How to choose a photo storage service

Unhappy with Flickr’s new policies? If you’ve decided you’re done with Flickr, and have downloaded all of your photos, you now have a decision to make: where do you put them now? You can, of course, simply keep them on a hard drive, but that isn’t ideal, especially if you want to be able to share your work with family and friends, or exhibit it for sale or reuse. You can also back them up to one of the popular cloud storage services, but again, most of those aren’t ideal for exhibiting your photos.

You’re not without choices. What follows is a quick list of some of the top cloud services for photographers to store, show, and even sell their work — starting with Flickr itself.

Flickr

Flickr page

Flickr isn’t going away, by any means — its merger with SmugMug has ensured that. What has everyone so upset is that Flickr limited its free plan to 1,000 photos; if you’ve got more than that and don’t switch to a paid plan by February 4th, you may lose any photos that violate that 1,000 count (starting with, according to Flickr, the older ones).

The problem for committed Flickr users is that, while they can download their images and the data that goes with them, images and associated data are downloaded separately and could be difficult to reassociate. So if you’ve got a lot of information and comments associated with your photos, it might be easier for you to stay with the service and simply pay for the privilege. If, of course, you feel you can afford it.

On its annual plan, Flickr is now charging $50.24 yearly for unlimited storage without ads, and adding advanced statistics and discounts from a number of companies, including Adobe and (of course) SmugMug. You can get the same deal (except for the discounts) via its monthly plan for $5.99 a month.

Google Photos

Google Photos interface

A lot of consumers are looking to Google Photos as an alternative to Flickr — and it’s not a bad one, especially if you’ve got a lot of family photos and you don’t mind not storing the originals.

This is how it works: Under its “High quality” plan, Google will store an unlimited number of photos for free as long as you allow them to be compressed to 16 megapixels (according to Google, photos that size can be printed without issue up to 24 x 16 inches). Videos will be kept to a maximum of 1080p (data such as closed captions could be eliminated to save space).

If that doesn’t suit you, you can store photos in “Original quality” — up to a point. Google currently provides each of its accounts with 15GB of free storage, which includes everything stored in Google Drive, Google Photos (not counting the photos stored as “High quality”), and Gmail. There are ways to add to this limit outside of a paid plan — for example, purchasing a Chromebook will often give you additional storage space for a couple of years.

Not buying a Chromebook? Google provides a wide range of plans you can choose from, but be careful where you go to upgrade.

Last summer, Google introduced a new storage plan called Google One, which offers cheaper prices than some of its previous offerings. It starts at 100GB of storage for $1.99 a month ($19.99 a year), and then proceeds to 200GB for $2.99 a month ($29.99 a year), 2TB for $9.99 a month ($99.99 a year), 10TB for $99.99 a month, 20TB for $199.99 a month, and 30TB for $299.99 a month.

If you’re planning to go for the 2TB plan, just make sure that you’re upgrading to Google One rather than accidentally going to the older Google Drive upgrade (which is still online) — you may find yourself paying twice as much for that same 2TB.

(And if you do decide to go with Google Photos, we have a few tips and tricks that can help you get up to speed.)

500px

500px interface

Canadian company 500px is actually more for professional photographers than your average snap-and-save picture taker — it offers pros a place to store, exhibit, and license their work. Last year 500px announced a partnership with well-known distribution house Getty Images, allowing contributors to sell their work through Getty. (On the other hand, some more idealistic photographers may be discouraged by the way 500px has stopped allowing photos to be licensed under Creative Commons.)

So if you have ambitions to start peddling your photos, 500px may be a place to check out.

The Basic (free) plan is limited to the point where it’s really a test account rather than anything useful: you’re allowed seven uploads within a seven-day period. So it’s really more of a trial account than anything else.

The site offers three paid plans. The first, modestly named Awesome, offers unlimited uploads, priority support, no ads, a history of “liked” photos, gallery slideshows, and a profile badge for $47.88 a year or $6.49 monthly. The Pro plan adds a way to display your services and organization tools for $71.88 a year or $12.99 monthly. Finally, you can add a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography to the Pro plan for $155.88 a year (there’s no monthly plan for that one).

Photobucket

Photobucket interface

Back in 2017, Photobucket, which had been hosting thousands of user photos for free, caused quite a bit of agitation when it suddenly decided to charge its members $400 a year to insert their photos on another website using direct image links. These days, the service’s plans are more accessible.

Like the other services listed here, there is still a free plan. Photobucket lets you upload as many photos as you want to a maximum of 2.5GB, but they’ll be shown with ads (a lot of ads!) and the site will watermark the photos with its own logo (don’t worry, the originals won’t be touched). If you’ve decided to stick with Photobucket and want more space (along with ad- and watermark-free photos), you can start with the Beginner plan at $4.48 per month, which gives you 25GB of storage. For $6.48 per month, the Intermediate plan provides 250GB and an unlimited number of photo albums. Finally, for $11.48 per month, the Expert plan offers 1TB of storage and no image compression. All of the paid plans can be had with a 10 percent discount if you pay for a full year.

DeviantArt

deviantart interface

DeviantArt calls itself “the movement for the liberation of creative expression” as well as a social network for artist and enthusiasts. It offers visitors a wide range of artist galleries to view, divided into categories such as traditional, animation, and illustrations. DeviantArt (or DA for short) even has its own publishing platform it calls Sta.sh — emphasizing the fact that this site, like 500px, is less for simple storage and more for showing (and selling) your art.

A free membership in DeviantArt gives you up to 2GB of storage space and access to DA’s community of artists and art lovers. If you contribute $15 every three months or $50 a year, you get to join the Core Members, which gives you access to 20GB of storage and a host of other benefits, such as Google Analytics, more ways to personalize your site, and a 20 percent discount when purchasing other artists’ work. But if you’ve got a large portfolio, you’re going to bump up against that 20GB limit — you’re probably better off using a different service for storage, even if you choose to market through DA.

So what should I do?

As with most online services, which is most useful can be a very individual choice and greatly depends on whether you are taking vacation shots, trying for some really great scenic vistas, or are a professional and / or expert photographer.

If cost is an issue (and when isn’t it?) you can do a simple price comparison — or as simple as possible, considering the differences in the way the services work. Let’s say you need about 1TB of storage for your many photos of family, friends, and pet lizards. You’d rather not compress them if possible, and for that privilege, you are willing to pay an annual fee (which most services offer at a discount over their monthly fees). The difference in price for a year would be:

  • Flickr: $50.24 (for unlimited storage)
  • Google One: $99.99 (for 2TB storage)
  • 500px: $47.88 (for unlimited storage)
  • Photobucket: $123.98 (for 1TB)
  • DeviantArt: $50 (for 20GB)

Going by price alone, then both Flickr and 500px are your most price-smart options, because they offer unlimited storage for approximately the same fee. Google One is next in line — unless you’re willing to let Google compress your photos (and don’t have any other storage needs), in which case its 15GB free plan is the best deal, since compressed photos don’t count toward its storage limit.

However, if you want a place to market your photos (and / or a community of artists to consult and chat with), then 500px or DeviantArt may be a better place to go — just make sure they have the resources you need.

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