Which sites do you use for sharing photos with family and friends?

  • Now there is Google Plus as well. Which at this time can store full resolution photos (limited space) or 2048 pixels on longest side (unlimited space). Another important factor is will the site be around in 5, 10, 20 years? Of the choices available I think Google would rank pretty high on this factor.
    – User
    Jun 27, 2013 at 0:18

32 Answers 32


Disclaimer: I'm the founder, CEO & Chief Geek at SmugMug, a popular photo sharing site.

The good news is that there are lots of great sites out there, and they serve lots of different use cases. The great thing about the Internet is that there's a site for everyone. :)

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Facebook is by far the largest, and certainly the easiest answer for your specific question - sharing with your friends and family - because they're probably already there and they'll just see your photos in their News Feed. The downside is that for this audience, the resolution is low (4Mpix max), and the display and interface will likely leave you wanting more (though their new lightbox is nice).

  • Flickr is a great site for people looking for higher quality than Facebook and a high level of social interaction and critiques. It supports higher resolutions than Facebook, and while it doesn't have nearly the enormous user base, there are still many millions of very active users who love to comment on your stuff. The user interface is designed around that social interaction, though, so if you're looking for a site that focuses more on the display of your photos, big and beautiful, Flickr might not be your best choice. Navigating from photo to photo is particularly painful, in my opinion, but leaving comments and getting feedback is a breeze.

  • SmugMug (the site I run) emphasizes the display, rather than the social interaction with strangers on the net. At SmugMug, your photos are shown big and beautiful, using all the available pixels. Sharing via email or on sites like Facebook and Twitter is easy, but you do have to do a little more work than you would at Flickr (and a lot more work than at Facebook) to let your friends know where to find your photos. With more than a billion photos and tens of millions of users every month, SmugMug isn't nearly as large as Facebook (30B photos, 500M users) or Flickr (5B photos), but it's not small, either. The other large gotcha with SmugMug is that it's a premium site - every customer pays - while Flickr and Facebook are free.

There are plenty of other sites out there that address other aspects of photo sharing (like printing, or twitter-specific hosting, etc), but these three probably cover the question you asked best. Now it comes down to what your preferred sharing style is - very social or high quality or something in between?

One last important note, both Flickr and SmugMug integrate well with Facebook, so this doesn't have to be a "choose one" choice.

  • 2
    Is SmugMug available in the languages other than English?
    – sastanin
    Nov 2, 2010 at 14:31
  • 2
    Facebook have less than desirable sections in their Terms & Conditions regarding who 'owns' the photograph. I would personally avoid posting any photos on there unless you don't mind them being used at will by news agencies etc
    – JamWheel
    Jun 10, 2011 at 14:37
  • @jetxee not at this time unfortunately
    – Shizam
    Feb 10, 2012 at 17:17


Definitely the most photog-friendly of the "big" sites.

  • Indeed, Flickr is the big baddie of the bunch. I simply prefer it over others that I looked at. Jul 15, 2010 at 22:35
  • 1
    One small problem that I ran into with Flickr though is that they don't make it easy for friends to batch download pics. I recently took a bunch of pics at a cousin's wedding, and we had to find some 3rd party software so she could download all of them. Granted, not everyone wants to do this, but it would be nice if Flickr made this possible. Jul 16, 2010 at 2:26
  • 1
    @Josh: I've seen some Flickr batch download utilities that might let you do this... probably not "easy" per se. Jul 16, 2010 at 17:57
  • Yeah, I found them too. Several of what were the more popular ones had been blocked by Flickr for some reason. Jul 16, 2010 at 21:05
  • 8
    I disagree. Flickr doesn't offer an easy way to restrict the view of a gallery to many peoples except if they all have a flick account.
    – Benoit
    Aug 4, 2010 at 19:36


I've used PicasaWeb in the past and found it to be quite good. It integrates well with Picasa, especially if you have tagged your Google contacts (which are typically your family and friends) in the photos.

When you upload a photo set, it can automatically email the people in the photos to let them know that there is a new set for them to view. There are also controls to restrict who can see the photos.

  • 1
    Integration with Picasa is super. It makes super easy uploading photos. You have 1 gig free. Aug 27, 2010 at 17:18
  • 2
    PicasaWeb for sure. I do use Flikr too but I won't put my family and friends through that. With Picasa you can share very easily and arrange things however you want without paying. Flikr on the other hand makes a mess of your stuff and gives you barely any control unless you pay them.
    – Itai
    Oct 29, 2010 at 16:34
  • It also integrates well with Shotwell, the up and coming photo manager in Ubuntu Linux
    – labnut
    Nov 1, 2010 at 18:36

I've made a comparison table of the popular photo hosting sites, with features which matter for me:

Table of Photo Sharing Sites 2010

In my opinion, 23hq and Flickr are the best for a passionate amateur. Good price to value. Flickr has a more active community, but 23hq allows to download entire album at once with a single click and is available in more languages. So I think 23hq is more suitable for sharing. Ipernity comes close, but I don't like their design.

Picasa offers the cheapest premium service and also the best free service. But I don't like the quality of their resized pictures (Recently they started offerring an option of better JPEG quality, but you need to use their Picasa program for uploads).

SmugMug, Snapixel and DropBox, evidently, care only about the English-speaking market. DropBox offers the least and is the most expensive. SmugMug seems to be tailored towards professional photographers. It is a bit more expensive than Flickr and the rest of the pack. I don't know if it allows to easily download originals (I think they do) or entire albums. Snapixel seems to have chosen a very strange policy about originals (charging for downloads). So it's cheaper, but is not as suitable as a sharing site.

Yandex-Fotki is the only reliable service which offers Premium level features for free. But it is available only in Russian language.

I don't mention Facebook (very limited feature set; unreliable privacy policy) and various single-click hosters.

P.S. Feel free to contribute.



So you're specifically looking to only share with friends and family? Yeah, Flickr is great, but only useful if all of your friends and family have accounts.

DropBox is really handy for sharing photos with specific people without requiring any sort of account. The links you'd send out aren't private, but they're not searchable and only those who knew of them would see the photos. I like DropBox for when I just want to quickly email some photos to people.

  • 2
    +1 DropBox is a great recommendation for "sending it to Uncle Jim" quickly and simply. Small correction though: Flickr provides 'guest passes' - simple URLs you can send to anyone, account or not. I don't find it as convenient as DropBox, but it is available.
    – ex-ms
    Aug 3, 2010 at 22:05
  • DropBox costs $99 per 50GB per year. Picasa offeres 80 GB per $20. Flickr and 23hq offer unlimited storage for $24 and $28 respectively. And even premium SmugMug starts at $40 per year for unlimited storage. DropBox is the most expensive solution.
    – sastanin
    Nov 2, 2010 at 14:29
  • Well, DropBox has other uses as well - it's great for collaboration with other people, always having access to your important files, syncing documents between computers etc. I use it to share work with other photographers who also has dropbox; I use facebook for social stuff and flickr for most of my other creations.
    – monotux
    Jan 6, 2011 at 9:53

SMUGMUG Me and all the photographers I associate with use SmugMug.com My site is customized on the look I wanted and I'll even be changing the look again soon.

Things that I couldn't live without.

  • Unlimited quantity of full size files
  • Watermarking on images
  • Drag and drop images into my blog from gallery
  • Customization of site
  • Analytics integration (and not just Google analytics)
  • Good SEO aspects
  • Sales through site - Including sales of digital images (including commercially like stock)
  • Easy recovery of full sized files (Just in case)
  • Good security of my files
  • Solid business (meaning not going away)
  • Always expanding (developing new products all the time)

If you care this is me JarvieDigital

On another note if I use Facebook a lot to show off my work to friends (And friends of friends) and encourage clients to get images from SmugMug to put on Facebook. This covers more of the social element. (Go to where the people are)


Someone asked me the other day why I like SmugMug so much and what I do with it that is making my life easier. So I figured it was worth answering. The main reasons I like it can be summed up in one sentence: “SmugMug lets me easily control, distribute, and manage my images.” That single phrase however overlooks a few of the items that are rolled into that process. It also doesn’t take into account all the little nuances that I thought about before purchasing a Pro level license. The main features that made me go to SmugMug was the ability to not have to make my own webpages to share images. I used to use Dreamweaver or a hosted application on my web host to create the galleries. However this still was not the easiest or fastest way to do it. I would have to go through the images, create the web page, edit the HTML, worry about the resizing of the images to have a multi user friendly web page. Previously this was my work flow for sharing pictures with people:

  1. Take pictures
  2. Load pictures onto computer
  3. Rename pictures into meaningful names
  4. Run resize routine and rename using Fireworks to make images 1024 x 768, 640 x 480, and 102 x 77. (Small, Medium, and Large)
  5. Bring images into Dreamweaver
  6. Create web page with links for images in Dreameaver
  7. The typical process: create a table put caption under the image link to both the large and medium size image.
  8. Upload images and web page to website using Dreamweaver. (Not all hotels will support FTP connections so not always easy)
  9. Wait for page and images to upload and then check that everything worked okay
    1. Share links with people

Now if I wanted to do something like right click protect or watermark the image, I would have to do some tweaky stuff. Not saying I couldn’t do it, just that it would add more steps. It also resulted in the watermark being embedded in the image that I upload, it was not a separate overlay. Now the process using SmugMug is much simpler and faster

  1. Load pictures onto computer using Lightroom 3.2
  2. Create gallery in SmugMug using Lightroom 3.2 Plugin
  3. Set gallery settings the way I want in SmugMug using Lightroom 3.2 Plugin
  4. Click the publish button
  5. Send link to gallery (don’t even have to wait for uploads to finish)
  6. If want to add captions and names there are many ways to do it, ranging from Lightroom to Bridge to using the tools in SmugMug

All of these things can also be done through your website using their various tools. So if I do not have Lightroom I can still do the exact thing just replace "using Lightroom 3.2" with via web interface.

Now if you notice there were not as many things that I could do with my personal site. The reason is that basically it was things I was not capable of doing on my own or things I had not thought about. So now with SmugMug there is much more control over the sharing and protection. I can turn on the right click protection, I also can have SmugMug add a watermark to the displayed image, not to the original image. I can also create a better setting for searching and finding images. Plus SmugMug will also properly scale the image for the user’s display.

Where the control and features of SmugMug really made me chuckle was few weeks ago at a company conference. A coworker decided to borrow a few pictures without asking me. He took them from my SmugMug site which I had previously distributed. The images were pictures from the beta testing of new products in an unlisted gallery, I have no trouble sharing them. However I want to protect my images and where they are going, so I have set the defaults for all my galleries to be “Watermark enabled” (a Pro feature) and “Right Click protected”. These settings resulted in the following situation for the presenter. The person was not able to simply right click on the image and select “Save Image As…” instead an alert appeared that says “These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.” In addition to that trouble there was also a contrasting X through the image in their PowerPoint. So that the person had to explain that he had taken the images from my site to a room full of people.

I know it seems petty, but I want credit for my images and when they are being used. The amount of grief I get from coworkers for taking pictures is out of proportion to the amount of people that ask me for copies of images. So I think that making it difficult for people to “borrow” my images is well worth it. It kind of pokes them back simply saying, hey you wouldn’t have this image if not for me so how about a little respect. The amount of effort it takes is literally none, I have set up a template that sets the gallery settings the way I want them without having to change it again and again. While I am not a professional photographer, this Pro feature has made my work have more value at the office as people have to ask me for images.

The fact that I can also easily search and review the images online without having to travel with my images also makes my life easier. Being able to search quickly and easily by date range or by keywords or through the galleries, I can triangulate in on an image if needed. When I was asked on short notice to provide an image for a magazine article I had written, I simply sent over to the editor a few links to my Smugmug images; I let them pick which one was most appropriate for them. I then provided them the original image quickly and easily by simply placing it in a gallery for them with the option to save the original. I did not have to reupload the image or go back home to get it. I was able to provide it quickly and easily without having to do anything out of the ordinary.

The fact that I can also easily print an image through the services provided is also great. I can simply select an image and decide to print it and then a few days later it is delivered. Can I just as easily do this through some “local imager” the answer is yes. However the options available are not even close. Being able to get an image color corrected and printed on metallic paper that is 24 x 36 inches is not something that my local supplier cannot do as easily or cost effectively. Also being able to print directly on metal and have it ready to hang on the wall is really nice.

The customer service is also very reactive and able to respond to the questions without making one feel dumb for asking. Even when the answers are in the help files, they don’t simply say look in the help files. Often times I am trying to do something on a wireless broadband card from a job site, so browsing the internet is very slow. Using the Blackberry to send and receive an e-mail asking a question is much more time efficient for me. I am well aware that it is not for them as I used to manage my company’s Tech Support team and realize how much those questions take time that is not easily recovered. However at no point does that come through to me as the customer.

Not everything is perfect and they will admit it, that is actually quite refreshing. When I have had problems it is not like talking to a corporate conglomerate that is unfeeling. Rather I can talk directly with the people in charge and get real answers, not a politically polished and crafted answer from a script. While the answer might not always be what I want, it is honest and is respectful of my requests and needs. It is actually a conversation and trying to come up with solutions, not simply a “you can’t do that” answer.

They have also fostered a great free community, Digital Grin, where one can go and learn an awful lot about photography, the process, and tools. The people in the Digital Grin forum will share knowledge from all levels, ranging from people who are Canon Explorers of Light to weekend shooters. However all of these people are treated the same and with respect. It is something special when your images are being critiqued by photographers that are also shooting for the New York Times, and their responses are not condescending or trite but helpful and give one a tools to use to improve. This involvement also includes their SmugMug’s artist in residence program and the entire photography community is the beneficiary. Plus they have also donated photo hosting to my favorite charity with no cajoling,

Also if you are interested in trying it out, I have a referral code/couponthat saves you money, Simply enter my email address ( me bradfordbenn.com ) or personal coupon ( D5I4bmVRNHNpU ) in the Email / Coupon field of the signup form. They do have a 14 day trial


There are many great sites for sharing photos these days. Here are the top few that I use myself:

  • Redbubble.com
    • Great, simple site
    • Lets you sell your art at your own prices, and gives an excellent commission
  • DeviantArt.com
    • Very large, lots of features, good for exposure
  • 1x.com
    • Extremely high quality
    • Kind of a goal for me...if my work progresses far enough to be accepted here, I'll be happy
  • Flickr.com
    • Simpler than redbubble, great for just showing work
    • No prints, stuff of every kind of quality and type
  • Those are nice, but don't exactly focus on sharing pics with family and friends.
    – che
    Jul 15, 2010 at 22:17
  • Apologies...I read your title, but didn't really read your question since it seemed like a reiteration of the title. Might want to update your title to be more specific.
    – jrista
    Jul 15, 2010 at 22:28

PicasaWeb provides great value for money with large capacity for little money. The integration into Google services is also excellent.

I used to be a big Flickr supporter but their censorship and deletion of accounts without recourse bothered me too much to continue to pay them money as a Pro member.

Another factor is whether you are interested in the Social aspects of photography or not. Flickr is obviously big with the Social aspects, others not so much, but more about storage or pics and presentation.

PicasaWeb has similar Social functions as Flickr but in a very early days version, but it is getting better.

PicasaWeb I think also has better privacy controls than Flickr, but I am sure others will disagree. Sharing is really easy on it to as all you do is share an album or picture with those you can email.

Be cautious with using Facebook for photo storage/sharing as it only keeps a very low resolution version of your pics that can't be downloaded in a good format for say printing should you wish to provide that type of access. However as noted here it does have good people tagging if your friends and family are also on Facebook. These are also available on Flickr and PicasaWeb.

  • 1
    I like the privacy controls in Picasaweb
    – labnut
    Nov 1, 2010 at 18:34


It's not just for sharing picture, it's more like a social photo network. Maybe you don't know it but IMHO there are stunning photos.


  • I've discovered this site last week and I can tell you it's awesome. I'm on flickr too, but since I know 500px I almost always feel more inclined to visit 500 for inspiration instead.
    – Ignacio
    Jun 27, 2011 at 12:02

I think zenfolio is the best photo sharing site out there. Its interface for uploading photos and modifying their information (captions, descriptions, and keywords) is very professional and the support crew is top notch, responding to questions quickly and courteously.

You can customize your site to have a very custom look, if you want. There are a variety of templates from which you can choose, as well. I'm a software developer, so I'm pretty picky about software. These guys know what they are doing and put out a top notch product.

I host my site there, www.jpwphoto.com.

  • Yes, this is a very professional way to display/share your photos
    – labnut
    Nov 1, 2010 at 18:32

I just have a regular Blogger blog. Picasa makes it super-easy if you use that software, and even if you don't, it's not hard.

You're limited to 5 photos per post unless you jump through hoops, but that can be a good thing - no one wants to look at the 50 frames you downloaded straight from the camera. :) Share only the best ones.

Also, you then get a good RSS feed to notify people; they get one notification per post instead of one per photo which is what Flickr does.

Finally, you can arrange it so new posts are e-mailed to people, which is nice when your friends & family aren't RSS savvy.

  • I would be surprised if most readers agreed with you that sharing 5 photos or fewer is a standard (or sufficient) use case.
    – Naseer
    Aug 4, 2010 at 3:55

Flickr and SmugMug for me. If I want to highlight a certain photo and link to a set on Flickr, I have a "family blog" set up on Posterous that's passworded and really easy to use. All of my family is able to contribute to it, so we can all keep each other up-to-date.


I've been using SmugMug for nearly 3 years now with no regrets. Their customer service is second to none!


Flickr & SmugMug are my favorites. I enjoy both for different reasons. Flickr for the social aspect and to keep up with my friends(similar, but better than facebook) and SmugMug for customizability.


I have been a paying customer of SmugMug for several years, and I am very happy with it. The ability to customize your site, to store originals, and to easily categorize all your photographs into custom albums are some of the best features. The performance is excellent. Images can easily be shown at larger sizes than some of the free sites allow. The user interface is more flexible and more functional than many of the free sites. My family often orders prints directly from SmugMug, and they are always satisfactory. The owner, Don MacAskill is an interesting entrepreneur, who maintains an insightful and influential blog/twitter presence.


Indonesian photographers use Multiply a lot


Simple MobileMe or awesome Smugmug

I use Aperture and combined with MobileMe galleries it is a very convenient solution for sharing images. However the MobileMe galleries are very simple and there is no way to customize the galleries. For more advanced solutions I would recommend SmugMug. There are so many features that make SmugMug an awesome product, so I'll just mention a few:

  1. Unlimited possibilities for customization.
  2. Password-protect individual galleries. No need to make your grandma sign up for a flick account just to view the images of your children.
  3. Unlimited storage.

I wrote a comparison table much like jetxee's. It probably needs some updating though:


I use Phanfare. Its UI is pretty basic, and they don't allow for the customization of say SmugMug (where I also have an account).

The biggest draw for me is that I can upload pretty much every photo and video I shoot, and easily hide the dupes/slightly imperfect ones. So it serves as a backup for all my images and videos.

Secondly, their organizational system is flat, and reverse-chronological. No categories, no subcategories. Most recent albums are always shown at the top. (Actually, you can "feature" albums that are always at the top, but below that it's strictly reverse-chronological, the way it should be.)

For frequent shooters (I've got two boys in elementary and preschool that take gymnastics, violin, Wushu and Mandarin lessons, so I take a lot of photos and videos), having the most recent albums at the top is the only organization that makes sense (and doesn't drive me insane trying to slot everything into the right category/subcategory, one of my main gripes against SmugMug, which doesn't have a paged view for displaying albums by most recent. (Also, SmugMug doesn't let you assign dates to albums, so if you upload high school photos from 1988 that you just scanned, they'll show up at the top of your home page, not necessarily where you want them to stay.)

Phanfare has added some interesting Facebook integration -- you can tag photos with your Facebook friends and if you decide to import (copy) a Phanfare album to a Facebook photo album, the tags travel with the photos, as do the captions, album title and description.

This Facebook copying only happens if you click on a Share on Facebook button. It's strictly optional.


LensFolder.com was mentioned in Popular Photography magazine this month for pretty much exactly this use case-they described it as useful for weddings, but by the looks of their website it's good for all events etc. And you can download all the photos in full resolution.


Zaplife is a really easy way to share your photos if you want something simple. There are no upload limitations and you can easily follow your friends photo updates.


I'm on Flickr too, but I prefer SmugMug. Much nicer galleries, customizable, etc.


I do it in one of two ways, depending on whether or not the images should be viewable for the general public.

For the public ones, I've found that uploading images to Flickr and then sharing those links works fine.

For the private ones (parties, etc) I also upload to Flickr, but mark them as private. I then share the albums via Divvyshot, where the albums get a "secret" URL, which I give to people.

On Flickr people needed to create users, join groups, etc., which I found was too much of a hassle.

Of course the 'security' isn't top-notch, but for photos which aren't exactly confidential, just not for the general public, I think it's a good solution.

EDIT: Well, it seems Facebook has bought Divvyshot, so they are closing down.


For tagging/notifying people and restricting access, Facebook works really well, if most of your friends use it.

  • 5
    Given Facebook's photo and content licensing, I don't think it can ever be a good general recommendation.
    – ex-ms
    Aug 3, 2010 at 17:43
  • What kind of licensing? The parts I found at facebook.com/terms.php is basically minimal stuff necessary to show your uploaded pics to people and include your profile picture on 3rd party sites with "social plugins", or how it's called.
    – che
    Aug 3, 2010 at 21:53
  • 1
    There was a big fuss a while back, when Facebook tried changed their ToS to claim ownership of all uploaded content (or something along those lines). Due to the complaints/etc, they retracted that change - however, that got less publicity, so some people still think the original change is in effect. (That's my understanding anyway; I haven't looked into it all in detail.) Sep 23, 2010 at 23:37
  • Also, for quick sharing of pics, where quality isn't important - e.g. a casual social event - then Facebook is a reasonable choice. Not necessarily the best, but often good enough. Sep 23, 2010 at 23:42

I just use Lightroom Web Gallery, hosted on my own web server.

When I want to protect the images to specific people, I password protect the directory using an Apache .htaccess file, and provide the login details when I give out the URL.

If I felt like it, I could add some form of 'guest pass' unique URL thing for technophobes (so they didn't have to manually login), but that's never been necessary so far - and those people tend to be more reassured by something being explicitly password protected anyway.


I use flickr for my general photography, and smugmug for my "serious" portfolio. Love flickr for the social aspects snad it's easy to use, really like smugmug because I think it shows off and protects images better and has a good ecommerce backend for when I want it. It's nice separating the two so I don't feel conflicted about posting "casual" images to share with friends and family while keeping my "portfolio" smaller and focused.



It was developed as a Flickr clone and is very euro-centric. But it's very quick and has the wonderful ability to upload a sound file to include in a gallery album.

The free account offers almost everything the pro account does. Very closeknit community, too.

I've mapped a sub domain to my main showcase gallery on Ipernity if anyone is interested in seeing just how quick it is:



The one thing I like about Flickr are the comments. But I really cannot stand their UI. It is incredibly slow to navigate through pictures and I hate the whole "stream" concept.

If I upload a series of pictures (where the order matters), I have to upload my pictures in reverse order so that in the stream is in the correct order. But then when you look at the images as a set, they're in the wrong order. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB. Let me determine the order, please?

Instead, I love smugmug. It is very customizable, does everything I want (other comments above have highlighted many of the good points so I won't do it here). The only thing that I give Flickr a thumbs up over smugmug is the commenting feature.

  • You can re-order images in the set later from the Organizr.
    – sastanin
    Oct 31, 2010 at 15:48

Haven't used it, but just came across this Europe (France)-based site, no idea how good it is, but on first glance it looks like trying to reproduce SmugMug's success:



I like PicsEngine: http://www.picsengine.com/

It has a really slick iPhoto-like management interface, and nice galleries.

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