Online Photo Sharing

By Justin Binks

Brief Overview

Online photo sharing is defined as the publishing or transfer of a user's digital photographs on the internet, thereby enabling the user to share these photos with other users either publicly or privately (as may be the case in any particular instance). Online photo sharing websites exist as a place where users can upload, manipulate and store their photos in a central online location thereby simplifying further use of these photographs for other internet-related purposes as well as providing an off-site backup for potentially valuable images.

Most photo sharing websites also allow for the storage and distribution of other media files, such as videos and graphic images other than photographs. By hosting these images and videos, these websites allow their users to then use their media files on a range of other websites such as blogs, forums, community message boards and social networking websites.

Photo sharing websites first started appearing in the mid to late 1990's. Initially they were created as a service which allowed users to order photo prints online, however by the early 2000's many new providers began to spring up and some of the sites began focusing on providing more permanent and centralised access to user's photographs. With the push towards Web 2.0 these websites are now beginning to turn into photo sharing communities where the focus has shifted from simply online storage and print ordering capabilities towards a greater emphasis on the building of the photographic and artistic community and the sharing capabilities of the services, as shown by such websites as Flickr. In addition, many social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook are now providing online photo sharing as subsidiary services within themselves, rather than requiring users to link to other online photo sharing accounts to publish photographs of themselves on these sites.

Unfortunately as the popularity of such websites has increased, the requirement for providers to upgrade hardware to cater for greater number and ensure quality of service has led to many of these sites beginning to charge for access to "premium" or "professional" accounts to subsidise increasing costs. This has led to a decrease in functionality of "basic" or "free" accounts which, in some instances, has detracted from the usefulness of many of the sites for those unable or unwilling to pay the cost required to gain full access to their functions.

Key Features

Key features vary from website to website as each provider strives to create an 'edge' which will help separate their product from the rest. As a general rule, however, most photo sharing websites provide their users with the capabilities of being able to store, edit and share their photographs and video clips both through the websites themselves and across the world wide web on blogs, community forums and message boards, emails and instant messages.

Desktop photo-management applications may include their own photo-sharing features or integration with sites for uploading images to them. There are also desktop applications whose sole function is sharing photos, generally using peer-to-peer networking. Basic photo sharing functionality can be found in applications that allow you to email photos, for example by dragging and dropping them into pre-designed templates.

Photo sharing is not confined to the web and personal computers but is also possible from portable devices such as cameraphones, using applications that can automatically transfer photos as you take them, to photo sharing sites and photoblogs, either directly or via MMS. Some cameras now come equipped with wireless networking and similar sharing functionality themselves.


Although there are many different online photo sharing services available, I have chosen to focus in particular on Photobucket for the purposes of this wiki article. Below is an outline of the key features Photobucket has to offer, who is involved in the endeavour and some of the important information regarding their Copyright and Privacy policies.


Photobucket has a number of different features to assist users in the uploading, organisation, sharing and editing of photographs and video clips. Below is a list of what Photobucket has to offer:

  • Sharing of photos, videos, and albums by email, IM, and mobile phone. Friends and family don't need an account on Photobucket to see your stuff. They just need to click the link you give them. So stop emailing photo attachments around, and start sharing with Photobucket.
  • Group albums, to let you collaborate together with friends and families in a single group album of photos and videos.
  • Hundreds of album themes to design and personalize your photo and video albums.
  • A built-in organizer, to keep your photos and videos organized neatly into albums.
  • A built-in full featured photo editor, that lets you fix photos, as well as edit them in unique ways with frames, stickers, and special effects.
  • Built-in searching to find the latest and best photos, images and videos to suit your mood, or entertain your friends in Photobucket’s huge online library.
  • A scrapbook builder to build online and printed scrapbooks by simply dragging and dropping into one of hundreds of pre-built scrapbook designs that you can share online or print into beautiful books.
  • A slideshow builder with lots of fun styles for posting and sharing on your Web site, blog or profile.
  • A remix builder, for putting together photos, videos and music for posting and sharing on your Web site, blog or profile.
  • Finally, Photobucket's built-in online photo gifts and prints store that lets you print pictures, as well as add them to greeting cards, shirts, hoodies, mugs, calendars, stickers, wall posters, luggage tags, jigsaw puzzles and more. Plus, if you need prints in a real hurry, and you’re in the US, you can you can choose to pick up prints and cards from your local Target store in the US.

Additionally, it is possible to create and link third party applications with your Photobucket account, allowing you to edit, adjust and incorporate Photobucket hosted images and video clips into other projects. Care should be taken when adding and using such applications.

Account Limitations

The following image outlines the restrictions in place regarding users who have a free Photobucket account compared to those who pay the $3.95USD/month or $39.95USD/year for the Pro account.


Owner Information

Photobucket was created by Alex Welch and Darren Crystal in 2003. The company was then acquired by Fox Interactive Media, Inc., a division of News Corp. in July 2007. The company has its headquarters in Denver, Colorado, as well as additional offices in San Francisco, California. Additional Information on key members of the management team can be found in the "About Us" section of their website, here.

Copyright and Privacy Information

In regards to copyright issues, Photobucket states that all posted content is subject to appropriate copyright laws. This means that users are responsible for ensuring that copyright is maintained on all items which they may upload, embed, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available to others. In their Terms of Use statement, they state that users who do not abide by copyright law may have their accounts suspended, as well as providing avenues for users to pursue should they believe their intellectual property is being incorrectly used by others.

In addition to their Terms of Use statement, Photobucket also have a length Privacy Policy which outlines the methods of collection and possible uses of private information collected from users of their services.

Other Photo Sharing sites

There are many other websites through which photo sharing services are available. Some of the most popular of these include Flickr, Snapfish and Webshots.

Educational Value

While Online Photo Sharing websites have no inherent educational purposes by themselves, some of their features can be used in an educational purpose to enhance other learning experiences in the classroom. Predominantly these websites are best suited for teacher use in the storage of lesson and classroom related images and videos. It is important to note that from a legal perspective you must have permission to post pictures of students to the internet (or share them anywhere for that matter) and teachers must be careful what they do with images taken within the classroom.

Future Learning

For more information on many of the features and uses of Photobucket, visit their blog page, which contains information on updates to their website, as well as containing pages of information regarding the available features and tips for their use.

Future Teaching

A number of the tools available on Photobucket in particular can be used in classroom learning. Of particular mention are the Remix and Scrapbooking tools.

The Remix builder allows users to create photo stories using the photos available in their saved albums. Once photos have been chosen, users then have the option to add music and/or transitions to their slide shows. Possible uses in teaching include the addition of "remixes" to class presentations or getting students to create a photo story regarding a particular topic of study, such as a slideshow about natural resources found in Western Australia.

The Scrapbooking tool allows users to create virtual scrapbooks using their own images and photographs and a range of pre-made themes and objects. This tool is perfect for creating cover pages for projects, posters and even book covers. As with the Remix builder, most of the elements are click and drag, however the scrapbooking tool also allows the user to add text and manipulate each element in a number of ways, similar to the editting tool which is available for use.

In addition to these tools, Photobucket also allows for the creation of Group Albums. This feature allows users to create albums with the assistance of others and could be used as a way for students to collect or post images in relation to a theme set by the teacher. These group albums can be made private and can be set to require moderation by the creator of all images which are proposed to be added. In this way, the teacher can maintain control while providing students with the freedom to find, take and add images of their choice which are in keeping with the theme of the album.

    • Please note: A Photobucket account is required to properly view these links.

Related Tools

Below are a couple of other interesting photo-related websites which might be found useful in the classroom and beyond.

Woophy –
Another photo sharing community, aiming to create a photographic overview of the world.

Fine tuna –
Website which allows you to make notes and comments on images and then send them to others via email or weblink.

Kyolo –
Interesting site where you can add speech and thought bubbles to images.


Online Photo Sharing.ppt