Unlike free online photo sites such as Ofoto or Shutterfly, which charge only if you order prints, Club Photo charges an annual fee just to store your images. This service's extras, such as high-resolution image viewing and an online-community photo gallery, however, may justify the price to photo enthusiasts. Casual shutterbugs who simply want to store and share medium-resolution images should check out Ofoto instead. Unlike free online photo sites such as Ofoto or Shutterfly, which charge only if you order prints, Club Photo charges an annual fee just to store your images. This service's extras, such as high-resolution image viewing and an online-community photo gallery, however, may justify the price to photo enthusiasts. Casual shutterbugs who simply want to store and share medium-resolution images should check out Ofoto instead.
No installation required
Like most online photo services, Club Photo doesn't install on your hard drive. To use the service, simply surf to the site and enter your name and e-mail address. Your photo album's interface displays text-based navigational menus across the top, more text-based menus on the left for viewing or editing albums, and a series of impressively large image thumbnails in the middle.
Unfortunately, although Club Photo makes it easy to import batches of photos, it doesn't preserve the names of your files. As a result, your photos may have partial labels or captions until you manually retype them. If you want to adjust your images, say, fiddle with brightness and darkness, rotate them, or change captions, click the box above the thumbnail. To preview your alterations, click the thumbnail to open a second window. For detailed offline editing, which is faster than online editing, and more convenient batch-photo uploads, you can download a free, abridged version of Club Photo's Living Album software. A full edition of the program, which allows unlimited album pages and supports multimedia, will set you back $29.95.
Pay up or get out
Featurewise, Club Photo outdoes Snapfish and Ofoto. But if you want to store your albums for more than 90 days, get ready to pay. At the $24.95 Gold and $34.95 Platinum annual membership levels, you can create 15 and 30 albums, respectively, each with a 60-photo maximum. By contrast, Ofoto gives you unlimited storage space for free. Club Photo also encourages professional photographers to cough up $100 for a variety of benefits, including proof sharing, photo sales, and a professionally designed Club Photo Web site.
Is Club Photo's paid service really worth the expense? Certainly, your guests will appreciate the attractive e-mail invitation to your album. When they head to the site, they can view your thumbnail and full-sized images one by one, initiate a slide show, or fork over extra bucks for a truly flabbergasting array of accessory and gift items, including photo-imprinted mugs and even--gasp--edible cookies. Furthermore, for a fee, both you and your guests can download crystal-clear high-resolution renditions of your photos--an option that's unavailable at most free services.
Competitive print prices
Fortunately, at just $0.25 for a 3x5 or 4x6 print, $3.99 for an 8x10 enlargement, and $1.79 for a quartet of wallet-size shots, Club Photo's hard-copy prints are economical compared to those of the competition. We ordered a sampling of each size and were pleasantly surprised to receive our prints in three business days. Although the photo paper was noticeably thinner than Ofoto's stock, our images were properly cropped and contained accurate colors and hues.
Need assistance? You can reach Club Photo's support team via e-mail or phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. We received satisfactory answers to our two e-mail queries within eight business hours. A human being answered our first telephone call promptly. But our second and third calls, made within operating hours, reached only try-again-later voicemail.
Clearly, Club Photo is a versatile photo-management site. If you can handle its unpredictable phone support and annual fee, this comprehensive online photo site should serve you well. For a sophisticated freebie, check out Ofoto instead.