Online File and Photo Services

A while back I was struggling with iPhoto performance issues, and with the silliness of Apple's iOS-iPhoto-iCloud integration, when I heard about a new online photo storage service called Everpix. With the idea of ditching iPhoto in favor of a cloud solution, I signed up for an Everpix trial. And I liked it a lot. If not for their lack of PNG support, which, as a cartoonist that uses PNGs extensively, was something of a non-starter for me, I probably would've paid for an upgrade.

This week Everpix sadly shuttered their service

In the weeks between my discovery of Everpix and its demise, I spent an unreasonable amount of time researching the numerous various players in this now crowded field. There is a plethora of file-based services like Dropbox who are now vying for your photos. And there are also a bunch of photo-specific services a-la Everpix.  

I don't have time to write the lengthy article this topic really deserves, but I thought it might be useful to some folks if I shared my notes on each service I tried. This list covers file services as well as photo-specific ones; my end goal was to find both a cloud-based file service and a photo service, but if the two could be combined, all the better.


Pros: Free; does video; unlimited storage; does iOS Auto Backup; does cool processing tricks; organizes; I already have an account.
Cons: More data for Google; interface can be frustratingly inconsistent; not really photo-centric; backup not happening reliably in background; images not stored full quality.
Killer Feature: Tons of cool tricks and unlimited storage for free!
More Info

Google Drive

Pros: Hooks into Google Docs.
Cons: Limited space; costs money; only syncs from within Google Drive folder (no symlinks); doesn't sync Mac OS metadata; not really photo-oriented; not well integrated with other Google services.
Non-starter: What's the point?


Pros: Great interface; great organization options; great sharing options; does iOS Auto Backup.
Cons: Costs money; only does JPEG — no PNG or video.
Non-starter: JPEG only? Seriously?
More Info


Pros: Decent interface; very reliable; deep hooks into iOS ecosystem; does iOS Auto Backup; preserves Mac OS metadata; super easy to set up and use.
Cons: Costs money; adding all photos would make it quite expensive; all syncing from within Dropbox folder, not other folders in OS (mitigated with symlinks); munges some photos on iOS.
Killer Feature: Reliability & deep iOS hooks.
More Info


Pros: Will sync folders anywhere in filesystem, not just in Cubby folder; decent interface; acceptable iOS clients.
Cons: Paths to sync folders break easily; not reliable; costs money.
Non-starter: Sync folder paths break. I'm paying for this?
More Info 


Pros: Good iOS and web interfaces; organizes by device; does multiple formats and video; does iOS Auto Backup.
Cons: A bit buggy on iOS; lacks features; costs money; young startup in a competitive field might not be around forever; suffers from being too new and not very useful yet, but one to watch.
Killer Feature: Really nice, basic photo galleries at an affordable price.
More Info


Pros: 1 TB of storage; the original photo sharing service; owned by Yahoo, so presumably a safe bet.
Cons: Video not included in iOS Auto Backup; interface is weird, perplexing; video size limited (though very reasonably).
Non-starter: Video not included in iOS Auto Backup.
More Info

Bittorrent Sync

Pros: Free; peer-to-peer (no cloud); any sort of document; full quality images; fast & efficient transfer; works with iOS and computers; does iOS Auto Backup.
Cons: Currently, iOS does not allow for images to be opened in other apps; not really photo-specific; no web interface; complicated to set up.
Killer Feature: Peer-to-peer sync without the cloud!
Bonus: Images on iOS stored full quality!
More Info

Apple Photo Stream

Pros: Works great on iOS; Auto Backup is seamlessly integrated; galleries are free and unlimited, work well and force you to self-organize.
Cons: On the Mac you must currently use iPhoto to manage Photo Stream, which is terrible; no web interface; no video; limited to the last 1000 photos.
Killer Feature: Truly seamless iOS integration!
More Info


Pros: Syncs folders anywhere in filesystem; mounts cloud storage as WebDAV mount point on desktop.
Cons: So-so interface; loses sync paths easily; costs money.
Non-starter: I cannot abide by broken sync paths, especially if I'm paying.
More Info


Pros: The most iPhoto-like, this service is the closest thing to iPhoto-in-the-cloud that I’ve found; supports multiple formats; video; good organization and search; pulls photos from social networks like Facebook.
Cons: The web interface is a bit shiny for my tastes; costs money.
Killer Feature: iPhoto-in-the-cloud!
More Info


If I were going to pay for any of these service, I would certainly start with Dropbox. It's just the best and I use it all the time for file services. In fact, I plan to upgrade my Dropbox to a paid plan, I'm just waiting to pull the trigger. [Update: Trigger pulled.] If I were going to pay for a photo service, Dropbox might just suffice. It's not an iPhoto killer, but its basic functionality might be good enough to avoid the additional expense of a photo-specific service. Then again, to really support all my photos in Dropbox I'd probably have to pay even more for additional storage, at which point a separate dedicated service for photos becomes appealing.

If I were going to pay for photo management as an additional service, I would go with PictureLife. PictureLife is the most iPhoto-like, and it does most of the things I want from such a service — video, multi-format photos and organizing — at an affordable price. Since what I’m really after is iPhoto-in-the-cloud, PictureLife makes the most sense for me.

(Note: I've done the math, and it would be $20 cheaper per year to get a 100GB Dropbox plan for files and a 100GB PictureLife plan for photos than to get a 200GB Dropbox plan. So if it's more convenient for you to separate them, that's the way to go. Then again, if it's less convenient for you, going all-Dropbox is only slightly more expensive.)

Since there is no perfect photo service yet, no iPhoto killer, and since it's really anybody's guess what, if any, of these service will be around in a year, I'm opting to do things on the cheap. So for now I'm using a 100GB Dropbox account for files and Google+ for my photos. It's not perfect; the photos are not stored full-res and there are some bugs and interface quirks. But Google+ does so much so well, the size limitations aren't that big a deal to me, and the free price and unlimited storage make it a no-brainer.

I'm also using Bittorrent Sync to keep certain image and project folders in sync between all my devices, primarily because images in its iOS client are never downscaled like they are in virtually every other service. In Bittorrent Sync my images always look amazing. And that's kind of important.

This is a rapidly evolving field; services are changing their apps and adding functionality on an ongoing basis. If you see any erroneous information in the above article, please let me know in the comments.  I'll do my best to make corrections.

To wit: there have been some changes to the Flickr service which were mentioned in the comments. I've updated the article accordingly.