Best cloud storage for photos and pictures in 2022: free and paid
As photography technology advances, ensuring you’ve got the best cloud storage for photos and pictures becomes ever more important. With every smartphone having high-quality cameras built in, and digital cameras going from strength to strength, it’s never been more key to backup meaningful and important images.
Photos are a major way that we record our lives and capture memorable moments, whether these be family holidays to once-in-a-lifetime events. While previously backing up photos meant painstaking transfers from storage cards to computers and then to external hard drives, the proliferation of affordable cloud storage means it’s now much simpler and quicker to save everything to the cloud.
Another advantage is that when you were backing up to hard drives or CDs, you always faced a capacity limit: cloud storage is potentially limitless, and it just depends on how much you want to save and how much you’re willing to pay. It’s also far more secure than the older physical mediums, as your files are backed up to multiple cloud servers in data centers, manned by security and utilizing encryption.
As such, there’s no better time than now to invest in the best cloud storage for photos and pictures. We’ve reviewed, evaluated, and ranked the best cloud storage for photos across paid and free services below.
The 3 best cloud storage for photos
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What is the best cloud storage for photos?
The internet is packed with great cloud storage services, many of which come with tools to help you organize and share your photos online. Finding the best cloud storage for photos is all about figuring out what features fit with your style of photography.
For example, photographers who love to share their work should look for a cloud storage service that supports the creation of public galleries. Some cloud providers like Flickr even feature social networking tools to help you connect with your audience.
One major advantage of using a cloud photo storage platform is convenience, as these services enable you to access your snaps whenever and wherever you can get online.
IDrive and Adobe Creative Cloud, in particular, have powerful mobile applications that enable you to easily manage your cloud collection from iOS and Android devices. As a result, many photographers consider these two to offer the very best cloud storage for photos.
If you’re an amateur photographer and aren’t monetizing your photos, there’s no reason to pay for an expensive provider, as there are a ton of free or affordable options. Google Drive is arguably the best cloud storage service for those wanting to save cash, as it can be used to store an unlimited number of shots for free, though some resolution limits do apply.
The best cloud storage for photos available
IDrive ranked top of our rundown of the best cloud storage services for general use, so it’s not surprising that it’s also a fantastic option for storing photos. You can connect your account to multiple devices, which is perfect for any photographers who shoot on more than one camera.
Also making IDrive one of the best cloud storage services for convenience is an Auto Camera setting. If you activate this, IDrive will automatically upload any new photos or videos that appear on the device, so you never have to worry about losing a shot.
Another cool feature is automatic facial recognition. If you have a large family or take a lot of portrait shots, this tool will automatically sort photos by the people in them, and facial detection information can be shared across any devices added to your IDrive account.
Lastly, for a limited time only it’s offering its 10TB personal cloud storage plan for $3.98 for the first year, which we think offers incredible value.
Read our IDrive cloud storage review.
Google Drive is more than just another storage app. This is a well-rounded cloud platform that connects to the comprehensive Google Workspace productivity suite, which supports file sharing and collaborative document editing.
You can store your photos and sync live changes and edits from your desktop computer using Windows and macOS applications. However, Drive does lack some of the photography-oriented features found with other services on this list.
That’s why the best way to use Google Drive to store your photos online is to use the connected Google Photos storage service. Until mid-2019, photos would sync automatically between Google Drive and Google Photos, but Google decided this was too confusing for users and discontinued the practice.
Today, photos can still be transferred, but once this is done, the two copies of the file are no longer linked. You can now use Google Photos to back up unlimited photos as long as they aren’t larger than 16MP. Although that limit shouldn’t cause a problem for family or holiday shots, professionals may wish to upgrade to a paid Google One membership, which removes any limit on photo size.
Google One also expands the amount of Drive storage space you get for other file types. Free Google Drive users get 15GB, while Google One subscribers paying $1.99 a month receive 200GB. Subscriptions of up to 30TB are available.
Read our full Google Drive review.
With around 400m users storing approximately 600bn pieces of content, Dropbox is one of the largest file storage platforms around. When you look at its features, many of which are great for photos and images, it’s easy to see why.
For starters, Dropbox simplifies the process of uploading photos. If you install the app on a phone or tablet, you can activate automatic transfer of new images from your camera roll to your account. You can also do this on a desktop by telling the Dropbox Windows or macOS program to scan connected camera cards or mobile devices for images.
Once photos are uploaded, a helpful folder system organizes them. Even better, if you want to edit photos after uploading, the desktop app can sync folders so that they appear in Windows Explorer or macOS Finder. Any modifications you make with photo editing software will be automatically detected and synced.
Besides this, Dropbox has unique features that you won’t find with many other cloud photo storage services, including a 30-day file version history viewer and a restore feature to protect you from accidental deletions.
You can get 2GB free, which is a good starting point if you don’t have too many photos. For a more reasonable capacity, it’s worth upgrading to Dropbox Plus which, for $11.99 a month, will net you 2TB. Free and paying Dropbox users can upgrade storage capacity by referring the platform to a friend.
Read our Dropbox cloud storage review.
If you’re looking for a straightforward cloud storage platform where you can store your photos without having to figure your way around new and unfamiliar interfaces, Microsoft OneDrive is worth a look. Microsoft has intentionally made OneDrive’s appearance similar to that of Windows 10, which means there’s basically no learning curve for any Windows users moving to the platform.
OneDrive is a general-purpose cloud storage platform, and its chief selling point is seamless integration with popular Microsoft 365 applications like Word and Excel. But that’s not to say that OneDrive doesn’t have some excellent photo management features. In fact, it supports tagging, photo search, and album creation.
Pricing is pretty affordable too. It matches Google Drive’s budget plan, with 100GB costing $1.99 a month. If you’re a fan of Microsoft’s productivity tools, a better option is to go with the Microsoft 365 Personal subscription which, for $69.99 a year, gives you 1TB and access to core Office apps.
Read our Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage review.
If you’re looking for high-quality cloud photo storage on a budget, Flickr could be the right option. You can think of it as part-cloud photo storage, part-photo-sharing social network. It’s one of the original photography sites to make it big on the web and has an estimated 87m registered members.
Flickr lets you upload up to 1,000 photos and videos free of charge. To remove that limit, you can go for a Flickr Pro+ account. These cost $7 a month or $60 a year. Pro+ users aren’t just freed from storage limits; they can also see advanced statistics and learn which shots are generating the best response in the community.
The greatest thing about Flickr is that you can show off your photos in a classy photostream. Because this is a photo network, other users will be able to respond to your shots unless you make them private. Overall, Flickr is a good way to display and store photos, but the one downside is that it can only handle compressed images, so this isn’t the right place to keep your RAW files.
Read our Flickr review.
As a photographer, you’re probably already familiar with Adobe’s suite of photo manipulation tools, but did you know it now also offers cloud photo storage?
Through Adobe Creative Cloud, you can access three different cloud storage plans. Two come with 1TB, while the other includes 20GB, and prices are set at $9.99 or $19.99 a month. Remember that there’s a seven-day free trial available with Creative Cloud, allowing you to try out the many apps for free before you decide which paid plan to go for.
You can’t store many photos with the 20GB package (the Creative Cloud Photography Plan), but Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom both get thrown in for free. Considering that Photoshop and Lightroom are two of the best photo editing tools around, the 20GB option is still well worth it if you want to produce the best images possible.
Managing photos in Creative Cloud is a pleasant experience too, thanks to classy image galleries where you can explore your work or share shots with others. With Group Libraries, collaborators can add photos to shared folders, though you can always make individual folders private. Adobe’s created macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android Creative Cloud apps, so uploading is a breeze no matter what device you’re using.
At the same time, direct integration with Lightroom, Photoshop, and Elements means you can always dive into an image to make adjustments. Unsurprisingly, given Adobe’s rich photo-editing pedigree, Creative Cloud is fully compatible with RAW images. As such, this is a suitable platform for professional photographers who don’t want to lose quality when storing images.
Read our Adobe Creative Cloud review focusing on its cloud storage.
Some cloud storage platforms are limited when it comes to modifying photos once you’ve uploaded them, but that’s not the case with pCloud. This service enables you to resize photos within your browser and archive older photos, so you can better focus on your favorite shots.
Advanced photographers will appreciate that pCloud automatically provides previews and thumbnail icons of uncompressed RAW format photos (which are better for editing). Also, pCloud can connect directly to Lightroom on Windows and macOS devices, so you can upload shots as soon as you’re finished modifying them.
Another element that distinguishes it is pricing. While almost all competitors charge a monthly subscription, you can pay pCloud a one time fee for a lifetime of 500GB or 2TB. Although the upfront cost is higher, many photographers prefer it, as you can pay once and forget about it. There’s no need to worry about rates being increased over time, or photos being deleted if you stop paying.
So that its unique payment system isn’t abused, pCloud does limit the amount of data you can download or stream from your account each month. If you have a 2TB account, for example, you’ll only be able to download 2TB in any given month.
In an image backup use-case, there’s not normally a need to constantly download data from the cloud anyway, so this won’t cause an issue for most photographers.
Read our pCloud review.
Cloud storage for photos FAQ
What is cloud storage for photos and pictures?
Cloud storage utilizes physical servers to save files on the internet, via internet-connected data centers. These servers are owned, maintained, and run by cloud storage providers, and offer storage for all manner of files.
When it comes to cloud storage for photos, many of the best cloud storage services are also providers of the best cloud storage for photos. You can upload, save, download, and securely backup important image files, and can access them wherever you are, as long as you’re connected to the internet.
How do you choose the best cloud storage for photos?
There are plenty of great photo storage services out there, but how do you work out which is right for you? Take into account key factors such as ease of access from mobile and desktop, gallery sharing features to promote your work, the size of your photo library and the number of images you’d like to store online, and much more.
The majority are “freemium”: although they offer some free storage, extra capacity can only be unlocked by signing up for monthly or annual subscriptions. Price per GB can differ dramatically, so it’s worth shopping around and keeping an eye on the capacity you’ll require.
When it comes to storage capacity, the average 16MP JPEG requires 4.8MB, so if you have 500 to upload, you’ll need a plan with at least 2.5GB. Fortunately, most services won’t charge for that amount of space,
If you want to preserve original image information via RAW files, almost any service will allow uploads of compressed JPEGs, PNGs, or GIFs: the same can’t be said for uncompressed RAWs or TIFFs. Check if they’re supported, and how many you’ll need to save: 500 RAW 16MP photos will take up approximately 2.5TB, so you’ll need a monthly subscription.
Remember that upload and download times will depend on the speed of your own connection. You’ll be better off investing in a physical storage medium if you don’t have a swift ISP.
Look for services that offer Android and iOS apps if this is something you want to take advantage of. Some go above and beyond by letting you create stunning sites and profiles, like Flickr. Finally, a major benefit is that you can access, edit, and share photos even when you’re away from your workstation.
How we review the best cloud storage for photos
When we come to review cloud storage services, first of all we test the upload and download times for file transfers, because these are integral to the performance of platforms and usage. In turn, we examine how a given service’s security tools and features work and how comprehensive they are, to ensure your files are kept safe from hacking or accidental loss.
Next, we test the responsiveness and knowledge of customer service and support teams, as when there’s an issue you want to be sure your provider will quickly get back to you, and will know how to fix the problem. In a market vertical with varying levels of free and paid plans, we explore and explain pricing in-depth, while we also test out and discuss any additional tools or features offered by the service.
Across our comprehensive reviews of each cloud storage platform, we also compare each service to its competitors, specifically in terms of pricing and key features. We undertake all of this during testing so that you, the consumer, can benefit from as much information about each service as possible before you choose.
Next steps with cloud storage
Follow our cloud storage checklist when looking for a provider of online storage, and learn top tips for data backup and recovery. If you’re uncertain as to the differences between cloud storage, cloud backup, and cloud sync, inform yourself with this comparison.
If you’re looking for storage beyond just photos, or have a tighter budget, take a look at our other buying guides that evaluate the best free cloud storage, the best personal cloud storage, the best cloud storage for business,
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