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The best cloud storage for photos in 2022: free and paid

person on camera by computer
(Image credit: Unsplash)

The best cloud storage (opens in new tab) for photos allows us, in the modern era's focus on smartphones, to save and store for posterity the many photos that we take: whether on smartphones or with digital cameras.

Photographs have become the primary medium most people use for documenting our day-to-day lives, as well as our most precious moments. As a result of modern technology, we now take pictures almost all the time—be it for family albums or social media. 

However, the challenge is how to securely store all these photos, and save them from potential loss. To do so, we must find a platform that’s not only safe, but convenient. The days of hard disks and thumb drives are gone or are numbered, and the best way to store your favorite photos these days is to use cloud storage.

Below, we outline the best cloud storage for photos, free and paid, exploring storage capacities, free plans, the number of devices you can access files from, and additional elements such as support and ease of use.

Make sure to check out these exclusive cloud storage deals:


The 3 best cloud storage providers for photos right now

Which is the best cloud storage for photos?

Our top-rated provider of the best cloud storage for photos is IDrive, which is not only one of the best cloud storage services full stop, but offers a 5GB free plan and paid plans that stretch to 10TB. It permits backups from unlimited devices, while other relevant, excellent features for photo storage include automated upload and facial recognition tools.

Google Photos closely follows, providing an easy-to-use and beginner-friendly option for photo storage. Its free plan sees it offer 15GB of storage for images up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p, while paid plans via Google One expand storage limits, remove file size limits, and add date and time categorization and facial recognition.

Industry veteran Flickr ranks next, in its position as a photo sharing social network and cloud storage platform. It allows you to upload 1,000 images on its free plan, while its paid package removes both adverts and upload limits. In turn, a timeline feature organizes photos by date and time online.

We also recommend looking at Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive, which all bring interesting features and competitive plans to the table.

The best cloud storage for photos, compared
Cloud storage providerFree tierMaximum storage capacityNumber of devices
IDrive5GB5TBUnlimited
Google Photos15GB30TBUnlimited
Flickr1,000 photosUnlimitedUnlimited
Adobe Creative CloudN/A (seven-day free trial)10TBTwo
Dropbox2GBUnlimitedThree
Microsoft OneDrive5GB1TBUnlimited

The best cloud storage for photos available

IDrive logo

(Image credit: IDrive)
Value-for-money photo storage solution in the cloud

Specifications

Free tier: 5GB
Maximum storage capacity: 5TB
Number of devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

+
User-friendly UI
+
Automatic image uploading
+
Great security

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive extra storage

IDrive ranked first on our list of the best cloud storage (opens in new tab) services of the year—and for good reason. It offers some of the most affordable subscription plans, with generous storage space and lots of additional features. The free plan comes with 5GB of storage, which is enough for most casual users. 

If you are a professional photographer who uploads a lot of high-resolution images, you may want to upgrade to a paid plan sooner rather than later. In that case, IDrive offers 5TB of space for $79.50 a year and 10TB of space for $99.50 a year. It's currently offering this 10TB for a hugely discounted price of $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab) — one of the most affordable high-capacity plans available at this time.

IDrive also has some really exciting features specific to photo storage. For example, the Auto Camera feature allows you to automatically sync every image on your device to IDrive as soon as it is taken. You can do this with an unlimited number of devices.

Another thing worth mentioning is the introduction of AI and facial recognition technology. Advanced AI is used to group photos together by category in IDrive, making it easier for you to sort through multiple image albums. 

Read our IDrive review (opens in new tab).

Google Photos logo

(Image credit: Google)
An excellent option for photographers and personal users

Specifications

Free tier: 15GB
Maximum storage capacity: 30TB
Number of devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

+
Streamlined interface
+
Powerful AI
+
Generous free plan

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively complicated

Google Photos is an excellent free service for storing photos and videos. It offers 15GB of free storage, but you must keep in mind that this space is shared across all other services from Google, including Gmail and Google Drive (opens in new tab). The free plan allows you to store high-resolution images up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p. 

Professional photographers might want to consider a paid membership to Google One, which expands your total storage and removes any limits on individual photo and video size. Google One offers several plans (opens in new tab) to choose from, starting at 100GB for $11.99 a year, all the way up to 30TB for $299.99 a month

Google Photos offers a series of photography-oriented features within its cloud storage platform. It uses powerful machine learning technologies to categorize photos by date and time, whereas facial recognition helps you easily find all photos of the same person.

With a streamlined interface and excellent usability, Google Photos is one of the best ways to store your photos on the cloud. It’s also very beginner friendly and easy to use. 

Read our Google Photos review (opens in new tab).

Flickr logo

(Image credit: Flickr)
Dedicated photo storage and sharing platform for everyone

Specifications

Free tier: 1,000 photos
Maximum storage capacity: Unlimited
Number of devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

+
Unlimited storage
+
Extensive social sharing features

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited supported file formats
-
Free tier has a maximum of 1,000 images

Flickr has over 87 million registered users, is one of the oldest photo sharing platforms on the web, and doubles as both a cloud storage platform and a photo-sharing social network.

Flickr lets you upload up to 1,000 photos on a free account. The cost is covered via paid advertisements, which aren’t very intrusive to user experience. However, if you’d rather do without the upload limit and the advertisements, you can pay for a premium account (opens in new tab) at $7.99 a month or $71.88 a year

Flickr is designed for photo sharing. Each user has a timeline where photos are organized and displayed by date and time. Any other user can follow the uploader for updates on their timeline. You also get the option to hide photos from your timeline using its privacy settings. 

However, Flickr only lets you upload images in the JPEG, GIF, and PNG formats. So if you’re looking to upload a RAW file, you’re out of luck. Flickr also auto-compresses every image you upload for better download speeds, which can turn some professional users off if they use the platform as their primary storage service.

Read our Flickr review (opens in new tab).

Creative Cloud logo

(Image credit: Adobe)
Cloud-based storage solution offered natively to Adobe users

Specifications

Free tier: N/A (seven-day free trial)
Maximum storage capacity: 10TB
Number of devices: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Clean and well-designed UI
+
Integrates with all Adobe software
+
Compatible with most platforms

Reasons to avoid

-
No free plan

Since moving to its cloud-based subscription model, Adobe now offers cloud storage solutions to all its users. Adobe Creative Cloud is a great storage platform for all your creative work, including photos and videos, but it’s also the only storage platform on this list without a proper free plan. 

However, it does offer a seven-day free trial for the entire platform, so you can test it out before deciding whether to pay for the premium plans.

The cloud storage is offered for free to all users who subscribe to Adobe’s suite of creative software (opens in new tab). Depending on your subscription tier, you may get access to either 20GB or 1TB of storage space. However, this storage space can be upgraded with an additional purchase all the way up to 10TB.

Creative Cloud uses clean, sober image galleries and a pleasant user interface to showcase all of your work, making it easy to share your progress and work in tandem with other professionals. If you already have need for image manipulation software like Photoshop or a vector art tool like Illustrator, the attached cloud storage comes as an added bonus for your purchase.

Creative Cloud apps are available on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. The cloud storage platform is fully compatible with most creative file formats, including RAW. There’s no automatic image compression, and full image quality is retained on upload. 

Read our Creative Cloud review (opens in new tab).

Dropbox logo

(Image credit: Dropbox)
Professional storage solution for all file types

Specifications

Free tier: 2GB
Maximum storage capacity: Unlimited
Number of devices: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Supports all file formats
+
Fast backup and sync
+
Auto uploads media files

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive high tier plans

Offering excellent features and great customer support, Dropbox is the largest cloud storage service, with over 400 million registered users and more than 600 billion individual files stored on its platform. The platform also boasts some exciting features for photographers and creatives.

A brand new Dropbox Basic account gets you 2GB of free storage, which may not be enough if you’re looking for a professional cloud storage service. Luckily, Dropbox keeps its prices affordable and within reach of most personal as well as professional users, starting at just $11.99 a month for 2TB of space. The plans go all the way up to unlimited storage for businesses (opens in new tab).

When it comes to storing photos, Dropbox has some interesting features up its sleeve. The first is an auto-upload feature that automatically backs up all the photos from your device’s camera roll as soon as they are taken. This feature even works on desktop computers, by automatically scanning connected camera cards or mobile devices.

If you want to edit photos after uploading, Dropbox synchronizes all your photos with your operating system’s file management system, be it Windows File Explorer or macOS Finder. If you edit a photo on your desktop, it is automatically synced to the cloud to save you the trouble of a reupload. As an added plus, Dropbox offers file versioning and file retention features, so your old photos never get lost.

Read our comprehensive Dropbox review (opens in new tab) and our Dropbox Business review (opens in new tab).

OneDrive logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Cloud-based photo storage in a familiar environment

Specifications

Free tier: 5GB
Maximum storage capacity: 1TB
Number of devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

+
Familiar UI
+
Microsoft Office integration
+
AI-based photo search

Reasons to avoid

-
Can’t expand storage over 1TB

Microsoft OneDrive was built to resemble the Windows 10 interface, visually speaking. It integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft 365 business suite and Windows 10 operating system, making it possible to securely store your favorite files without having to navigate an unfamiliar user environment.

OneDrive offers 5GB of free storage to all new users. If you want more, you can always upgrade (opens in new tab) to 100GB of space for $1.99 a month. If even that’s not enough, OneDrive lets you expand your storage space to 1TB by upgrading to a Microsoft 365 plan for $69.99 a year.

OneDrive is a no-frills cloud storage platform for any file format. However, that doesn’t mean it comes without any special features for photo storage. In fact, OneDrive offers options for photo tagging, album creation, and AI-based photo search.

The best thing about OneDrive is how familiar it feels to someone coming from the Windows interface. Microsoft 365 integration also allows you to easily manage files created using Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. 

Read our Microsoft OneDrive review (opens in new tab) and our OneDrive for Business review (opens in new tab).


Cloud storage FAQs

What is cloud storage?

Simply put, cloud storage is a collection of physical servers located in an offshore data center that’s connected to the internet at all times. As the servers are maintained by established businesses that have been doing this for a very long time, you can store your favorite images, videos, and other media without fear of it getting damaged or stolen. 

Since the servers are always online, you can access your photos and videos regardless of where you are located, as long as you too are connected to the internet.

How to choose and use cloud storage

Watch our video to learn how best to choose and then use cloud storage services

What to look for in the best cloud storage for photos

There are a few things you’ll want to take into consideration when choosing a photo cloud storage provider:

  • Freemium. Many providers will give you a small amount of free space, and then charge monthly or annual fees for more. Prices vary widely, so before you start moving all your photos onto a provider’s free option, check how much it will cost you to expand later on.
  • File formats. All cloud providers will allow you to backup and share JPEG and GIF files, so you should have no trouble there. However, be sure to read the fine print if you need to store TIFF or RAW files.
  • Internet speed. Cloud storage providers invest heavily in powerful servers and high speed connections, but if your own internet speed isn’t great, it will make uploading and downloading files a nightmare. If that’s the case, you’re better off investing in a good external hard drive until you can increase your internet speed.
  • Photo displays. Your choice of provider may depend on whether you want your photos to be seen by others, and displayed attractively. Only some providers, like Flickr, support this.
  • Access anywhere. Of course, the main advantage to cloud storage is being able to access your photos anywhere. For the best experience, make sure the provider you choose has native apps for your devices.

How to choose the best cloud storage for photos


Further reading on cloud storage

Take a look at our other cloud storage buying guides, including our lists of the best free cloud storage (opens in new tab), the best encrypted cloud storage (opens in new tab), the best cloud storage for business (opens in new tab), and the best secure cloud storage (opens in new tab) services. Find out more about IDrive in our interview (opens in new tab) with CEO Raghu Kulkarni, who discusses the company's biggest successes and plans for the future.

Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India. His work has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro Portal, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss. Ritoban is also a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

With contributions from