The growth of data storage space is one of the most remarkable adventures in technology. A cheap 64 GB storage device in your palm can hold 12,800 times more than the first consumer hard disk drive in 1980.
If each photo amounts to 4 MB, then that 64 GB of silicon will hold 16384 photos. Enough to shoot nearly fifty photos a day.
But for many of us, that’s not enough. For us, smartphones still come with limited amount of space for all that we want to keep.
If you are a music fan, you will have downloaded your music. If you are a voracious reader, you will take your ebooks for reading on the move. And then, if you are a photographer, you will need all the space for your best photos. As every smartphone photographer knows, with your finger stuck on the shutter, it’s easy to fire off dozens of shots at the same time for the same thing.
Suddenly all the space you thought you had plummets to nothing.
If you want to keep taking photos, then you need to start getting stuff off your phone on a regular basis. Luckily, there are many online services that can link to your phone, using its syncing auto-upload feature. So once you see your photos in your online photo account, you can start deleting from your phone. Suddenly you will have more space to take a dozen shots of your lunch for Facebook.
Below, we will look at the best cloud storage tools for offloading your photos from your phone.
Space Available: 2 GB for free accounts.
Dropbox is probably the most well-known service of all for uploading your photos to the cloud. The Dropbox photo-upload feature is a breeze to use, as well as being lightning fast. But as I’ve said in the past when comparing OneDrive to Dropbox, it’s a huge shame that Dropbox is so expensive, forcing many users to restrict themselves to their free quota.
To enable photo auto-upload on your phone, go to the Options in the Dropbox app. In the iOS version, there is an option that says Camera Upload (fairly self-explanatory!). Turn that on, and on the next screen, you will see some further options.
If you want the photos to more or less upload right away without any input from you, then click Background Uploading. The manual method is just to open the Dropbox app. Immediately the app will synchronize and your photos will appear in your cloud account. Photos uploaded to Dropbox with the desktop application or mobile apps have no file size limit.
Photos are organized by date in your account and accessible on any device. You can also create and share albums.
Space Available: Unlimited storage space when photo resolution is limited to 16 megapixels and video resolution to 1080p.
The big contender is Google Photos, and they are giving everyone a run for their money by offering free unlimited photo storage. With a catch of course. For the photos to be free and unlimited, you must allow Google to reduce them in size. But they still retain excellent quality, and unless you are a photography fanatic who insists on large files, the smaller versions will be more than enough. If you insist on keeping them their regular size, then it will count towards your storage quota.
This benefits from a “set it and forget” function, as well as automatic uploading to Google Drive, removal of geo-location EXIF information, and the best one of all — a Free Up Space button which, when pressed, automatically wipes all photos from your phone which have been backed up to Google.
Do know that you can recover deleted photos from the Google Photos Trash within a period of 60 days if you backed it up to your account.
Space Available: Limited to 5 GB for free accounts. Office 365 consumer subscribers have 1 TB of storage.
Microsoft’s answer to cloud storage is a third solid option for storing your photos, but OneDrive’s reputation was severely hit some time back with their decision to reverse their decision on unlimited storage for paid Office 365 subscribers. Free users also got their storage slashed from 15GB to 5GB, with the camera upload bonus scrapped.
Despite that, I like OneDrive as it acts and feels as solid as Dropbox. Its syncing features are very fast, and if you are a frequent user of Office Online, then OneDrive has a shortcut built straight in for easy access. You can sort into albums or by tags, and share your pictures with family, friends, and colleagues.
Amazon Cloud Drive & Prime Photos
Space Available: Unlimited but with a membership.
Amazon has three options for storing photos in the cloud — Prime Photos (store unlimited photos for free, with a $99 Prime annual membership), Unlimited Photos ($11.99 a month), or Unlimited Anything ($59.99 a year). Use the smartphone app with its auto-save function to upload your photos into the cloud account.
Amazon lags behind its rivals in that it no longer offers a free option. So either pony up or move along, seems to be Amazon’s attitude to the customers. The upside though is that you have peace of mind with Amazon’s solid reputation in the field of cloud computing and storage. And it’s a good reason to invest in the Prime plan.
Space Available: Limited to 5 GB for free.
This is one which is more or less confined to users of Apple devices, although there is a stripped-down Windows iCloud app which synchronizes the photos folder. Free users get a measly 5GB but if you are willing to pay one whole mighty dollar a month, then your storage allocation will get boosted to a bountiful 50GB! It used to be 20GB and then last year, I was informed that my space had more than doubled for free. Suddenly I am drowning in cloud storage.
iCloud Photo Library automatically synchronizes your photos across all iOS, Mac, and Windows devices. You can share folders, and those who are invited to an album can add their own contributions.
Let’s re-tell two vital points about iCloud:
- You can automatically store the original high-resolution photos and videos in iCloud while keeping the lightweight versions that are perfectly sized for each device — taking up only as much space as needed.
- Any edits you make are reversible. You can always go back and recover your original shot in iCloud.
Apple fans will obviously love iCloud Photo Library, and since it is built into Apple devices anyway, what have you got to lose?
Space Available: 1 TB of free space.
Poor Flickr. It used to be THE place to be, for photo viewing, storing, and sharing, but these days, it is a shadow of its former self. When it relaunched under Marissa Mayer, the big selling point was the 1 terabyte free storage limit. But even that has now been eclipsed by Google Photos’ offer of free unlimited storage.
Die-hard Yahoos, people already too heavily invested in Flickr to move, and anyone looking for something which is ABG (Anything But Google) can try out Flickr. Its smartphone app has the auto-upload function which is quite fast and sends it straight to the Flickr servers. But depending on how many photos you take, and the format they are in, you need to keep a close eye on that 1TB limit.
Space Available: Unlimited but there is no free plan.
We end with one which is not so much of a standard household name. But SmugMug has a lot to recommend itself with. But it doesn’t help itself by charging a monthly subscription fee. There’s no free option available (although you do get 14 days free trial when you sign up).
If you don’t mind handing over a few bucks a month for photo hosting, then take a look at SmugMug. The first thing that jumped out at me was that you get themes for your page. So instead of settling with what a cloud service offers you in terms of page design, you can instead have a theme.
You can also point your SmugMug page to a custom URL, and upload images from your computer, your phone, or your Dropbox account. Oh, and there’s an “assistant password” (if you have someone uploading your photos for you), add watermarks, and set a right-click message.
Apart from the paid thing, there were two other things which ticked me off a bit about SmugMug.
First, there’s no desktop app, and secondly, there’s an auto-upload feature on the Android app but not on the iOS app. If you have an iOS device, you would need to do the slightly messier version of using another cloud service to sync to your desktop, and then using a third-party app such as Giraffe Upload to sync to SmugMug. Not difficult, but not exactly seamless either.
What Do You Use to Offload Your Photos from Your Phone?
A lot of people like to keep thousands of photos on their phone, but there are others (including myself) who need to get them off the phone as quickly as possible. That’s where cloud photo storage services will thrive.
Google Photos is the best bet for now and for the behemoth it is. It balances ease of use, accessibility, and an unbeatable price.
But, what is your preferred option when you don’t want to handover your precious memories to Google. Let us know in the comments which one photo storage service clicks your shutter.