Gone are the days when a standard-size photo album could hold a year’s worth of photos. Now, thanks to smartphones and high-end digital cameras, the average person captures multiple images per day. In fact, according to InfoTrends, more than one trillion photos are taken each year—that’s an estimated 160 photos per person.
In order to safeguard and store those photos, it’s important to choose a photo storage system that’s both secure and easy to use. Read on to learn about the different types of photo storage options that are available, what factors to consider when choosing the best photo storage, and how much it’ll cost to get top-notch storage.
- BEST OVERALL: Flickr
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ImageShack
- BEST FOR SECURITY: pCloud
- BEST FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS: PhotoShelter
- BEST FOR PHONE BACKUPS: Google One
- BEST FOR PHOTO EDITING: Photobucket
- BEST FOR IPHONE USERS: iCloud
- BEST WITH AMAZON PRIME: Amazon Prime Photos
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Photo Storage
With so many online options available, selecting the best photo storage platform can be confusing. The top shopping considerations for buying photo storage space are listed below.
There are three main types of photo storage: cloud storage, external hard drives, and solid-state drives. Due to its convenience, cloud storage is an increasingly popular solution. This type of service syncs images on your computer to “the cloud”—it’s like an automatic backup system for your photo files. To use a cloud service, users are typically charged a monthly fee for regular storage, though most cloud-based storage platforms offer a small amount of space for free. The cost will be dependent on the size of storage needed.
Unlike the cloud, which lives within your computer, an external hard drive is a device that plugs into one of the computer’s external ports. Hard drives are generally affordable, but they range in price depending on the amount of storage available. A solid-state drive uses flash-based memory, which gives it the ability to transfer data quickly and efficiently. It’s also a more reliable option but tends to be at a higher price point.
When selecting a photo storage platform, consider how much storage you think you’ll need. Photographers will likely need a combination of services. This is because cloud storage doesn’t have enough storage for all the RAW and/or TIFF files a professional might produce and save over the years. Therefore, it may be useful for professional photographers and those who are serious about taking photos to utilize an external hard drive or a solid-state drive as well. For users who are looking for a way to back up their smartphone photos safely, using a cloud service is a convenient option.
If photo sharing is a must-have feature, there are cloud services that offer sharing via social media. These platforms may also include tagging and organizing tools, editing abilities, and even photo printing services.
The amount of storage you need depends on the size and number of photos you’d like to save, which is commonly reflected in megapixels. The size will be impacted by the type of file format of your photos. The most common types of files are JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, and RAW.
JPEG: JPEG, which is the acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is the most used image format and is the standard for digital cameras. These files have been compressed, which means they can store a lot of information in one small file. The only downside is that when compressed, the file loses some of its details. These files can be saved in different sizes, with the largest being high-resolution images for printing.
TIFF: TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) images are uncompressed, so they’re used to create very large file sizes. TIFF files are ideal for editing due to their ability to hold large amounts of data.
GIF: GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, which compresses images while still preserving their details. GIFs have a limited color range, so they’re often used for animations rather than photos.
PNG: PNG (Portable Network Graphic) files are used for web images. PNG files are not compressed and can be used with transparent backgrounds and drop shadows.
RAW: RAW files take up an ample amount of space. This is because RAW files are usually taken straight from a professional camera (with vast amounts of data that is uncompressed). RAW files act like a digital negative and need further processing before use. As mentioned above, RAW files are often stored by photographers and may require added storage space.
Storage space is usually measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). When reflected in GB, space will be smaller than when noted in TB, which is 1,000 times larger. Most amateur photographers will be fine with the former, but a professional photographer may need the additional space. Of course, the more storage, the higher the cost. Many cloud services give some space for free, usually enough for about 1,000 photos and up to about 5,000. For those who are unsure if they’ll use the space, some subscriptions offer a sharing option in which the primary user can share storage with their family members.
Ease of Use and Access
The most convenient photo storage options are those that include an automatic backup setting through the cloud for your device, whether it’s a phone, laptop, tablet, or camera. This allows users the added comfort of knowing that all their photos are secure, without needing to manually back them up. Using cloud storage is also convenient for accessing images since users can do that online from any computer.
For organization, the ability to tag images can be extremely helpful for cataloging photos. Tagging allows users to mark a photo (some services will do this automatically) with a keyword, location, or date so that it can be easily found later on. Whether it’s for tagging, editing, sharing, or printing, it’s also important that the program’s interface looks clean and includes tools and settings that are easy to use.
Photo sharing is more popular than ever, so it’s not surprising that most storage options include this ability. Some photo sites, like Flickr, also feature “social sharing,” which allows subscribers to have followers and track views. Others have less of a social media feel, but allow sharing with friends and inner groups. Some services also allow users to share their photos publicly. Some offer an automatic upload to sites like Instagram and Facebook to easily share images.
For professionals, shareability is important for their work with clients, so pro-friendly options will frequently offer proofing and printing capabilities. A variety of storage platforms also feature an option for creating a website to showcase images.
For those who like to print images or create photo books for personal use or gifts, finding a storage solution that allows users to do that straight from its site is ideal. These storage services will often offer a simple template for designing albums and other printed products. Some will offer this service directly, while others will use a third-party vendor for printing. Sites geared toward photographers may offer users the option to sell products directly from their accounts, making for a simple transaction.
As mentioned earlier, the cost of storage will be directly related to the amount of space available. The user will generally get an allotted amount of storage for free and then have to pay a subscription cost for anything above that. Sometimes this price is paid in one lump sum, but more often than not it’s a yearly or monthly charge. The fee commonly ranges from as low as 99 cents to as high as $100 per month for the options with more space. The cost will sometimes include additional features such as photo recovery and photo editing software apps. For an external hard drive or solid-state drive, it’s usually a one-time fee, which can range from $40 to around $300.
Our Top Picks
The best storage option for your photos should be convenient, secure, and affordable. The following services meet these standards, but they vary with different features to suit diverse users, from the family shutterbug to professional photographers.
Flickr is more than just image storage; it’s a photo community. The social media aspect allows for easy sharing and tracking of your most popular photos—although images can be kept private as well. The easy-to-use interface enables users to upload photos from their desktops and optimizes them for a high-quality appearance.
A simple drag-and-drop tool allows for easy organization. There’s also an extensive tagging feature. Users can store up to 1,000 photos for free before transitioning to a paid plan. For unlimited storage and no ads, subscribers are required to pay $6.99 a month or $59.99 for the year. Pro users get two complimentary months of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan.
Offering a convenient way to back up images, ImageShack automatically uploads images through its app, which is available on Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows devices. Users have the ability to follow other photographers on the site and can use direct linking for easy sharing. A watermarking feature allows for added security.
There is no free tier; however, $3.99 per month or $37.99 for the year offers unlimited photo space. A pro account is available for $29.99 per month, and a premium account is $99.99 per month. These both have added features such as dedicated support and a dynamic image resizer.
TLS/SSL channel protection offers further security by creating a secure channel between the user’s computer and the pCloud. The company offers mobile and desktop apps, making it simple to sync with devices and back up photos from one or more social media platforms. For use on a computer, it acts as a virtual hard drive appearing as if it’s stored locally, to extend storage space by up to 2 TB. Thumbnails and previews of RAW files are available in most web and mobile versions. One drawback is the lack of photo editing features or other bells and whistles that the other storage options on this list have, such as printing and creating watermarks.
With the unique option of a one-time fee for service, pCloud offers a Premium account with 500 GB of storage for $175 or a Premium Plus option with 2 TB of space for a one-time fee of $350. For those who prefer to pay monthly, the Premium account comes in at $47.88 per month and Premium Plus for $95.88. The pCloud “Crypto” feature, which encrypts data and protects files from unauthorized access, is available for an additional one-time fee of $125. Try pCloud for free with up to 10 GB of free storage, which can be upgraded as needed.
A clean and intuitive interface with a drag-and-drop tool makes using PhotoShelter simple for pros. Easily upload files from your browser or desktop, or use the “Lightroom” and “Photo Mechanic” plug-ins to automatically sync your photo catalog. Easily tag and search images by date, orientation, or keyword.
PhotoShelter offers a safe space with SSL security to create a secure channel between your device and the site. Advanced permissions offer the ability to further control access.
Customizable website templates allow photographers to showcase their work and share it with clients through proofing galleries. They can even license photos for proper attribution and sell downloads and prints directly from the cloud.
The company’s basic subscription with 4 GB of space is $12.99 per month or $120 annually. The standard subscription offers 100 GB for $29.99 per month or $300 for the year. For those who want unlimited storage, the pro plan runs $49.99 per month or $540 for the year.
Google One is the newest photo storing subscription service. Google Drive offers 15 GB of free space, which may be enough for some, but once a user reaches that threshold, additional storage needs to be purchased through Google One. The expanded storage can be used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos and shared with up to six family members. Perks include a simple tagging system and access to Google experts for tech support.
Subscriptions are still pretty affordable, starting at $1.99 per month for 100 GB or $19.99 for the year. For 200 GB, users pay $2.99 a month or $29.99 for the year. Making the jump to 2 TB will cost $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.
This service’s simple-to-use interface makes it easy to edit, store, and tag photos. For those who want to get artistic, a smart color brush allows users to selectively add color back into a black and white image. Photos can be tagged and organized into albums and stories with accompanying text. Users can easily share photos directly from the site to a social network.
The Intermediate plan has a password-protected album option, ideal for photographers who want to share a gallery with clients. It’s also easy to sell prints from the site as well as photo books and other novelty photo items.
A Photobucket account provides space for 250 images. For more space and an ad-free experience, choose the 25 GB Beginner plan for $5.99 per month, the 250 GB Intermediate for $7.99, or the Expert option with unlimited storage for $12.99 per month. Pay annually to save 10 percent.
iCloud is the go-to service for iPhone users, allowing users to store photos and tag them with names and locations. Images can be shared in an online photo stream that can be viewed in Apple Photos or on its own web page. Other users can also add their photos for a shared event.
The service offers 5 GB of storage for free, with the option to level up to 50 GB for just 99 cents per month. For 200 GB of storage, the cost is $2.99 per month, or users can jump to 2 TB for $9.99 per month. Access the service from the Photos app on Mac or iOS. The basic features are also available on a Windows PC.
Amazon Prime membership costs $119 per year, and with the included Amazon Prime Photos, users can tag, share, and even print photos and books. Members can invite up to five friends or family members to collect photos in a Family Vault. For those who own an Echo Show or Fire TV, photos can easily be displayed, which is perfect for sharing with grandma and grandpa. A feature called Groups allows users to share images with a larger group, such as a club or organization. If the Prime membership is canceled, users can still access the free 5 GB of photo storage. Additional plans are available for $1.99 per month for 100 GB of storage or $6.99 per month for 1 TB of storage.
FAQs About Photo Storage
You may still be wondering how digital storage actually works or where the data is stored. Get the answers to these questions in addition to other commonly asked questions about photo storage below.
Q. How does digital storage work?
Digital data is stored as a code or number that is then guided based on the computer input and stored either offline in a drive or online in the cloud.
Q. Where is digital data stored?
If your data is in the cloud, it’s impossible to know exactly where it is stored. Files are located on individual servers found at data centers and server farms around the world.
Q. What happens to my photos if I cancel my Amazon Prime account?
If you choose to cancel your Amazon Prime membership, you’ll still be able to access 5 GB of photo storage. If your photos exceed the storage space, you’ll be able to log in and download images, but you won’t be able to upload, sync, or share files. After 180 days, photos over the quota will be deleted starting with the most recent uploads first.
Q. What is the most secure way to store photos?
Features such as encryption and SSL channel protection will offer advanced security, both of which can be found in pCloud storage. Other features that can help are privacy settings and specific access control.