In Part I of this series on backing up your photos, I talked about what I currently do for storage which involves saving duplicates of my photos to several hard drives and occasional DVD burning. In this part, we’ll take a look at photo sharing and photo storage sites. As mentioned earlier, not every possible company is listed below, but the more popular ones I could find or others had talked about I included below.
Option #2: Uploading to a Photo Sharing/Photo Storage Website
You may have heard of some of these companies before: Flickr; Snapfish; Shutterfly; Phanfare; SmugMug, Photobucket and Picasa. These photo sharing sites allow you store your photos (and videos) and invite friends and family to view them. You can also order prints and other photo products from many of them. The best service for you depends on what your needs and preferences are, as well as your budget.
Perhaps however, you don’t want to spend anything at all. Well, there’s something out there for you too. Flickr (a Yahoo offering) actually provides 1 TB of free storage. Just to give you an idea of how many photos that is, if you have an average 6.5 megapixel photo, you can store 537,731 of them. That’s a whole lotta photos! If 1 TB is not enough, Shutterfly and Snapfish offer you unlimited storage naturally in hopes that you’ll order some prints and photo products along the way.
- You can recover your photos should the need arise;
- You can share your photos;
- You can order prints of your photos or other photo gifts (like photo books!);
- Some sites offer free storage;
- Some sites offer pro options such as customizable galleries, ability to sell;
- Videos can also be uploaded
- Some sites may not allow for downloads of the original photos (may be downsized);
- Some sites limit the size of the photo uploaded;
- Have to pay annual fee typically based on storage needs;
- You may have to make a minimum yearly purchase or log on within a specific time frame or risk deletion of your photos;
- Some sites do not support all common file formats (like RAW) or charge an extra fee;
Photo Sharing Sites Comparison Summary
||Cost||Individual Photo & Video Size Limits||File Types Supported||Photo Editing||Special Features/Notes|
||1 TB: Free
1 TB no ads: $49.99/yr
2 TB: $499.99/yr
|200MB per photo
1080p HD videos up to 1 GB each
|jpeg, non-animated GIFs, png (tiff and other formats converts to jpeg)||No||Upload and download full original size
Flickr Pro no longer available
|Phanfare||FREE trial for 2 weeks
Unlimited storage: $29/yr.
Unlimited storage w/full size originals: $99/yr
Pro (allows for sales): $199/yr
|1400 pixel max photo size
2 GB per video file + 20 min max length
|jpeg, tiff, psdRAW (Pro level w/additional fee – $24.99/yr for 10 GB (100 MB each photo max)||Yes, non-destructive||Ad freeViewers don’t have to register to view your photos
Full screen web slideshows w/video
Your own URL
Pro a/c offers ability to sell w/markup
Customization of gallery
Non-destructive image editing
||2 GB: Free
20 GB: $29.99/yr
50 GB: $49.99/yr
100 GB: $89.99/yr
200 GB: $169.99/yr
500 GB: $399.99/yr
|Photo – not limited
Videos – under 10 mins. and 500 MB or less in size
500 max videos in a/c
|jpeg, gif, png, bmp||Yes||10 GB/month of bandwidth for linking to blogs, forums – unlimited for upgraded a/c
Can print photos or other photo gifts via partner LifePics
||15 GB: Free
100 GB: $59.88/yr
200 GB: $119.88/yr
1 TB – 599.88
(other capacities not shown – goes up to 16TB)
|Photo: 20 MB and 50 megapixels
Video: 1 GB
Photos under 2048 x 2048 or 800 x 800 pixels (depending on whether you have Google+ a/c) and videos under 15 mins don’t count against your free storage
|RAW, jpeg, tif, tiff, bmp, gif, psd, png, tga||Yes, non-destructive||Picasa doesn’t store the photos, it just finds and displays them
Backup assist feature
|Snapfish||Free unlimited storage with min 1 purchase/yr (as low as a single $.09 print)||Photo: No limit noted
Video: < 1 GB
|jpeg||Yes – basic crop, rotate, red eye, contrast||Free download of high-resolution copies of photos (50 at a time)
Share site for photos
Video upload and share $24.99/yr for unlimited
Pro Gallery Pro (5 GB): $99/yr
Pro Gallery Premier (unlimited): $199/yr
|No max file limit but recommends 10 megapixel or less||jpeg||Yes – basic||Share site free
Pro can sell prints
Video sharing (10 free) $29.99 for unlimited
Ad free share site
All unlimited storage
|Photo: 50 MB and 100 megapixels
Video: 3 GB and 20 mins
|jpeg, gif and png
RAW, tiff, pdf, psd 3 GB per file limit with SmugVault (addtl fee of $1.00 + $.09 per GB/month)
|Yes – basic and also uses PicMonkey||Sleek designs & customization available
Make prints & create gifts
*Pricing levels not based on storage but other features – more directed to pros such as branding
Share video and photos
So, what do you do with this information? One belief that’s been reinforced for me because of my experiences with this site, is that everyone is different with different needs. What may work for me may not work for you. One surprising thing to me was that not many sites support backup of RAW files. I like to shoot in RAW because it retains the highest level of pixel information that allows me the most flexibility when I do post processing. The downside is RAW files are large – about 9 to 11 MB per photo, versus 4 to 5 MB for the average jpeg. So you’ll fill up your storage twice as fast if you want to backup RAW files. Most of the services here don’t even offer it as an option, and the ones that do, charge an additional fee, so you’d fill up the free level rather quickly. I could just back up the final jpegs after I do my post-processing on them and I would hope that I’d never have to do a restore, so it may not be as much of a limitation as I thought initially.
Out of the seven companies above, I’ve had experience with four: Flickr, Picasa, Snapfish and Shutterfly.
I haven’t used Flickr as a backup site, but rather as a place to host photos for my blog. By keeping my photos there rather than on my site, my pages load faster which hopefully gives you a better browsing experience. I had a Flickr Pro account that gave me unlimited storage for $24.95 per year, but they’ve changed their pricing structure and did away with the Pro accounts. Those who were current subscribers got upgraded (bigger file size) while retaining their unlimited storage, which is the best of both worlds. A huge plus for using Flickr is the 1 TB free account and the fact that you or anyone you give permission to (which can be as broad as everyone if you choose the “public” setting) can download the original full size photos. You can set privacy settings for every photo you upload so you can control who sees it. I may consider backing up a subset of my photos on Flickr since I have it anyway. I would have never thought about that had I not researched this series.
Picasa I’ve used more for their tools rather than for storage. I like their collage tool which I reviewed here. I’ve even used Picasa to design layouts for a photo book I’ve done. Picasa also has some decent editing tools which I discussed here. But in evaluating Picasa for storage, it’s rather pricey when compared to Flickr. It does accept RAW files without an extra fee, but you would max out relatively fast. I would say for storage, Flickr would be a better option than Picasa.
Snapfish and Shutterfly
As for Snapfish and Shutterfly, I would never have thought about using them as backup. I only upload the photos I intend to use in my photo books or other photo gifts. But they don’t restrict file size and you get unlimited storage. However, if you actually need to restore your photos, you won’t be able to download them at full resolution. You would get a 1600 x 1200 copy which Shutterfly says is sufficient for an 8 x 10 print. If you want the full resolution you can order a DVD mailed to you of the full resolution photos starting at $9.99 (for 1 – 100) up to $19.99 for 1000 photos (with each additional 1000 for $4.99). The price really isn’t that bad at all, if you really did lose your photos. Snapfish offers the more user friendly recovery service. It actually allows you to download your original resolution images for free via batch-downloading (meaning several photos at once instead of one at a time). So, one of these options may work for you. You don’t have to pay anything unless the need arises and at that point, I think you’d gladly pay the fee.
For more information on batch-downloading images from several of the sites in my chart, check out this informative article.
I don’t have personal experience with Phanfare, Photobucket or SmugMug, but out of the three, SmugMug has the nicest looking share site templates. In terms of pricing, because SmugMug’s pricing structure is not based on storage but rather on features, their basic $40/year membership seems like the better deal to me. If you are not a pro photographer then you’re not concerned about branding etc. which is what the higher levels provide at a higher cost.
Out of all the share sites, Flickr seems to be the overall better option mainly because they’re giving 1 TB free. Even if all your photos don’t fit in that 1 TB, if you have a subset of really important photos like wedding photos or baby photos, why not give yourself some extra insurance? If you’re using Shutterfly or Snapfish for books or prints already, then it makes sense to utilize the no limit storage they provide.
This review focuses on storage and not the sharing aspect of these share sites, so if you would like to take advantage of the share features, that may change your analysis of what’s best for you. As mentioned I really like SmugMug’s design and interface, but Photobucket’s and Phanfare’s weren’t bad either. Overall however, I would give the thumbs up to Flickr.
Before you make a final decision however, be sure to catch Part III of my series focusing on online file backup a/k/a The Cloud.
Every effort is made to insure accurate information, but companies may change specs and prices. Please double check any info before purchasing and feel free to let me know of any errors. I was not asked or compensated by any company to write this article. I am an affiliate of Shutterfly and Snapfish and some links are affiliate links, which means if you click from my site to theirs and make a purchase, I may be given a referral fee. My opinions are solely my own and an honest opinion is given whether positive or negative.
I have been using Picasaweb (now Google +) for sharing my photos for years and years. I now have 1000s on there. However, they are all stored in a reduced web size. If you upload web-sized images, there are no limits. It’s not an ideal backup solution, as obviously you can’t retrieve the full sized image, but I like knowing that in a worst case scenario, I have some record.
yes, any back up is better than none. I think the Flickr option seems really good since it’s free and you can load full size. I would imagine downloading them back would be a pain, but it’s only worse case scenario right? 🙂
Howard Roark says
Hi there I know this is an old post, but im torn between Flickr and Snapfish. Wouldnt snapfish be better since its unlimited storage and you can download at full resolution and Flickr is capped at 1000 GB (granted thats alot)? Did I miss something?
With Snapfish, you do have to buy something at least once a year albeit small. One thing I don’t go into detail about is the interface. Flickr’s interface in general is more appealing for me. Snapfish’s site is geared towards you making or buying something, so in terms of a “database” of photo uploads, it’s not laid out to showcase your photos like Flickr does. Plus, when you want to download your photos, Flickr automatically gives you a range of options from very small to original size in an easy to use interface. Also, if you blog and need an image hosting site, it can serve that purpose as well and you can easily make it open to the public as I do with images from my site, which also helps promote my site. So, as with most things, it really depends on what your needs may be. If you’re just looking solely for photo storage in case of emergency, I guess Snapfish would be better if you have over 1000 GB to store, as long as you remember to buy something every year. What’s great about either, is you can sign up for a free account with flickr and do the same with Snapfish and you should be able to tell fairly quickly which interface is better for you personally. Hope that helps!