Cleaning up Blemishes
There are two schools of thought in retouching your personal photos. First, there are those out there who want to preserve every single detail in a shot, unflattering or not. Let's call these folks preservationists. Preservationists argue that covering up scrapes, bits of food stuck to faces, and the like compromise the integrity and inherent "real-ness" of a photo. I tend to tell preservationists that "real-ness" isn't a word and to just lighten up a little for Pete’s sake.
That puts me squarely in the second school of thought, summed up by the philosophy that re-touching is okay… up to a point. Anything that takes away from the story I want to remember is expendable. So the scrape on my son's elbow he acquired two weeks prior to the shot is fair game, but the stitches in his head he got that afternoon are not. You can obviously come up with your own ground rules. I don't think of myself as my family's documentarian. I prefer to think of myself as its visual storyteller, and like all good storytellers, there is the occasional embellishment along the way. I think the flourishes not only add a dash of style to a tale, but also make the most important aspects of the story that much more memorable.
This isn't as much a how-to on how to sharpen and brighten eyes, as much as it is a how-not-to. I believe pulling out the eyes with just a little bit of sharpening and brightness is a good way to make your kid’s peepers sparkle in a photo, but you have to know when to say when. I've seen photos with too sharp and overly brightened eyes that made anime creators remark, "Hmmmm, that may be a little over the top." So be careful here, less is more. You want your child's eyes to pop, not look like you bought them at the state fair.
Shutterfly - The Easy Push
I've long been sharing my family photos on Shutterfly because they make it as easy as possible on their primary print consumers… grandparents. Ordering prints is easy enough, plus I get 10 free prints every time a new referral orders prints from one of my albums. They've recently upgraded their slideshow functionality so you can now see larger versions of your shots, and Shutterfly allows you to share albums via email or you can additionally create one of their new family micro-sites.
I like Shutterfly's family sites because they allow me to share photos with interested parties (re: grandparents) without doing all that much. Folks who want to get notified when you upload photos to the site need only "subscribe" to the family site and they get an email update automatically every time you add photos. Voila! No more complaints from Nana and Poppy about how they never see their precious bundles of two-times-removed joy. On the downside, Shutterfly can be a bit pokey, especially if you’re used to using something sexier like our next candidate…
Flickr – Cool, but not family-friendly
Flickr gives you the ability to share either individual photos or entire sets of shots you’ve compiled. You can also give your photos varying levels of security clearances visible to those designated as ‘Friends’, ‘Family’, ‘Contacts’, or any combination thereof. You can even give folks a temporary Guest Pass if they’re not part of the Flickr community. The Guest Pass gives them access only to those photos in the set you’ve designated. Ordering prints isn’t as easy as Shutterfly, especially if you’re ordering a bunch, but you can send them to you local Target for pickup to save on shipping costs if you just want a couple pretty quickly.
While Flickr is good for sharing a set or two every once in awhile, it doesn’t work as a long term distribution solution because to be notified via email when you post new photos it requires folks you’re sharing the photos with to have a certain level of engagement (registration, etc.) with Flickr itself. I got tired of asking folks to register just so they could get updates of when I posted new photos. In reality, unless they’re interested in photography or uploading photos themselves, there’s little incentive (other than seeing your obviously awesome pics) to register on Flickr. There is however lots of incentive for them to get active on…
Facebook – It’s not just for twenty-somethings anymore
If I asked you what the number one photo sharing site on the internet was, I’m sure Facebook wouldn’t jump to mind, but it is exactly that. Granted, the majority of those photos are pics of your college girlfriend doing a keg stand, but still….
Facebook is the perfect way to passive aggressively share your family photos with whatever level of friends you choose based on your security settings. This way your mom can see updated pics of the kids when they pop up in your stream AND post embarrassing details about her recent doctor’s appointment on your wall because she’s, “not quite sure how all this works.”
It’s really a win/win.
Also, unlike Flickr, when you tag someone in a photo, they’re notified in their stream, so grandpap won’t miss that pic of him and little Johnny sitting in the Radio Flyer together. Unfortunately, you can't order prints from Facebook, so you’re still going to fall back on one of the traditional online suppliers for that (Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak, etc.)