Last November, Google — which until now has offered unlimited storage for “high quality” (read: compressed) photos — announced that “unlimited” is being changed to “up to 15GB on your Google account.” In other words, while photo and video storage currently does not count against your total of 15 free gigs on a Google account, it will as of this coming June 1st — along with your Gmail, Google Drive files, and other stored data. Once you hit that 15GB wall, you will have to buy into the Google One service to increase your storage capacity. (Unless you own a Pixel, in which case you still have no limits on “high quality” photos.)
If you’re a Google Photos user who finds all of this a bit irritating, you may be thinking of leaving. But first, it’s a good idea to check out your alternatives. Below are some of the main photo storage services available to you, along with their basic fees, so you can figure out whether you want to switch. (Note: We’ve only included services that are specifically geared toward photos, not more general storage services such as OneDrive or Dropbox.)
Google provides each of its accounts with 15GB of free storage. However, for the last few years, photos have been treated differently: under its “high quality” plan, Google stored an unlimited number of photos for free as long as you allow them to be compressed to 16 megapixels. (According to Google, photos that size can be printed without issue up to 24 x 16 inches.) Videos were kept to a maximum of 1080p. (Data such as closed captions could be eliminated to save space.) “Original quality” photos — those that were not compressed — were not part of this unlimited plan but were counted as regular files.
However, all of that is changing. As mentioned above, starting on June 1st, 2021, Google will be including photos in its storage calculations. Once you hit that 15GB ceiling, you will have to buy into the Google One service for additional storage space.
Google One currently starts at 100GB of storage for $1.99 a month ($19.99 a year) and proceeds to 200GB for $2.99 a month ($29.99 a year) or 2TB for $9.99 a month ($99.99 a year). The 2TB plan also comes with a VPN for Android phones.
Before you run to invest in Google One, be aware that there are several mitigating factors Google is offering its users. When the new plan goes into effect, that is when the clock starts; photos you uploaded before then won’t count toward your 15GB limit. Also, if you’re a Pixel owner, then you can continue to upload high-quality photos without affecting your 15GB limit. (Of course, Pixel owners used to get unlimited original quality for free, rather than having to upload their photos in “high quality.” But hey, it’s something.)
If you’re part of Apple’s ecosystem, then you have easy access to iCloud Photos, Apple’s equivalent to Google Photos. iCloud Photos is connected to the Phone app on your Mac or iOS device as a backup for your photos. You automatically get 5GB of storage space associated with your iCloud account; after that, it costs 99 cents per month for 50GB, $2.99 per month for 200GB, and $9.99 per month for 2TB. (This is for the US; other countries have different fees.) Windows users can also access iCloud Photos via an associated app; Android users will have to access it using a browser.
Flickr has a free plan as well, but it’s limited to 1,000 photos — within certain guidelines: photo files are limited to 200MB and video files to 1GB. For unlimited storage without ads, you pay either $6.99 a month or $59.99 annually (plus tax). Other advantages to a paid annual membership include stats about which of your photos are trending and a variety of discounts from several companies, including Adobe and SmugMug (which is now part of Flickr).
Speaking of SmugMug, this long-lasting service is also available, offering storage, portfolios, and sales opportunities for professionals. For $55 a year or $7 a month, you get unlimited uploads and a customizable website. The Power plan ($85 a year or $11 monthly) adds site customization and your own domain name. If you’re looking to be a professional photographer, the Portfolio plan adds e-commerce features for $200 a year or $27 a month (you keep 85 percent of the markup). And finally, the Pro plan lets you create events, price lists, and branded orders, among other features, for $360 a year or $42 a month. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can get a two-week trial.
Canadian company 500px is actually more for professional photographers than your average snap-and-save picture taker. It offers pros a place to store, exhibit, and license their work. So if you have ambitions to start peddling your photos, 500px may be worth checking out.
The site offers two paid plans. The first, modestly named Awesome, offers unlimited uploads, priority support, no ads, a history of “liked” photos, gallery slideshows, and a profile badge for $59.88 a year or $4.99 monthly. The Pro plan adds a way to display your services and organization tools for $119.88 a year or $9.99 monthly. (You get a discount on your first year: Awesome costs $47.88 a year or $3.99 monthly, while Pro goes for $71.88 a year or $5.99 monthly.) And if you want to make a bit of money, you can submit your photos to be licensed for stock usage through 500px.
There is a free ad-supported plan that gives you seven uploads a week. When you sign up, you can try out the Pro plan for two weeks before committing yourself.
Photobucket offers a limited free plan, allowing you to upload up to 250 photos for free — more a trial plan than anything else. If you like what you see, you can start with the Beginner plan at $5.99 per month or $64.68 annually, which gives you 25GB of storage, along with no ads, password-protected album sharing, and an image editor. For $7.99 per month or $86.28 annually, the Intermediate plan provides 250GB of storage and unlimited image hosting. Finally, for $12.99 per month or $140.28 annually, the Expert plan offers unlimited storage and no image compression, among other extras.
DeviantArt calls itself “the world’s largest art community” with a social network for visual artists of all kinds. It offers visitors a wide range of artist galleries to view, divided into categories such as traditional, animation, and illustrations. DeviantArt (or DA for short) even has its own publishing platform called Sta.sh — emphasizing the fact that this site, like 500px, is less for simple storage and more for showing (and selling) your art.
With a free membership in DeviantArt, there are no restrictions on how much you upload for public access, and you get admission to DA’s community of artists and art lovers. Core Members enjoy additional perks. For $3.95 a month or $39.95 a year, you get to sell your art with no service fee (but a 20 percent fee on Premium Gallery & Premium download sales) and a $100 max price per digital item, along with 20GB of private storage space in Sta.sh. For $7.95 a month or $79.95 a year, you can charge up to $1,000 per item and pay a 12 percent fee on Premium Gallery & Premium download sales, along with 30GB of private storage. Finally, $14.95 a month or $149.95 a year lets you charge up to $10,000 per item, lowers your fee to 10 percent fee per sale, and gets you 50GB of storage.
Amazon provides its Prime members with a grab bag of extras along with the free shipping. In addition to the video offerings, music streaming, and other goodies, you get unlimited photo storage for $119 a year.
A nice perk is that you can share that unlimited storage with five friends or family members in what is called the Family Vault. Everything there is accessible to everyone who shares the Vault. “Unlimited,” by the way, does not include videos or other files; for those, Prime members get 5GB of storage, and after that, there is a long list of storage plans available starting from $1.99 a month for 100GB.
That’s something to keep in mind if you drop your Prime membership. In that case, according to the Amazon instructions, “the unlimited photo storage benefits associated with the membership end. All uploaded photos count toward your Amazon Drive storage limit.” The total storage for non-Prime members (stills and video) is 5GB.
Update November 12th, 4:55PM ET: This article has been updated to include SmugMug and to explain that it only covers photo-specific services.
Update November 16th, 10:30AM ET: Updated to add iCloud Photos and to update the prices and screenshot for 500px.
Update May 11th, 2021, 1:10PM ET: Several prices and screenshots updated.