How to download your photos from popular sharing sites

Updated 6/15/2012 to include instructions for downloading images from Kodak Gallery. If you're a Kodak Gallery customer, read our tips on what to do before your photos are transferred to Shutterfly.

Most handheld devices these days come equipped with a camera. While that’s extremely convenient for taking photos, it can make organizing and keeping track of them a nightmare.

The pictures you snap with your new smartphone may reside on the phone, a computer, and a mobile-sharing service such as Instagram. The photos you shoot with your camera may be on a memory card, your computer, and another sharing service. The images you shot with your old camera or flip phone may be sitting on an old hard drive, a gone-missing memory card, a dead mobile device, or an online photo-sharing service that was popular for 17 minutes in 2005.

In fact, the only place you might be able to find all your photos anymore is online, scattered across an array of photo-sharing services and social networks. It’s not a bad idea to get all those photos on a local drive so that you can decide what to do with them from there. You may even be looking to switch photo-sharing services for one reason or another—one with clearer privacy and reusage policies, the ability to order prints, or better tools for mobile sharing. Whatever the reason, the first thing you’ll need to do is download all your images as painlessly as possible.

This guide will cover batch-downloading images from Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Instagram, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug, Photobucket, Shutterfly, and Snapfish. Some of these services have built-in tools for downloading images easily, while others require using third-party services. Some of them are generous, offering full-resolution downloads of all your images for free, while others charge you for the privilege or downscale your original photos significantly. Here’s the deal with each of them.

How to batch-download images from Facebook

You can use Facebook’s built-in tools to download your entire profile history—photos, videos, and all. Note, however, that this will create a .zip file that includes only photos and albums you uploaded, not the ones in which you’ve been tagged by other users.

To get started, go to Account Settings and click “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom of the menu. Facebook sends an email to you once your .zip file is ready to download. It organizes everything neatly into folders for each photo album, but the maximum resolution for each photo is 2048-by-1536 (6 megapixels).

If you want to get copies of every photo you’ve been tagged in, you can use a free third-party service called PickNZip. PickNZip uses a Web interface, meaning that you don’t need to download or install a program, though it requires your Facebook login info. Once you enter that, PickNZip lets you browse and download your own photo albums and photos in which you’ve been tagged. In addition to images, the PickNZip service also lets you download videos.

PickNZip gives you the choice of downloading photos as a .zip file or as a PDF. In my testing, the downloaded images were about half the resolution of my original shots (2048-by-1536 instead of 4000-by-3000).

How to batch-download images from Flickr

For batch downloads from Flickr, you should use Bulkr. It’s a third-party Adobe AIR program you need to download and install; it works on Macs, Windows PCs, and Linux boxes. It saves all your Flickr photos to a “Bulkr” folder on your hard drive.

There’s a free version of Bulkr and a paid option. The free version lets you download your entire photo archive, but it doesn’t organize all your downloads into the appropriate Flickr photo sets. It also maxes out at the 1024-by-768-pixel size of each photo on Flickr and doesn’t let you download the original size if it’s larger than that. If you choose to download specific sets, the free version of Bulkr limits download access to the last three sets you’ve uploaded.

To get full-resolution versions of your photos and download all your sets, you’ll need to fork over $40 (listed at $30 for a limited time as this article was posted) for a Bulkr Pro upgrade. With the paid version of Bulkr, you’re able to download your original-size images, all your photo sets, and all your Flickr metadata (set and image titles, tags, and descriptions).

How to batch-download images from Instagram

Instagram is unique among these services in that it’s built specifically for mobile devices, but there is a way to nab all your Instagram shots from a computer and save them on your hard drive. For that, you should use Instaport, a third-party service. It’s a free, Web-based downloader that creates a .zip file of all your Instagram images once you enter your Instagram user name and password. All the images are downloaded in full resolution, but keep in mind that “full resolution” means a square, 612-by-612-pixel image when it comes to Instagram.

In addition to a massive batch download, Instaport has more-granular options for downloading your images in its Advanced Options menu. You can limit your .zip download to photos taken between certain dates or photos from other users with specific hashtags; or create a .zip file of the last (X) photos you’ve taken. The Instaport site also says that direct imports of your photos to Facebook, Flickr, and RSS feeds are coming soon, but those features aren’t available yet.

How to batch-download images from Google+

From Google+ itself, you can only download images one at a time. While browsing your images, click the Options menu at the bottom of the screen and select Download Full Size for each image. However, “full size” doesn’t mean original size when it comes to Google+; I uploaded 12-megapixel images (4000-by-3000 pixels) to the service, but I was only able to download 6-megapixel (2048-by-1536) copies of each photo.

For batch-downloading from Google+, I’d recommend using Picasa Web Albums in conjuction with your Google+ account. Learn how to download full albums and individual photos via Picasa Web Albums below.

How to batch-download images from Picasa Web Albums

In addition to being yet another online photo gallery and sharing service, Picasa Web Albums acts as a middle-man between the desktop-based Picasa app and your Google+ images online. Anything you upload to your Google+ account will magically appear in Picasa Web Albums if you use the same email address for both accounts, which is a good thing when it comes to batch-downloading images. However, just like Google+, it may downscale your images to 2048-by-1536 pixels during the download.

To download an entire Google+ album with Picasa Web Albums, select the photo album you’d like to download and click Actions in the top menu. Then, click Download To Picasa to save the folder to your hard drive. On a Mac or Windows PC, it will save the images to your Pictures folder in a folder titled Downloaded Albums.

How to download images from Kodak Gallery

If you're a Kodak Gallery customer, you may be reading this in a panic, because your photos will be transferring to Shutterfly starting on July 2. If you want to download full-resolution copies of your images from Kodak Gallery free of charge, you should act now; Shutterfly doesn't let you download your original pictures for free.

Kodak Gallery doesn't have a batch-download option, so you'll need to save your images one at a time. That may sound tedious, but it's a much better (and cheaper) option than Shutterfly provides.

To save high-resolution images from Kodak Gallery, hover over the thumbnail of the image you'd like to download. Click the "Photo Options" menu below the photo and select "Download Full-res." You can also do the same thing when viewing each image in the larger photo viewer. Simply click "Photo Options" below the photo and select "Download Full-res."

How to batch-download images from SmugMug

SmugMug is a paid service (subscriptions run from $5 a month or $40 a year to $20 a month or $150 a year), so it makes sense that it has some of the best batch-download options of any sharing service. Its integrated download tool lets you save a .zip file of all your galleries, with all your images in their original, high-resolution glory.

From the SmugMug site, visit the gallery you’d like to download and select the Tools option in the top menu bar. Click the Download All option, and SmugMug will start to create a .zip archive of your chosen gallery. It may take a few minutes, but once the .zip archive is created, you’ll get an email from SmugMug with a link to your downloadable archive.

How to batch-download images from Photobucket

The good news is that Photobucket has an integrated batch-download tool that creates a .zip file of your photos. The bad news is that it’s severely limited unless you upgrade to a Photobucket Pro account. When I downloaded a batch of 12-megapixel (4000-by-3000) images as a test for this story, it downscaled all the photos to just 1024-by-768, and it temporarily modified the aspect ratio for some of the images, making them appear as if they were stretched out horizontally. However, when I rotated each photo 360 degrees in an image viewer, it fixed the aspect-ratio problem. Weird.

My downloads from Photobucket looked stretched-out until I rotated them 360 degrees in an image viewer.

The Photobucket Pro upgrade promises original-resolution downloads, but you need to pay at least a few bucks for the service. It costs $3 for a monthly, pay-as-you-go subscription, $25 for a one-year subscription, and $40 for a two-year subscription to Photobucket’s premium service.

How to batch-download images from Shutterfly

Shutterfly has the most limited capabilities of all these sites in terms of image-download options. From Shutterfly, you can cross-post your photos to Facebook or Blogger, but there’s no way to just download all of them in a batch.

Each album thumbnail in Shutterfly has a little drop-down menu in the lower corner. Selecting “Post to Facebook, blogs…” from this menu lets you select an embed code option, which creates embeddable Flash slideshow code for that album. Because the JPEG images are converted to Flash, you can’t right-click the larger-size images and save them to your hard drive.

Without paying Shutterfly a fee, the best you can do is take a screenshot of each Flash image. Or, you can double-click each image thumbnail, double-click the medium-size image to see a 720-by-480 version of each photo, and right-click to save that larger image to your hard drive. Doing this on a photo-by-photo basis is tedious, and you’ll only get low-res versions of your original photo after all that work.

Even if you pay, there’s no full-resolution download option to be found on Shutterfly. However, you can pay Shutterfly to burn all your images to an archive DVD, which Shutterfly will mail to you the old-fashioned way. It costs $10 for an archive disc of one to 100 images, $15 for 101 to 500 images, and $20 for an archive DVD of 501 to 1000 images.

How to batch-download images from Snapfish

I would like to take this moment to thank Snapfish for doing things right. Snapfish is the holy grail when it comes to batch-downloading options: It’s free, it includes integrated batch-download tools, and it creates a .zip file of your original-resolution images. Much appreciated, Snapfish. The next round is on me.

To download an archive from your Snapfish account, you select an album, hover over Edit Options in the right corner of the top menu bar, and select Download. To download an entire album, you click Select All at the top of the next page, or you can pick and choose individual photos from the album. Once you’re done, you click Choose These Photos, and Snapfish creates a downloadable .zip file of your original-resolution images.

If there’s another service you’d like us to talk about, please let us know in the comments section.

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