The Best of the Cloud

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Top Cloud Services for Storing and Sharing Photos

Digital photography has made it possible to document nearly every event without spending a fortune on film. But this surfeit of photos presents a challenge, too: What’s the best way to share them all?

Flickr

You’ll find a strong community on Yahoo’s Flickr, which is home to more than 50 million members. The user-friendly interface is easy for anyone to use, and the basic service is free, albeit with limitations: You can upload 300MB worth of photos a month, with no photo exceeding 30MB; and you can upload two videos a month, each no longer than 90 seconds and no larger than 150MB. (The Pro version of Flickr has no storage limits.) Flickr will compress photos only if they exceed the file-size limits; otherwise, it leaves them alone. Where Flickr feels light is in advanced controls. It lacks a watermarking option, for instance, and you can’t specify who can download your photos.

Photobucket

Like Flickr, Photobucket is available in free (ad-supported) and paid (no-ad) versions. The free version of Photobucket lets you upload many more images than the free Flickr does—10GB per month. However, you’ll also see many more ads here than on Flickr. In addition to a persistent banner ad, most pages have at least one pop-up ad. Meanwhile, Photobucket’s Java-based bulk uploader tool conveniently re-creates your system’s file structure in your browser and displays only up­­loadable photos, but its omission of drag-and-drop support is, well, a drag.

SmugMug

Providing a mind-boggling array of features, SmugMug is a serious tool for serious photographers. It’s also the right choice if you like money, since it offers the potential to earn cash if you have an eye like Ansel Adams and want to sell your photos on prints, mouse pads, coasters, T-shirts, or other items. Set your price per item, or an overall profit percentage, and watch as SmugMug helps to fatten your wallet.

SmugMug also assists you in sprucing up your photos with color effects, watermarks, and basic editing tools. You can display your photostream in many different ways, and exert fine control over who can download your snapshots and which image sizes are available to viewers. The catch? SmugMug is a subscription-only service (starting at $40 per year).

The Winner

SmugMug’s passion for photography shows in its wealth of options, including tools for selling images. But Photobucket reigns as the most intuitive iPad tool.

Photo Storage and Sharing Services Compared

FEATUREFlickrFlickr ProPhotobucketPhotobucket ProSmugMug
Cost of service plans Free $25 per year Free $25 per year $40, $60, or $150 per year
Maximum photo file size 30MB 50MB 1MB 5MB 50MB
Storage limit 300MB per month Unlimited 10GB per month Unlimited Unlimited
Photostream views 200 most-recent images Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 5000 per gallery
Control over who can view your photos Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Control over who can download your photos No No No No Yes
Control over image size available to viewers No Yes No No Yes
Option to watermark photos No No No No Yes (Pro plan)
Mechanism for selling your photos No No No No Yes
Video support Two 90-second SD clips per month; 150MB per video Unlimited number of 90-second HD clips; 500MB per video Up to 500 10-minute clips; 500MB max Up to 500 10-minute clips; 500MB max Yes, with HD; clips limited to 20 minutes

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