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Best cloud storage 2020 for photos and pictures: free and paid

Best cloud storage for photos

Don't risk your images; whisk them up into the safety of the cloud. Here we test seven leading options to find the best cloud storage for photos. Backing up your photos is hardly a blast, and that was especially the case back when that meant spending time burning them to CDs.

Fortunately, keeping your photos safe is now much easier thanks to the cloud. Put simply, 'the cloud' is just techno-jargon for online storage. You can choose from numerous websites offering anywhere between 1GB and 1TB of free remote hard drive space.

Backing up like this doesn't just eliminate the hassle of dealing with discs or hard drives, it also enables you to access your photos from anywhere with an internet connection. The ability to share photos is another bonus, while websites like Flickr let you exhibit your images to the world, with scope for other users to leave feedback.

Of course, if you'd rather keep your photos private, most cloud storage providers make it easy to set restrictions to make images accessible only to your password-protected account, or to anyone with a private web link.

We've compared seven of the best cloud storage websites; some aimed at photographers and some suited to general storage.


(Image credit: IDrive)

1. IDrive

Great for photographers who put more focus on security

Quite fast
Great security
Simple and easy to use
Exceeding your storage limit can be expensive

Since IDrive is one of the best cloud storage around, it’s naturally a great option for storing photos too. A free plan gives 5GB which can be enough if you don’t have that many photos. Users that need more space can upgrade to a 2TB or a 5TB plan, priced at $52.12 per month and $74.62 per month, respectively. 

Photographers that use multiple devices would be glad to hear that they can back up their photos on unlimited devices to a single account. With the “Auto Camera” option, users can automatically upload photos (and videos) from their device to iDrive account, while retaining the image quality (if they chose to). Additionally, users can use a facial recognition feature that can be used to automatically organize photos as well as sync them across all linked devices.

A screen capture of pCloud's Windows 10 interface

(Image credit: Image Credit: pCloud)

2. pCloud

The best way to store multiple file formats

Easy to use
Stores any file type
Proven legacy

pCloud is not your traditional cloud storage provider; it is one of the very few ones who provide you with a lifetime storage subscription which means that you only have to pay once to get, well, 2TB of storage. To prevent abuse, you also get 2TB of download link traffic per month. Photographers will love the fact that you can see thumbnails and previews of most RAW files in the web and mobile versions of pCloud, as well as in pCloud Drive for macOS and there's even an official pCloud plugin for Lightroom that makes it possible to upload photos directly to your pCloud account. Also nifty is the browser extension that allows you to save videos and images directly to your pCloud account, which you can use as a scrapbook. Remember as well that you will be able to keep file revisions for up to 30 days and that you can create an entire static HTML website with its own URL.

3. Adobe Creative Cloud

Photography-focused storage and great value

Focused on photography

Adobe Creative Cloud offers a number of different cloud-based storage solutions specifically for photographers and provides photography-orientated storage with attractive image galleries. Group Libraries enable colleagues to add photos to one shared folder, and you're free to make any photo private. There's integration with Lightroom and Elements, and you can make quick edits when needed. There's also integration with Gmail. Uploading is easy, with apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. There's also support for RAW file formats. The cheapest tier is expensive though at $119.88 per year for 1TB of storage. That's twice what Microsoft OneDrive provides but you do get Lightroom CC although you then lose Office 365. Opt for a lower storage capacity (20GB) and you can get Photoshop and Lightroom Classic thrown in for free.

4. Dropbox

A good option for storing RAW files.

Easy to use
Stores any file type
Proven legacy

Dropbox is great for storing pretty much any digital file type. Organising files is a cinch thanks to the intuitive folder system, plus you can access your files on the go with apps for iOS and Android. All this and 2GB of storage is free with a Dropbox Basic account (you can get an extra 500MB of space for referring a friend up to 16GB). A Dropbox Plus account offers 2TB for $11.99 (£9.4) a month or $119 (£93) a year, and you can get 1GB per referral (up to 32GB). You do get remote desktop wipe, 30-day version history, priority email upload and the option to restore folders or your entire account to a specific point in time, in a case of accidental file deletion, crashes, and similar disasters. For its versatility and simplicity, Dropbox is superb, especially if you just need to store RAW files.

5. Google Photos

Cloud storage at its finest but only for videos and photos

Free productivity apps thrown in
Unlimited photos
AI photo assistant
Can be daunting at first

Drive isn't just another cloud storage solution, it's also part of a suite (G Suite) that offers several free business-grade office apps (heck, we even use it in the office here). Like Dropbox, Drive is geared towards file sharing, with multiple users able to modify shared files. You can store photos on Drive, but it doesn't offer the same stylish setting as more photography-focused online storage.

Instead, use Google Photos - a separate service- which offers unlimited storage for high resolution photos, up to 16-megapixel in size, and videos up to 1080p. 15GB of free storage comes with Drive, although this is shared by other Google apps like Gmail. Google uses AI and Machine Learning to automatically label people within pictures and uses metadata (date and place) to make searching easier. 

As part of Google One, you can increase the allocated space to 100GB for $19.99 per year, 200GB for $29.99 per year, 2TB costs $99.99 per year, while 10TB costs $99.99 per month, 20TB for $199.99 per month and 30TB for $299.99 per month.

"Cloud storage is important for photographers as localized back-ups of images are never totally safe, even if you have mirrored copies on two separate drives. Using a cloud storage solution means your images are kept safe, while you can access them from any device."

Phil Hall, Photography Editor, TechRadar

6. Microsoft OneDrive

Offers a good balance of versatility and value

Free productivity suite thrown in
Cheaper 1TB storage than the rest
Less photo-focused than competition

Microsoft's cloud storage offers a very similar set-up to its arch-rival, Google Drive. Anyone familiar with the Microsoft Office suite will feel right at home with OneDrive's integrated office apps. OneDrive adopts the same look and feel as Windows 10, so it's easy to navigate. However, it isn't designed solely for photographers, so don't expect the same viewing experience as you get from Flickr. Pricing is close to Google's, with 5GB for free and an extra 100GB costing $1.99 per month. However, Microsoft's 1TB option is better value at $6.99 per month (or $69.99 paid yearly), and includes the Office 365 package. Add another $3 per month and you get six licenses to use, more storage and bonus features like one hour Skype for free. Since October 2nd 2018, subscribers can install Office (both plans) on an unlimited number of devices.

7. Flickr

Offers tremendous bang for no bucks, providing you stick to uploading JPEGs.

Unlimited storage with Flickr Pro
Can't store RAW files

Where most cloud storage providers make you cough up for more than a few gigabytes of storage, Flickr - now owned by SmugMug, Inc. - offers the storage of 1000 photos and videos for free, with unobtrusive adverts covering the cost. If you'd rather go ad-free and with unlimited storage, you can for a $7 monthly fee or $60 annual fee for Flickr Pro+. What makes Flickr stand out is its ability to display your photos in an attractive photostream. Other users can follow your activity and comment on your shots, or you can make images private, making it a real social network for amateur and professional photographers alike. Flickr is designed for presenting your shots rather than just storing them, so it'll only display JPEG, GIF and PNG images. Dropbox is better if you need to upload RAW files but you won't get stats on your photo views or 15% savings off Adobe's Creative Cloud (with the annual plan, you also get discounts for Blurb, SmugMug, and Priime).

5 things to look for in cloud storage for photos

Freemium: Most storage providers give you some free space, with extra capacity available for a monthly or annual fee. Prices vary considerably, though, so make sure you get a good deal.

File formats: If you just want to back up or share JPEGs, then pretty much any provider will fit the bill. However, you'll need to choose more carefully if you'll be storing TIFFs or RAW files.

Internet speed: Don't fork out on a premium cloud storage subscription if your internet connection runs at a snail's pace. Consider spending the same cash on a fast external hard drive instead.

Show off: Not all online storage websites will display your photos in attractive galleries for the world to see them at their best.

Keep moving: Cloud storage is great for keeping your photos accessible on the go, so make sure your preferred provider has apps to help view and upload images from your mobile devices.

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