (one company is even offering its service for free), and new features and goodies are popping up constantly.

But all the bells and whistles in the world can't make up for a picture with bleeding colors. So how do you choose the right developer?

With a little help from your Internet friends

Dave Dyer's Web site http://www.andromeda.com/people/ddyer/photo/albums.html includes an up-to-date list of dozens of services that provide online albums. Many of these offer developing. Dyer's reviews include information such as storage capacity, image quality and links to sample albums.

Things to consider when shopping for a Web photo service

· How long will they keep your pictures online? The leading service, Kodak's Photonet, (www.photonet.com) will keep photos online for 30 days – after that you have to pay. Others like Ofoto, (www.ofoto.com) offer to keep your pictures for as long as you want.

· How much does shipping cost? There's more to consider than developing costs.

· Does the company charge per-print or per-roll? ClubPhoto (www.clubphoto.com) will develop all your pictures, send you the negatives and put the photos online for free. If you want prints, they'll charge you only for the ones you want.

· Will your low-tech friends be able to navigate the Web site? No other way around this one but to try it out for yourself. Most services offer sample albums. This will give you an idea of how long it takes to cycle through your album. Check for clear instructions throughout the site. (I decided to stop using Photonet because the site was slow and difficult to navigate – especially through all the stuff they were trying to sell me).

Snapfish offers a new hook

An interesting experiment in online photos is Snapfish (www.snapfish.com). This company will develop your film, put it online and mail you the prints and negatives for $1.69 – the cost of shipping your pictures.

How do they do it? Advertising.

Snapfish places banner ads on the Web pages with your pictures. They hope that you and the people you share your pictures with click on some of them. If you don't cycle through your pictures within 30 days, you're assessed a fee of around $4.

There is a lot to consider in choosing a Web photo company. But if you ask Todd Hall, it is well worth it. "I wish we would have done this with our wedding pictures," he says. "We'll for sure do it when we start having kids!"

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