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In the age of smartphones and digital cameras, it is easy for us to accumulate a large volume of images and videos over a short period of time. From food shots, before we eat to sceneries and experiences worthy of a social media post, the availability of photo hosting sites and cloud storage has turned us into trigger-happy snappers, quick to publish our pictures online.

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But what exactly is image hosting?

The simple explanation is that image hosting is the practice of sharing images for free in a single platform. When you upload an image, your image is considered to be “hosted” in this platform that you and other users of the platform can access, download, and share it however they like. Dedicated sites to image hosting typically allow both amateur and professional photographers to upload their content to their website but can boost higher quality photos based on popularity and use - some even make money through uploading their work to these image hosting platforms as a sideline. These image hosting platforms use an advanced feature called content distribution network or CDN, that speeds up image loading time and offer additional bandwidth to distribute images online without compromising their site performance with a heavy amount of media being housed and moved at any given time.

For the most part, image hosting sites cater to professional photographers and their websites who need reliable backup and storage services for files that they use for their work. After all, when your bread and butter involves taking irreplaceable memories, the last thing you need is the scare of losing hours of work to a broken laptop or a crashed hard drive.

But even when you’re just an amateur photographer with an audience composed of family and a close group of friends, you will still benefit a lot from free image hosting sites. For one, you have another place where you can store your image and video files. It also eases the load on your phone and computer when you use free photo hosting sites to store your files. Using these platforms also lets you easily share your work to clients and other contacts, and you can even build your own image hosting site for free.

To Clarify: Image hosting vs. Photo-sharing

There’s a lot of overlap between these two functions so to clarify: photo-sharing is self-explanatory - you have images stored on your device and you share them through email directly or through social media in the form of singular posts or albums. These shared photos cannot be embedded or shown in other photo-sharing platforms, websites, portfolios, or blogs. If you post a photo on your Instagram for example, it’s shared to your followers for them to see, but the image is only for you to use and share.

Image hosting on the other hand, not only lets you share your photos to a broader audience but also allows them to use it (or embed) it to another website or blog. As a service, photo hosting sites allow for the pictures you upload to be copied through links or buttons - and depending on your user agreement, allow other users to download and edit the photos for other uses - like photo references to describe a work environment for a startup or other business pubmats. When you image host, your pictures are on the cloud, housed on several servers in multiple locations, that are connected through the internet - securing raw and high-quality backups in the event of local data losses.

Primary benefits of image hosting

Secured backup. As previously mentioned, having your photos saved to the cloud secures your data in the event of any local data losses from corrupted or damaged hard drives - provided you backup your data regularly.

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Accessible storage space. When your images are safe and secure in the cloud, it can free up your limited storage space that may also be eating up your computer’s speed and performance. Once you’ve hosted your free-to-use images, you can dedicate precious storage for your more private personal or professional photos as needed.

Reliable features and flexibility. If your website has too many images, this may impact page loading speeds - on top of internet issues your potential visitors may have. Not only does this negatively affect user experience, but may also mess with your SEO rankings. But if you offload your website by coupling it with image hosting, your page can load much faster - even with your growing and expansive galleries. A memorable user-experience - coupled with good web design is key to inviting constant traffic and interest in the content you want to put out on the internet.

Depending on which image hosting sites you choose to use, you’ll be able to utilize easy sharing and backup, faster upload speeds, collaborative features, and much more. More advanced users may even avail of additional data analysis features that can report on page loading speeds, views and performance, and even failed loading attempts that can inform any upgrades or design changes you want to make to improve your website.

The need to offload your website’s performance can vary from user to user, but for those who have visuals-heavy websites, may want to showcase their images for a variety of reasons and uses. For professional photographers for example, they’ll need a well-curated gallery of their best work. Their websites typically showcase their photos according to project, niche, or event. For bloggers or thought leaders, you may need to establish your credibility through linking press releases related to your work, supported by albums and personal photos arranged according to the event or functions you’re affiliated with. Even blog posts that are starting out usually detail the author’s personal anecdotes as a professional would need some visual interest through photos to keep your audiences engrossed in the kind of value you have to offer them.

Whatever your needs, there’s a lot of free image hosting sites for you to start off with.

Best free image hosting platforms

Get the most bang out of your buck with the best photo hosting sites. With these services, you don’t have to spend extra money when you’re just starting out.

1. Strikingly

Whether you’re building a personal blog to chronicle your life’s work and memories or a professional portfolio to attract new clients, Strikingly has all the tools you need to bring your ideas to life. It features best-in-class website templates that let you create your own image hosting site for all your still shots. Get a portfolio website up in minutes (and for free) with numerous customization options that are ideal for startups and individuals who are new to web design. One good thing about having your own website to house your photos is you are basically taking that first step towards building a solid online presence. When people search for you on the internet, they will find a professional-looking space that presents your best work.

2. Google Photos

Google Photos offers a combined free storage of 15GB shared with Google Drive and Gmail. For aspiring photographers, this is more than enough to start. It automatically syncs your files with other Google accounts so retrieval is a breeze. The platform also has nifty tools for creating slide presentations, collages and animations, as well as organization tools that let you group your files according to location, date or even people. Google Photos is quite intuitive as well so that the more you use this free picture hosting site, the more it learns about your habits and gets even more effective in sorting your files for you.

3. Imgur

You might have come across Imgur hosted photos and GIFs if you spend a lot of time on Reddit. If you’re looking for a place where you can share funny GIFs and other similar content, this is one of the photo hosting sites free of charge that you can try. You don’t have to create a free account to publish photos but you will want one if you want to create captions, upload images via email or store your image files on the site.

4. Flickr

Facebook and Instagram might be great social media sites for connecting with other people but if you’re looking to be part of a network of photographers, hosting your images on Flickr is worth a try. This free image hosting site is probably one of the oldest free platforms available and is home to billions of images and groups. You get to be part of a community of photographers that use this site for their online portfolio. If you’re not keen on sharing your work with the world, you can still use Flickr to share images with an intimate group of people. You can even keep some collections for your eyes only.

These are only four of the many image hosting platforms you can explore not only for uploading your photos but to use other people’s photos for your personal website. Whatever use you may have, you’ll never want to lose pictures you can never capture again. So get started on image hosting and building your website on Strikingly to make the best professional portfolio for you today.