Ironically, it's quite common for users of these sites to be out of sight (since it's their camera), with any self-portraits labelled as private, regardless of what images they've got of other people. As a basic rule of thumb, full names should be avoided to prevent anything unpleasant showing up in a Google search, and if anyone asks you to take a picture down or set it to private then it's good manners to do so.

The number of cameras flashing away at almost every event nowadays means that it's easier than ever to have your indiscretions broadcast to the world, and you never know who's looking. As ever, this tends to be more of a problem for women, especially given the number of 'Babes of Flickr' groups and websites out there – and double-especially if the image has been tagged with enticing keywords to scrounge up a bit more attention for the photographer.

The great escape

When choosing a photo host, the final key issue to watch for is how easy it is to get your photos out of the system. Big companies like Flickr and Smugmug aren't likely to vanish overnight, but it pays to keep your own copy of everything you upload, and you should only use services where you can retrieve your files on demand. This option is frequently overlooked, even by the likes of Flickr and Smugmug.

There's no official way to back up your photo gallery with either service, and while there are third-party applications that will let you, they tend to be flaky or prone to not quite doing what you want. True, you can order a set of discs containing your files, but that's an expensive proposition ($22 plus $5 per gigabyte for one of Smugmug's DVDs).

Despite the problems, online photo storage is a good idea. It lets you show off if you want to, or just get peace of mind that your snaps are safe if you don't. Just make sure that you do the research and decide exactly what you want before you start uploading your life.

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First published in PC Plus Issue 283

Liked this? Then check out 10 easy ways to improve your photography skills

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