Digital cameras have done a great deal for photography and it is time the web services end of the photo industry get its act together. I take several thousand pictures per year and do what I can to keep them organized. Here is a short history of the things I have experienced when it comes to taking, sharing, and organizing pictures.
On the Mac: In around 2003 I went to Macs big time with the thought that if anyone was going to figure this out it would be Apple. I used all of the Apple tools like iPhoto, iMovie... and was having a great time. I could sync all of my photos with my big iPod classic in full image mode -- so I had a regularly synced backup too. All was good. Then the wheels came off. I got a new Sanyo Xacti HD video camera -- but the video format was incompatible with the mac. There were converters, but the quality was terrible. What is the point of taking HD video if you have to convert it to another format that looks bad? Shortly after that the hard drive on my Mac G5 desktop failed and I lost all of my pictures. I could get them back on my iPod -- but the folders (iPhoto's version of tagging) were all gone. Ouch. 10,000 organized pictures now unorganized.
Windows Photo Gallery: So I switched to Windows Photo Gallery. The main reason was that the meta data is in a standard file format and independent of the Windows Photo Gallery software. So if I ever decided to switch -- all of the work I would do organizing would go along with me. Also, the organizing by date, the tagging, the integration of video and stills together, and the close integration with Windows Movie Maker -- were all attractive. It turns out that I had just blown out of iMovie on the Mac because a new version left all of the past versions orphaned -- what was that?!?!
Video Formats: I am still on Windows Photo Gallery but am not all that happy and am looking for another solution. I now have a second HD video camera, this one from Sony, and the HD format is different and requires more converting before the video can be used in Windows Photo Gallery or any other software. Somebody has got to figure this stuff out. The codec thing is driving me crazy and my Windows machine is giving me the goofy "COM Surrogate has stopped working" error all of the time. I have no reduced functionality and I cannot figure out what causes this, but I just minimize the error to the toolbar and call it good. If I"X" it out, it just comes right back but if I minimize it -- it just sits there talking to itself and more or less leaves me alone. Just a constant reminder of how screwed up computers can be.
Sharing: I don't share photo's on Facebook because I want to control who sees them. I am also trying to figure out how to allow my friends to get full image files of my photos. I like Shutterfly for the private web sites it makes so easily and how the members I invite can add comments or contribute pictures. But Shutterfly does not have image download. I am just now trying Picasa -- but without downloading the desktop app -- the functionality is quite bad. It seems to me that every photo sharing site either wants to you use their photo printing service (Shutterfly; Kodak Gallery...), download their software (Picasa...), or take away control of who sees you photos (Facebook...). This area of the computer experience is very broken and should present an opportunity to someone.
Microsoft: It would not surprise me if Microsoft has a solution to this somewhere in the Live thing. But everytime I sit down to try to figure out what is up with Live I just cannot get my head around it. I think it is because Microsoft wants you to be all in and therefore integrates hotmail, Messenger, and other things I don't use regularly into one experience and I just cannot figure out how it works. When I gave it another try today was presented with a friends list (which I don't ever remember setting up, but could have over the years somehow) and they were not really any of my friends. I could add friends but not remove them, not easily anyway... so that trail is dead too.
So for now I am sharing photos with Picasa. Someone I invite can get the full image downloaded, but they must install the desktop application first.
If anyone out there has a better solution -- please save me!