I realize the "what photo sharing site should I use" question gets asked often here, but I have a more narrow question: I am looking for a photo sharing site that will not use your content for any of its own commercial purposes including site promotion (which excludes sites such as Picasa Web and Flickr (and most other sites)) and allows you to restrict access to your content to only those users you specify (which excludes Moby Picture). Note that I want to share photos with friends and family; I am not interested in anyone else seeing these pictures.

I am fine paying a fee for this service.

Has anyone found such a site?

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    Most services that you pay for will not reuse your images. For example Zenfolio or Smugmug. You are free to restrict access to private, password only albums, etc.
    – dpollitt
    Dec 18, 2012 at 16:42
  • I admit that I never read website's rules, but I never heard anything bad about Flickr, many professional photographers use Flickr and it's pretty serious about copyright and sharing of photos.
    – Omne
    Dec 18, 2012 at 17:43
  • dpollitt's suggestions look good. After a quick perusal of Zenfolio and Smugmug's terms of service, it appears that all rights of uploaded photographic content remain with the original copyright holder.
    – rlandster
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:57
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    @JamesSnell According to the Terms of Service when you sign up for a Flickr account, "With respect to Content [...] that consists of photos or other graphics you elect to post to any other publicly accessible area of the Services, you grant Yahoo! a world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish such Content on the Services solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting the specific Yahoo! Group" (paragraph 8) Dec 18, 2012 at 23:55
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    @guillaume31: that section only applies to Yahoo Groups. Read the next paragraph, which applies in to other areas including Flickr: it instead says "solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available".
    – mattdm
    Dec 21, 2012 at 13:39

7 Answers 7


By definition, the reason photo sharing sites exist in the first place is to bring photos and viewers together in the same place. If that site is a commercial site, then more photos and more viewers tends to yield more of whatever it is that site is monetizing (ads, memberships, etc.). So if it's a commercial site, and your photos are attracting any views at all, then your photos are being used for commercial purposes.

Intuitively, it might seem that you could get closer to your objective if you can find a not-for-profit photo-sharing site, but these guys (if they exist) have bills to pay, too, even if they're not making a profit, and you could consider efforts to that end to be "commercial" as well. Since "commercial purposes" is broad enough to include ads running alongside your photos, for example, which ties directly to dpollitt's point -- if you want complete control and freedom from (someone else's) commercial activities, you're going to have to pay the bill.

Given that you're ok paying for service, many paid photo galleries will let you password-protect albums or sections. Again, they're able to do this mainly because they don't need to drive lots of eyeballs through their site to make money; once you've paid for the service, they don't care whether anyone ever sees any of your photos.

Finally, for the ultimate in control, you can obviously self-host your photos. For lots of people, the time and energy required to do this well just isn't worth the tiny amount of control they'd have to give up in order to use an existing paid service.

  • I have updated my question to make it clear that I am looking for a "personal" photo-sharing site, that is, I only want friends and family to see these pictures.
    – rlandster
    Dec 18, 2012 at 22:00
  • As someone that runs a not-for-profit photo sharing service, I can say they do exist (but mine doesn't yet have the finer level of control over who can view photos) Dec 24, 2012 at 12:29

Take a look at the Open Photo Project - It is an open source photo sharing project, where the user retains control over his or her pictures. You choose where you put your pictures and then use their frontend to scour your photos.

The inception of OpenPhoto was a desire to liberate our photos and take back control.

And as it is open source, you or someone else can modify it to suit your needs.

Open sourcing OpenPhoto means that the community is in control of their own destination. Sub communities can even embark on a new path to a different destination.


Since you say you want tighter control over who sees your photos, this from their signup page is relevant -

Some photos belong on Facebook and others don't. We realize photos are the most personal files and understand that privacy and security isn't something to be compromised.

You can rest assured that only those you invite to view your photos will be able to see them. Others won't even know the photos exist.

  • The first link is not working anymore (error 403).
    – luator
    Jan 11, 2016 at 12:32

Since you want to share pictures privately, only to your friends and family, flickr is actually one possible solution.

The right to use for site promotion only applies to content uploaded in publicly visible areas. This means that if you upload a picture and set its visibility to "public", it can be used.

So if you always upload them as private, put them in sets, you can then share them with your friends and family by generating a "guest pass" that will let whoever you give that pass to the ability of viewing the pictures.

Not sure about what the terms for private albums on Picasa, I would expect something similar.


I really like the Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) photo gallery. Just upload pictures to your OneDrive, and send people a private link to access the automatically generated gallery.


Another option is to build your own, then you KNOW what you are getting!

(OK its a bit extreme! but YOU are in control)

I suggest investigating Wordpress or joomla if you have no web development experience.

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    I am using Zenphoto. You can essentially add a new set of photos by adding a new directory in your album folder and copying the images into it. If you do not need descriptions for your fotos and other fancy stuff, copying the photos is all you need to publish them once the site is running.
    – uncovery
    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:00
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    I use Piwigo (piwigo.org) you may build your own site using it (free) or you may be hosted by piwigo.com.
    – floqui
    Dec 19, 2012 at 8:29
  • Agreed. Using Wordpress and a few helpful but optional plug-ins works quite well. My own site unfamiliarlight.com is done that way. You should only be able the public pictures there are several private galleries that you will not see.
    – Ian Lelsie
    Dec 19, 2012 at 16:32

I know this is an old post, but.... My family and I have been using wikialbums for past 3-4 years to share our private pictures since we are all around the world. I created a private group and invited them to it and that was it. Very simple and easy to use. I hope this helps.


Look at GrooPix: www.groo-pix.com.

You create a group, invite people to your group and from there, group members can upload potos, see photos from other members. All photos are organized in albums.

  • From the current (July 2014) terms of service, it does appear that they only ask for rights "reasonably necessary in order to allow GrooPix to provide the Service". However, be aware the the terms also specificy that they may be unilaterally changed at any time.
    – mattdm
    Jul 16, 2014 at 20:13

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