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What would you save if your house was on fire? Many people answer, “My family photos.” Family photos are precious. Our church is a family, too, and it is good to figure out the best way to store our church family photos.

Photo Sharing Sites
In this age of digital photography, one of the first decisions to be made is which photo sharing site you will use for your church family photos. There are a lot of choices! This “top ten” article lists what these researchers have found to be the top 10 photo sharing sites. It includes thorough reviews, a comparison matrix, ratings, screen shots and links to purchase.

What’s Your Goal?
As you look at the various sites, you will want to determine your own criteria. What will you be using the site for? Perhaps your main purpose for having an account on a photo sharing site will be in order to store the photos and link to or embed them in your website. Maybe you want more of a strict storage site, a safe place to serve as a back-up and archive of all the church’s photos. Perhaps your priority when choosing a site will be its ease of use, or certain key features. Most likely, your sharing site will serve several purposes.

It’s very likely you’ll be using your sharing site in conjunction with your church’s website. Rather than storing the photos directly within your website, it makes more sense to use a photo sharing site for storage and then point to/embed the photos from the website itself. Websites often have file storage and site limits, and you can avoid maxing those out, while also having one, central place where all your photos are stored.

Photo Display Tips
When you display a photo on a web page from a photo sharing site, you will typically use the “embed” method. This way, your website viewers will see the entire photo (or video) directly on the page, rather than just a link that takes them off the page into the sharing site. Photo sharing sites will give you a method to copy the “embed code” so you can paste it into your web page.

In addition to using the sharing site for your website photos, it also becomes an archive and/or back-up of all your photos. For this purpose to best be served, you will want to choose a site that saves and gives you access to the original sized file of the photo, even though the photos are downsized for better viewing on the web (see the blog “How to Correctly Display Photos”). By storing the original sized file on the sharing site, you will be able to download it in the future the same size as it was originally, even if you lose the original file.

User-friendly Considerations
If you are going to provide your members, or others, a direct link to the sharing site to view your photos, you will want to consider the look and feel that your viewers will experience. Some sites require viewers to register and log in to view others’ photos. Although it’s free, it still means they will have yet another password to keep track of. Some sites provide templates with different backgrounds and borders for your web albums, while others are more generic. You’ll also want to consider whether the site shows ads or not. Typically, you can stop the display of ads by using a paid account rather than a free one.

Integration Factors
Which software you use to manipulate your church’s photos may also be a factor in site selection. Picasa is a free, powerful tool for organizing and editing photos on your computer. Picasa has web albums as well and that interoperability makes using Picasa both on your computer and for web-sharing a seamless way to accomplish both things. Other sharing sites provide a plug-in for Picasa, so you can get that seamlessness even though you aren’t using Picasa for the web sharing. Whatever photo editing tool you use, you will want to check into how your sharing site does or does not integrate with it.

Another integration factor is how well the sharing site works with whatever social media you are using at your church. It appears that pretty much every photo sharing site now has the ability to connect your photos in Facebook, Twitter and other social media, but you will want to check how easily that connection is established, and whether all the social media you use is available.

Other Things to Consider
The capacity to store video, and how long the video can be stored, is another consideration. You may decide to use YouTube or Vimeo or another video-only sharing site for video rather than your photo sharing site.

There are lots of features to consider, too many for me to enumerate here, but you can see a long list on the top ten article. Those of you already using a photo sharing site for your church (and I’m sure there are many of you!), please let us know which photo sharing site(s) your church uses and the strengths and weaknesses you have found in using it.

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