Taking photos and uploading them to the web has never been easier. The best sites to store those photos keep them backed up, make them easy to share, showcase them in good-looking galleries, and offer you tons of space and editing tools. This week, we’re looking at five of the best image hosting sites, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which image hosting websites were the ones you used to share your photos with the world, whether you upload them from your smartphone, painstakingly create galleries for snapshots from your camera, or do something different. You responded with tons of nominees, but we only have room for the top five.
Here they are, in no particular order:
Putting aside the whole matter of Google+ as a social network, one thing is for sure, the service is great for hosting, managing, organizing, and even sharing your photos. Google+ Photos gives you tons of tools and options to manage your snapshots, whether you have them all automatically uploaded from your Android or iOS device, or you manually upload them in batches from your computer or camera.
Google+ Photos gives you a place to automatically back up and store your photos from multiple sources, connect them with your Google account, edit them with remarkably robust web-based image editing tools, apply filters to them and edit them from any device, or just let Google automatically color correct and enhance them for you thanks to their “auto awesome” process—which actually can make your photos look better.
In other cases, Auto Awesome turns your shots into animated GIFs that capture multiple moments at once, or just make your photos more fun to browse and share. Google+ Photos also automatically organizes your photos into “moments” or “events,” like a vacation or a trip, and will automatically create date-based galleries for you so you can share photos out easily in groups, or one by one. It’ll even automatically stitch panoramas together for you.
Google+ Photos was a popular contender in the nomination round, largely because it makes your photos look so good, auto-upload makes backing up and uploading your photos a process you don’t have to think about, and browsing and sharing your photos from any device is easy. Best of all, it’s free—and as long as you upload photos at a standard size, you get unlimited storage for them.
There are caveats to that though, and ultimately your storage space is shared with Google Drive, so if you’re looking for full-resolution or RAW photo uploads, full HD videos, or more high-end features, you may eventually need to pony up for Google Drive space to accommodate everything nicely.
Even so, many of you praised Google+ Photos for giving your photos a good-looking home, even if you don’t use Google+. Others praised it for its convenience, and its photo editing tools. While some of you noted it can be difficult to share photos with people not on Google+, others noted you’ve found ways to make it work. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Flickr used to be the only major name people thought of when it came to storing and sharing photos online, and while it’s still one of the primary destinations for photographers and photo lovers, it’s arguable whether it’s really kept up with the times. Flickr’s changes and updates since being purchased by Yahoo have been controversial to say the least. Some changes have modernized the site’s layout, made galleries responsive and more attractive, and updated its mobile apps so you can upload and edit on the go, and browse photos from your friends and groups at any time.
However, other changes, like its confusing change from free and “Pro” accounts to ad-supported/ad-free/high storage accounts a few years ago muddied the waters even more, even though that picture is much clearer now.
Flickr is still a great place to host your photos, with a huge community of photographers, the option to make your photos public or private at any time, multiple licensing options (including Creative Commons, and other choices that let you sell your photos if you choose), and groups for just about every possible interest (like our Featured Desktop and Featured Workspace Flickr groups, for example!) Since then, Flickr has steadily improved its offerings, while retaining the third-party, community spirit that’s made it popular.
Flickr is still free (you just need a Yahoo account) for an ad-supported account with 1TB of storage (limited to 200MB/photo and 1GB/video, max 3min duration). “Pro” is Flickr’s ad-free account option, which gives you unlimited uploads (with the same limitations as the free account) for $25/yr. “Doublr” was an account type that gave users 2TB of storage and no ads, but Flickr quietly eliminated that option a year ago.
In its nomination thread, many of you pointed out that you still love Flickr even though it’s been through more than a few tough changes that have turned off its old guard, and others of you shared your stories about how you used to use and love Flickr, but have since moved away for one reason or another.
Many of you pointed out that each design and interface update at the site has made it even more difficult to use, with features that used to be a single click away now being buried three or four clicks deep. Some of you pointed out that Flickr’s old emphasis on community and groups has been sidelined by big galleries huge photos—not so much comments or discussion. Even so, Flickr also go a ton of love in the nomination thread, with many of you saying you have no reason to move anywhere else, others explaining that Flickr is still the site of choice for photographers looking to share their work, and more. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Smugmug has been around for a long time, and while other photo hosting sites came and went or stagnated, it never stopped update, improving, and giving its users more features, sharper, more modern designs, and the tools they needed to showcase their photos while simultaneously fostering a great sense of community among its users.
These days Smugmug is less of a Flickr-like “show off your photos for people to comment on here” type of site (like it used to be) and more of a place for amateur and professional photographers and businesses to build rich photography websites where they can showcase their work, share their photos with anyone who wants to see them, customize their photo site’s design to suit their tastes, and more. There are tons of designs to choose from, and you can tweak them all using Smugmug’s built-in tools, or if you’re comfortable, you can go in and tweak the layouts yourself. Smugmug also gives photographers complete control over licensing, download options, watermarking, and more.
Your photos and videos are always uploaded at full resolution. Smugmug is a completely premium service, with plans that range from $40/yr to $300/yr depending on the amount of storage you want, the customization options you need, whether you plan to sell your photos or set up an ecommerce shop, and more. You can read the details of all of Smugmug’s plans here.
In its nomination thread, those of you who supported Smugmug praised it for its recent (over the past 18 months) changes, all of which many of you said gave the site a much more modern look and feel, with a focus on individual user photo pages and personal customization, instead of a one-gallery-fits-all approach.
Now, you can use Smugmug behind your own domain name if you want to, create a photo gallery that’s really your own, or just get your photos up and on the web using some of their good-looking templates. Others of you praised Smugmug for giving you easy tools to get prints, books, cards, and posters of your photography, so you can take great photos and then easily get them blown up and printed, framed, sent as gifts, and more without a ton of hassle. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
While Imgur is designed for quick, disposable image sharing and focuses squarely on viral images, memes, and GIFs (not to mention its tight integration with Reddit), it’s still arguably one of the most popular image hosting sites on the web, partially because it’s just so easy to upload something and share it with the world.
If you sign up for an account, you can save and manage all of the images that you’ve uploaded, share them repeatedly, or manage comments on them, and if you’re an Imgur Pro subscriber ($24/yr) you can browse ad-free, get analytics on the images and galleries you upload, you get more options for the images you do share, and you can upload as many photos as you want (free users are limited to 225 images.) Similarly, Imgur’s image compression is notorious among actual photographers—free users will have any image larger than 5MB compressed down to that filesize.
Pro users get a break, with only images larger than 10MB getting compressed (and even then, only down to 10MB.) Imgur also has mobile apps that make browsing and keeping track of your own images easy, an open API so developers can (and many have) hook third party apps and tools into it, and more. It’s not an image hosting site in the classic sense, with beautiful galleries and attention to photo rights, credits, licensing, and presentation, but it is fast, easy to use, and has a huge user base behind it.
Those of you who nominated Imgur highlighted that fact. Many of you pointed out that the service integrates with other sites you use often (including Reddit), and that the option to quickly upload just about anything for easy sharing, whether you have an account or not, and whether you choose to keep track of the image or just bookmark it for later (like a reaction GIF or something) makes it perfect for what its best at.
Plus, many of you noted that its simple design keeps attention on the image or the GIF in question and the discussion about it in the comments, without a bunch of screen clutter, boxes and widgets, or other tools. Some of you dinged it because of its horrible image compression, which is justified as well. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
500px is a social network for photographers, not to mention a space for photographers of all types—both amateur and professional—to share their work, get to know one another, follow each other, and learn from one another. Where other sites are generally considered spots for everyone to upload and share any or all of their photos, the going mantra at 500px is that the network is a place to share your best work, to showcase your photography, and to get involved with other people who have the same eye for photos or passion for visual arts.
At the same time however, 500px has seen an influx of users from the Flickr old guard, as it were, who appreciated the site’s more streamlined design in the face of unpopular changes at Flickr (even though in some respects, the sites are very similar now.) Users there have their own profiles, with their own galleries and photos proudly displayed under their names, can follow other photographers, and photographers get control over licensing and usage of their photos—they have the option to license them freely, or sell them as they see fit.
500px’s mobile apps give users the ability to keep up with their friends and fellow photographers on the go, and browse their favorite groups or the site’s most popular photos whenever they want. Even if you don’t use 500px for your photos, it’s one of our favorite, most underrated sources of desktop wallpaper, not to mention a great photo browser and slideshow creator for your iPad or for Android.
Those of you who nominated 500px specifically pointed out that it’s a bit of a “professional” Flickr in a way—more photos from people who care about photography or are interested in photography, and less random uploads from organizations or companies and brands cluttering up searches or community groups.
The site may be smaller, but you called out its image-forward user interface and its search tools that make it easy to find inspiration anytime. Plus, you praised its community focus, where votes from the community help weed out really good photography from the bad stuff, ads, and clutter. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all out vote to determine the Lifehacker community favorite:
This week’s honorable mention goes out to Amazon Prime Photos, which launched late last year. Some of you have noted that you’ve played with it, and while it’s a very new product and still a bit rough around the edges, it’s a great option if you’re an Amazon Prime member, and the fact that it also easily syncs and automatically backs up photos from your phone or your desktop to Amazon’s Cloud Drive makes it appealing to a lot of people. Some of you said it was incredible, even though it’s new, and you do get a lot of space and features for your membership. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Also worth highlighting is Dropbox, which didn’t really get a proper nomination, but we thought it was important to mention anyway. We’ve talked about how powerful Dropbox can be when it comes to managing your photos, and while it may not be quite as robust as some of the options above, automatic backup and great sharing tools make it a great place to store and share your photos, complete with good looking galleries and tons of access control and sharing options. We’re surprised it didn’t pick up steam in the nominations round, but we’re happy to give it a nod here.
Finally, for those folks interested in hosting their own photo galleries on their own web space, Chevereto is an open-source project that came up a few times in the nominations round – it’s an easy-to-use, easy to install photo gallery suite that you can use to upload and manage your own photos. Best of all, it can work as a front end to access photos in other locations, like Amazon S3. It supports multiple languages, is easy to set up, has great sharing options—if you’re tired of the heavy, difficult to manage gallery suites of the past, consider it. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest.