The numbers are mind-boggling. It is estimated that we will have snapped 1.2 trillion photographs in 2017. The InfoTrends data (via Business Insider) seems impossible at first—until you think of the mess of pictures clogging your phone’s storage (especially this time of year). Our smartphones have made it easier than ever to take quick snaps of more Christmas lights, cute nieces and nephews dressed in their holiday best, and piles of presents under the tree. A quick look through my photo library reveals I took more than 600 photos during the 2016 holidays (and I’m on track to breaking that record this year).
The problem is, our congested camera rolls make it hard to find the few shots we do really love and want to share. That’s where photo organizing and sharing services come in—but which of the many out there is the right one for you? Here’s a guide to the best tools for organizing and sharing your pics to help you get the most out of your photos this holiday season.
On A Mac Or PC
Back before there was digital photography editing software for the masses, it was rare to find a dedicated app on any operating system that allowed shutterbugs to easily organize their photos. You pretty much had to just store your pictures in folders and then open them in external third-party editing apps to view them. But the explosion in digital photography changed all that, and developers began to make apps tailored to organize their photos in one central location.
Today, many digital photography apps have moved onto the cloud, yet many users are still leery about having their most personal memories stored on the server of some tech giant. If this includes you, you’ll want to stick to a desktop-based photo organizer. Luckily, the two that are the easiest to use from a hobbyist perspective are also free.
Photos for macOS. This is the gold standard for a digital photo organizing app. It comes free on every Mac and makes importing your digital photos a snap. Photos lets you view your pics in “Collections” and “Memories” based on time and place. And of course, you can organize your pictures in a custom, or “smart” album that group pics automatically by criteria you select.
Microsoft Photos. if you’re a Windows 8 or Windows 10 user, Microsoft Photos is the app you should be using if you are new to digital photography. This app is basically the Windows version of Photos for macOS, though without some of the cooler “Memories” features. The app sorts your pics automatically into Collections, or you can do so manually by dropping them into custom Albums. One nice thing Microsoft Photos also offers is “Folder” view, which shows you your pictures that are spread throughout the Windows file system.
Besides their photo organizing capabilities, both apps also offer all the standard editing tools any hobbyist will ever need.
In The Cloud
If you feel a bit more trusting and don’t mind uploading your pictures to the cloud, there are several great apps that allow you to do just that. The benefit of these cloud-based organizers is clear: You save a massive amount of space on your computer’s hard drive. Cloud apps also let you access your pictures from anywhere, and most of their companion mobile apps will automatically upload the pictures you just took to the cloud, meaning you don’t need to manually import them.
Google Photos. When it comes to photo cloud storage apps, Google Photos is the gold standard. Google gives every user unlimited storage to store their pics up to 16MP each and videos up to 1080p each. Compared to the interfaces of Apple’s and Microsoft’s photo apps, Google Photos looks sparse. But it does offer the ability to automatically sort your photos into a collection, or you can manually do that yourself with Albums. Being the world’s search giant, Google Photos also makes it very easy to search through your pics–it can identify objects and people in them, even if you haven’t tagged the photos (Apple and Microsoft apps do this as well).
Prime Photos from Amazon. There are two versions of this service from Amazon. The basic tier gives you 5GB of storage. But Prime members get unlimited free storage. Unfortunately, Prime Photos doesn’t offer the advanced Collection or editing options of the previously mentioned apps. But it’s an excellent choice for those who want a no-fuss, cloud-based photo viewer, especially if you’re already tied into the Amazon ecosystem through their other products.
Flickr. If you’re looking for a slightly more slick-looking cloud storage solution, Flickr is a smart choice. It’s got a better selection of organizational and editing tools than Google or Amazon offer, and it gives every user 1TB of free photo storage. Flickr is also one of the biggest online communities for showcasing your pics to the world–something we’ll talk about next.
But before we move on, a quick note: Photos for macOS and Microsoft Photos also have cloud components too, giving you the ability to store your pics on your hard drive and in the cloud. Apple calls its cloud-based storage iCloud Photo Library, and Microsoft Photos does this through its OneDrive online storage system.
On Social Media
Now that you’ve organized your pictures, it’ll help you more easily sift through all of them to discover those few perfect shots you want to share with the world. But what’s the best way to do that? Stick to the services that have the largest user base.
Facebook. Yep, you knew this was coming. Facebook is probably the best place to share your photos online because it’s got over a billion users. And Facebook makes it incredibly easy to upload your pics from mobile or desktop and publish them on your timeline in seconds.
Instagram. The best mobile app for sharing your pics is probably Instagram. This social media network is completely built around photographs. It’s a simple interface, and the vast range of filters it offers easily make it one of the best places to share your pics with the world. And if you want even more people to see your pics, be sure to hashtag them by topic or location.
Flickr. As mentioned above, Flickr is a great cloud storage and organization solution for your pics. Though its user base can’t compete with Facebook or Instagram, Flickr is also still seen as a great way to share your photographs if you’re more than a snapshot hobbyist. Photographers that want to get their work noticed will find a great community of fellow photographers on the site to get inspiration and feedback from.
In-Private, Invite-Only Collections
Many of us don’t want to share our pictures with the world. After all, most people’s pictures show private moments from their home and family life. While the above social media services do offer privacy options for your photographs, there are many online services that make it even easier to share your pics with a small group of people.
Shutterfly. This is a company whose core business allows users to create photo-based gifts. For example, Shutterfly makes it easy to slap that cute pic of grandma and granddaughter on a mug. But Shutterfly also offers a small service called “Share Sites”–essentially private groups and albums that let you quickly share your pics and videos with a small, select group of users.
Photobucket. This mashup of Shutterfly and Google Photos allows you to store all your photos in the cloud on their servers and use those pics to create custom prints and photo gifts. With more than 100 million members, you can certainly share your pics with the world on Photobucket, but it also allows you to create private albums and share them with only a select group of people.
A final note: Shutterfly and Photobucket aren’t the only services that allow you to create private groups or albums for your photos. Many of the previously mentioned organizational and sharing tools also allow you to share your pics with only a select group of people. Flickr offers private groups, while both Google Photos and Apple’s iCloud Photo Sharing allow you to share albums online with only the people you choose.