Thanks to built-in cameras on phones, you have an abundance of photo storage right in your hands. Considering most everyone carry phones everywhere, capturing a memory is never an issue.
At least, it’s better than the old days of film. You could take 12, 20, 35, or 72 pictures before you used up a film roll. When it came time to develop the picture, you paid for all of them. And that included the ones where a finger covered half the picture and accidental pictures showing a whole lot of nothing.
Managing Photo Cloud Storage
That’s one of the best parts about using a digital camera or a camera phone to store, share, and manage your images. You can delete the bad pictures. No harm, no foul.
The flip side is that high-quality images and videos quickly fill storage space. You end making hard decisions. Which photo to delete and which to keep. Or, you email the pictures to yourself and save it to your computer. It grows tedious when you’re staring at your phone’s photo app containing hundreds, maybe thousands of images.
A less stressful way to manage your photos is to use an online photo storage site. This saves your photos in the cloud. And you can access them from any connected device or computer.
Some of them come with an app. In just a couple of taps with the app, you can move your photos off your phone and into the cloud.
What Is Cloud Picture Storage?
The cloud leaves people thinking about all sorts of things. Naturally, the most common one is images floating out there on the internet. Cloud files actually live on a large computer like a server that’s connected to the internet.
This lets users manage their photos from anywhere. Hence, the cloud name. No matter where you are, you can access the files. But to access them, you need an account or a link to the file.
Best Free Photo Storage Features
The best cloud storage for pictures depends on your needs. Working through these questions will make it easier to decide. It won’t be overwhelming.
What computer and phone operating systems do you use?
The first question to think about is what operating systems you use. Do you use an Apple or Windows computer? Or Linux? Answering this question will quickly shorten your list. You can further whittle down the list based on whether you use an iPhone or Android phone.
What file formats do you use?
The next thing to consider is the file format. Are you looking to upload JPG? GIF? PNG? Something else. Many basic file storage sites accept all of them and others. Photo storage sites may only allow JPG files.
How do you want to upload the files?
Do you want to automatically upload or sync the files on your device with cloud photo storage? For instance, iPhones can automatically sync files with iCloud as both are Apple products. Android phones do the same with Google Drive. Microsoft’s OneDrive is integrated with Windows 10. It’s almost seamless to sync files with the cloud.
Do you need organization capabilities?
Some photographers use a service like Flickr because they can share their photos with the public. It’s like browsing an online photo album. Do you want to sort the photos? Maybe by album or date. Apple’s iCloud automatically sorts photos by media types, albums, date, and shared albums.
How important is security?
All photo storage services require a login. But that’s where the similarity ends. Some may have two-factor authentication (2FA). This adds security to your account. The first factor of your account is your login ID and password. The second factor is a verification code sent to a device. The service may send a code via text. Or you open an authentication app on your phone and enter the code from that app. To learn about a service’s encryption and security features, search for “[Name of service] security” such as “Dropbox security.”
What are the pricing plans?
This article focuses on the best free photo storage services. But it’s still worth learning about pricing plans. That way you know what to expect if you decide you want more features. Many services list two prices: monthly and yearly.
Paying on an annual basis typically saves money, but it means paying more upfront. For example, a service may charge $5 on a monthly basis or $50 on a yearly basis. If you choose the yearly plan, you save $10.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, see how these best free photo storage services stack up.
This comes as no surprise to most folks to see Dropbox on the list of the best free photo storage services. It’s one of the first to enter the market. And it took advantage of word of mouth by offering extra free storage for every friend that signed up for Dropbox storage. The storage service provides 2 GB free.
Dropbox has apps for the desktop and devices for seamless file management. When you add files to a Dropbox folder, it will automatically sync to all your connected devices. You can access your files from any connected device.
Unlike photo specialty sites, Dropbox doesn’t provide a photo album for browsing. You can organize your photos by creating folders. Dropbox is a good option for online file storage for photos and keeping them safe. But it doesn’t offer the photo browsing experience like with SmugMug and Flickr. The higher quality a photo is, the larger the file size will be. That said, it won’t take long to fill the 2 GB maximum on the free account.
With Google Drive, you have 15 GB of storage space. However, storage includes every Google product including Gmail, docs, spreadsheets, and attachments in Gmail. Google Drive can store just about all file types.
If you have a Google account — typically a @gmail.com address — you have Google Drive. Access Google Drive by going to drive.google.com or downloading the app. Android devices and Google apps work effortlessly with Google Drive.
Like with photo cloud storage, you can see the files with any device as long as you have your login information.
Google Drive doesn’t work like sites that are for photographers. Storing files on Google looks more like a file manager than a photo album. Every file has its own link. This makes it easier to share them other others. You can assign different levels of access for every file or folder.
You can open and edit most Google Drive files in Google’s suite of apps. For example, if you have a .doc file on Google Drive, you can select it and edit it in Google Docs. Google Drive works well for those looking to store photos without the photo browsing experience.
Using iCloud is almost a no-brainer for Mac users. That’s because it’s made to work with iCloud. Same for iPhones and iPads. On a Mac, iCloud is integrated in the Finder App. You can drag-and-drop files into selected folders and it will automatically sync with iCloud. To view iCloud files on a Windows computer, install iCloud for Windows from Apple.
The Photos app is where you’ll find your photos. That’s the default on all iOS devices. The nice thing about Photos is that it looks more like a photo album. The app has default albums to help you organize your files. It can also sort by date.
Apple provides up to 5 GB of iCloud storage free. You can manage files on iCloud by using the apps or entering icloud.com in a web browser.
Since OneDrive comes from Microsoft, you can bet it works easily with Windows 10. The default version of Windows 10 shows Microsoft OneDrive like a folder in File Explorer. As soon as you have a Microsoft Account and log in, you instantly have OneDrive.
You can drag-and-drop files into OneDrive and instantly syncs with Microsoft’s cloud storage. When you make changes to the file on your computer, the changes automatically sync with the cloud. Next time you access that file on a different device, it’ll have the latest changes.
Microsoft OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage. Apps are available for Android and Apple devices. This can be a good storage solution or backup for your photos. It won’t have the features you’d find on a site made with photography in mind. Still, you can save all image types to OneDrive as well as other file types.
The Price of Free Photo Storage
While many photo storage sites offer free plans, they come with a price. That price varies. Often, they’ll have a storage size limit. Some limit the size of each file uploaded. Some have a bandwidth limit. The key thing is to do a cloud storage comparison of all the features and plans. Some services offer a free trial of the features on their paid plan. As soon as the trial ends, you lose all the features. If you have too many files or use up too much storage, it won’t let you add any until you remove them. Do your due diligence before using free photo storage online.