Facebook wrecks your photos

There’s a great item at the Washington Post about how Facebook is becoming the default place to share photos. It explains how people are using it instead of Photobucket and Flickr, probably because of the greater social sharing ability on Facebook. Certainly, when I shoot some fun photos of family and friends, Facebook is the first place I put them because that’s where most of those people will see them first.

But I know some things to be wary of that most users don’t. The article addresses those concerns: Facebook shrinks your photos to fit them within the constraints of the albums online, and compresses the images. That may not be a big problem with your cellphone pics, but if you upload real pictures from a real camera, it’s messing with your images. And as the article points out, if you are using Facebook as photo storage (instead of your own hard drive), you are basically throwing your good photos away. You’re not going to get good prints, or even good High Definition quality screen views, of your photos after Facebook has messed them up.

But there’s more. When you take photos with a digital camera, a bunch of useful information is embedded invisibly in the photo. The brand of camera, your exposure settings, the lens you used, the date and time it was taken. If you have a GPS attached to your camera, it adds that info so you can know exactly where you were when the photo was taken. If you use Photoshop or similar tools, you can embed valuable caption and copyright information into the photo.

When you upload a photo to Facebook, all of that is stripped out. It even loses its filename. Losing its filename is not that bad, if that basic information is still left in. But once you upload to Facebook, it’s all gone. That photo no longer belongs to you. Oh, you still theoretically own the copyright, but there’s nothing to identify the picture, and there’s nothing to keep others from taking your photo and using it for their own purposes.

On a sharing site like Facebook, it’s kind of OK to let others use those photos you upload, especially if they’re family and friends. Isn’t that the point? But at the same time, does it make sense for the photo to lose all sense of identity (when it was taken, who took it, where) if, as the article states, Facebook says “it’s not photo quality but context — a pinpointing of place, time and participants — that people care about these days.” Facebook took that all away when you uploaded the photo.

4 Responses to “Facebook wrecks your photos”

  1. March 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I find myself tempted to post my personal photos to facebook instead of flickr or photobucket. Thanks for reminding me all the reasons why I don’t want to.

    • 2 realitytourist
      March 13, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      There are ways to post to Facebook to protect the integrity of your photos, and yourself. You can watermark your images if you want to keep people from wiping them. I make a conscious choice each time I post to Facebook about what and why and how big I’m going to upload my photos.

      While I have both Photobucket and Flickr accounts, most of the time if I just want to upload a gallery of photos for friends and family, I use my Picasa galleries. Then it doesn’t matter if they’re on Facebook or not.

  2. 4 blackwatertown
    May 10, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Interesting and informative post. I usually use flickr – though it’s been a bit dormant lately – or post straight to the blog. Something about facebook that just doesn’t appeal when it comes to posting photos online – not as a first port of call anyway.

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"The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own." - Susan Sontag, On Photography
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