I did a quick informal poll of where people currently share their digital photos and you probably guessed that the most common answer was Facebook. It’s where many of our friends and family are hanging out these days and it’s super simple to share photos in real time with anyone and everyone on our friends list. Sharing is the one thing Facebook specializes in and excels at. Sharing what you’re eating, the new shoes you just purchased, your latest rant, political views, cat .gifs, or hey girl photos. You name it, Facebook can share it. It’s not, however, good at doing any of the other things you’d like to do with photos. Searching, tagging (with categories other than people), archiving, and printing are not what Facebook does best. What to do when you know there are a ton of other options available with new ones appearing every day? But you don’t have the time/energy/inclination to do the necessary research? Well, Technology Translator to the rescue. It’s your lucky day! I’ve done the research for you and I’m going to sum it all up in this post and tie it up into a neat little bow for you. Let’s get started.

All the cloud storage options can be completely overwhelming! Professional Organizer Lauren Halagarda has done the research for you.

I’ll begin with a quick intro to the types of services available and the primary type I recommend focusing on. To clarify, my research focused on the best services for the average family photographer, not the power user or professional photographer.

Types of Services

First, there are Photo Printing sites like Shutterfly and Snapfish. They are the veterans on the block, so they have longevity on their side. However, their primary business is providing prints and products. And in order for you to gain access to the originals, you need to pay for a disk of images. My take: there are better options available.

Next, there are File Syncing and Sharing sites like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or OneDrive (formerly Microsoft SkyDrive). These sites focus on sharing files and documents, with some offering collaboration and editing tools. Like Facebook, they do their job well and I recommend them extensively for document syncing and sharing but there are better options for digital photo management.

Finally, there are Photo Sharing and Storage (officially referred to as image and/or video hosting) sites like Flickr, Google Plus Photos, Photobucket and SmugMug, etc. This is the type of service I recommend you use to store, organize, and share your digital photo collection. Here’s why:

  • They offer a ton of storage.
  • It’s easy to share photos.
  • You (and whomever you designate) can have access to download the original photo.
  • They offer additional features such as photo editing, facial recognition, advanced search, automatic upload/backup, printing, tagging, and various methods of organizing your photo collection.
  • They also do the heavy-duty job of serving as an off-site backup. (Note: I always recommend at least two backup copies.)

Phew! Now that you know to look for Photo Sharing and Storage sites, there are a number of options to choose from. Here’s a chart to compare the most popular services and their features. It is by no means a comprehensive list but I tried to keep it simple and straightforward. (Click on the image to download the pdf of this chart!)

Comparing options for cloud photo storage via simplify101.com

The Verdict

OK, here’s the verdict (aka. my opinion :)

Front Runners: Free-Flickr; Paid-SmugMug
Flickr and SmugMug allow you to keep a relatively large cache of photos well organized, using a variety of means. They also enable you to share albums or photos to individuals or groups as well as on social networks. They are established services, which is never a guarantee but always a good sign. And, they do the heavy duty job of serving as off-site storage that mirrors your desktop organization. Flickr offers a great deal with 1Terabyte of storage for free and SmugMug is a seriously stunning site for elegantly showcasing your photos, if you don’t mind paying for it.

Super Editing Power: Google Plus Photos
Google Plus Photos offers some pretty impressive features in its auto-upload, editing and Auto-Awesome. And if you are a power Google Plus user, it’s definitely the way to go. However, I consider myself pretty tech-savvy and I find that Google Plus Circles are a bit cumbersome to navigate and manage. There are better options for the average family photographer who wants to share albums and images with friends and family, especially the technically challenged.

New & Noteworthy: Picturelife
Picturelife shows a lot of promise and I am impressed with the auto-upload feature. It just works and you don’t have to think about it. The downside is that it doesn’t maintain any of the organization I set up on my computer, as far as I can tell, which negates the automatic nature of their upload for me. It’s also a relatively new service, so I want to see it stick around for a while before I use it as a sole sharing and storage site.

Real-Time Mobile Backup: iCloud
If you don’t want to be bothered, iCloud offers backup of your mobile device that you don’t need to think about (unless you bump up against your storage limits). However, it doesn’t offer features like photo editing or even much in the way of organizing. And, for PC users at least, it’s not the most reliable service for backing up from the desktop. (I have first-hand experience with this). I do use the free option to backup my iOS devices until I download pictures and videos to my computer and it works…for now.

I hope this is enough to get you started organizing your digital photo collection! If you have a cloud solution that works for you, please share what you use and why you love it. Also, don’t be shy…if you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it!

Lauren Halagarda

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Lauren Halagarda runs Homeology.co, a resource for modern, multi-passionate women to find ideas, tools, action plans for creating a comfortably organized life and home. She is a professional organizer, wife and mom living in Coastal North Carolina with her husband, toddler son and boxer-mix puppy. Her brain is always spinning with ideas on home décor, DIY projects, technology, fitness and nutrition. She loves finding ways to spend less time and be better organized at home, especially with a toddler in the house.