The best way to share photos with family

Whether you’re sharing photos with family, or sending pics to coworkers from a company offsite, finding the best image hosting service will ensure everyone can enjoy your images.

Best site-based image hosting

Whether it’s a combo of FOMO or social media persona pressure to keep up, photo sharing has never been more popular. There are lots of options for online photo storage and sharing—for your phone or desktop. Even if you’re looking to transfer numerous files for a work project, you’ll find that free photo hosting and cloud storage options can be both generous and affordable. Take a look at our breakdown of some of the most popular photo sharing apps and image hosting platforms.

Amazon Photos

While an exclusive service for Amazon Prime members, Amazon Photos offers unlimited online image storage.

  • Data for all: Up to five friends or family members can also take advantage of your unlimited storage in a “Family Vault”
  • Automatic tagging: Amazon Photos will tag your photos based on content
  • Sync across devices: Available via app or website, you can access your photos anywhere

Amazon Photos offers unlimited storage that ensures Prime members have a place to keep all their photos. However, there is no option for non-Prime users to store photos, and for a paid service, Amazon’s image hosting offerings aren’t as extensive as others. Conversely, even free accounts with Dropbox provide a variety of photo storage and sharing options along with a healthy amount of storage space.

Flickr

A slightly older option, Flickr is more geared towards public sharing. This might be ideal if you want to create a portfolio, but it does mean you have to take a few extra steps to make your files private. Despite being eclipsed by other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, Flickr remains a solid image hosting option for freelancers and professionals looking to showcase their work:

  • Easy to create online photo albums: Viewers don’t need any special access to see your full body of work
  • Clearly show licensing: You can select whether your images are free for reuse or not and show this on the gallery page
  • Connect with others: You can network with other creatives

While Flickr is suitable for professional photographers for presenting work, it’s lacking when it comes to group storage capabilities. You can share images to groups and create albums, but Flickr doesn’t make it easy to create a private space for you and others to upload photos. With Dropbox, on the other hand, you can easily create a shared folder where you and your family or friends can upload and share photos. Plus, you control who has access to your folders and can download your pics.

SmugMug

Packaged as an all-in-one solution, SmugMug is geared towards those who take image storage seriously. None of their plans are free, but all of them come with unlimited storage:

  • Custom sites: Every plan comes with a customizable site where your photos are hosted
  • Full-screen galleries: Your unlimited photos display in full-screen mode
  • Password protection: Protect your album, gallery or whole site with a password
  • Private sharing: Share access through email or social media
  • Dedicated printing service: Photos can be ordered as prints right from your website
  • Ideal for professionals: SmugMug’s top-tier plans are all about marketing and increasing the sales of the creatives who use the service, with extras like right-click disabling and gift-wrapped orders

SmugMug is a good choice for serious photographers, as its professional features push it well beyond just photo hosting. This does make it a less preferable option, though, if cost is an issue or you’re just looking for simple photo sharing. If you’re looking for all the professional security and sharing features you’d expect with photo storage—but without the professional price-tag—Dropbox is a solid choice. You can password protect your photos and share them as previews without making them downloadable, all with a free Dropbox account.

Best photo sharing apps

Instagram

For sharing photos on a regular basis rather than sending over a batch of pictures from a certain event, Instagram is ideal. The social media platform is the consummate leader when it comes to daily photo-sharing and a go-to choice for bloggers and brands alike. The interface is extremely fluid and intuitive, if not rather addictive. If you aim to update family or friends with a daily selfie in “real-time,” or to show off your brand in a more accessible way, Instagram is a great choice, with several useful features:

  • Extensive photo editing options: Edit your images right in-app
  • Highly active user base: If you’re making your images public, Instagram is a great marketing tool
  • Easy to use interface: Instagram’s filters and editing features help your content look its absolute best
  • Account privacy: You can set your account privacy settings to limit access only to your approved followers

The downside to Instagram as an image hosting option however, is that it’s a social media platform. As such, only people with an Instagram account can access your photos. And while there may be some workarounds, you can’t readily upload photos from your desktop wither, only via the mobile app. Even public accounts are blocked by log-in pop-up boxes after a few scrolls. From a business and personal perspective, this can be an obstacle between your content and your audience. The lack of storage and sharing capability also proves an obstacle to curating your photos with others, making it less than ideal for family sharing. There is also the issue of privacy: until you opt-out or set your account to private, any images you upload may be indexed, and able to be found via search engines.

Apple Photos

Exclusive to iPad and iPhone users, Apple Photos sorts all your photos by the day, month, and year and stores them to iCloud. Photos are shown in grid formats for easy browsing and the app comes with a number of features that make it a good option for Apple users.

  • Auto tagging: Your photos will be automatically tagged based on what’s displayed in them and the location they were taken
  • Search suggestions: Based on your tags, Apple Photos will offer specific search terms to help you find the photos you are looking for, ideal if you remember an event but not a date
  • Automated facial recognition sharing suggestions: Apple Photos can recognize the people in your photos and suggest you share with them
  • Easy sharing through shared albums: You can allow others to view albums you have set as “shared”

You’ll get 5GB of free storage space with any iCloud account. However, the main drawback is that it’s only available to iOS users, and photos taken from a non-Apple device will need to be transferred in. By comparison, Dropbox is available as an app on iOS and Android, as well as on desktop for both PC and Mac. As such, you can upload photos from any device to the same folders and storage without device swapping or transferring.

Google Photos

If you have a Gmail account, you will already have access to a personal Google Photos account. Android phones may come with the app already installed. Your Photos account links to your overall Google account, so your uploaded photos will sync across all other devices currently using your log-in. Some of the Google Photos app features include:

  • Automatic tagging: Google will automatically apply tags to your photos based on their content, for example, your holiday snaps will be tagged with terms like “pool” or “sunset”
  • Automatic backup: Your phone can automatically load to Photos so you can free up space on your device
  • Shared albums: Let everyone share their photos in a single album so you don’t need to go back and forth trying to get everyone’s images
  • Photo editing features: You can edit your photos right in Google Photos, although there is not an extensive suite of editing options
  • Secure sharing: You can grant access to certain albums to a private group of family and friends while keeping other albums secure, although Google Photos doesn’t allow for password protection

Google Photos provides unlimited storage for free accounts but limits photos to 16 megapixels and video to 1080p. That means that if you’re capturing high resolution photos or 4K video, they’ll be compressed to save space. Dropbox, on the other hand, lets you upload any photo or video up to 50 GB in size as long as they fit in your file storage. Another Google alternative is Google Drive, one of the most popular cloud storage services. It offers similar sharing options with personal folders, though it is not image-specific, so editing tools are not available.

Dropbox

When it comes to storing and sharing your photos, whether they’re from a family vacation or your professional headshots, Dropbox makes it easy for you to upload, organize, and share everything. As a top file-sharing solution, Dropbox allows for easy uploading, organizing and sharing of your files and photos. You can create custom folders and share your files by folder, giving you control over who has access to your uploaded photos. A simple link can be sent by email or chat, and the recipient can access the folder even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.

There are other features that make Dropbox ideal as a photo sharing app or free photo hosting solution. The Dropbox Doc Scanner app can help you painlessly turn your physical photos into digital files of various types using your phone. Other features include:

  • Camera uploads: Automatically uploads photos to Dropbox from your camera roll
  • Screenshot uploads: Screenshots taken on your phone can also be automatically uploaded
  • Document upload: Use your camera as a scanner and create digital versions of documents in PDF format. It’s ideal for scanning receipts for office expenses, whiteboard brainstorming sessions with the team and more
  • Mac and Windows OS sync: See your photos inside file explorer right alongside your local files
  • App sync: View your photos and their folders on the Dropbox app
  • Image previews: See thumbnail previews for over 35 different file extensions
  • Password protection: Keep files secure with a personalized password
  • Shared folders: Invite others to upload to your folder for a central location for all your family’s, friend’s and co-worker’s images and files

Dropbox accounts give 2GB storage space for free, with paid plans offering even more space and sharing features.

While there are valuable reasons for each of the options listed here—whether its more free storage or greater social media integration—with its rock-solid file storage capability and variety of sharing features, Dropbox is a highly capable choice. Dropbox works well for both professional photo repositories and family collections. A free account alone offers a healthy chunk of top-quality storage space and a host of sharing capabilities, with paid plans that sweeten the deal.