A number of services let you store your digital photos (and videos) online simply, for free. It's not just to keep a safe copy: it's a way to share them with others – you decide which are shared and which are private.
As part of the service you'll typically get a free app that lets you automatically back up photos "to the cloud" (stored on the internet) so if your smartphone gets stolen or breaks you won't lose your photos.
Worried because there's no such thing as a free lunch? Don't be. Think of it more as a free appetiser. Free versions offer a finite amount of storage space, then charge if you'd like to store more. But that's aimed at power users – if you're not David Bailey you'll probably find the free version is sufficient.
Here are five of the best. They're all free, so you can even try more than one before settling on the one that works for you. But once you commit to one service then moving photos to another service is a pain, so it's best to stick with one that offers enough free storage for your needs.
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If you're already an Amazon Prime member (£79 a year for free unlimited movies, TV shows, music, Kindles and free shipping on Amazon purchases) then it's free to use Amazon Drive. This gives you unlimited photo storage and you can upload photos straight from your phone, tablet or computer anywhere.
You can store your photos on Dropbox too. It's less an online photo album though, and more a file storage service. But you can store up to 2GB of files, of any sort, for free. If you pay for a Dropbox Pro account you get more storage and can automatically back up phones.
This photo service from Yahoo gives you an incredible 1,000GB storage, which you're unlikely to ever exceed – it's enough for 200,000 typical digital photos. You can automatically upload phone photographs too. You can create albums and control the privacy, making it a great option for budding photographers wanting to arrange photographs by topics or themes to share with friends, family or the wider world.
Google Photos, part of Google Drive, offers an impressive 15GB of storage for free. That's enough for 3,000 typical digital photos. What's more, if you tell it to store them in "high quality" mode – recommended for pictures of 16 megapixels or less, which is perfectly good quality – you can store as many photos as you like without being charged. If you have an Android phone you can set your device to automatically backup your photographs and videos, as well as other images such as downloads, WhatsApp images, screenshots or Instagram edits.
You can toggle the automatic backup and synch on each folder by opening the Google Photos app on your phone (a pinwheel) and going into Albums, then selecting the folder you wish to backup. By going into the Settings menu you can select the auto backup to only happen over a WiFi network to save data.
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The easiest option if you take photos on an iPhone or store them on a Mac is to use iCloud. It can be set to automatically back them up and also synchronises them across all your devices, so you can access them anywhere. Your first 5GB of storage is free. That's enough for more than 1,000 typical digital photos.
On your iPhone, tap Settings > iCloud > Backup and then toggle on 'iCloud Backup'. Tap 'Back Up Now'.
When the process is complete, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage to see the time and size details of the backup.
Apple iCloud will back up data, such as your photo library, messages, accounts, documents, settings and Health data – but it won’t back up all your purchased apps.
Once you’ve turned on iCloud Backup, your iPhone will be automatically backed up each day when it’s turned on, connected to a power source and locked.
If you have a device filled with music and films you'd like to transfer you can make a local backup on your computer by attaching your iPhone using a USB cable and opening iTunes. First, save any content that you’ve downloaded on your phone from the iTunes Store or App Store by clicking File > Devices > Transfer Purchases.
Then right-click (or Ctrl-click) on your iPhone under Devices in iTunes, and click Back Up Now from the pop-up window. Alternatively, click File > Devices > Back up. Information from non-Apple accounts will not be backed up.
If you’ve sensitive information on your phone, such as the Health app data and account passwords, you can choose to encrypt the backups made in iTunes. Click 'Encrypt iPhone backup' and create a password. Make a note of this and keep it somewhere safe, as you’ll need it to recover your iTunes backups.
Once the backup is finished, click iTunes Preferences > Devices to see time and size details of your backup. If you encrypted your backup, you’ll see a padlock symbol next to your iPhone’s name.