The best way to share photos with family and friends

Take a look at our breakdown of some of the most popular photo sharing apps and image hosting platforms – and find the best one for you.

A family looking at family holiday photos shared in Dropbox

Whether it’s wanting to keep your family, friends, followers or subscribers up to date, photo sharing has never been more popular. A multitude of photo storage and sharing options are available for a variety of needs. You may even find a way of sharing photos that works for both your personal and professional life.

Let's find the best way to share photos based on your needs and your budget.

Best photo sharing apps

Dropbox

Dropbox makes it easy to upload, organise and share your photos using cloud storage. The file-sharing process is simple and safe whether they’re from a holiday or your professional portfolio. 

You can share a link to your photos or send an email invitation via Dropbox. You can also create and share a custom folder for multiple files, a specific theme or a select group of people. 

Of course we're partial to Dropbox – and we think these other great features will show you why it's the best photo-sharing app:

Share

  • Share a link: Copy a link to your photo and paste into email, text, social networks or anywhere you want. The recipient has access even if they don’t have a Dropbox account. 
  • Email via Dropbox: Send an invitation via email from your Dropbox account
  • Share a folder: Invite others to upload to your folder for a central location holding all your family and friends' images and files. You can also control who can edit or download your pics.
  • Dropbox Transfer: Send full resolution photos or large files to anyone without using storage space or uploading to Dropbox

Upload & Sync

  • Camera uploads: Upload photos automatically to Dropbox from your mobile device
  • Computer uploads: Drag and drop from your computer to Dropbox
  • App sync: View and share your photos on the Dropbox app
  • Mac and Windows OS sync: See your photos inside file explorer alongside the files stored on your computer
  • Document uploads: Use the Dropbox Doc Scanner app to turn your physical photos into digital files using your phone

Organise & store

  • Image preview: See thumbnail previews for over 35 different file types including jpg, png and gif
  • Image search: Pro and Business users can search images based on their content. For example: you can search images of 'mountains' even if it isn't in the file name.
  • Password protection: Keep photos and folders secure with a personalised password

Dropbox accounts get 2 GB storage space for free, with paid plans like Dropbox Family offering even more space and sharing features. If you have a paid account and need a full resolution photo, you can upload up to 50 GB. 

Instagram

For sharing photos on a regular basis rather than sending a batch of pictures from a certain event, Instagram is ideal. The social media platform is the consummate leader when it comes to daily photo-sharing and a go-to choice for bloggers and brands alike. The interface is fluid and intuitive, if not rather addictive. If you aim to update family or friends with a daily selfie in 'real-time', Instagram is a great choice. 

Here are several useful features:

  • Extensive photo editing options: Edit your images right in-app
  • Easy to use interface: Instagram’s filters and editing features help your content look its absolute best
  • Account privacy: You can set your account privacy settings to limit access only to your approved followers

The downside to Instagram as an image hosting option is that it’s a social media platform. As such, only people with an Instagram account can access your photos. And while there may be some workarounds, you can’t easily upload photos from your desktop. The lack of storage and sharing capability also proves an obstacle to curating your photos with others. This makes it less than ideal for family sharing. There is also the issue of privacy. Until you opt-out or set your account to private, any images you upload can be indexed and available via search engines.

Apple Photos

Exclusive to iPad, iPhone and Mac users, Apple Photos comes with many features that make it a good option for Apple users. Apple Photos sorts all your photos by the day, month and year and stores them to iCloud. Photos display in grid format for easy browsing. The app comes with features that make it a good option for Apple users.

  • Auto tagging: Photos get tagged based on content and location
  • Search suggestions: Apple Photos will offer specific search terms based on your tags
  • Facial recognition sharing suggestions: Apple Photos can recognise the people in your photos and suggest you share with them
  • Shared albums: You can allow others to view albums you have set as “shared”

You’ll get 5 GB of free storage space with any iCloud account. The main drawback is that it’s only available to iOS users, and photos taken from a non-Apple device need to be transferred. By comparison, Dropbox is available as an app on iOS and Android, as well as on desktop for both PC and Mac. As such, you can upload photos from any device to the same folders and storage without device swapping or transferring.

Google Photos

If you have a Gmail account, you will already have access to a personal Google Photos account. Some Android phones may even come with the app already installed. 

Some of the Google Photos app features include:

  • Automatic tagging: Google will apply tags to your photos based on their content. For example, your holiday snaps will be tagged with terms like “pool” or 'sunset'.
  • Automatic backup: Your phone can upload to Photos so you can free up space on your device
  • Syncing: Your uploaded photos will sync across all other devices currently using your Google log in
  • Shared albums: Everyone can share their photos in a single album 
  • Photo editing: You can edit your photos right in Google Photos, although there is not an extensive suite of editing options
  • Secure sharing: You can grant access to certain albums to a private group of family and friends. This is somewhat secure except Google Photos doesn’t allow for password protection for shared albums.

Google Photos provides unlimited storage for free accounts but limits photos to 16 megapixels and video to 1080p. That means that if you’re capturing high resolution photos or 4K video, they’ll be compressed to save space. 

Another Google alternative is Google Drive, a popular cloud storage service. It offers similar sharing options with personal folders, though it is not image-specific.

The drawback to both of these, is that you need to sign up for a Google account. This makes it harder to share when your friends or family may use many types of accounts on many types of devices.

Site-based image hosting

Amazon Photos

Amazon Photos offers unlimited online image storage exclusive to Amazon Prime members.

  • Data for all: Up to five friends or family members can also take advantage of your unlimited storage in a 'Family Vault'
  • Automatic tagging: Amazon Photos will tag your photos based on content
  • Sync across devices: Available via app or website, you can access your photos anywhere

The drawback is that there is no option for non-Prime users to store photos. For a paid service, Amazon’s image hosting offerings aren’t as extensive as others. Even free accounts with Dropbox provide a variety of photo storage and sharing options along with a healthy amount of storage space.

Flickr

Flickr is an option geared towards public sharing. This might be ideal if you want to create a portfolio, but it does mean you have to take a few extra steps to make your files private. Despite being eclipsed by social media platforms, Flickr remains a solid option for showcasing professional work.

  • Easy to create online photo albums: Viewers don’t need any special access to see your full body of work
  • Clear licensing: You can select whether your images are free for reuse or not and show this on the gallery page
  • Connect with others: You can network with other creatives

Flickr is suitable for professional photographers, but it’s lacking when it comes to group storage capabilities. You can share images to groups and create albums, but Flickr doesn’t make it easy to create a private space for you and others to upload photos. 

SmugMug

Packaged as an all-in-one solution, SmugMug is for those who take image storage seriously. None of their plans include free photo storage, but they all come with unlimited storage.

  • Custom sites: Every plan comes with a customisable site for showcasing your photos
  • Full-screen galleries: Display unlimited photos in full-screen mode
  • Password protection: Password protect your album, gallery or whole site
  • Private sharing: Share access through email or social media
  • Printing service: Order photo prints right from your website
  • Ideal for professionals: Top-tier plans are all about marketing and increasing sales

SmugMug is a good choice for serious photographers, as its professional features push it well beyond photo hosting. This does make it a less preferable option if cost is an issue or you’re looking for simple photo sharing. 

What to consider when choosing how you share photos

Perhaps the most important element is the ease and options for uploading and sharing.  A shared folder on Dropbox makes it easy for anyone in your crew to add photos and share from any web browser, any device.

If you're sharing with family and friends, it's good to have professional security and it's less important to brand and sell.  You get professional security – but without the price-tag – with any Dropbox plan. You can password protect your photos and share them as previews without making them downloadable with a free Dropbox account. A free account also offers top-quality storage space and sharing capabilities, with paid plans that sweeten the deal.

Share photos with family and friends

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