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Who does photo hosting better? Google+ or Flickr?

Uploading your photos to the cloud is a great way to back them up. It keeps the files safe from any harm that might come to your computers and provides a simple outlet for sharing photos and showing them off. Earlier this year, Google+ updated its photo section with more editing tools and increased its free cloud storage to 15GB. Not to be left out, the popular photo sharing website Flickr also redid their site with a new look and an incredible 1TB of free storage.

Both are offering a lot of the same tools and features for consumers, and both are popular services but how do they stack up? Where do your photos belong?

Uploading photos

Uploading photos from a computer to both Google+ and Flickr is simple. By default, Google+ uploads photos at a standard 2048 pixel resolution while Flickr always uploads at full resolution. In Google+, uploading photos at full resolution is possible by diving into the settings menu to find the checkbox which enables it, though finding that setting takes some digging. Only photos uploaded at full resolution use up the 15GB of storage that Google offers for free, while in Flickr all photos regardless of size count towards the 1TB.

For this reason, you could feasibly upload an unlimited amount of photos to Google+, but depending on the quality of your camera, this would come at a significant loss of fidelity in your photos, especially if you ever wanted to download them back onto your computer to edit or print them in the future.

Use as a backup

Since Google's 15GB of free storage is shared with Gmail and Google Drive that number can feel smaller that it sounds, and if you're a power user of either service, it might not be enough. You can pay a monthly fee to increase the capacity from 25GB all the way up to 16TB ($799.99 per month!) you have to consider that Flickr automatically gives you 1TB for free. To get 1TB of storage through Google's subscription tiers would cost you $49.99 per month.

Part of the benefit of backing up your photos is having the ability to access and download them again at any time. Google+ allows multiple photos to be downloaded at once, but Flickr limits you to one at a time. This is somewhat frustrating, as downloading a large album of photos might take a long time. With Google+ you can choose a whole album and walk away while it downloads; Flickr requires you to babysit the process. There are third-party programs for downloading that allow you to get around this limitation, but it's still unfortunate that Flickr hasn't addressed it.

Editing Photos

Both Google+ and Flickr also have robust photo editors which allow users to adjust color, saturation, exposure, sharpness, crop pictures, add filters and stickers, and more. In practice, it's on par with what you might find in basic editors like iPhoto, but still can't replace professional software like Adobe Photoshop. Still, having this functionality built into the service streamlines the process of managing your photos without having to leave the browser.

Google+ also includes a few innovative features with cheeky names, which are designed to automatically review and change new photos. Highlights automatically chooses the best photos from your uploads by removing out-of-focus, underexposed, or duplicate shots. Auto Enhance tweaks and potentially improves an individual photo's look. Auto Awesome, a multifaceted feature, can create GIFs from pictures in a sequence, stitch together panoramas, detect smiles, and merge photos of different exposures to create an HDR. All of the automatic features are applied without any initiation from the user, but can be reversed if you don't like them.

Look, feel, and privacy

Once photos are uploaded, Google+ and Flickr give you multiple options for sharing and privacy. Without any privacy restrictions, your photos will show up in your profile's photo section and can be grouped into albums and sets. In both Flickr and Google+ you can adjust privacy settings to be visible only to friends, specific groups, or just you. You can also tag photos with people and places. It's completely up to you.

Flickr's recent redesign has a modern-looking profile page with a profile pic and cover photo similar to what you might find on most social networks. Photos are displayed thoughtfully, filling the screen and presenting them in a colorful, yet organized look. Outside of the profile page, there are consistency problems with the old Flickr design occasionally popping up in odd places like the photo download screen. Menus and certain functions are also hard to find for the uninitiated, leading to situations where you might feel lost or confused.

Google+ also organizes photos cleanly but uses open, white, and gray spaces which feels less claustrophobic. Navigating the menus is simple, and the design is consistent throughout.

Flickr allows you to share photos with third-party social media and blogging platforms which is something to consider if you and your friends don't use Google+.

What happened to Picasa?

In 2004 Google acquired Picasa, a photo managing and editing software that functions much like Flickr and Google+ do today. Picasa still exists as a free desktop application, and on the web as Picasa Web Albums; however, its future isn't very clear. Current users of Picasa may have noticed their Picasa web albums now appearing in Google+ and new users are redirected to Google+ from the Picasa Web Albums page. Google hasn't made any official statements about the state of Picasa Web Albums but its Picasa support page calls Google+ "the new home for your photos."

You might also consider...

There are several competitors to Flickr and Google+ that are offering similar services but cater to different needs. Smugmug and 500px allow photo uploading and sharing but are aimed at artists who might want to sell their work, and thus require a paid membership to fully use their services. Microsoft and Apple have cloud solutions in the form of Skydrive and iCloud, but they only provide 7 and 5GB of free storage respectively, shared with several different non-photo services. On the social media side, there are staples like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which will allow you to share photos with friends but don't have the right features to be used as a serious photo backup or quick editor.

What should you go with?

While your choice should be based on your needs, ultimately 1TB is hard to beat. Flickr has a great new design and enough storage to make you forget there is a limit to the cloud as well as a fully featured photo editor and extensive sharing options. Despite Flickr's redesign, Google+ still feels more modern and tends to be easier to use and more intuitive. Also, some of Google's automatic editing features are actually fun to use if not always very useful. Right now, though, Flickr is the better option, if only for what it offers that nobody else does.

Photo: Herry Lawford