Even if we can't all be together, at least our photos can

The Best Way to Collect Photos From a Group: Pros and Cons of 12 Solutions

It should be easy to collect photos from a group of people, but for many reasons this isn’t as trivial as it sounds. Over half a million photos can fit in a hard drive that you can hold in your hand, and organzing that many pictures without some high-tech help is nearly impossible.

Technology has come a long way, but if you ask ten people how they would gather photos from a group, you’ll get 10 different responses. Collecting photos is even more daunting for a business seeking to gather them from different groups, departments, or staff. Collecting photos from customers, influencers, or ambassadors can be an even bigger challenge.

Here's a quick but complete review of a dozen different options that make it possible, and sometimes easy, to collect photos from groups of different sizes.

You need to gather photos from a group. Now what?

You went to an event with a team of 40 people, and you want to gather the best of all of the photos they took, each from their own perspective. If there was a go-to platform to collect photos from a group, you wouldn’t need this article.

If you’re evaluating photo gathering and sharing options for your business, you’ll need to have a good idea of what’s important to you and your organization. That may mean a focus on ease of use, or perhaps more of a concern for privacy and security. Your business should also consider total storage capacity, individual file size capacity, and whether to preserve full-resolution images. Would a web-only solution suffice, or do you need an email solution for users so they can upload immediately?

Those are just a few of the many factors to keep in mind as you read through the pros and cons of the group photo collection options detailed below. Without further adieu, let’s get started. (Solutions are listed in alphabetical order, our Editor’s Choice is DropEvent).

Apple Photos Logo
Apple Photos
Rating: 4

Apple Photos is an iOS app for mobile and comes with MacOS on every Mac computer. It will be very familiar to any Apple user. It’s a good tool primarily designed for managing your personal collection of photos. But shared albums can be collaborative, and if you’re clever, a limited way to collect photos from a group.

Pros

Other users (friends and family) can be invited to a shared album via your contacts, or by email, phone number or SMS. There are also multiple levels of access. An invitee can either have the ability to add photos to the shared album or be restricted from doing so. These albums can also be shared for public viewing via an iCloud URL. Apple Photos does maintain full resolution. Though keep in mind you’ll need to pay for more storage space once you hit the capacity limit. Apple photos also offers notifications, so it’s easy to keep track as photos collect in the shared album.

Cons

The most obvious potential flaw is that the platform works on Apple products only. PCs and Androids are out, which is 50% or more of your friends and family. While you can still contribute to a shared album even if you’re not an iOS user, it is not an optimized experience. The close ties also mean that if you delete a photo on your device in Apple Photos, it also deletes in the shared album on your iCloud and is lost forever. It’s hard to administer an album that multiple people are contributing to, and there is no built-in communication in the Apple Photos platform, which hinders collaboration. While photos do have location and time stamps, there is no other way to organize the photos using tags, and no metadata possible with the files. As noted above, iCloud storage space can be very costly, so an enterprise user will end up paying for more. There is also no integration between Apple Photos and other platforms, such as cloud storage.

Cluster screenshots
Cluster
Rating: 7

Cluster bills itself as ‘private group sharing with friends and family.’ It has options to share photos and notes. The mobile app is like a mini multimedia-based social network for small groups and can be useful to gather photos from a group.

Pros

One of Cluster’s best traits is the simplicity of the user interface. It’s designed so that even your grandma has no trouble navigating and using the app. Members are invited to join a group or an album via a web link, making access easier. Or members can be added via your phone contacts or a unique invite code. The diverse options for onboarding allow someone to select which works best for their group. Unlike some of the other options here, Cluster does handle photos with no apparent limitation. The app also has notifications, allowing users to keep up with any and all updates.

Cons

Cluster is built for friends and family, and that means it’s not designed for business or enterprise use. The main drawback is that it requires everyone who wants to upload to download and install the app. Being app based means relying on everyone having a smartphone, and a willingness to install an app for a single event's use. Finally, downloading a single photo is simple, but bulk uploading and downloading is clunky. The only way to bulk download is to download all of one’s content, which is then emailed as a ZIP file, and that makes editing a few files a pain. Sharing photos on social media is also not natively supported.

Dropbox screenshot
Dropbox
Rating: 5

Dropbox is the cloud storage platform used by many businesses. Dropbox is typically thought to be more about sharing PDFs and Powerpoints, but you can use it to collect photos from groups, too.

Pros

Dropbox’s folder structure is easy to understand and it’s a well-known name and trusted brand. It also integrates with other platforms like DAMs. There is both a mobile app and a web-based solution for Dropbox and users can be invited to collaborate on a folder via email. Dropbox also does not compress files, so photos will maintain full quality. For business, Dropbox has Business and Enterprise editions which make user provisioning easier, but users still need to manage folder access and sharing permissions.

Cons

While shared folders can be created and shared with a single URL, managing files deposited on this link is extremely hard. Dropbox was built for file sharing, not for media sharing or collaboration, and it’s hard to see what’s new and who added what. Visual display of files in a gallery format is restricted, and it’s just hard to see what’s going on.

DropEvent screenshot
DropEvent
Rating: 10

DropEvent is the leading web platform for photo collection for groups of any size. Optimized for ease of use, registration free photo collection, and simple administration account access. Recommended for individuals and businesses alike.

Pros

Dropevent has one of the cleanest, simplest interfaces, which makes it easy to use by everyone in your group. No one in your group has to formally register, and can upload with their email address or by emailing the photos as attachments. Each event has a specific email address, which will automatically add photos to the shared gallery. Live updating slideshows are a great way to view the gallery as it is being added to. Moderation is available so photos can be approved before being shown in the gallery.

Cons

A purely web-based platform means there is no native app to use. Not having an app to install by everyone in your group may be a benefit for getting some folks to upload, however. If you want to manage multiple events at once you will probably need to sign up for one of the subscription plans, although annual payments are allowed to ease billing and invoicing.

Facebook screenshot
Facebook Groups
Rating: 3

Facebook is a social media network—perhaps you’ve heard of it? While Facebook isn’t known as a go-to group photo collection platform, its shared albums and Groups can serve the purpose.

Pros

It’s a platform that everybody knows, and any individual user can receive an invite to a shared album from the album owner via their Facebook account. A Private Facebook Group can be established to help collect photos from a group in your organization. Photos can be added on desktop or using the Facebook Mobile App, and it’s simple to bulk upload photos, too. Existing albums on Facebook can also be merged into a shared album.

Cons

Facebook has received plenty of questions over the years about its security and that is one concern off the bat for a business considering Facebook as a solution to gather photos from groups. Contributing to a shared album also requires someone to have a Facebook account, with no exception. Like most social networks, Facebook compresses photos with no option to maintain full quality, and while the ability to bulk upload is good, there is no ability to bulk download photos from Facebook. Another limitation is the album sharing options. You can share to ‘Friends,’ ‘Friends of contributor,’ or ‘Public.’ Also, unless you use a private Facebook Group, there is no easy way to invite a group of users to an album.

Flickr screenshot
Flickr
Rating: 6

Flickr is still around, even though Yahoo sold it to SmugMug in 2018. And while it’s not designed for a business to use to collect photos from groups, its groups feature can do it. This groups feature is more akin to Facebook Groups, trying to unite visual media enthusiasts with shared interests.

Pros

To collect photos from a specific group, you create a Flickr group and make it private, or turn an existing public group into a private group. With a private group, Flickr’s cross-platform capabilities mean group members can add their photos with Flickr’s website or apps. Full quality is always preserved, too. Flickr does have organization tools, as well, with ‘collections’ and ‘sub-collections’ to house assets.

Cons

To take part in a Flickr group, you must have a Flickr account. That could be an issue when trying to gather photos from a larger group or many sets of groups over time. There are also storage and upload limits on Flickr, which can be an issue when collecting from larger groups.

Google Drive/Google Photos screenshot
Google Drive/Google Photos
Rating: 6

Google Drive and Google Photos are well-known for file sharing and photo organization, respectively. Just about everybody is familiar with the Google suite and its applications. And you can use both Drive or Photos to gather photos from a group.

Pros

Google’s near-universal familiarity is a pro in its corner and a lot of organizations and businesses already use Drive for file sharing. Sharing is easy via Contacts, phone number, email, or URL. Sharing a folder also offers options such as view-only or the ability, for example, to upload photos to a shared folder. The way shared folders work is identical to the way shared albums work in Google Photos. There are unlimited collaborators permitted for Google Drive or Photos, too.

Cons

Like some other solutions evaluated, collaboration happens each time on the folder level. Google’s solutions are not built for continuous collection at scale. Businesses will also find inviting a lot of people to share a folder to collect photos to be time-consuming, unless they use the open URL option. Anyone with the open URL can add their own photos or re-share the invite link. It’s important to note, too, that Google Photos does compress most photos. Neither product makes it easy to publish content to social media networks.

Microsoft OneDrive screenshot
Microsoft OneDrive
Rating: 2

Microsoft OneDrive has shared folders that you can use to collect photos from a group. Even if that’s not the typical use case that comes to mind for Microsoft’s suites of products like OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams.

Pros

Microsoft makes it easy to invite another user to a shared folder via email or URL with password protection as an option. As long as the permission is on to ‘allow editing,’ a shared folder can then be used to gather photos from a group. OneDrive will not compress any photos collected (though storage space has limits). Lastly, OneDrive has both a web-based platform and a mobile app for iOS and Android.

Cons

A Microsoft account is not required to be invited to view a shared folder. But an account is required to allow editing permissions and, therefore, the ability for an individual in a group to add photos. If someone is granted editing permissions on a shared folder, they can then also copy that shared album to their own OneDrive, which is a security concern. Ultimately, Microsoft products are optimized for Windows and PC products. If the group has users without Microsoft accounts, this should eliminate OneDrive as the solution for gathering photos from groups.

Photocircle screenshot
Photocircle
Rating: 5

Photocircle is a mobile app to help families and friends capture memories in a shared photo album. They market their solution as great for ‘birthdays, weddings and families.’

Pros

Photocircle is specifically built to collect photos from groups, in this case tied to specific events. Users are invited to a shared album via either SMS or email. Once they download the app, it is simple to add photos to the event album.

Cons

Photocircle is a mobile app only; there is no website platform to manage or use for photo collection. The absence of metadata also means there is no sorting functionality or filtering by anything besides date added. The platform is mobile-only, which also means it will compress any images taken with a higher-quality camera than your mobile device. Since the platform is built for single shared albums, too, it is not built for continuous collaboration with a group. Individuals have to be re-invited to each individual album. Lastly, reviews on the app stores note a lot of dissatisfaction with the amount of ads in the Photocircle mobile app.

SmugMug screenshot
SmugMug
Rating: 4

SmugMug is a popular photo website built to help with storage, selling and printing. The company purchased Flickr in 2018, but SmugMug also continues to operate, and is aimed at professional photographers. SmugMug galleries can be collaborative and used to collect photos from a group, too.

Pros

SmugMug makes it easy to invite guests to upload to a specific gallery via a password or a custom link. All guests invited to a gallery have upload capabilities. SmugMug integrates with most photo software services, since the platform is for photographers. That’s also why photos are not compressed, whether uploaded via web or their mobile app (Android or iOS).

Cons

SmugMug makes it simple enough to collaborate with a gallery. But note that such collaboration only works at the gallery level, not the account level. So a user would have to be invited to each specific gallery if you are gathering photos from a group on a continuous basis for events or campaigns.

Shutterfly screenshot
Shutterfly
Rating: 3

Shutterfly is a photography site primarily built to turn photos into personal physical products, such as photo books, cards, wall art, prints, accessories and a lot more. For example, if you want to put a photo of mom on a coffee mug, Shutterfly is a good solution. You can use Shutterfly to collect photos from a group, too, with shared projects, shared photo books, or unlocked albums.

Pros

You do not need a Shutterfly account to get invited to contribute to a shared album or project. The owner of the project invites others via email to the album and, provided it’s ‘unlocked,’ others can add photos to the album. Users can also ‘favorite’ individual photos. Shutterfly also allows for individual download, as well as bulk download up to 500 photos. Lastly, Shutterfly will not compress photos collected.

Cons

Shutterfly is not a good choice for photo sharing with groups. The mobile app is hard to use, and it’s hard to organize anything. Shutterfly is not built or optimized for collaboration and group collection, or for posting to social media.

Yogile screenshot
Yogile
Rating: 5

Yogile s a low-cost platform with both mobile and web interfaces. It is “photo storage, simplified” in their words. Yogile uses the Amazon S3 platform to allow for unlimited photo storage in the cloud (for users on the pro account). Yogile also allows users to collaborate in an album and collect photos from groups.

Pros

Albums are shared via URL, email, or SMS and can even be listed in the Yogile app public feed as an open album. Yogile also has the option to require approval from an album owner before a shared photo is added and visible in an album. Even on a mobile app, Yogile does maintain full resolution of pictures, too. Users can also share to social media straight from Yogile.

Cons

There are reported issues of functionality in the app reviews for Yogile. Reviews note a lack of support and features not working, such as the touted ability to email in a photo and have it automatically added to an album.

There is no shortage of options out there to collect photos from groups, but for ease of use, advanced features, and collaboration, we’ve found that DropEvent is far and away the most advanced and most flexible system to collect photos from groups of any size. If you’d like to learn more about DropEvent, drop us a line!