Flickr vs PBase — Which is better for hosting photos?

First published on: Monday, 10 September 2007

Web hosting for your photos — this is one of those areas in photography where there’s little agreement on which photo sharing solution is the best.

I have personally used Smugmug.com, Fotki.com and Imageshack.us, but due to a variety of reasons, have decided to drop them and stick only to Flickr.com and PBase.com.

Before I get into the specifics of Flickr vs Pbase, you might want to know what my conclusions are first:

  • Go with Pbase.com if you want to create a hierarchy of sub-galleries with no depth limit, and would like to present those galleries in a professional manner, tailored to your needs using CSS (custom stylesheets).
  • Go with Flickr.com if you want to share and discuss your photos with as wide an audience as possible. If you’re a blogger, definitely use Flick since it has a publicly-available API (application programming interface) which allows you to pull pictures and information from your Flickr account and have them appear on your blog. Additionally, there are tons of Flickr widgets (little bits and snippets of code) that you can stick in your site and have, say, the latest photos appear in the sidebar of your blog.

Let’s go into the details now.

Price

Flickr charges you US$24.95 per year, while PBase asks you for US$23.

Storage space and file size

Flickr is the king of the hill when you want to store unlimited number of photos. They used to impose a limit on how many megabytes (MB) of photos you can upload in a month, but there’s no limit now. Go ahead and upload 2.9 trillion photos per day, but each photo cannot exceed 10 MB 20 MB per photo (announced in this Flickr blog post, last paragraph) if you have a Pro account (the 10 MB limit stays for free accounts).

Pbase is king of the hill when you want to share the latest JPG photo taken with the latest 24-megapixel camera, because there’s no limit on the size of each individual photo. However, for $23 a year, you only get to store 500 MB worth of photos. If you exceed that quota by even 1 byte, your subscription period automatically drops from 12 months to 6 months (pro-rated over the remaining number of months left in your subscription)

Gallery structure

By default, the latest photos you post to Flickr always appear on your home page. Very much like blogs, where the latest post and articles appear at the top of the page. You can create sets of photos (say My Rome Trip in 2007) and collections of sets (My Lifetime of Rome Trips), but it’s not possible, to my knowledge, to create sub-galleries with unlimited depth.

PBase is great for those who like to create sub-galleries under sub-galleries. It’s very easy to do — just navigate to an existing gallery, enter the name of the new gallery, and indicate whether the new gallery should be a child of the current gallery, or appear at the home page. You can create nice hierarchies of galleries in PBase.

For comparison, see this gallery of full-sized Nikon D70 photos on Pbase, vs. that on Flickr. What’s missing in the Flickr version are two sub-galleries (Sigma 18-50mm images and Sigma 12-24mm images) because I can’t do them in Flickr like I can in Pbase. Also, I’ve elected to denote sub-galleries with double colons (::) on the left and right of the sub-gallery title.

Which do you prefer?

On Pbase, especially if you’ve never visited PBase before, the default image size presented to you when you click on a thumbnail is Large. You’d need to then click on the Original link found beneath the photo in order to see it full-sized, but this preference is remembered on your computer and will be in effect for subsequent images.

In the case of Flickr, clicking on a thumbnail shows you only the medium sized version. You’d then have to click on the All Sizes link above the photo, which shows you the Large version, and then click on Original to view the full-sized photo. Then click on the Back to the Flickr photo page link, click the next photo, and repeat the entire process.

In other words, it’s not generally a cool idea to host photos on Flickr for the viewing pleasure of pixel peepers. You may argue that Flickr holds much more data (IPTC, and more EXIF fields) than PBase, but pixel peepers (like me) prefer to have the convenience of all the images display in the Original size from the get go, and use our own EXIF tool of choice to peek at the underlying data.

Photo titles

If you make it a point to name your JPEG images before uploading them, Flickr is smart enough to name your uploaded photos with the same name as your file without the JPG extension. So, if you upload an image with the filename 1st Flower Macro.jpg, your photo will appear on Flickr with the name 1st Flower Macro. Unfortunately, the uploader created for the Apple Mac OS X platform isn’t so smart — you’d need to manually remove the extension.

On Pbase, that same file will be titled 1st Flower Macro.jpg. I have to manually place my cursor in the name field of the image and hit Backspace a few times to remove .jpg — mildly irritating, but a huge inconvenience if you have tons of photos uploaded at one go.

EXIF

Flickr makes it very difficult to view the EXIF of a photo. What’s shown with each photo is just the camera model. If you’re interested in the technical details of a series of photos, you’ll have to always click the “More properties” link which brings up a separate page showing a smaller version of the photo with the EXIF. Then hit Backspace, call up the next photo, and repeat the process.

On Pbase, basic EXIF such as camera model, shutter speed, focal length and aperture is always shown, and you have the option to call up the full EXIF, after which your preference is remembered for every subsequent photo you view on PBase. Pbase also allows you to tag your photo with the lens that was used.

It has to be said that Flickr does have the upper hand when it comes to completeness of capturing image data. IPTC information, if present, is automatically recorded in the Caption / Abstract field for the photo. Even XMP data can be captured. You can basically put as much information as your heart desires in the IPTC / XMP fields.

Bandwidth

You can be assured of virtually no problems with image download bandwidth. Imageshack.us is pretty famous for showing a picture of a frog the minute your photo has been viewed X number of times in Y amount of time.

No such issues with Flickr or PBase. Be the first person on Earth to snap a photo with the newest camera model, upload the original to your account, share it with a digital camera forum (if you want to be famous online, just post a link in the relevant forum on DPReview.com to that photo), and you can be sure of having thousands of visitors to that photo within a couple of hours. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about your account being temporarily shut down, or suspended, or worse, having the viewers complain that they can’t see your image.

Ease of use

To be fair, I think both systems are equally easy to use once you get the hang of the user interface. For some stuff, I prefer Flickr (single click, AJAX-style, on photo or title field to change the content), and for others, I prefer PBase (hierarchical galleries).

For what it’s worth, my Mum represents the typical photographer who just wants to share her images in a simple way, and she prefers Flickr.

The Social Aspect

Flickr is a Web 2.0 site, meaning that in addition to sharing photos, its primary purpose seems to be to grow your network of admirers as fast as possible. Keeping track of comments made on your photos as well as comments you have made on others cannot be any simpler.

Any new comment made on your photos automatically triggers an email to notify you of that event. This feature can be turned off.

You can also mark other Flickr users as friends, and their latest photos are easily viewable from your account control panel. You can submit your photos (more like tag them) to appear in Flickr groups so that they get a wider (and more relevant) audience. For instance, submit your flower photo to the Macro group, Flower group, Bokeh grou, etc, etc, etc. No re-uploading is needed — just select your photo, and click on the appropriate menu item that drops down a list of Flickr groups you’re subscribed to, and check the box next to those you wish your image to appear in.

Subject to a one-time approval, you can even create your own groups and invite folks to post images to them.

Flickr groups are also very much like forums where people can post questions and answers.

In short, Flickr is possibly one of the best ways to make new friends and contacts through photography.

Pbase has a forum, and does allow comments, but it feels very old-fashioned.

Tracking visitor statistics

Flickr shows you how many times your photo has been viewed. And there are some handy widgets to show how your visitor found your photo.

But Pbase allows you to insert code from Statcounter.com (king of free stats services) into your account profile that shows you much, much more:


  1. What search phrase in which search engine was used to find your photo

  2. Which forum discussion linked to your photos / galleries
    Visitor path, ie. how your visitors navigated your PBase galleries
    Most popular pages / images
    Total unique visitors and page views, archived indefinitely

If you ever want to measure the impact in terms of web visits to any particular gallery or photo, PBase is the way to go.

Quality of resized photos

When viewing the uploaded photos at anything other than the original size, Flickr wins because it produces sharper and more crisp pictures without compression artifacts. Compare: This Flickr photo at Medium vs. the same at Pbase, Large.

Sharing videos

In April 2008, Flickr announced its “Video on Flickr” capability. Flickr stresses that this feature is not to be compared to Youtube as uploaded videos are limited to 90 seconds in length, and is meant to showcase “long photos”, that is, short clips that that would give a better idea of an event that transpired better than a photograph could accomplish, while not so lengthy as to bore the viewer. Read more at Flickr’s Video FAQ and Heather Champ’s blog post announcing this new feature.

I kinda like the idea myself, especially if you post up interesting videos to enhance related photographs. You get to embed videos in websites and blogs too — check out this sample by dtrickle69:

You can’t upload video clips to Pbase.

Conclusion

Get a Flickr account if you want unlimited storage and bandwidth for sharing photos, meet like-minded photographers and want to put your programming knowledge into practice by incorporating Flickr services into the web sites you build.

Get Pbase if you need a hierarchical approach to presenting your photos, and have complete control over the URL naming of your galleries and sub-galleries.

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