Birthday Set Thumbnail from FlickrI have been using Flickr for posting photographs online for several years. It’s been a great place to upload photographs for my church’s electronic newsletter, and it’s been a handy place to share dog pictures and other personal visual memories.

I kept my Flickr account even after I stared using Facebook which comes with free photo galleries. The image quality on Flickr is an order of magnitude better than the fuzzed-up, blurry mash that Facebook offers on its photo galleries. Plus, the general public — not just your friends — can wander by your Flickr sets and find photos of things they’re looking for. I’ve enjoyed getting comments from strangers.

But, Flickr washes out and changes the color in some photographs I upload. I notice this fault more on images I have previously manipulated in Photoshop. It’s as if Flickr figures out that I have edited the photo and then tries to do more automatically of whatever editing I had done myself. This pale, over-whiteness of images is particularly annoying when I look at a slide show of my pictures.

This morning I uploaded a set of photographs of a friend’s birthday party to Flickr. Some of the photographs were noticeably bluer/whiter/lighter than they appeared in Photoshop on the same computer monitor. I went back and color-manipulated four images to increase the warmth of the light, and uploaded replacements, trying to make the people less glaringly Caucasian corpse-like. The results were better, but still there’s a sickly paleness on a lot of the faces.

On a whim, I decided to open a trial account on SmugMug. That’s a service which is used a lot by professional photographers — I set up a client with a site there just last month.

Damn! I notice a difference! The photographs on SmugMug are more appropriately vibrant and with the same tone I see in Photoshop. The clarity of the down-sized thumbnails are good, too.

Can you see the same difference? Check out the two slide shows. I suggest making them both full screen to see as much of each photograph as possible. (Remember, these are personal, non-professional photographs. Some are blurry and some show residue of the camera’s flash. That’s how they came out of the camera, and those faults are mine and not either Flickr’s or SmugMug’s.)

  • SmugMug Album. Click on the “Slideshow” button on the upper-right part of the screen.
  • Flickr Slide Show. Click on the “Slideshow” link on the third row down and toward the right side of the screen.

SmugMug has other advantages over Flickr. It offers a nicer layout of its photographs, and each set of photographs can be laid out in a different format with a different background. Plus, switching to the next photograph in an album is instantaneous on SmugMug but takes time on Flickr.

Of course, Flickr is significantly less expensive than SmugMug. Flickr is $25/year for a “pro” account while the comparable service from SmugMug is $40/year. My trial SmugMug account uses some customizations and strips out the SmugMug logo from my galleries, and this level subscription is $60/year.

Is the better photo image quality, flexibility in gallery settings, and overall professional feel worth $60 a year to me for my personal photographs. I think so. But, I have 13 more days to make that decision for sure.