Miami — You've gone on a great trip, taken tons of digital photos. Now, how to share them with family and friends?
For growing numbers of travelers, the answer is an online photo album.
Making one "is very easy," said Elaine Hoffman, a psychotherapist who shuttles between an office in Miami and a home in Washington. "I love what these sites are capable of doing, the ability to be creative, to edit, to crop, to use different formats. It's very exciting."
Dozens - maybe hundreds - of Web sites now offer albums that can be shared online or printed and bound into a traditional book.
Kodak Gallery (www.kodakgallery.com), one of the biggest companies, has 60 million members and "billions" of photos under management, according to the company's Liz Scanlon. Snapfish (www.snapfish.com) says it has 40 million users. Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com) claims 1.5 billion photos, and even SmugMug (www.smugmug.com), which admits to being smaller than the big companies, boasts 205 million photos.
Online albums have even gone to sea. Earlier this year, according to Photoworks (www.photoworks.com), Carnival became the first cruise line to offer photo-album creation on board.
"It's grown exponentially," said Jessy Hanley, director of photo services for Myphotoalbum (www.myphotoalbum.com). "Each year we've grown by 50 percent."
Even for point-and-shooters, the process is easy. The photographer creates an account (often free) with one of many online photo services, uploads his photos as directed, then selects the best for an online album, complete with captions and decoration. Then he can give family and friends access to his Web site or account and they can view the photos on line.
For those who want something tangible, print-and-bound options run $19.99-$29.99 for a standard size linen-covered book of 20 pages with as many as a dozen or more photos per page. Leather-bound books and larger sizes cost more. Extra pages and different sizes also are offered, with varying prices; shipping costs are extra.
While many sites allow unlimited storage of photos, service isn't entirely free. Some require either one purchase - such as a bound album - every 12 months or annual membership for a modest annual fee, about $15-$25. Some companies store photos at a lower resolution than would be useful for large prints, and a number require clients to wade through advertisements to reach their Web sites. Others charge for uploading photos. Most companies require users to be at least 13 years old, some have older limits.
Services go beyond storage and albums. Prints and enlargements from online photos, rolls of film, 35mm developing, posters, custom photos and a wide range of photo-related products are offered.