Regardless of your camera, you probably take lots of photographs. And with lots of pictures, the issue of where to store them quickly comes into focus (sorry). Even if your smartphone has many gigabytes of storage, it’s still limited and you risk losing everything if the device goes missing or has a technical problem.
Which mean that eventually you’ll need a cloud, someplace out there on the internet where you can upload and store all your images. In addition to space, you’ll want an easy-to-use service that also helps with organization and allows you to share your photos with friends, family, maybe your students, and the world.
This post is not a comprehensive list of all the services available. Instead I’ll point you to some of the better and more affordable choices for the average photographer. If you know of something I missed, spot an error, or have any other comments about this information, please leave me a message here.
What to look for in a photo storage service
Here are the major factors that I think you need to consider:
- Storage space – most services put a limit on how much you can upload. That limit is usually expressed in terms of numbers of images or number of gigabytes used. But don’t just look at how many images you have now; consider your needs in the future.
- Quality of images – read the fine print carefully to see if the service allows for full quality images or if they will compress the pictures. Compression probably won’t matter if you just want to share them online but it could be an issue if you decide to have your images printed.
- Ease of use – you want the process of uploading, organizing, and sharing to be simple, especially if you want other people (like a family or class of students) to contribute to the photo collection.
- Mobile support – part of that ease of use, of course, includes working well with your smartphone or tablet as well as a “regular” computer. Whether they have a dedicated app or a mobile-friendly website, the service should make it easy to both upload, manage, and maybe edit your photos on the device itself.
- Printing – of course, this is only important if you want to regularly create things like hard-copy posters and books of your images. Pictures from any site can be printed but you’ll want to see how easy it is to do with the service you choose, as well as the cost.
Storage For Casual Photographers
Each of these services are very accessible, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive, starting at around $1 a month for 100gb of space. Most include some basic organizational tools, including direct access to major social media services. They also have entry level tiers that give you a small amount of storage at no cost.
This used to be the go-to service in this category. After all, almost everyone has a Google account and Photos is automatically part of part of the bundle.
However, as of June 1, 2021, Google no longer gives users unlimited upload of photos at no cost. Instead the images stored in Photos will count as part of the 15gb of free space in your Drive account. After that is filled, you will have to pay for additional storage starting at $2 per month for 100gb.
When you buy a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, Apple provides 5gb of free storage space. But 5gb really won’t hold many photo (especially if you also want to back up other data) and you’ll probably fill it fast. Additional iCloud storage is available starting at $1 a month for 100gb.
This is Microsoft’s version of iCloud. If you use a Windows device and register for their free account, the free level offers 5gb of storage for photos and other files. Additional space is available starting at $2 a month for 100gb.
If you are paying for a Prime account (currently $119 per year), you also have Amazon Photos which provides unlimited storage for photos (with up to 5gb allowed for video). Prime members can also invite up to five family members to receive unlimited storage.
If you’re not a Prime member, Amazon still offers photo storage à la carte at a price similar to others, around $2 a month for 100gb of space.
Services For More Serious Photographers
If you want more flexibility and a whole lot more storage, there are many very good options. In addition to plenty of space for your files, all of these services offer more robust options for editing and sharing images, including embedding them in other places on the web.
You should also expect to also pay more for additional features than those in the basic group above.
Although designed for business, Dropbox is used by many amateur photographers as a bulk storage space for their images. The basic plan offers 2 terrabytes of storage for $10 a month (if paid annually) and the Dropbox apps can be configured to automatically upload all your photographs from multiple devices. You can also share individual images or folders with other Dropbox users as well as allowing them to upload images to your account.
This is the granddaddy of photo sharing sites, established in 2004. But Flickr is more than just photo storage, providing a site to display your images online and create printed versions in various formats.
Currently Flickr offers a free account (with ads) which is limited to 1000 images and videos. A Pro account provides unlimited storage and no ads for $60 per year.1
While not as well known as Flickr, this service has been around almost as long. They also offer a free, ad-supported level, with storage for 250 images to give you a chance to try the service. Paid levels start at around $65 per year for 25gb of storage. Their unlimited plan costs about $140 a year.
Photobucket offers better organizational and editing tools than Flickr, along with more options for sharing albums, including password protection.
In addition to being an image storage service, SmugMug also provides templates and tools to build a website around your photos. They don’t have a free options but do offer a free 14-day trial and plans start at $55 per year with unlimited storage. This is also a good service to look at if you want to sell your images.1
Many people subscribe to Adobe’s media editing package, which includes the photography-related programs Lightroom and Photoshop. The full Creative Cloud plans include 100gb of media storage, while the basic photography plan includes 20gb. Since it’s tightly integrated into their applications, this would be a good place to start if you’re already paying for one of Adobe’s plans.
Social Media Options
I did not include social media services like Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest and others in this post. All are primarily social media sites that are probably the most popular places to post photographs.
However, while there is theoretically no limit to the number of photos you can store, they have poor organizational tools and finding those images again once they are far down the timeline is nearly impossible. Also all, especially Facebook, have significant privacy issues related to how they use your material that should be considered.
1. Full disclosure: I am a Pro member of Flickr and my AssortedStuff Photos site is hosted on SmugMug. However, I do not have an affiliate account with either service (which are owned by the same company) and clicking on the links above will not benefit me in any way. I am just a long-time, satisfied customer and highly recommend them.