Best cloud storage for photos and pictures in 2022: free and paid

person checking photos on camera before uploading to laptop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As photography technology advances, ensuring you've got the best cloud storage (opens in new tab) for photos and pictures becomes ever more important. With every smartphone having high-quality cameras built in, and digital cameras going from strength to strength, it's never been more key to backup meaningful and important images.

Photos are a major way that we record our lives and capture memorable moments, whether these be family holidays to once-in-a-lifetime events. While previously backing up photos meant painstaking transfers from storage cards to computers and then to external hard drives, the proliferation of affordable cloud storage means it's now much simpler and quicker to save everything to the cloud.

Another advantage is that when you were backing up to hard drives or CDs, you always faced a capacity limit: cloud storage is potentially limitless, and it just depends on how much you want to save and how much you're willing to pay. It's also far more secure than the older physical mediums, as your files are backed up to multiple cloud servers in data centers, manned by security and utilizing encryption.

As such, there's no better time than now to invest in the best cloud storage for photos and pictures. We've reviewed, evaluated, and ranked the best cloud storage for photos across paid and free services below.

The 3 best cloud storage for photos

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IDrive: the best photo cloud storage right now (opens in new tab)

IDrive: the best photo cloud storage right now (opens in new tab)
IDrive tops our ranking thanks to great features and a fair pricing structure. It’s available on Windows, macOS, and smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS (and iPadOS), and offers a cost-effective, efficient way to store photos, with annual plans starting at $79.50.

Google Photos: top free service, and top paid features (opens in new tab)

Google Photos: top free service, and top paid features (opens in new tab)
Google Photos is an easy-to-use, beginner-friendly service, with 15GB free (up to 16MP, and videos up to 1080p). Paying for a Google One membership expands storage, removes file size limits, and adds date and time categorization and facial recognition.

Dropbox: excellent features across free and paid plans (opens in new tab)

Dropbox: excellent features across free and paid plans (opens in new tab)
Dropbox is one of the largest storage platforms, offering simple uploads, mobile apps, automatic transfers, and folder assist. It offers a 30-day file version history viewer, restore functionality, a 2GB free account, and paid plans offering terabytes of space.

Check out these great cloud storage deals:

Get 10TB cloud storage for $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab)

Get 10TB cloud storage for $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab)
IDrive is offering its 10TB personal cloud storage for only $3.98 for the first year, for a limited time only! With this plan, you can enjoy that storage alongside multi-device backup, IDrive's Snapshot file-versioning tool, and the IDrive Express physical storage service.

Get Backblaze for free with every ExpressVPN purchase (opens in new tab)

Get Backblaze for free with every ExpressVPN purchase (opens in new tab)
ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), Tom’s Guide’s #1 VPN (opens in new tab) provider, is offering free unlimited cloud backup via Backblaze (opens in new tab) for an entire year with its annual subscription. Take advantage of secure, business-grade online backup with industry-leading VPN, no strings attached.

What is the best cloud storage for photos?

The internet is packed with great cloud storage services, many of which come with tools to help you organize and share your photos online. Finding the best cloud storage for photos is all about figuring out what features fit with your style of photography. 

For example, photographers who love to share their work should look for a cloud storage service that supports the creation of public galleries. Some cloud providers like Flickr even feature social networking tools to help you connect with your audience.

One major advantage of using a cloud photo storage platform is convenience, as these services enable you to access your snaps whenever and wherever you can get online. 

IDrive and Adobe Creative Cloud, in particular, have powerful mobile applications that enable you to easily manage your cloud collection from iOS and Android devices. As a result, many photographers consider these two to offer the very best cloud storage for photos.

If you're an amateur photographer and aren't monetizing your photos, there’s no reason to pay for an expensive provider, as there are a ton of free or affordable options. Google Drive is arguably the best cloud storage service for those wanting to save cash, as it can be used to store an unlimited number of shots for free, though some resolution limits do apply.


The best cloud storage for photos available

IDrive logo

(Image credit: IDrive)
A secure way to store your photos online

Reasons to buy

+
Rapid uploads and downloads
+
User-friendly web interface
+
Automatic image detection and uploading

Reasons to avoid

-
Overage charges if you exceed storage limit
-
Prices may increase when your first-year discount ends

IDrive ranked top of our rundown of the best cloud storage services for general use, so it’s not surprising that it’s also a fantastic option for storing photos. You can connect your account to multiple devices, which is perfect for any photographers who shoot on more than one camera. 

Also making IDrive one of the best cloud storage services for convenience is an Auto Camera setting. If you activate this, IDrive will automatically upload any new photos or videos that appear on the device, so you never have to worry about losing a shot.

Another cool feature is automatic facial recognition. If you have a large family or take a lot of portrait shots, this tool will automatically sort photos by the people in them, and facial detection information can be shared across any devices added to your IDrive account. 

Lastly, for a limited time only it's offering its 10TB personal cloud storage plan for $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab), which we think offers incredible value.

Read our IDrive cloud storage review (opens in new tab).

Google Photos logo

(Image credit: Google)
A powerful cloud storage service

Reasons to buy

+
Connects to other Google productivity apps
+
AI recognizes and organizes photos by faces
+
Unlimited free storage for 16MP photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Confusing connection between Google Drive and Google Photos
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The scale of the platform is intimidating for some 

Google Drive is more than just another storage app. This is a well-rounded cloud platform that connects to the comprehensive Google Workspace productivity suite, which supports file sharing and collaborative document editing. 

You can store your photos and sync live changes and edits from your desktop computer using Windows and macOS applications. However, Drive does lack some of the photography-oriented features found with other services on this list. 

That’s why the best way to use Google Drive to store your photos online is to use the connected Google Photos storage service. Until mid-2019, photos would sync automatically between Google Drive and Google Photos, but Google decided this was too confusing (opens in new tab) for users and discontinued the practice. 

Today, photos can still be transferred, but once this is done, the two copies of the file are no longer linked. You can now use Google Photos to back up unlimited photos as long as they aren’t larger than 16MP. Although that limit shouldn’t cause a problem for family or holiday shots, professionals may wish to upgrade to a paid Google One membership (opens in new tab), which removes any limit on photo size. 

Google One also expands the amount of Drive storage space you get for other file types. Free Google Drive users get 15GB, while Google One subscribers paying $1.99 a month receive 200GB. Subscriptions of up to 30TB are available. 

Read our full Google Drive review (opens in new tab).

Dropbox logo

(Image credit: Dropbox)
Flexible image storage in the cloud

Reasons to buy

+
Proven network cloud infrastructure 
+
Uploads your photos automatically
+
Easily restore a previous version of your gallery

Reasons to avoid

-
Paid plan is quite pricey
-
Fewer photo-specific features than other platforms

With around 400m users storing approximately 600bn pieces of content, Dropbox is one of the largest file storage platforms around. When you look at its features, many of which are great for photos and images, it’s easy to see why. 

For starters, Dropbox simplifies the process of uploading photos. If you install the app on a phone or tablet, you can activate automatic transfer of new images from your camera roll to your account. You can also do this on a desktop by telling the Dropbox Windows or macOS program to scan connected camera cards or mobile devices for images.

Once photos are uploaded, a helpful folder system organizes them. Even better, if you want to edit photos after uploading, the desktop app can sync folders so that they appear in Windows Explorer or macOS Finder. Any modifications you make with photo editing software will be automatically detected and synced. 

Besides this, Dropbox has unique features that you won’t find with many other cloud photo storage services, including a 30-day file version history viewer and a restore feature to protect you from accidental deletions. 

You can get 2GB free, which is a good starting point if you don’t have too many photos. For a more reasonable capacity, it’s worth upgrading (opens in new tab) to Dropbox Plus which, for $11.99 a month, will net you 2TB. Free and paying Dropbox users can upgrade storage capacity by referring the platform to a friend. 

Read our Dropbox cloud storage review (opens in new tab).

OneDrive logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Strikes a balance between functionality and affordability

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable multi-user plans
+
Get free access to useful office tools
+
Advanced photo search features

Reasons to avoid

-
Not entirely focused on photography
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5GB free space fills up fast 

If you’re looking for a straightforward cloud storage platform where you can store your photos without having to figure your way around new and unfamiliar interfaces, Microsoft OneDrive is worth a look. Microsoft has intentionally made OneDrive’s appearance similar to that of Windows 10, which means there’s basically no learning curve for any Windows users moving to the platform. 

OneDrive is a general-purpose cloud storage platform, and its chief selling point is seamless integration with popular Microsoft 365 applications like Word and Excel. But that’s not to say that OneDrive doesn’t have some excellent photo management features. In fact, it supports tagging, photo search, and album creation.

Pricing (opens in new tab) is pretty affordable too. It matches Google Drive’s budget plan, with 100GB costing $1.99 a month. If you're a fan of Microsoft’s productivity tools, a better option is to go with the Microsoft 365 Personal subscription which, for $69.99 a year, gives you 1TB and access to core Office apps.

Read our Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage review (opens in new tab).

Flickr logo

(Image credit: Flickr)
Free cloud photo storage if you don’t mind compressed formats

Reasons to buy

+
Paid accounts have no storage limits
+
Promote your photography
+
A beautiful way to show off your shots

Reasons to avoid

-
Can’t be used for RAW images
-
Free version is ad-supported

If you’re looking for high-quality cloud photo storage on a budget, Flickr could be the right option. You can think of it as part-cloud photo storage, part-photo-sharing social network. It’s one of the original photography sites to make it big on the web and has an estimated 87m registered members.

Flickr lets you upload up to 1,000 photos and videos free of charge. To remove that limit, you can go for a Flickr Pro+ account (opens in new tab). These cost $7 a month or $60 a year. Pro+ users aren’t just freed from storage limits; they can also see advanced statistics and learn which shots are generating the best response in the community. 

The greatest thing about Flickr is that you can show off your photos in a classy photostream. Because this is a photo network, other users will be able to respond to your shots unless you make them private. Overall, Flickr is a good way to display and store photos, but the one downside is that it can only handle compressed images, so this isn’t the right place to keep your RAW files. 

Read our Flickr review (opens in new tab).

Creative Cloud logo

(Image credit: Adobe)
Amazing edit tools and affordable storage

Reasons to buy

+
Integrates with Adobe image editing tools
+
Apps for pretty much any device
+
Use your library to build a photography site

Reasons to avoid

-
20GB plan is expensive for the space you get
-
Works best if you commit to the Adobe ecosystem

As a photographer, you’re probably already familiar with Adobe's suite of photo manipulation tools, but did you know it now also offers cloud photo storage? 

Through Adobe Creative Cloud, you can access three different cloud storage plans (opens in new tab). Two come with 1TB, while the other includes 20GB, and prices are set at $9.99 or $19.99 a month. Remember that there's a seven-day free trial available with Creative Cloud, allowing you to try out the many apps for free before you decide which paid plan to go for.

You can’t store many photos with the 20GB package (the Creative Cloud Photography Plan), but Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom both get thrown in for free. Considering that Photoshop and Lightroom are two of the best photo editing tools around, the 20GB option is still well worth it if you want to produce the best images possible.

Managing photos in Creative Cloud is a pleasant experience too, thanks to classy image galleries where you can explore your work or share shots with others. With Group Libraries, collaborators can add photos to shared folders, though you can always make individual folders private. Adobe's created macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android Creative Cloud apps, so uploading is a breeze no matter what device you’re using. 

At the same time, direct integration with Lightroom, Photoshop, and Elements means you can always dive into an image to make adjustments. Unsurprisingly, given Adobe’s rich photo-editing pedigree, Creative Cloud is fully compatible with RAW images. As such, this is a suitable platform for professional photographers who don’t want to lose quality when storing images. 

Read our Adobe Creative Cloud review (opens in new tab) focusing on its cloud storage.

Creative Cloud has seamless integration with Adobe apps (opens in new tab)

Creative Cloud has seamless integration with Adobe apps (opens in new tab)
Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Plan comes with 20GB as standard (as well as Photoshop and Lightroom). You can upgrade to 2TB, 5TB, or 10TB starting at $9.99 per TB, and there's also a seven-day free trial available, so you can test it out before you sign up.

pCloud logo

(Image credit: pCloud)
Makes modifying photos online convenient

Reasons to buy

+
Works well with different photo file types
+
No monthly charges
+
Useful Lightroom plug-in

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey 
-
Monthly download quota

Some cloud storage platforms are limited when it comes to modifying photos once you’ve uploaded them, but that’s not the case with pCloud. This service enables you to resize photos within your browser and archive older photos, so you can better focus on your favorite shots. 

Advanced photographers will appreciate that pCloud automatically provides previews and thumbnail icons of uncompressed RAW format photos (which are better for editing). Also, pCloud can connect directly to Lightroom on Windows and macOS devices, so you can upload shots as soon as you’re finished modifying them.

Another element that distinguishes it is pricing (opens in new tab). While almost all competitors charge a monthly subscription, you can pay pCloud a one time fee for a lifetime of 500GB or 2TB. Although the upfront cost is higher, many photographers prefer it, as you can pay once and forget about it. There’s no need to worry about rates being increased over time, or photos being deleted if you stop paying. 

So that its unique payment system isn’t abused, pCloud does limit the amount of data you can download or stream from your account each month. If you have a 2TB account, for example, you’ll only be able to download 2TB in any given month. 

In an image backup use-case, there’s not normally a need to constantly download data from the cloud anyway, so this won’t cause an issue for most photographers. 

Read our pCloud review (opens in new tab).

pCloud offers top security and a great lifetime deal (opens in new tab)

pCloud offers top security and a great lifetime deal (opens in new tab)
pCloud is one of the few cloud storage providers that offers a lifetime subscription. You pay once and get to keep the software and storage forever. pCloud also offers top-notch security and features 'file-versioning', and is a great all-round choice for photographers.


Cloud storage for photos FAQ

What is cloud storage for photos and pictures?

Cloud storage utilizes physical servers to save files on the internet, via internet-connected data centers. These servers are owned, maintained, and run by cloud storage providers, and offer storage for all manner of files.

When it comes to cloud storage for photos, many of the best cloud storage services are also providers of the best cloud storage for photos. You can upload, save, download, and securely backup important image files, and can access them wherever you are, as long as you're connected to the internet.

How do you choose the best cloud storage for photos?

There are plenty of great photo storage services out there, but how do you work out which is right for you? Take into account key factors such as ease of access from mobile and desktop, gallery sharing features to promote your work, the size of your photo library and the number of images you'd like to store online, and much more.

The majority are “freemium”: although they offer some free storage, extra capacity can only be unlocked by signing up for monthly or annual subscriptions. Price per GB can differ dramatically, so it’s worth shopping around and keeping an eye on the capacity you'll require.

When it comes to storage capacity, the average 16MP JPEG requires 4.8MB, so if you have 500 to upload, you’ll need a plan with at least 2.5GB. Fortunately, most services won’t charge for that amount of space,

If you want to preserve original image information via RAW files, almost any service will allow uploads of compressed JPEGs, PNGs, or GIFs: the same can’t be said for uncompressed RAWs or TIFFs. Check if they’re supported, and how many you'll need to save: 500 RAW 16MP photos will take up approximately 2.5TB, so you’ll need a monthly subscription.

Remember that upload and download times will depend on the speed of your own connection. You’ll be better off investing in a physical storage medium if you don’t have a swift ISP. 

Look for services that offer Android and iOS apps if this is something you want to take advantage of. Some go above and beyond by letting you create stunning sites and profiles, like Flickr. Finally, a major benefit is that you can access, edit, and share photos even when you’re away from your workstation.

How we review the best cloud storage for photos

When we come to review cloud storage services, first of all we test the upload and download times for file transfers, because these are integral to the performance of platforms and usage. In turn, we examine how a given service's security tools and features work and how comprehensive they are, to ensure your files are kept safe from hacking or accidental loss.

Next, we test the responsiveness and knowledge of customer service and support teams, as when there's an issue you want to be sure your provider will quickly get back to you, and will know how to fix the problem. In a market vertical with varying levels of free and paid plans, we explore and explain pricing in-depth, while we also test out and discuss any additional tools or features offered by the service.

Across our comprehensive reviews of each cloud storage platform, we also compare each service to its competitors, specifically in terms of pricing and key features. We undertake all of this during testing so that you, the consumer, can benefit from as much information about each service as possible before you choose.

Next steps with cloud storage

Follow our cloud storage (opens in new tab) checklist when looking for a provider of online storage (opens in new tab), and learn top tips for data backup and recovery (opens in new tab). If you're uncertain as to the differences between cloud storage, cloud backup, and cloud sync (opens in new tab), inform yourself with this comparison.

If you're looking for storage beyond just photos, or have a tighter budget, take a look at our other buying guides that evaluate the best free cloud storage (opens in new tab), the best personal cloud storage (opens in new tab), the best cloud storage for business (opens in new tab)

With contributions from
  • PhantomPowered
    Do any of these services read EXIF or other metadata as a means of searching and organizing? I’ve looked into them before and was surprised that none even recognized it.
    Reply
  • RoyalScam
    I think you need to revise the Google Drive/Photos portion of the article. You state “free unlimited photo storage for photos under 16 megapixels.” That was true for a long time, but is no longer true for all users. I believe you’re now limited to the 15 GB in your Google Drive account, period, regardless of photo size.
    Reply
  • rogerh99
    I'd be interested to see self-hosting included in the mix, e.g. on a NAS (such as with Synology Photos) or on shared hosting with a script like Piwigo or Coppermine.
    Reply
  • ForteF
    I am an iDrive customer for my device backup but the Photos app is simply terrible and the support is abysmal.

    I have c15000 photos on my iPhone however not all photos are uploaded and others are duplicated. The viewing interface is also rather poor and a considerable step down from the capabilities of the native apple app.

    With regards support I have been attempting to ascertain which is the target folder for the Photos App search and upload procedure to try and resolve my issue with missed / duplicated photos, however nobody at iDrive is able to answer this.

    Comments have ranged from "Camera Roll" - which was retired with iOS 13 and "Your default camera folder" - which is no help if you are importing photos. I rather think it is the "Recents" folder but as yet nobody at iDrive has been able to confirm which folder their app targets for uploads....

    I really cannot fathom the review from Tom here as I rather think he has been using a different app to the one that I have tried to use....
    Reply
  • 5p0ng3b0b
    Might want to mention:

    Amazon photos app. You have unlimited photo storage and 5Gb of video for prime members.

    NextCloud is best if you have a NAS/Pi or hosted webspace. For example you can get 100Gb hosting with OVH and install Nextcloud on a subdomain for £2/month. Far cheaper and than paid cloud storage.

    A mega cloud account will give you 50Gb free and it will sync photos with PC/phone/NAS.
    Reply
  • InPadure
    I just subscribed to iDrive Photos yesterday. There is a dedicated backup plan with 0.99 USD for the first year. This is amazing, given the unlimited storage, with full resolution.

    I allowed 3 phones (my phone and 2 family members) to sync their pictures into the cloud, and here is my finding:

    I can see duplicated photos (most likely original photo taken by one of the phones followed by the photo being shared via WhatsApp). In the Photos gallery of the web interface in iDrive there is NO way you can differentiate the original (max resolution) from it's duplicates having reduced size by WhatsApp.

    This sort of features are NOT described in ANY review I read about before subscribing for the plan. Maybe I should have to start writing my own reviews...

    I thought I need a cost efficient photo backup, but it seems after just one day that I was wrong. I have canceled my iDrive photos account and got my 0.99 USD back in minutes. I'll be looking at more advanced cloud backup photo services to allow an easier way I can pick and select photos for my yearly photo album that I send for printing every January.
    Reply