By Tracey Dowdy
If you never have trouble finding a “Throwback Thursday” photo on your smartphone, it may be time to consider switching some of those old photos to a photo-sharing and storage website.
There are several solid options available online, but before you choose you should consider these important factors:
- Is it user friendly? Consider your comfort level with technology: Are you comfortable navigating the site and uploading photos? Are photos easily edited once they’re uploaded? Can you easily find your photos and search by date or file name? Are photos easily accessed and shared to social media?
- Does it store photos in a high quality format? Facebook albums are a good example. Images stored on Facebook are compressed into much smaller sizes to save on bandwidth and storage – great for them, not so great for your photos. Storing in a high quality format ensures that whether you’re looking at an online album or photos you’ve printed, your photos are top quality.
- Speaking of storage, how much do you need? Think long term, not immediate need. You want sufficient space to store all your photos at a reasonable price.
- Privacy? Does the site control who can see your photos or are you in charge of your privacy option? What about licensing? Who has the right to your photos once they’re posted online?
Keeping these factors in mind, here are some of the best photo storage and sharing sites:
Flickr has been around for a while but recently underwent significant changes and is once again a great option for storing and sharing your photos with mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows phones.
User Friendly: Yes – photos can easily be auto-synced for uploading through the Flickr app, tagged and sorted into albums. You can search for photos by date, tag or keyword.
Quality: Flickr allows for full-size uploading and downloading of photos.
Storage/Cost: Storage is one of Flickr’s best features – you get a full terabyte (2 million photos) for free with ads or you can pay $49.99 a year to get the site ad-free.
Privacy: You determine the audience: friends, family, public or only you. (When you add your contacts, you can set them as friends or family.)
Another oldie but a goodie, Photobucket offers many of the same features as Flickr, along with the opportunity to buy merchandise created from your photos.
User Friendly: Yes – photos can be uploaded directly from your computer, Facebook or other websites. Photos are easily edited through Photobucket’s intuitive editing interface and once edited they can be sorted into albums or stories for a scrolling side show.
Quality: Photobucket allows for full-size uploads of your images.
Storage/Cost: 2GB free, with an additional 8GB with use of the Photobucket app. Prices range from 20GB for $2.99/month up to 500GB for $39.99/month.
Privacy: Albums are password protected.
500px is aimed at more serious photographers. Images can be bought or sold as stock photos or wall art.
User Friendly: Upload photos from your computer, Dropbox, Facebook, or other social media and tag photos to make organizing and searching easier. Choose categories you’re interested in and 500px will intuitively match your interests with other users with similar interests. Users can comment on your photos and note which ones they like.
Quality: Outstanding, which is no surprise since the site is aimed at serious photographers.
Storage/Cost: Free for 20 uploads a week. Paid accounts allow unlimited uploads, the ability to sort photos into sets, and premium accounts come with a portfolio website.
Privacy: Public by default but you can restrict photos to private only.
ThisLife is a photo aggregator and is ideal for gathering all your photos into one collection. Photos can be imported from Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, Picasa and SmugMug, as well as your computer. A Premium account supports video uploads as well.
User Friendly: Yes – photos are easily uploaded from your desktop or the Instagram app.
Quality: Full size uploads and downloads.
Storage/Cost: Up to 2,500 photos free; 25,000 photos for $59/year; 100,000 photos for $139/year.
Privacy: Only those with the link can access albums – accounts are not password protected.
Shutterfly is a great option for collating all your photos into one convenient location. Once photos have been uploaded, you can send friends a link to the gallery and they can add to the album or order prints for themselves. Albums can be collaborative, so you can share access to allow members to upload additional photos, share calendars, polls, or comment on images. Shuterfly also offers an extensive line of products for your photos from blankets to custom calendars.
User Friendly: Photos can’t be auto-synced to upload but are easily added from your computer, Facebook, Instagram, iPhoto, Google+ Photos and Adobe Photoshop, iPad, iPhone or Android apps.
Quality: Full size uploads and downloads.
Storage: Like Flickr, one of Shutterfly’s best features is storage. It’s free with unlimited storage and you get 50 free prints when you sign up.
Privacy: Albums are private by default and Share sites are limited to members only.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Dropbox, Google+, iCloud, even Facebook are options and each has its own strengths. Do your homework, consider your current needs and what you’ll need long term and you’ll have no trouble finding the right site for you.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.