Store, Share and Organize Your Photos
With smartphone cameras getting better and better, you're almost guaranteed to fill your phone with hundreds of photos and videos of friends and family celebrating. Don't let those memories languish on your device, unseen by no one but yourself. Plenty of sites — many of them free — let you easily save and show off your photos, make them into books or let friends and family print copies. Some services even allow you to sell your photographic art. To find out which photo sites offer the best bang for your buck, we tested 10 of them by uploading an assortment of photos from our camera reviews, tagging and organizing them as the site recommends. We then looked at the various ways we could share and print photos, to determine which site offers the best and easiest-to-use range of features.
What to Look For in a Photo Storage Site
A good photo-hosting service should offer six things:
- Space: It should have enough storage to keep all of your photos in one place over the years at a low cost.
- Quality: Your photos should be preserved in all their original high-res glory, not compressed beyond recognition.
- Ease of use: You need to be able to upload photos easily and edit them.
- Ease of access: Finding photos by date, tags or other means should be achieved without hassle.
- Shareability: A good photo site makes sharing photos as easy as taking them, allowing you to post pictures to sites like Facebook, Twitter and others.
- Printability: You or someone else who likes your photo should be able to buy a print or put together a photo book easily.
Flickr is our top pick, thanks to its massive amount of storage and a simple, clean interface that makes it a joy to use. It remains the best option for serious shooters. Flickr also offers a great selection of tools, extensive tagging features and support for both viewing and downloading photos at a variety of resolutions (including, unusually, the option to offer the original size). A stats engine lets you track who is looking at your photos. A very easy drag-and-drop system allows you to organize albums of your photos and collections of photos from you and other photographers.
Flickr no longer offers its own photo-book printing service; instead, Pro subscribers get $35 off a $70 order at photo-book service Blurb, up to four times a year. (In our opinion, Blurb isn't that great, so check out our top Photo Book services). Since being sold to SmugMug, the company announced a cap of 1,000 photos on free accounts, which went into effect in January. The upgrade to a Pro account is a good deal, though: $49.99 a year gets you unlimited storage, no ads and video support. Other Pro features include the ability to view your images at resolutions up to 5K, and the option to stream videos up to 10 minutes in length.
Pricing is shown as US only.
Aimed at serious photographers, 500px offers an image-focused design that puts your photos front and center, providing a clean and elegant way to display your best images. You can organize your pictures into Sets (photos on a particular theme) and Stories (photos of an event) that present the images in a strikingly dramatic fashion. The free version of the service allows you to upload up to seven photos per week and store up to 2,000 in total.
There are three paid levels: Awesome ($3.99 a month, unlimited uploads), Pro ($5.99 a month) and Pro and Adobe ($13.99 a month), which includes a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan apps. (Pricing is shown as US only.)
The last two levels also offer unlimited uploads, plus more customization options and listings in the sites' pro directory. You can switch between membership levels, but you have to sign up for a year's membership with the Pro and Adobe plan. You can also sell your photos as royalty-free artwork through the site. 500px no longer offers services like prints and photo books, but these are available elsewhere.
The big kahuna of social sites also offers a surprisingly good set of photo-sharing and editing tools. After uploading photos from a cellphone, web browser or desktop client, you can create albums, add captions and tag photos by date, location or the people in the pictures. Face recognition has also been added; it will try to recognize the faces in your shots and tag those people if they are on Facebook. However, Facebook does shrink the images to fit onto the page. Facebook recommends sizing pictures to 720 or 960 pixels wide. You can use 2048-pixel-wide images if you select the high-quality upload option, but if the image is larger than 100 kb, it will get compressed for viewing.
Another downside is that there is no way to share the original-size photo. But if a lot of your family members and friends are already on Facebook, it's a great way to share casual shots or family photos.
The free version of Photobucket offers storage for 250 photos, though it comes with very intrusive ads, including pop-ups that obscure your photos. There are three levels of paid, ad-free service: Beginner (25GB of storage for $5.99/month), Intermediate (250GB for $7.99 a month) and Expert (unlimited storage for $12.99/month). All of these plans allow you to show the photos on a third-party site, which is useful if you want to put the photos on a social network site that doesn't have its own image-uploading feature.
Photobucket has a generous collection of editing tools through a simple, easy-to-use interface. This list includes unusual tools like the smart color brush, which selectively adds color back into a black-and-white image.
Once you have edited your photos, you can add basic tags and organize them into albums or stories, the latter of which is a neat scrolling presentation of photos and accompanying text. Photobucket provides extensive support for selling prints: You can buy individual photos, photo books (starting at $1.99) or even things like fleece blankets and tablet cases with your photos on them.
Irista comes from camera manufacturer Canon, but it doesn't require a Canon camera. Plenty of features are available, including uploader programs for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, as well as support for quickly sharing photos to Facebook and Twitter. The system is easy to use, with powerful tagging and album-creation features, but there is no direct support for buying prints or creating photo books.
Canon offers seven plans, starting with a free account that gets you 15GB of space. Its least expensive paid plan is $2.25 a month, which gets you 100GB. Its highest-priced plan costs $129 a month for 10TB of storage, which equates to more than 15 million photos or more than 150 hours of HD video.
SmugMug is another design-focused site that offers a stylish home for your photos, with a custom homepage (such as richardb.smugmug.com) and many well-made design templates. SmugMug costs more than other services, though; there is no free version (though there is a 14-day free trial). The cheapest level of service costs $5.99 per month ($48/year), up to $360/year for the Pro plan, which offers professional features such as ecommerce tools.
Regardless of the plan, you get a lot for your money, with unlimited storage of photos (each up to 150MB in size) and 1080p videos, and a good range of editing tools that are simple to use but powerful. These won't replace Photoshop in a professional photographer's toolbox, but they are good enough to fix most common photography issues and tweak a photo.
Apple's iCloud service integrates with its own Apple Photos software on Macs and iOS devices, although you can use the basic features on a Windows PC. You can upload photos to the free 5GB of space and share them in an online photo stream that can be viewed in Apple Photos or as a web page. Photos can be tagged with names and locations, and other iCloud users can also add their photos. That's a neat trick for creating a photo record from multiple photographers — say, of a party or concert everyone attended.
If you run out of space, Apple offers three additional tiers: 50GB for 99 cents/month, 200GB for $2.99/month, and 2TB for $9.99/month. The latter two plans can be shared with other family members.
While Apple Photos is phasing out its printing service, extensions are available for exporting photos to third-party printers.
Google's photo-sharing service was designed primarily as a way to back up photos and video taken on smartphones, but it has evolved into a decent photo editing and sharing service. Once you have uploaded a photo, you can edit it by cropping and tweaking colors. Once the editing is done, you can create albums of photos and video that can be shared publicly or with specific Google users. In our roundup of the Best Photo Editing Software and Apps, we named Google Photos best for sharing.
Google keeps adding new features as well. For example, if Google Photos sees that a particular friend is in your photo, it will offer to share it with them. It can also automatically colorize black-and-white images, too.
Google Photos offers unlimited space and uploads, but with a small caveat: Photos can be stored at a maximum resolution of 16MP and video at 1080p. If you want to store bigger image or video files, you'll need to pay for space on Google Drive, which starts at $1.99 / £1.99 a month for 100GB.
Adobe offers this service to users of its Creative Cloud software subscription service, which provides access to programs like Photoshop and Lightroom. For a monthly fee, this service allows you to store between 2GB and 20GB (for the $9.99 / £9.98 and $52.99 / £49.94 subscription levels, respectively) of photos and video in the cloud, while Adobe Portfolio provides a clean, simple way to create a portfolio from these files. It offers six customizable templates, and you can sort the content into projects or events. It also integrates with Adobe’s Lightroom software, so you can publish images straight to your portfolio with a single button press.
Individual photos and events can be tagged and labeled with captions. The presentation is clean and easy to use, as it is aimed particularly at professional photographers marketing their services on Adobe's Behance website. Still, it would also work well for amateurs looking for a clean, simple way to show off their work.
The cloud file-sharing service offers support for photos, with its Android and iOS apps automatically uploading photos from mobile devices to the service. You can also upload images from your computer to Dropbox as you would with any other files. Once photos are in the cloud, you can create and share basic slideshows that anybody can access, or share the files directly with other Dropbox users.
Unfortunately, there is no tagging, no printing and no way to edit photos online. Dropbox does offer a free collaborative editing tool, called Dropbox Paper, that is rather like Google Docs, but this doesn't offer photo-editing features. As such, Dropbox is a good option for photographers who want to back up photos, but not for those who want to catalog and permanently store their images. Dropbox offers a free 2GB plans; a 2TB plan costs $8.25/month, while a 3TB plan, which includes 180-day history and watermarking, is $16.58 per month. Here is a list of all of Dropbox's storage plans.
Amazon Prime Photos
Prime Photos is Amazon's photo-storage site for Prime members. (Prime membership costs $119/ £79 year.) It lets you store and share unlimited photos on your desktop, smartphone or tablet. The service also lets you order photo prints, cards, calendars and more — all with free shipping. Users can invite up to five friends or family members to receive unlimited photo storage and collect photos in a Family Vault, and you can show photos on the new Echo Show or Fire TV. That might be a good way to share the latest family snaps with the grandparents. Amazon has added a feature called Groups that allows you to share photos with a larger group, which is useful if you are involved in a club or society.
Credit: Amazon Prime
Camera Buying Guide
Looking to buy a new camera? Then check out our Best Cameras page, which covers everything from DSLRs to iPhone lens kits. Our Camera Buying Guide will help you narrow down your choices. Having trouble deciding between a DSLR and mirrorless camera? Our handy guide will help you determine which is the best for your needs. And, when it comes to sizing photos for different sites, here's a look at how many megapixels you really need.