Last November, Google – which until now has offered unlimited storage for ‘high quality’ (read: compressed) photos – announced that ‘unlimited’ will be changed to ‘up to 15 GB on your Google account’. In other words, while photo and video storage doesn’t currently count towards your total of 15 free gigs on a Google account, it will be starting June 1 – along with your Gmail, Google Drive files, and other saved data. Once you hit that 15 GB wall, you’ll have to buy into the Google One service to increase your storage capacity. (Unless you own a Pixel, in which case you still don’t have any limits on ‘high quality’ photos.)
If you’re a Google Photos user who finds all of this a bit annoying, you might consider leaving. But first, it’s a good idea to check out your alternatives. Below are some of the major photo storage services available to you, along with their basic rates, so you can find out if you want to switch. (Note: We’ve only added photo-specific services, no more generic storage services like OneDrive or Dropbox.)
Google offers 15 GB of free storage space for each of its accounts. In recent years, however, photos have been treated differently: under the “high quality” plan, Google has stored an unlimited number of photos for free, as long as you allow them to be compressed to 16 megapixels. (According to Google, photos of that size can be printed up to 24 x 16 inches without any problem.) Videos were limited to a maximum of 1080p. (Data such as subtitles can be removed to save space.) “Original quality” photos – which were not compressed – were not part of this unlimited plan, but were counted as regular files.
However, all of that is changing. As mentioned above, Google will include photos in its storage calculations from June 1, 2021. Once you hit that 15 GB ceiling, you have to do it Google One service for extra storage space.
Google One currently starts at 100 GB of storage for $ 1.99 per month ($ 19.99 per year) and moves up to 200 GB for $ 2.99 per month ($ 29.99 per year) or 2 TB for $ 9 .99 per month ($ 99.99 per year). The 2TB plan also comes with a VPN for Android phones.
Before investing in Google One, you should be aware that there are several mitigating factors that Google offers to its users. When the new plan comes into effect, the clock starts; photos you previously uploaded will not count towards your 15 GB limit. If you are a Pixel owner, you can continue to upload high-quality photos without affecting your 15 GB limit. (Of course, Pixel owners got unlimited original quality for free, instead of having to upload their “high quality” photos. Anyway, it’s a thing.)
Being part of Apple’s ecosystem gives you easy access to iCloud Photos, Apple’s equivalent with Google Photos. iCloud Photos is connected to the Phone app on your Mac or iOS device as a backup for your photos. You automatically get 5 GB of storage space associated with your iCloud account; after that it costs 99 cents per month for 50 GB, $ 2.99 per month for 200 GB and $ 9.99 per month for 2 TB. (This is for the US; other countries have different ratesWindows users can also access iCloud photos through a accompanying app; Android users will have to open it with a browser.
Flickr also has a free plan, but it’s limited to 1,000 photos – within certain guidelines: photo files are limited to 200MB and video files to 1GB. In front of unlimited storage without ads, you pay either $ 6.99 a month or $ 59.99 a year (plus tax). Other benefits of a paid annual membership include statistics on which of your photos are popular and a variety of discounts from various companies, including Adobe and SmugMug (which is now part of Flickr).
Speaking of SmugMug, this long-term service is also available, offering storage, portfolios, and sales opportunities for professionals. For $ 55 a year or $ 7 a month you get unlimited uploads and a customizable website. The Power plan ($ 85 per year or $ 11 per month) adds site customization and your own domain name. If you want to become a professional photographer, the Portfolio plan adds ecommerce features for $ 200 a year or $ 27 a month (you keep 85 percent of the markup). And finally, the Pro plan lets you create events, price lists, and brand orders for $ 360 per year or $ 42 per month, among other things. If you want to try it, you can get a two week trial.
The Canadian company 500px is actually more for professional photographers than the average photo taker. It provides a place for professionals to store, exhibit and license their work. So if you have ambitions to sell your photos, 500px might be worth a look.
The site offers two paid plans. The first, modestly named Awesome, offers unlimited uploads, priority support, no ads, a history of ‘fun’ photos, gallery slideshows, and a profile badge for $ 59.88 per year or $ 4.99 per month. The Pro plan adds a way to list your services and organization tools for $ 119.88 per year or $ 9.99 per month. (You get a discount on your first year: Awesome costs $ 47.88 per year or $ 3.99 per month, while Pro costs $ 71.88 per year or $ 5.99 per month.) And if you want to make some money , you can submit your photos for a stock use license up to 500px.
There is a free, ad-supported plan that allows you to make seven uploads per week. When you sign up, you can try the Pro plan for two weeks before committing.
Photobucket offers a limited free plan, which allows you to upload up to 250 photos for free – more of a trial plan than anything else. If you like what you see, you can start with the beginner plan for $ 5.99 a month or $ 64.68 a year, which gives you 25 GB of storage, ad-free, password-protected album sharing and a image editor. For $ 7.99 per month or $ 86.28 per year, the Intermediate plan offers 250 GB of storage and unlimited image hosting. Finally, for $ 12.99 per month or $ 140.28 per year, the Expert plan offers unlimited storage and no image compression among other things.
DeviantArt calls itself “the largest art community in the world” with a social network for all kinds of visual artists. It offers visitors a wide variety of artist galleries to view, divided into categories such as traditional, animation, and illustrations. DeviantArt (or DA for short) even has its own publishing platform called Sta.sh – which highlights the fact that, like 500px, this site is less for easy storage and more for displaying (and selling) your art.
With a free membership to DeviantArt, there are no restrictions on how much you upload for public access, and you gain access to DA’s community of artists and art enthusiasts. Core members enjoy additional benefits. For $ 3.95 per month or $ 39.95 per year, you get to sell your art with no service charge (but a 20 percent fee on Premium Gallery & Premium download sales) and a maximum price of $ 100 per digital item, along with 20 GB private storage space in Sta.sh. For $ 7.95 per month or $ 79.95 per year, you can charge up to $ 1,000 per item and pay a 12 percent fee for Premium Gallery & Premium download sales, along with 30 GB of private storage. Finally, at $ 14.95 per month or $ 149.95 per year, you can charge up to $ 10,000 per item, lower your fee to 10 percent per sale, and get 50 GB of storage.
Amazon offers its Prime members a grab bag of extras along with the free shipping. In addition to the video offer, music streaming and other goodies you get unlimited photo storage for $ 119 per year.
A nice extra is that you can share that unlimited storage space with five friends or family members in what is called the Family Vault. Everything there is accessible to anyone who shares the safe. Incidentally, “Unlimited” does not include videos or other files; for that, Prime members get 5 GB of storage, and after that there is a long list of storage options available from $ 1.99 per month for 100 GB.
That’s something to keep in mind when canceling your Prime membership. In that case, according to the Amazon instructions, “The unlimited benefits of photo storage associated with the end of membership. All uploaded photos count towards your Amazon Drive storage limit. The total storage space for non-Prime members (photos and video) is 5 GB.
Update Nov. 12, 4:55 PM ET: This article has been updated to include SmugMug and to explain that it only includes photo-specific services.
Update Nov. 16, 10:30 a.m.ET: Updated to add iCloud photos and to update prices and screenshot for 500px.
Update May 11, 2021, 1:10 PM ET: Updated several prices and screenshots.