It’s easier than ever to fill up your hard drive, given how effortlessly digital cameras make snapping and storing photos, unlike analog cameras did back in the day. That’s not to mention that photos can have huge pixel counts and there are RAW files to consider. If you’re looking for an online solution for a growing digital photo collection, this best cloud storage for photographers guide is for you.
Professional and amateur photographers will benefit from storing their photos in places other than their hard drive. Local storage alone is unreliable and you can’t know how long it will last. Storing photos in multiple places gives you redundancy. In fact, the “3-2-1 backup rule” was popularized by a photographer, Peter Krogh. It says you should keep three copies of your files (two local, one online).
Using the cloud for photo storage, you’ll ensure the photos you took of Bryce Canyon National Park at the crack of dawn are secure from hardware malfunctions, disasters and theft. Using some services, you’ll benefit from features that target photographers such as interacting with the community, selling your photos, ordering photo prints and showcasing your work.
Before we start ranking the best cloud storage for shutterbugs, let’s take a look at what criteria is important for the people behind the camera. If you’re just looking for backup, our best cloud backup for photos will help. If your local copy is lost, you might benefit from using photo recovery software.
What Makes Cloud Storage Best for Photographers
Storing as many photos as you can for the least amount of money is one of the most important factors. Getting unlimited storage is best. If a service doesn’t offer that, we’ll take a look at the limited plans. Not all services have the same number of plans, but most do have a free plan or trial. If you’re looking for storage suitable for video, read about our best cloud storage for video.
We’ll take a look at how easy it is to use the service and what kind of features it offers. Image preview, organizing tools, sharing, and selling your photos are just some features these services offer. Most of them do, anyway.
Security of your photos is nothing to brush off. Photos should be protected against theft, intrusion and disasters. Versioning is especially helpful, if you want to roll back to the previous version of your photos.
Sharing and showcasing your photos is the final step in your work, so we’ll make sure it’s everything you need to give your photos the attention they deserve. That includes sharing to social media, with groups and email.
Best Cloud Storage for Photos and Videos: 500px
Professionals and enthusiasts feel right at home with 500px. Amateurs, not so much. That’s best illustrated by the fact 500px enables direct connections between photographers and clients through its marketplace feature.
The plan for free users is limited, but quite enough to see if the service fits you. For $6.49 a month, the Awesome plan will give you unlimited storage, remove ads and provide you with statistics. On top of that, the Pro plan will enable you to further organize your profile, set priority listing in the 500px Directory and display courses that others can buy (called “workshops”).
Currently, if you pay per year you’ll get 40 or 50 percent off, depending on the plan. Annual subscription has an extra plan called “Pro + Adobe.” It gives you all the previous features and the Adobe CC Photography Plan.
It’s easy to upload your photos, but you can’t upload entire folders at once. While you’re at it, you can add a watermark and license to your photo, along with posting it to a marketplace. You can also add metadata, such as tags, to your photo, which will help promote the photo and get you more sales. RAW files aren’t supported.
The interface feels old and could be more attractive, but the mobile app interface is modern and comparable to other software.
The 500px community is vibrant and you can best experience it by joining groups. You’ll be able to post and preview work in specific categories (portrait, black & white, landscape, etc.).
Your account info is protected by an encrypted password. Only employees who need personal information for a specific job (customer service, for example) can get access to it. 500px is determined to keep your privacy intact and it shows in their policy.
Other Reasons We Like 500px
Using 500px, you can share photos to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, embed them into html and add them to a gallery, which works like an album.
While the interface could be better, 500px more than makes up for it with its cheap plans, features and large community of professionals. We have no doubt that by using the service, you’ll be able to store your photos and grow as a photographer. If you’re an amateur, other services in the ranking will probably be a better fit.
- Cheap unlimited plan
- Large community
- Web interface is dated
SmugMug is an older service, launched in 2002, but it doesn’t behave like an obsolete one. It’s promoted as a service for amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals.
Whatever your inclination, after you finish your two-week trial, you’ll have to pay and choose between four plans: Basic, Power, Portfolio and Business. All of them offer unlimited storage.
If you choose basic you’ll get features like privacy control, theme usage and the ability to upload HD videos for $5.99 a month (or equivalent to $3.99 a month, if you pay for a year). The Power plan gives you more options to customize your site for $8.99 a month (equal to $5.99 a month, if you pay yearly).
Portfolio gives you even more customization options, like site design and a custom domain name. You can also sell your digital images and send orders to printing labs. You’ll need to pony up $23.99 a month, or the same as $14.99 a month, if paid a year in advance.
If you have a business you can, well, use the Business plan for $41.99 a month, or pay yearly for an equivalent to $29.99 a month and get access to marketing and branding.
Uploading is easy, and it’s done in a couple of clear steps. Additional uploads are not user-friendly, but SmugMug gets the job done. There’s no way to upload a folder as there is with some services, so you’ll have to select your photos. You can upload RAW images in the SmugMug Vault.
You can use the default theme, which is striking and clear, or you can use any of a number of themes and color schemes. They are for show, but, using SmugMug, you get an SEO-optimized site along with your domain name. To customize it, you can use the layout editor.
The impressive design also graces the mobile app. You won’t have to search for features, and uploading is quite easy (you can even upload a whole gallery or folder). Another impressive feature is auto-upload for your photos.
SmugMug can be pretty smug about its security. Every image is backed up with Amazon AWS. You can password-protect folders, galleries, pages or your whole site. You can also limit access to your galleries to specific people.
Other Reasons We Like SmugMug
You can share your photo as a link or embed it as html (this had some glitches for us). If you want to share more, you can do it by sharing complete galleries or making slideshows. There’s even an option to generate a direct link to sell your photo. Sharing to social media is available, of course. While you’re at it, you can choose how private you want your galleries to be.
SmugMug gives you a whole site, unlimited storage space for your photos and makes sure it’ll be easy for you to sell them. While being attractive, the interface could be less glitchy. There’s also no free plan.
- Cheap unlimited plan
- A customizable SEO-optimized site
- Advanced sharing options
- Some glitches
- Not so user friendly in some areas
Amazon Drive wasn’t among the best cloud services, but the Amazon team has upgraded the service. When you upload your photos to Amazon Drive they will count against your quota, unless you use its companion service, Amazon Prime Photos.Amazon Prime Photos will give you unlimited storage once you become an Amazon Prime subscriber ($12.99 a month or $119 for the whole year). If you don’t think you need unlimited storage, you’ll do well to choose the 1TB plan, which costs $59.99 a year. If you want to try the service, you can use the free plan, which offers 5GB of storage.
The web client is easy to use and has a pleasant interface. To upload photos, you simply drag and drop them anywhere in the Prime Photos window. You can upload a whole folder the same way. Prime Photos will also recognize RAW files as photos and they will not count against your Amazon Drive quota.
Using the desktop client you can upload photos by storing them in the sync folder. The mobile app is straightforward and easy to use. It’s available on Android and iOS.
The photo viewer is slick and enjoyable. The sidebar has a filter which helps you view your photos by date and type. Along with that, Prime Photos makes it easy to create albums, share your photos with groups of people and order prints.
You can share your photos to Facebook or Twitter, generate a link or send via email. Sharing to a custom group of people is also available. However, you can’t set passwords for links or expiration dates. To see what you’ve shared you can consult the “shared” tab.
Other Reasons Why We Like Amazon Prime Photos
Amazon doesn’t encrypt your data like other cloud storage services. However, Amazon data center security is top-notch. There’s also two-factor authentication to protect you against stolen passwords.
For those photographers that want to completely secure their photo collections, Amazon Drive is compatible with Boxcryptor, a private encryption service. However, any images encrypted using that service will be stored in your Amazon Drive storage and not Amazon Photos, meaning you won’t be taking advantage of your unlimited storage space.
We have a full Amazon Drive review you can read. While the service still has a long way to go, its improved considerably in recent years.
- Great subscription options
- Unlimited photo storage for Prime users
- Good user experience
- No community
- Limited sales options
- Limited work showcase
pCloud is relatively new. It’s been in business since 2013. The service is our first choice for the best online storage for photos.
You can choose between the Premium plan which gives you 500GB for $4.99 a month and Premium Plus (2TB for $7.99 per month). If you pay per year or buy a lifetime plan, you get a discount. A lifetime plan will save you a lot of money, if you use the service for the long-term.
You can use a free plan before deciding on any kind of subscription. It gives a generous 10GB of storage. On top of that, you’ll get 1GB for every friend you refer (up to 10GB).
The desktop client is similar to other cloud storage services. When you install it, you’ll get a virtual drive which you’ll use to sync and upload your photos. You can access it using the system tray icon. The clients are available on Windows, Mac and Linux (it’s the best cloud storage for Linux).
Still, you’ll default to the web client because it’s easier to navigate, packs more features and is more enjoyable. That’s not to mention its speed. Using it, you’ll have access to all of pCloud’s tools such as the image viewer, which lets you view photos, and edit metadata in one place.
If you’d like to access your photos on the go, you can do it with the mobile app. When you take an occasional photo with your phone (damn that bulky camera), you can take advantage of automatic uploads from your phone. The app is available for Android and iOS.
Sharing is a piece of cake. You can even add people to your folder. Then, they can view and modify it as if they own it. Social networks you can share to include Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Otherwise, you can generate a link or send it via email. There’s also a tab that shows the statistics of your share.
Other Reasons We Like pCloud
There’s much to admire about pCloud, as you can read about in our pCloud review. In addition to providing great features for photographers, the service can be used to stream music and movies. Maybe the best thing about pCloud, though, is its approach to user privacy.
pCloud protects your data in transit by using TLS encryption.
The encryption algorithm used is 256-bit AES. If you want to know more, read about these security features in our cloud security article. By paying $4.99 a month you can use the Crypto add-on to add a zero-knowledge folder. It’s useful if you need to add some “private” photos and don’t want anyone to be able to view them.
- Affordable plans
- Easy to use
- Free 10GB storage
- File encryption is a paid add-on service
- No features aimed specifically at photographers
Flickr doesn’t offer an unlimited storage plan, but it offers 1TB of storage space with its free plan. Paid plans don’t increase the storage size. The Monthly plan ($5.99 a month) gives you advanced statistics for your photos, access to desktop auto-uploader and ad-free browsing, while the annual plan ($49.99 a year) will add discounts for Adobe products on top of that.
You can’t drag-and-drop anywhere, but uploading photos is still easy, just click on the upload icon and you’ll be able to choose photos from your computer or drag-and-drop. Before you upload, you can add tags or people, as well as add them to groups or albums. There’s also an option to set privacy settings and content filters. You can’t upload RAW files.
Features like the photostream, organizer, collections and camera roll make it clear that Flickr is the champion of organization and functionality. It’s our top pick for the best photo management software of 2018. While it’s functional, the web interface feels like it’s not following the current design trend.
You can also access Flickr using the mobile apps available for Android and iOS. They have a few design quirks, but using them won’t be an issue.
Flickr gives you the option to share all your photos by sharing your entire photostream. You can also share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. Besides that, you can copy the link, embed it on your own website or send it via email.
Other Reasons Why We Like Flickr
Flickr is not a storage service per se and it doesn’t encrypt photos, but you can take control of your privacy using settings such as who’s able to see your photos and hiding your profile.
There’s lots of storage space with this service, but it’s not unlimited. However, it has good organizational capabilities and an enjoyable user experience.
- 1TB of free space
- Good content organization
- No unlimited storage space
Whether you’re a professional or enthusiast, choosing the right storage for your favorite shots means the difference between an easy and cheap workflow and an expensive and hard one.
All the services listed, other than Amazon Prime Photos and pCloud, don’t work solely as cloud storage (though you won’t go wrong with those two when it comes to it), but also host images and sell them for you. You might experience some loss of metadata while downloading your photos, but they more than make up for it with other features. In that regard, we feel 500px is the best choice.
Do you use a different cloud storage service to store your photos? What do you think of our choices? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.