Taking photos and uploading them to the web has never been easier. The best sites to store those photos keep them backed up, make them easy to share, showcase them in good-looking galleries, and offer you lots of space and effective editing tools. This week, we're looking at five of the best image hosting sites, based on your nominations.
Title photo by SergeyIT (Shutterstock).
Putting aside the issues with Google+ as a social network, the service is great for hosting, managing, organising and even sharing your photos. Google+ Photos offers tons of tools and options to manage your snapshots, whether you have them all automatically uploaded from your Android or iOS device, or you manually upload them in batches from your computer or camera. Google+ Photos gives you a place to automatically back up and store your photos from multiple sources, connect them with your Google account, edit them with remarkably robust web-based image editing tools, and apply filters and edit them from any device.
One useful option is to let Google+ automatically colour correct and enhance your photos with its "auto awesome" process -- which actually can make your photos look better. As well, Auto Awesome can turn your shots into animated GIFs that capture multiple moments at once. Google+ Photos also automatically organises your photos into "moments" or "events", and will automatically create date-based galleries for you. It will even automatically stitch panoramas together for you. The basic service is free, and as long as you upload photos at a standard size, you get unlimited storage for them. There are restrictions on that though, and ultimately your storage space is shared with Google Drive, so if you're looking for full-resolution or RAW photo uploads, full HD videos, or more high-end features, you may eventually need to pony up for Google Drive space to accommodate everything nicely.
Flickr used to be the biggest name people thought of when it came to storing and sharing photos online, and while it's still one of the primary destinations for photographers and photo lovers, it's arguable whether it's really kept up with the times. Flickr's changes and updates since being purchased by Yahoo have been controversial to say the least. Some updates have modernised the site's layout, made galleries responsive and more attractive, and improved its mobile apps so you can upload and edit on the go, and browse photos from your friends and groups at any time. However, other changes, like its confusing change from free and "Pro" accounts to ad-supported/ad-free/high storage accounts a few years ago muddied the waters even more. Flickr is still a great place to host your photos, with a huge community of photographers, the option to make your photos public or private at any time, multiple licensing options (including Creative Commons, and other choices that let you sell your photos if you choose), and groups for just about every possible interest.
Since the buyout, Flickr has steadily improved its offerings, while retaining the third-party, community spirit that made it popular. Flickr is still free (you just need a Yahoo account) for an ad-supported account with 1TB of storage (limited to 200MB/photo and 1GB/video with a maximum 3 minute duration). "Pro" is Flickr's ad-free account option, which gives you unlimited uploads (with the same limitations as the free account) for $US25/yearr. "Doublr" was an account type that gave users 2TB of storage and no ads, but Flickr quietly eliminated that option a year ago.
Smugmug has been around for a long time, and has continued to update, giving its users more features, sharper and more modern designs, and the tools needed to showcase photos while simultaneously fostering a great sense of community among its users. These days Smugmug is less of a Flickr-like "show off your photos for people to comment on here" type of site and more of a location for amateur and professional photographers and businesses to build rich photography websites where they can showcase their work. There are lots of designs to choose from, and you can tweak them all using Smugmug's built-in tools.
Smugmug also gives photographers complete control over licensing, download options and watermarkingmore. Your photos and videos are always uploaded at full resolution. Smugmug is a completely premium service, with plans that range from $US40/year to $US300/year depending on the amount of storage you want, the customisation options you need, and whether you plan to sell your photos.
While Imgur is designed for quick, disposable image sharing and focuses squarely on viral images, memes and GIFs, it's still one of the most popular image hosting sites on the web, partially because it's just so easy to upload something and share it with the world. If you sign up for an account, you can save and manage all of the images that you've uploaded. If you're an Imgur Pro subscriber ($US24/year) you can browse ad-free, see analytics on the images and galleries you upload, and upload as many photos as you want (free users are limited to 225 images.)
Imgur's image compression is one potential downside -- free users will have any image larger than 5MB compressed down to that filesize. Pro users get a break, with only images larger than 10MB getting compressed Imgur has mobile apps that make browsing and keeping track of your own images easy, an open API so developers can hook third party apps and tools into it. It's not an image hosting site in the classic sense, but it is fast, easy to use, and has a huge user base behind it.
500px is a social network for photographers seeking to share their work and their knowledge. The 500px ethos is that the network is a place to share your best work, and to get involved with other photography enthusiasts. 500px has seen an influx of former Flickr users who appreciated the site's more streamlined design in the face of unpopular changes at Flickr. Users have their own profiles, can follow other photographers, and get control over licensing and usage of their photos.
500px's mobile apps give users the ability to keep up with their friends and fellow photographers on the go. Even if you don't use 500px for your photos, it's one of our favourite, most underrated sources of desktop wallpaper, not to mention a great photo browser and slideshow creator for your iPad or for Android.
An honourable mention goes to Dropbox. We've talked about how powerful Dropbox can be for managing your photos, and while it may not be quite as robust as some of the options above, automatic backup and great sharing tools make it a great solid choice for storing and sharing your photos.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Tell us what your preferred alternative is -- and make your case for it -- in the comments.