FAQ: What to do with your Yahoo photos

Yahoo Photos will begin shutting down on September 20. What should you do if you have pictures there?
Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor
It's time to find a new home for the more than 2 billion pictures stored on Yahoo Photos.

Even though the Internet company just refurbished Yahoo Photos with a glitzy new interface, it's shutting down the site beginning September 20.

The move shouldn't come as a surprise, given Yahoo's 2005 acquisition of photo-sharing powerhouse Flickr. But it does mean that millions of members will have to take action in the coming months if they want to preserve the pictures stored at the site--and that means things could get complicated.

Yahoo just fired up tools to let customers move their photos elsewhere, and CNET News.com has compiled some questions and answers to help users of Yahoo Photos understand the situation and make the right choices.

Why is Yahoo Photos shutting down?
Flickr, not Yahoo Photos, is where all the Web 2.0 action is. Where Yahoo Photos was largely a repository for printing and sharing photos, Flickr's roots and attraction lie in more dynamic social activities--for example, commenting on pictures or joining with like-minded photographers into groups focusing on topics such as missing persons, high dynamic range photos or mating insects.

"People are changing the way they use photography, and we have decided to shift our focus accordingly," the company said in a statement Thursday. "Photography is quickly evolving from its original purpose as a means to preserve memories into a social activity that allows people to communicate and connect."

What should I do to preserve my photos?
Yahoo on Wednesday launched tools that can move your photos to Flickr or four other sites: Shutterfly, Hewlett-Packard's Snapfish, Kodak's EasyShare Gallery and Fox Interactive Media's Photobucket. In addition, Yahoo has signed up with Englaze to burn photos onto CDs for $6.99 per disc, not including shipping. If you don't have other backup, that's probably not a bad idea, regardless of what else you do with your photos.

If you don't already have copies on your own computer, you can download your photos one at a time, but Yahoo has no option for doing so in one fell swoop..

Which site should I pick?
It depends on your needs. Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly and Snapfish are geared toward printing photos, so those services should look more familiar to Yahoo Photos users. Photobucket is widely used for hosting images that appear on blogs and sites such as Facebook or MySpace.com. Flickr's raison d'etre is photo sharing and social networking, but it offers traditional print services as well.

Are these sites offering incentives to join?
Yes. Yahoo estimates that more than 2 billion photos are stored at Yahoo Photos, so it's no surprise other sites want to grab as much of the spoils as they can.

Shutterfly offers a free 8x8-inch photo book to Yahoo Photos members making the switch. Kodak Gallery offers 20 free 4x6-inch prints to those who join. Snapfish offers 50 free 4x6-inch prints. Flickr offers three months of free "pro" status, which offers consumers some perks beyond the regular free accounts and that costs $25 per year. Yahoo members who have Verizon and AT&T broadband subscriptions will get free pro accounts for as long as they subscribe.

Yahoo may not like Google much, but I do. Can I move my photos to Picasa?
If you're keen on Picasa, Zooomr, Webshots--which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of CNET News.com--or photo sites elsewhere, you'll have to upload your photos yourself. For the automated migration, Yahoo selected Shutterfly, Snapfish, Photobucket, Flickr and Kodak Gallery "as the best fit for our users" after "evaluating user and industry research."

I print a lot of photos. How much does printing cost at the other sites?
For 4x6-inch, 5x7-inch and 8x10-inch shots, Flickr charges 15 cents, 59 cents and $1.99, respectively; Shutterfly charges 19 cents, 99 cents and $3.99; Kodak Gallery charges 15 cents, 99 cents and $3.99; Snapfish charges 12 cents, 79 cents (though per-photo prices go down if you purchase multiple pictures) and $2.99; and Photobucket, through a partnership with Qoop, charges 15 cents, 99 cents and $2.99.

If you don't want your prints mailed, Flickr, Shutterfly and Kodak Gallery let you pick up prints at Target, and Kodak Gallery customers also can use CVS Pharmacy, Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera and some other options.

How long do I have to choose?
Generally, customers in the United States have until September 20. Yahoo plans to advise international customers later this year.

What if I wait past the deadline?
Your photos will be deleted--except in the case of photos belonging to customers of subscribers to Yahoo's broadband partnerships with AT&T and Verizon. Those subscribers, if they do nothing else, will have their photos automatically migrated to a Flickr pro account.

What will happen to my photos' titles, captions, tags and albums?
Some information will be retained, but not all. Photobucket won't keep tags, ratings, captions or per-image privacy settings. Shutterfly and Snapfish don't support tags and smart albums, a relatively new organizational feature at Yahoo Photos. However, Shutterfly will save tag information and plans to make them available in the future. Kodak Gallery doesn't support tags, smart albums or the ability to set albums as public or private.

Flickr will preserve tags, captions and EXIF (exchangeable image file format) data that records details such as the camera model that shot a picture and the exposure length. And it will convert albums into its equivalent term, sets. Flickr will make all photos it imports private by default, although it offers a tool by which users can switch all the ones that were public in Yahoo Photos so they're public in Flickr, too.

Book and calendar projects at Yahoo Photos can't be transferred anywhere, so you'd better print them soon if you want more copies.

Can I transfer my images to all the sites to try them out?
No. If you want to kick the tires at the new sites, sign up and upload some photos, because the Yahoo Photos transfer can only be done once, and it's irreversible. Once the transfer is finished, your photos won't be available at Yahoo Photos.

I have 58,000 images and 496 albums at Yahoo Photos. Will I be able to see them at Flickr?
If you have a pro account, yes. Otherwise, you'll only be able to see your 200 most recently uploaded photos and three most recently created sets. And if you're used to uploading huge quantities of photos, beware: Flickr pro account users have no limits, but free account holders may only upload 100MB per month.

How long will it take to move my photos?
It will vary depending on how many photos the other sites have to digest. When a migration to Flickr begins, the site sends an e-mail saying the transfer "could take a little while." And it might not work on the first try: "We have experienced a few technical challenges due to the large volume of photos," the company said. "However our engineers are working to resolve the issue and stabilize the migration."

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