Best image hosting websites
Ubiquitous cloud computing and the advent of smartphones with superb connectivity and compact-beating cameras have turned us into trigger-happy snappers and eager picture uploaders.
However, the market for image hosting services also caters for professionals – ranging from photographers, to artists and media creators – whose livelihoods depend on how good the image hosting providers are, and what features they bring to the table.
In this article, we identify how they are different from traditional web hosting and show you our favorite image hosting websites, so you'll find something to suit, whether you're a budding amateur looking for a safe haven for your summer snaps, or a seasoned pro wanting to showcase a growing portfolio.
For those who want the freedom of owning and maintaining their own image hosting website
Most web hosting companies – including our editor's choice, InMotion Hosting – bundle a nifty app store with their hosting packages. Called Softaculous, it comes with a number of free applications and one of them is Piwigo, a popular self-hosted photo gallery solution that allows you to implement your own image hosting website. It offers a comprehensive feature set: albums, tags, privacy, themes and plugins, statistics and management tools, and much more.
That goes well with InMotion's Power package which allows you to build up to six websites, with unlimited disk space and bandwidth to cater for your growth ambitions. InMotion also offers a unique $99 (£78) quick starter package that allows you to get a WordPress-based website ready in less than 48 hours.
If you are technically knowledgeable, you can also have a look at other self-hosting photo gallery options such as Chevereto (as used by ImgBB), Koken, Lychee or Media Goblin.
For professionals who want to make a living out of their portfolio without too much effort
If you take photography (and images) seriously and want to make a living out of it, then SmugMug – which recently acquired Flickr – is one of the better options out there.
Unlimited photo uploads come standard for every SmugMug plan – which start from $3.99 (£3.15) monthly on the annual plan – along with the tools needed to create a beautiful photo site, share easily, and sell personalized prints and gifts. You get free storage, free bandwidth, but e-commerce options are only available on the more expensive Portfolio/Pro packages, with the latter offering several key features in terms of e-commerce, marketing and branding. Additionally, all plans have some cool features like personalized paintings, which transforms your photos into paintings.
Our review of SmugMug pointed out that it is "quirky in places, but still capable of building top quality photo gallery websites". The service, which has a community of more than 75 million users, prides itself on offering "heroic" support 24/7 with just one day off every year.
For those who have photos that they want to share with family and friends
Google transformed Picasa Web Albums into Photos, turning it into the most popular image hosting solution in the world as it is bundled with more than one billion Android devices.
Unlike other solutions here, Google Photos is a private image hosting service (as opposed to public), although sharing with others (but not openly) is deceptively simple. Just bear in mind that your pictures will be stored on Google's servers and will be used to improve its machine learning capabilities. Although it doesn't do text recognition (yet), Google Photos is now good enough to recognize faces and its search capabilities even extend to places/locations. There are also some additional features available, like Memories for instance, which shows photos and videos from previous years at the top of your gallery.
You can also backup and sync photos from your Mac or PC as well as your mobile devices. In addition, you can also use Google's Gallery Go - a photo gallery, designed to work offline, that uses machine learning to automatically organize and make your photos look their best. Google allows for unlimited storage if you store your pictures in the high quality mode, which is up to 16 megapixels. Professionals will probably prefer to pay extra to have photos stored at their original resolution – that will depend on whether they use Google One (for private Gmail accounts) or Google Drive (for G Suite users).
If you want to join a community of likeminded people and grow your passion for photography
It’s difficult to mention free image hosting and not bring Flickr into the conversation. The site experienced a meteoric rise under the ownership of Yahoo and Oath/Verizon since 2017, and as part of SmugMug since 2018, and it targets the prosumer audience rather than casual happy GIFer users.
Flickr’s base offering remains free with a limit of 1,000 photos/videos but still offers powerful photo editing tools and smart photo management, while its paid-for Pro plan boasts advanced stats, ad-free browsing and a desktop auto-uploader. In addition, you can print your favorite photos, directly from your Flickr account.
With tens of millions of subscribers, Flickr has managed to build one of the biggest photo communities on the web and that's its unique selling point. Also note that if you are in the market for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (or Blurb, SmugMug and Priime), you can get a 15% discount, which should be more than enough to buy the paid-for Flickr account.
If you just want to quickly upload a picture or an animated GIF and link to it
Imgur is by far the biggest independent image hosting website in the world (and one of the top 50 online properties globally). You don’t have to register to use it and everything is pretty much unlimited with three exceptions: you can only upload up to 50 pictures per IP address per hour, the maximum file size for non-animated images is 20MB, and it’s 200MB for GIFs. You can also upload 1 minute videos.
Files are kept online forever but just be aware that the service does apply lossy compression to non-animated images over 1MB (for anonymous uploads) and 5MB (for account holders). So don’t use this as an online backup service for your pictures. There are also a plethora of tools available either produced by Imgur or members of the very active user community.
Other free image hosting websites include:
This little-known image hosting website has a unique feature which makes it massively useful for those looking to create thumbnail galleries very quickly. You can upload compressed ZIP files (up to 250MB in size), ideal for archives without index.
There is a 10MB download limit for pictures with no restrictions on the number of uploads/downloads or how long a file is hosted; only JPG, GIF and PNG are supported though. Unlike others, Imagebam’s focus is entirely on hosting pictures rather than fostering a community and encouraging discoverability. While registration is optional, it provides you with photo management tools, and the ability to organize your images and galleries.
It’s near impossible to go more minimalist than Imgbb and that’s probably why it is one of the more popular image hosting websites around. Simply drag and drop your files on the homepage and you’re ready to go.
There’s a 16MB size limit (all major image file formats are supported), but no restriction on the number of files you can upload or how long they can remain online. Imgbb doesn’t require the user to register – just be aware that all the pictures you upload will be reviewed by human editors.
Like Imagebam, Imagetitan doesn’t have a community and instead provides a straightforward browser-based interface. There are no mobile apps here – you can only upload files smaller than 1.5MB and only the three major image file types are accepted.
There’s no limit to the number of files you can upload, no bandwidth restrictions, and the pictures can remain online for as long as you want. You are provided with a deletion code to remove pictures at a later date. You don’t need to register and you can even upload pictures – up to 100 of them via FTP. Hotlinking is not prohibited but Imagetitan doesn’t provide direct links.
At the other end of the spectrum is Pixabay, a popular upmarket image hosting service that pegs itself as an online community of people who publish high quality copyright-free images and videos.
However, to be part of this very exclusive club requires that you stick to the site’s stringent image quality guidelines which means that all the photos are vetted by humans. Login is compulsory and the mobile apps do not currently support direct image uploads.
Pictures need to be at least 1,920 pixels wide, up to 40MB in size, and you can upload up to 100 pictures per day. The more high quality images you submit, the higher your daily granted number of uploads.
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