Is Flickr better than iCloud Photos on the Apple Mac?

Whether you take photographs with a top end digital camera or just with your phone, you will soon amass a large quantity of snapshots. Where do you store them? Flickr and iCloud are two options, but which is best?

There are two problems and one is that whatever device you take photos on will soon fill up its storage space. The camera’s memory card or the iPhone’s storage will slowly fill with photos and videos until no more can be taken. It is inevitable and you need some place else to store them so that you can free up space on the device.

iCloud Photo Library uploads all the photos taken on an iPhone or iPad and stores them online. This sounds like a great idea, until you discover that deleting photos on your phone also deletes them from iCloud Photo Library and every other device that uses iCloud Photo Library, including your Mac. Deleting a photo from anywhere deletes it from everywhere.

This is not useful because your iPhone will fill with photos and once it is full then that’s it. You cannot delete any or they will be deleted everywhere and permanently lost. There is a workaround, which is actually quite clever when you understand it, and it is possible to specify in the iPhone’s settings that low resolution copies of photos are stored on your iPhone, not the originals, which saves a lot of space and allows you to take even more photos. It raises the limit on the number of photos you can take, but there is still a limit.

This is all hypothetical anyway because you get only 5GB of online storage for free from Apple. What’s more, this is shared among many applications, iOS device backups, and iCloud Photos. With so many apps sharing the iCloud storage, you will run out of space for photos almost immediately and no more can be added unless you pay for more iCloud storage space.

Instead of using iCloud Photo Library, you could turn it off on your iOS devices and on the Mac (go to System Preferences, iCloud and clear the tick against Photos), and simply connect your phone to the Mac to transfer photos and store them on the Mac’s disk drive. You have to transfer photos via a USB cable anyway with a digital camera. Once the photos are on the Mac, they can be deleted from the iPhone.

Having photos only on your Mac’s disk drive is a risk because if anything goes wrong with it, you will lose everything. A backup to a local USB disk drive is essential. There is still a risk of fire, flood or theft and having a USB disk drive next to your Mac is not ideal. You should also have an offsite backup for your snapshots too.

Flickr is one solution and it has some advantages. One is that it is free and you get 1TB of online storage for your photos and videos. There is an app for the Mac that uploads your entire photo collection from the Mac’s disk drive no matter how many images there are. You just run it and forget about it, and it uploads images in the background.

Flickr uploader for Apple Mac

There is also an app for your iPhone and iPad (and Android and Windows too). This uploads your existing photo collection on the iOS devices and as you take new photos, it automatically uploads them too. Deleting photos off your phone does not delete them online. Also, if you have photos on your Mac and iPhone, it won’t upload duplicates.

Flickr uploader for Apple Mac

Flickr is nearly perfect as an alternative to iCloud Photos. It is free, has lots of online storage space for offsite backup, it lets you clear photos and videos off your iPhone to free up space, photos are stored at full resolution, and anything uploaded is kept private. Although Flickr is a photo sharing website, the default for uploads is private and no-one but you can access your images.

The only minor flaw is downloading photos. Individual photos can be downloaded, such as for editing, and you can select a whole month’s photos and download them, but you cannot select all photos and download them all in one go. This isn’t too much of a drawback, because it would take only 12 downloads to grab a whole year’s worth of photos from your Flickr account.

You can view and manage your Flickr photos using Flickr apps on iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and through a web browser on any computer.

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is useful if you have a small number of photos, but it is less useful if you shoot a lot of them. You end up paying for storage and you might hit the limit on photos your iPhone can store, even when optimised (low res copies instead of originals on the device). It is worth thinking about Flickr (flickr.com).

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