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Photo sharing services: To pay or not to pay?

When it's time to take your burgeoning photo collection online and you have a bit of spare cash in your pocket, should you fork out for online storage or stick with the free alternatives?

It's an all-too familiar scenario: buckets of photos sitting on your memory card and a long, arduous task ahead as you try and find the best way to share precious shots with friends and family.

We've covered a couple of ways to organise your snaps, but when you want to take your burgeoning gallery online there are even more options available to you.

There's no doubt that doing it on the cheap (or even for free) is better for your back pocket, but in terms of flexibility and capacity, paid online storage is a good option. Here's a selection of services that offer storage (and also printing) services, complete with pricing and what you get for your money. Most of the options here are also available as free variants with lesser functionality and/or storage capacity.

Kodak Gallery

Kodak's Gallery service ... baby not included. (Screenshot by CBSi)

After a rather unceremonious email notification at the end of March, Kodak Gallery announced it was beginning to charge users for its online photo storage by asking them to make a minimum annual spend on prints. This is not a new phenomenon — Snapfish, for example, provides unlimited storage on the proviso that you make at least one purchase a year.

Kodak Gallery stipulates you have to spend at least US$4.99 per year if you have less than 2GB of photos stored, and US$19.99 per year for any amount over 2GB. Once you have uploaded your photos it's a simple act of deciding what format you want your prints in (photo book, standard prints, gift cards and so on) and proceeding to the checkout with your order.


Flickr's homepage (Screenshot by CBSi)

Most photographers will be already acquainted with one of the stalwarts of the photo sharing scene, Flickr, which has a subscription service called Flickr Pro. For US$24.95 per year, users have unlimited storage and unlimited upload capacity, unlike standard (free) users who are limited to 100MB upload capacity per month.

Ordering prints of your photos from Flickr is a little more complex than the Kodak all-in-one model: they offer a choice of several third-party companies that will print all sorts of content using your photos. The major advantage of Flickr is the community features, such as groups and forums. You can also choose to upload your photos to groups to move beyond just sharing with your contacts.


Picasa Web Albums, the online variant of Google's Picasa, allows you to store and share photos just like the other sites listed here. It's limited to 1GB storage for a free account, and you can purchase additional storage in upgrades all the way up to 400GB for US$500 per year. The big advantage with Picasa Web Albums is that you can automatically sync your albums from your computer with the Picasa stand-alone software, and share folders accordingly.

Sharing albums on Picasa Web Albums is as easy as inviting friends via the email form. (Screenshot by CBSi)


SmugMug is starting to creep up in the cost stakes at US$39.95 per year, but you do get unlimited storage for your photos, and upgrades are available to allow you to upload HD video and get extra themes for your gallery pages.


DPhoto uses a really nice looking Flash interface and is great for photographers who like to upload their full resolution shots. With a pro account, the maximum photo size is 24MB and you get unlimited overall storage for US$7 per month. There's also iPhone and Facebook support. This is still pretty pricey compared to the other services here though, and for US$84 per year you would have to be a very dedicated photographer to get good value from it.

Also remember to check the terms and conditions for any clauses in relation to what you can upload, who retains the copyright to your images, and any hidden charges.

Would you pay an annual fee for storing your photos online? Take our poll and feel free to add your suggestions for paid photo storage services below.