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The Best Photo Sharing Sites

posted by on March 02, 2016 in Cameras and Photography, Photo / Video Sharing, Guides & Reviews :: 0 comments

Best Sites for Sharing Photos

Digital cameras and smartphones mean that most of us have a ton of photos scattered everywhere from phones and computer hard drives to Facebook and Instagram profiles.

But what happens when you switch phones, upgrade computers, or simply want to search all your photos at once?

Uploading pictures to a photo sharing site is a simple way to answer all those questions—and the services offer lots of other benefits, as well. You can organize large photo collections, make it easier for friends and family to contribute to shared albums and ensure your pictures stay with you no matter what device they came from.

There are four main criteria to think about when picking the best site for your needs:

1. Cost of storage. First you need to figure out how much memory you’ll need. This is largely determined by where most of your pictures are coming from. Smartphone photos can range from 500KB to 2MB in size, while photos from point-and-shoot cameras are usually 1-5MB, depending on the megapixel-count of the camera. Choose lower storage limits at first; you can always pay for more when you need it.

2. Automatic photo sync. If you take a lot of photos, a service that syncs images automatically via a smartphone app or folder on your desktop can take the hassle out of backing up.

3. Privacy. Do you want complete control over who can see your pictures? Family albums, for instance, might benefit from a site that keeps albums password protected.

4. Full-size upload and download. If you want to back-up a collection or print your photos, find a service that allows full-resolution uploads and downloads. Some services downsize photos for quicker uploads.

Below are our favorite sites and their best features. Let us know what you think – and what you use – in the comments.

Photobucket: Great for editing

Photobucket

If your smartphone doesn’t offer much in the way of touch-up tools – or if you’re transferring pics from a digital camera – you may want to check out photo services with basic editing tools built in. Stalwart photo-sharing site Photobucket offers an intuitive image editor with simple features, such as red-eye removal, sharpening and cropping. You can also add splashes of color to a black and white photo, try out vintage-style filters and draw or write on pictures. 

The iPhone and Android apps have editing features as well as a GIF maker – just select up to 60 images from your camera roll or Photobucket account to create your own stop-motion animation.

You can upload photos from Facebook, your computer, or other websites. You can also create shared albums where friends can contribute photos, video and text of their own. Photos and entire albums can be posted to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Photobucket has a large community of users who post pictures to a public photo feed with tons of interest tags and trending topics, so it’s also a good option if you want your albums to reach more than friends and family. 

The site also has its own photo-printing service to reproduce images for framed prints, canvas wraps, photo books — even blankets and shower curtains – and as of press time there's a 85% discount when you spend $20 or more.

Cost of storage: 2GB free, with an additional 8GB if you use the Photobucket app; prices range from 22GB for $2.99/month up to 502GB for $39.99/month.

[EDITOR"S NOTE 4/4/16: A reader brought to our attention that the Photobucket Terms or Use will provide full rights to Photobucket to use your photos in any way this wish, including for commercial purposes, if your privacy setting are set to "Public" Photobucket albums default to "Public" when you sign up, so this is a significant privacy risk. We recommend that anyone using Photobucket change their album privacy settings to "Private" as soon as possible using these steps.]

Automatic photo sync? Yes, with desktop computer and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to albums or choose to make them visible only to you (see Editor's note above)
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Flickr: Great for large photo collections

Flickr

The grandaddy of photo-sharing sites, Flickr offers 1TB of storage for free (which can hold from 500,000 to 2 million photos) with no limit on picture resolution. Users can also upload 1080p high-definition video clips, with playback up to three minutes long.

You can also organize pictures into collections and sub-collections, with options to tag keywords and people either individually or in batches of photos. Your friends and followers can tag photos too, creating a massive database of keyworded photos. You can then search your library by keyword or people tags and sort by dates that pictures were posted or taken—a godsend when a lifetime’s worth of photos start to stack up. 

Flickr displays photos in a minimalist grid with a slideshow option, as well as an “explore” feature to find new pictures and photographers to follow. The site also offers the same beginner-friendly image editor as Photobucket, with Instagram-style color filters, cutesy effects like frames and stickers and basic editing tools, such as contrast, saturation and focus tweaks.

You can upload photos via email, the website, or directly from the Flickr smartphone app and share albums on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter. If you want hard copies, you can print products such as wall art and photo books. Avid photographers will have a huge audience in the Flickr community, who posted 2 million photos a day in 2015.

Cost of storage: Free, with 1TB of storage and displayed ads; $49.99 a year for ad-free version with access to stats on how photos are shared, free U.S. Shipping for Flickr prints, and 20% off Adobe's Creative Cloud set of design editing apps
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through the Flickr smartphone app for iPhone and Android
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can choose the audience for every photo as friends, family, public or only you (adding contacts allows you to set them as friends or family)
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Cluster: Great for private group photo sharing

Cluster

If you'd like a private place to share photos – for example, family albums or pictures for events such as wedding – Cluster is a great option for viewing and commenting on photos, without any of the privacy headaches of social-focused sites like Facebook.

You invite people tojoin particular groups via emailed links. There's no limit on group size, so the app works equally well for small group events – like a road trip or family barbecue  – to larger events such as holidays and weddings. Any member of a group is able to download all posted photos to their computer or smartphone, at original resolution.

Pictures are viewed in photo feeds on your smartphone as well as desktop, and each member of the group can like photos. You can adjust permissions for posting photos, videos and comments as well as for adding new members.

You can upload photos from your Android, iPhone or desktop photo library, as well as directly from the smartphone camera as you take them.

This streamlined service doesn't offer editing options and the photos are organized according to when they were uploaded. Heading into Gallery view allows you to choose different ways of sorting, including time taken, the photographer, and the number of likes – although chronological order is a great way to view the photos of an event as it unfolded.

Cost of storage: Free (although expect premium, paid-for features to roll out in the future)
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? Yes
Privacy control: Only people you invite to a group can view photos 
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

500px: Great for discovery

500px

This sleekly designed site is all about its striking photography. You’ll find no family pics or collections of vacation snaps on 500px; instead there are highly edited shots of landscapes, animals and beautiful people, displayed in a minimal, endlessly-flowing grid.

You can upload pictures from your computer, iPhone or Android phone, or import them from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and more. You can add keyword tags to make your photos easier to find.

500px also offers a great Galleries feature for curating your favorite photos on the site into personal collections that can be private for inspiration, or public to display a visual style. You can also browse through dozens of themes, including Slow Living, Through the Looking Glass and straightforward categories such as Animals.

An updated algorithm for the Pulse feature tracks how many likes a photo gets as well as taking into account how active a member is and how meaningful their comments on others' photos, offering a unique way to give exposure to the best photos.

For pro users, premium accounts come with a portfolio website. 500px also offers the chance to buy – or sell – photos as wall art or stock photography.

Cost of storage: Free for 20 uploads a week; plans from $2.08/month allow unlimited uploads and ability to organize photos into sets
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can upload pictures privately so that only you see them; otherwise they are publicly visible by default.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes 

Shutterfly: Great for photo products

Shutterfly

Shutterfly offers a creative range of photo gifts, including metal prints, wooden wall art and battery cases for smartphones. There’s also the usual lineup of personalized stationary, crockery, blankets and cushions, as well as kiddy-oriented products like lunch bags, puzzles and books customized with your little one’s face throughout their pages.

Even if you don’t purchase any photo prints, Shutterfly is a good option for collating your photo collection online, as it offers unlimited storage with no restrictions on the size of photos uploaded and the ability to import pictures directly from Facebook, Instagram, iPhoto, Google+ Photos and Adobe Photoshop. You can also send pictures through iPad, iPhone or Android apps.

Once pictures are uploaded, you can send a link to the gallery via email or Facebook for friends to view. Anyone who can view your album can also order prints of the pictures in it. For collaborative albums, you can create a “Share” micro-site for group members to upload photos and share calendars, messages and polls. 

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited storage; signing up gets you 50 free prints. Until Sunday March 6, 2016 you can also get unlimited free 4x6 and 4x4 prints from the mobile app
Automatic sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Albums are private by default and Share sites are limited to their members.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

ThisLife: Great for collating diverse sets of photos

ThisLife

If your pictures are scattered throughout the Internet, photo aggregator ThisLife (by Shutterfly) can import and organize them. The service links with Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, Picasa and SmugMug to pull in all your photos and sort them by date and place. You can upload full resolution pictures directly from your computer as well as high-definition video.

Photos are privately displayed in a timeline and can be further organized by category and custom tags. Facial recognition, geo-tags and duplicate-killing add to the organizational mojo. Tags from social network sites are saved, too, allowing for a heavyweight search feature by person, place, date, time and keyword.

You can also organize pics into slideshows and galleries that you can then share via email. Since the service is owned by Shutterfly, you can also create prints and other photo gifts of your pictures.

Cost of storage: Free unlimited photos
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through a desktop folder or the Instagram app
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Only friends with the link to the gallery can view it; however, there's no password protection
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Google Photos: Great for auto-enhancement

Google Photos

A lot of photo-sharing sites offer a slideshow feature, but Google+ Photos throws in some unique auto-create options for photos taken with an iPhone or Android phone.

If you turn on auto back up and location history in the Google+ app, Google will collate a “Story” slideshow based on pictures snapped while you’re away from your usual haunts—that is, when it thinks you’re on vacation.

If you take a set of similar photos—say, on burst mode—the Assistant feature turns the images into a mini-animation, viewable from the website or app. It also collates “Rediscover this Day” collections of photos snapped in years gone by. (These features can be toggled off in Settings.) If you’re on an Android phone (OS version 4.3 or newer), there’s an additional Movie feature that can pull together a mini-movie from photos and videos you select.

You can also upload photos from your smartphone or computer and manually create albums. Photos can be as public or private as you want; users of the Google+ social network can set which Circles can view the photos, or simply email friends a link to the gallery. The photo viewer offers sharing and editing options, as well as a slideshow view.

Cost of storage:Free for unlimited photos at Google’s downsized “standard” size, which is sufficient for web sharing, or 15GB of full-size pictures (storage shared with Google Drive and Gmail accounts); from $1.99/month for 100GB, up to $299.99/month for 30TB
Automatic photo sync? Yes, option to sync to a private album via a desktop folder and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can set the audience for the photo album and prevent others from sharing the album.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes, but full-resolution photos count against storage limit  

Zenfolio: Great for professionals

Zenfolio

Built to host portfolios rather than photo feeds, Zenfolio offers sleek homepage layouts to show off your best images and a blog where you can easily upload photos and videos as you go.

There’s file size is limited to 64MB per file, but there is no limit on the number of photos you can upload, so it’s a good tool to store high resolution images taken with a DSLR.

You can sort photos into galleries that have searchable descriptions and category and keyword tags. Photos can be viewed in an elegant slideshow, in which you control the background music and for the player’s speed and transitions.

Zenfolio supports plug-ins to transfer pictures from professional photo-management software, such as Adobe Lightroom and Aperture. For pros who want to sell their prints, there's the option to build in a shopping cart, as well guestbook and contact pages.

Cost of storage: From $60/year for unlimited storage; from $240/year to add selling features 
Automatic photo sync? Yes, with the Zenfolio apps for iPhone/Android
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to a gallery to keep it private
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Instagram: Great for social sharing

Instagram

If storing your photos is less important than sharing them with followers across the globe, Instagram is the answer. The wildly popular app for Android and iOS doesn't have much of a desktop presence - although it is possible to browse photos at its website – but any photo you post from your smartphone is saved online forevermore.

You get unlimited photo uploads as well uploads of videos between three and 15 seconds long – although since photos are compressed, it's not the ideal place to store pictures you may want to print out later.

Of course, Instagram's killer app is its dozens of filters, from old-timey black and white to vintage high-colors and moody contrasts. There are also several intuitive sliders to adjust shadows, highlights, focus and more, while the Layout add-on lets you create collages.

You can tag your followers in pictures and captioning images with hashtags helps people outside your existing circles find your pictures. For example, a well-tagged sunset pic of your favorite beach can help you connect with other lovers of dusk and sandy locales.

Though Instagram is designed to be a newsfeed of photos from people you follow, you can view a person's entire photo history – and your own – by clicking on the profile tab.

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited uploads
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? Yes
Privacy control: You can set your account to be viewed by approved followers only; otherwise, anybody with an Instagram account can see your pictures
Full-size uploads/downloads? No; but you can use external service Instaport to download all your pics to your hard drive

Eye-Fi Cloud: Great for Multiple Cameras

Eye-Fi Cloud

If you take photos on your smartphone as well as a digital camera (or two), Eye-Fi Cloud and its associated range of Wi-Fi-enabled memory cards is a great way to back it all up online in a single, organized hub.

Using an Eye-fi memory card (8/16/32GB) in a DSLR camera enables wireless transfer of image files; the Eye-fi Pro card lets you transfer RAW files. This happens via its own Wi-Fi network and pairing with the Eye-fi app on your phone or tablet (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Amazon Fire) – so you don't even need to be anywhere near an internet connection. You can also upload pictures directly from mobile or desktop.

You can create albums and tag photos for easy organization, view them by cameras used, as well as browse other photos while the Smart View feature automatically sorts images by date taken, hour of day, shutter speed, ISO and exposure mode, and displays stats such as the most common time you take photos and your most-used settings.

Whether a photo is taken with a DSLR camera or smartphone, the mobile app lets you crop, edit and share to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cost of storage: $4.99/month with unlimited uploads and up to 300 videos per month; from $25.99 for a 8GB Eye-Fi memory card that comes with a free 90-day trial membership of Eye-fi Cloud
Automatic photo sync? Yes
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Only those you email album links to can view them 
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Updated on 3/2/2016 with new top picks

[family views photos via Shutterstock]



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