We have yet to find the perfect photo sharing site. Some don't offer enough storage space; others, not enough editing tools. And if you refuse to pay for these amenities, you're likely to face even more compromises. Kodak Gallery, with its bare-bones editing tools, is no exception. But for many users, its unlimited, nearly free storage and vast catalog of photo gifts will be irresistible.
Kodak Gallery, white with yellow accents, has a simple interface. When you first sign in, most of the page will be taken up with promotions for prints and photo gifts. To work with your own photos, click one of the tabs lining the top: My Photos, Share Photos, Upload Photos, Buy Prints, and Shop. Regardless of which one you choose, those five tabs will always line the top of the screen.
Users can sort albums either by date or album title, in ascending or descending order. In a pane along the left-hand side, users can whittle down the photos by choosing just their albums, their friends' albums, or their favorites. There's also a bar at the top for searching albums. Annoyingly, the search terms have to be at least three characters long. If you type a keyword, Kodak Gallery will look inside the albums for photos whose names match that keyword; with advanced search, users can also specify a date range. When viewing photos, users can make the thumbnails one of three sizes.
Of all the online photo editors, Kodak Gallery's tools are among the most threadbare. In addition to the basics (cropping, red-eye removal, rotating, Instant Fix), users can apply tints in five colors (including black-and-white and sepia), ten artistic effects (such as watercolor or pastel), and 68 borders. It's really only sufficient for those who want to tweak their photos quickly and have little interest in fun special effects. For people who want more fun effects, Picnik is, by far, the best free choice. However, the option of reverting to the original photo at any time, in case of a mistake, is a great feature.
Albums and Sharing
Amazingly, users get unlimited storage space; after 12 months, users must purchase at least one print or photo gift to keep the (mostly) free space. Unlike Picnik, an online editor that only offers storage to paying users, Kodak Gallery is, first and foremost, a place for users to share albums with friends. It integrates well with Kodak EasyShare, a free desktop editor available even to people who don't own a Kodak camera, as well as partner products such as theMotorola Motozine ZN5camera phone. Even if you don't use EasyShare or a Kodak camera, you can create a Gallery account for free, and upload photos from your PC.
When you share photos with friends, they'll receive an e-mail with a link to the album. The albums have a clean look and feel, but are almost too simplep; for example, users can't adjust the size of the thumbnails. And when you're advancing through a series of photos, you can't press the right or left arrow on your keyboard to move forward or backward; you have to click on-screen arrows. However, users can choose to view photos as slideshows, and the album's owner can set the size of the photos, how long they linger on-screen, and transitions. While the controls are decent, overall,Picasa'sWeb Albums felt more intuitive.
In addition to its unlimited storage, the detail that most distinguishes Kodak Gallery from other sharing sites is its wide selection of photo gifts. Users can print their photos on clothing, calendars, cards, collages, mugs, stickers, and other items (including prints, which start at 15 cents apiece for 4 x 6 photos). New users get 20 free 4 x 6 prints, and the site regularly offers other, more time-sensitive sales. Although other sharing sites have more editing tools and viewing options, Gallery remains the best choice for those who like to order prints and photo gifts.
Kodak Gallery Verdict
Kodak Gallery will be an attractive option for many consumers: its free (or mostly free) unlimited storage is unbeatable, as is its selection of photo gifts. But when it comes to sharing and editing photos online, Kodak Gallery loses to Picasa, which offers better usability, and Picnik, which offers tons of filters for free. And neither of those options require registration.