Why You Might Want to Stick With Google Photos

There really are very few better alternatives

Key Takeaways

  • If you don’t log in for two years, Google will delete your storage.
  • Only photos uploaded after June 1st, 2021 will count towards your storage allowance. 
  • If you like Google Photos, you should just stick with it—no other service is much cheaper or better.
Someone taking selfies at a seaside promenade.
Westend61 / Getty Images 

Google Photos has ditched its free unlimited storage tier, and will start charging next summer. The problem is, Google’s excellent free service has destroyed the competition, so there’s not really much left to choose from. 

Starting June 1, 2021, Google will charge for storing more than 15GB of photos. And this 15GB will also be used by any Google Docs or spreadsheets in your Google Drive. The good news is that the photos you currently have stored are safe, and won’t count towards the new 15GB cap. The bad news is, there aren’t any decent free alternatives for online photo storage. 

"[It’s] notable that free Google photo storage helped to drive tons of startups out of this market—Everpix, Loom, Ever, Picturelife," writes technology journalist Casey Newton. "Now that they're gone, and Google is tired of losing money on Photos, the revenue switch flips."

Stick With Google Photos

Let’s cut to the chase: If you want to store your photos online, and you already like and use Google, then you should just pay up. You’ll still get 15GB free storage, and after that you can increase the size of your Google Drive. 100GB will only cost you $1.99 per month, for example. 

Consider the alternatives. If you move to another site like Flickr, 500px, or even Dropbox, you’ll eventually run up against a similar storage limit before you have to start paying.

You’ll also have to upload all your existing pics to the new service, recreate albums, and more. Also, Google Photos offers some unique tools that you might miss: face recognition and excellent search, for example.

The other big advantage for Google Photos, if you use an Android phone, is that it’s built in. Photos is both your online storage and your phone’s photo app. If you do insist on moving despite these advantages, or if you hate Google Photos and have only stuck around because it’s free, then here are a few alternatives:

Alternatives to Google Photos

Flickr is free up to 1,000 photos, and costs $59.99 per year (plus tax) thereafter. Flickr also host a great community, and seems to be coming back after Yahoo tried to kill it. 

500px is all about the photos. You get 2,000 photos free, and then it’s $2.99 per month. 500px looks great, and really focusses on the photos. 

Amazon (yes Amazon) will store an unlimited number of photos for you, as long as you subscribe to Prime. If you already use Prime, this is the best “free” option. Prime is $119 per year, though, so it’s probably best to pick a photo-centric service if you don’t already use Amazon’s subscription.

SmugMug is another long-established player. It starts at $7 per month, and is likely to be around for a while. 

Dropbox can also take care of your photos, and even upload them from your camera roll automatically. But again, you have to start paying $9.99 per month once you reach the free 2GB storage limit. 

If you’re using an iPhone, then Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is the most obvious option. You only get 5GB free, but like Google, you can pay for more storage, from $0.99 per month for 50GB up to $9.99 per month for 2TB. You can only add photos from your Apple devices, but you can share pictures with anyone, via the web. 

Keep It Local

How about not using online storage at all? You miss out on one well-maintained backup, but you gain a few advantages. One is that you can use whatever app you like to store and view your photos on your computer. You can even just keep them in folders. Next is the privacy advantage. If you only keep your photos on your own computers, then they will never be stored in the cloud. 

Someone looking at photos on a computer and a smartphone with pictures on the table beside the computer.
LeoPatrizi / Getty Images 

The disadvantages, though, are many. For a start, syncing photos between your devices is much harder. If you never use a phone for photography, then the local storage option is more attractive, but if you do, then you’ll have to import your phone photos manually.

You’ll also be responsible for your own backups. An online photo library isn’t a real backup, but for many people it’s all they have. If you fly solo, then you’ll have to back up, or you will eventually lose your photos. 

In conclusion, then, if you like Google Photos, you should probably just stick with it. Hopefully, it will continue to be a good and useful service, but you never know.

Now that Google has trained its machine-learning algorithms using all your photos, it might not have much use for Google Photos any longer. In fact, if people don’t start paying for it, perhaps Google Photos could go the way of Google Reader

On the other hand, maybe Google is just having a clear-out. "Today, more than 4 trillion photos are stored in Google Photos," writes Shimrit Ben-Yair, the vice president of Google Photos, in a blog post, "and every week 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded."