Minimalism is nice, but when it comes to special occasions—family gatherings, vacations, that once-in-a-lifetime concert—you’ll want to capture every single detail. The smartphone camera in your pocket not only takes great photos, but lets you share them quickly with all your loved ones. Cloud storage also ensures that you have a backup in case of a hard drive crash, or if you lose your phone. You can store pictures of everything, and we truly mean everything: the picturesque Thanksgiving turkey, your little nephew’s gap-toothed grin, your distant uncle who likes to point out that you used to be thiiiis tall.
So whether your loved ones are finally together for the holidays, or you’re jetting off for a long-awaited getaway, here are some of the best ways you can share a ton of photos, then store them for later reminiscing. There are a handful of options out there to suit your needs and your devices. Our favorite is Google Photos, which does it all and does it best.
Share and Store
File hosting service Dropbox has a 2GB limit for free users. Create a folder on the website or on your Dropbox app (free, iOS and Android). Upload photos from Great Aunt Barbara’s birthday party, select “Share,” then add the email addresses of everyone in your extended family. The recipients don’t need a Dropbox account to view or download the photos, but they’ll need one to add photos of their own.
Amazon Prime members can store and share unlimited full-res photos with Amazon Photos. Set the Amazon Photos app (free, iOS and Android) to auto-save photos from your phone camera. You can share your unlimited photo storage with up to five other people in your Family Vault. You can also share links to your photos and albums with anyone, even if they’re not Prime members.
If you already use iCloud to back up your data, you can use that for photo storage and sharing as well. Head to Settings > Photos on your iPhone or iPad, then switch on “iCloud Photos.” By default, you get 5GB of free storage, with the option to buy more. Want to share them, too? Switch on “Shared Albums.” In the Photos app, from the Albums tab, you can create a new shared album with friends and family. Select the photos that you want to share, tap the share icon in the bottom left corner, and choose the album. Shared albums hold a maximum of 5,000 photos and videos, so coordinate the photos of your trip to Disneyland accordingly.
Another neat trick for iPhone users: Photo sharing with friends nearby is a cinch with Airdrop. First, make sure that the recipient has Airdrop on by going into Settings > General > AirDrop and select your receiving options. Opt to receive photos from “Contacts Only” or “Everyone.” To send photos, select the photos, then tap the share icon in the bottom left corner. Choose the recipient’s name, and voila! Instant shared photos. Just remember to set AirDrop back to “Contacts Only” after you’re done sharing, to avoid any unsavory trolls.
The App That Does It All
Of the multitude of options out there, we think Google Photos outpaces them all. It’s free, works on any device, and gives you unlimited storage, as long as you don’t mind your photos being compressed. Plus, Google Photos’ machine learning and AI tools help organize your photos and find exactly the images you need.
Download the Google Photos app (free, iOS and Android) and sign in to your Google account. You’ll be prompted to turn on “back up and sync,” which automatically saves photos and videos you take on your phone to your Google Photos library when you have internet access. It’s wise to keep this handy feature on, so that even if your phone takes a dunk in the beautiful seas of Sayulita, you’ll still have a backup of all of your vacation photos in your Google account.
The app recognizes people and pets, which means you don’t have to spend hours tagging individual photos. It can even suggest contacts for you to share, say, a group selfie with. Need to find a specific shots? Narrow down your library with search terms like “prom 2013” or “city at night.”
Google’s “smart” features make it a breeze to make and share albums. On the Albums tab, select “New Album.” Here, you can populate the album with selected photos from your library, or automatically add photos of selected people and pets. If you want to make an album devoted to hanging out with your grandparents, select the thumbnails of their faces, and see photos of your dear ones appear right in your album. When you want to share the album, tap the ··· icon in the upper right corner. Select “Options,” where you can access a link to share your album. You can also decide whether you want to make this a collaborative album, so recipients can add their own photos of Gram and Pops.
Finally, if you want to share your photos with a partner who has a Google account, tap “Add partner account” from the menu. You can grant them access to all of your photos, or photos of specific people.
No matter which option you choose, the best part of storing photos in the cloud is having the freedom to take as many photos as your heart desires—so you can capture every moment of the soccer tournament, document your heirloom tomato garden, and re-take family photos until everyone has their eyes open. (OK, almost everyone.) Storing your photos on a cloud not only makes them easier to share with loved ones, but more secure for you, so keep all your favorite memories, and share them again and again.
More Great WIRED Stories