Google Photos is out. Flickr is back.

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First of all, don’t get me wrong, I love each of the three photo services reviewed here. I’ve been a long-time user of both Google Photos and Flickr. I’ve put a ton of time into these tools, and I’d like to share my thoughts in case it helps anyone else decide what to do now.

Google Photos

Google Photos was my favorite photo service. Until now I’ve been hopelessly optimistic about its potential. Even though I’m leaving it behind, it’s got a lot going for it. It’s seamlessly integrated with your Google account, has the best user interface and iOS/Android apps.

But as you probably already know, Google decided to remove its best feature; free unlimited high-quality uploads. Soon, you’ll need to buy a Google One subscription if you want more than 15Gb of storage.

For people like me who shoot and upload unreasonable amounts of photos, even 2TB isn’t enough. I’d need to pay for at least the 10TB plan, which would cost $50/month. Not only is this unaffordable for most of us, I see two other major problems with Google Photos:

I’m not opposed to paying for good services, I’m actually paying for several. But, if you pay for a photo service, I think you expect to at least be able to reorder albums.

But most importantly, I don’t want to lock myself into an infinite cycle of increasing storage costs. For those reasons alone, it doesn’t make any sense for me to invest time and resources into Google Photos.

That said, if Google decided to offer a paid plan with unlimited storage at a reasonable price, I would probably stay.

SmugMug

SmugMug is probably the best photo service out there. It has the best organizing and sharing tools, a great user interface, and pro features like the ability to sell photos, attach a domain, or even edit the CSS & HTML.

But, it lacks one crucial ingredient: community.

Yes, you can technically search across public photos on SmugMug, and leave comments. But, it’s not built around an iconic brand or community where you can follow people, like Instagram or Flickr. Instead, individual photographers use SmugMug as a tool to showcase and sell photos to clients. It’s much harder for your content to be seen, found, or easily followed by others.

Also, licensing photos under Creative Commons is now the main purpose of my photography and I can’t do that with SmugMug.

Flickr

Flickr isn’t perfect, but I think it’s the best offering and choice:

The Good

The Bad

Suggestions

Since acquiring Flickr, SmugMug has already improved the service immensely. They’ve decoupled from Yahoo, moved photos to AWS, fixed many problems and added new features. Even if the comparison is unfair, it feels like SmugMug has done more for Flickr in 2 years than what Google has done with Google Photos in 5 years. And I’m sure SmugMug will continue to improve Flickr by addressing the minor design/interface issues.

This is the best and worst of times to be a photographer. We have so many tools at our disposal. Yet, many of the best services are changing, and are becoming exploitive. Instagram has replaced its notifications tab with a shopping tab. Google pulled a great bait-and-switch.

Meanwhile, SmugMug has remained faithful to their customers for 18 years and that’s why I really want Flickr to succeed. They actually care about photography, and photographers. I hope you too, will join us on the good side of the Internet! :)

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EDIT: Thanks to everyone who shared thoughtful commentary and ideas. Many of you mentioned Amazon Photos. I actually also use Amazon Photos, and yes it’s unlimited. The reason I didn’t include it is because it suffers from the same problems as Google Photos, and more:

For all these reasons, I only use Amazon Photos as an additional backup solution, nothing more.

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Free content for all. Web developer & designer. https://jeremy0.com

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