Even if we can't all be together, at least our photos can.
With the technology we have in the palm of our hand, it should be easy to collect photos from a group of people. However, it isn’t as trivial as it sounds. Over half a million photos can fit in a hard drive that you can hold in your palm. Organizing that many pictures is going to take time you just don’t have. You’re going to need some high-tech help.
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 is evening worse. There are just so many formats and options to share and store photos that the process becomes a real mess fast.
So, to help you find the right tools to solve this problem, we’re going to review 12 solutions that make it possible to collect photos from groups of different sizes.
Solutions are listed in alphabetical order.
Apple Photos is an iOS app for mobile and macOS. As such, any avid Apple user will be familiar with the interface. It’s a good tool to manage your personal collection of photos. Plus, shared albums can be collaborative. If you’re clever, it can even be a limited way to collect photos from a group.
Other users (friends and family) can be invited to a shared album via your contacts, email, phone number, or SMS. There are also multiple levels of access. An invitee can add photos to the shared album if the owner allows it. These albums can also be shared for public viewing via an iCloud URL.
What’s more, Apple Photos maintains full image resolution. Although keep in mind you’ll need to pay for more storage space once you hit the default capacity.
Apple photos also offers notifications, so it’s easy to keep track as photos collect in the shared album.
Of course, Apple Photos can only be used with iOS devices. As such, non-Apple users can’t share their photos with you. So, that’s 51% of all smartphone users you can’t effectively share photos with.
The close ties also mean that if you delete a photo on your device in Apple Photos, it’s also removed from the shared album on your iCloud and is lost forever.
It’s hard to administer a shared album without communication, and there is no built-in system for that on the Apple Photos platform. While photos do have location and time stamps, there’s no other way to organize the photos such as tags or metadata. There is also no integration between Apple Photos and other platforms, such as cloud storage.
As noted above, iCloud storage space can be very costly, so an enterprise user will end up paying much more.
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 is useful for gathering photos from a group.
Cluster’s simple user interface is one of its best traits. The clean and easy design means even your grandma won’t have trouble navigating the app.
In terms of group access, members can be easily invited to join a group or an album via a web link. Alternatively, members can be added via your phone contacts or a unique invite code. The diverse options for onboarding allow you to find the right fit for your group.
Unlike some of the other options here, Cluster handles photos with no apparent limitation. The app also has notifications, allowing users to keep up with any and all updates as they happen.
Cluster is built for friends and family, and that means it’s not designed for business or enterprise use. It requires everyone who wants to upload to download and install the app. As an app-based solution, you also rely on everyone having a smartphone and a willingness to install an app for a single event's use.
Worse yet, sharing photos on social media is not natively supported.
Finally, downloading a single photo is simple, but bulk transfers are clunky. The only way to bulk download is to download all of your content, which is then emailed as a ZIP file, and decompress it on the other side. Uploading and downloading files in this format is not only a pain but risks degrading photo quality from compression.
Many businesses use Dropbox as their go-to cloud storage platform. Though dropbox is typically thought to be more about sharing PDFs and PowerPoints, you can use it to collect photos from groups, too.
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. Plus, Dropbox does not compress files. So photos will maintain full quality.
There are both mobile and web-based solutions for Dropbox. Users can invite others to collaborate on a folder via email.
For business, Dropbox has Business and Enterprise editions which make user provisioning easier, but users still need to manage folder access and sharing permissions.
While you can create shared folders with a single URL, managing files deposited on this link is remarkably difficult.
Though Dropbox was built for file sharing, it lacks options for collaborative sharing media. Due to the restricted gallery format of the visual display, it’s hard to see what’s new and who added what. As such, Dropbox is functional, but less than ideal for sharing group photos.
We’re a bit biased, obviously, but DropEvent was created for just this reason! Optimized for ease of use, registration-free photo collection, and simple administration account access, DropEvent is the leading web platform for photo collection for groups of any size.
We recommend DropEvent for individuals and businesses alike.
DropEvent has one of the cleanest and simplest interfaces, which makes it easy to use for everyone. No one has to formally register. Plus, they can either upload with their email address or email the photos as attachments.
Each event has a specific email address, which will automatically add photos to the shared gallery. Moderation is also available so photos can be approved before being shown in the gallery.
What’s more, with live updating slideshows, it’s easy to track the gallery as new photos are added.
A purely web-based platform means there is no native app to use. However, not having an app to install by everyone in your group may be a benefit for getting some folks to upload.
If you want to manage multiple events at once, you’ll likely need to sign up for one of the subscription plans. Although, annual payments make billing and invoicing easy.
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.
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. Which makes getting everyone on board as easy as a few clicks.
You can establish a private Facebook group to collect photos from a group in your organization. Photos can be added via 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.
Over the years, Facebook has received more than its fair share of security questions. Naturally, that can be a serious concern, especially for a business that needs to gather photos from a group.
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. Additionally, while the ability to bulk upload is good, there is no way to bulk download photos from Facebook.
Another limitation is the album-sharing options. You can share to ‘Friends,’ ‘Friends of contributors,’ or ‘Public.’ Unless you use a private Facebook Group, there is no easy way to invite a group of users to an album.
Even though Yahoo sold it to SmugMug in 2018, Flickr is still around.
And while it’s not designed for a business to collect photos from groups, its ‘groups’ feature can serve that purpose. Although, this feature is more akin to Facebook groups, trying to unite visual media enthusiasts with shared interests.
To collect photos from a specific group, you can 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 allow group members to add their photos to Flickr’s website or apps. Plus, full quality is always preserved. Flickr also has organization tools, as well as ‘collections’ and ‘sub-collections’ to house assets.
To take part in a Flickr group, you must have a Flickr account. Requiring registration could be an issue when trying to gather photos from a large group or many sets of groups over time.
There are also storage and upload limits on Flickr, which can be an issue when collecting large volumes of photos.
Respectively, Google Drive and Google Photos are well-known for file sharing and photo organization. Just about everybody is familiar with the Google suite and its applications.
You can use both Drive or Photos to gather photos from a group.
Google’s near-universal familiarity is a major benefit on its own. That’s why a lot of organizations and businesses already use Drive for file sharing.
Sharing is easy via Contacts, phone numbers, email, or URLs. Sharing a folder also offers options such as view-only, permission to upload photos to a shared folder, and additional nuanced moderation options.
Plus, Google Drive and Photos permit unlimited collaborators.
Collaboration only happens on the folder level. As such, these Google Solutions are ill-suited for continuous photo collection at a meaningful 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. However, this option invites serious risks should the URL fall into the wrong hands.
It’s also important to note that Google Photos does compress most photos. As such, neither product makes it easy to publish content to social media networks which will compress and reduce photo quality further.
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 suite of products.
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 set 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). Plus, OneDrive has both a web-based platform and a mobile app for iOS and Android.
A Microsoft account is not required to be invited to view a shared folder. However, an account is required to allow editing permissions. Therefore, this will hinder adoption from large groups.
In terms of security, if someone is granted editing permissions on a shared folder, they can then also copy that shared album to their own OneDrive, which offers serious security concerns for enterprise projects.
Ultimately, Microsoft products are optimized for Windows and PC products. If the group includes users without Microsoft accounts, OneDrive is a poor solution for gathering photos from groups.
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.’
Photocircle is specifically built to collect photos from groups 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.
Photocircle is a mobile app only - there is no web-based platform for photo collection. As such, images will compress any images taken with a higher quality camera than a mobile device.
There is also a distinct absence of metadata. That means there is functionally no sorting or filtering by anything beyond the date added.
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.
Additionally, reviews on the app store note a high level of dissatisfaction with the number of ads in the Photocircle mobile app.
SmugMug is a popular photo website built to help with photo storage, selling, and printing.
Although the company purchased Flickr in 2018, SmugMug continues to operate with a focus on professional photographers. However, SmugMug galleries can also be collaborative and used to collect photos from a group.
SmugMug makes it easy to invite guests to upload to a specific gallery via a password or a custom link. All of these guests will then have upload permissions. Which can add some security to photo gathering.
SmugMug integrates with most photo software services. After all, the platform is for photographers. That’s also why photos are not compressed, whether uploaded via the web or their mobile app (Android or iOS).
SmugMug makes it simple enough to collaborate with a gallery. However, that collaboration only works at the gallery level, not the account level. You would have to invite a user to each specific gallery for every new event or campaign.
Shutterfly is a photography site primarily built to turn photos into 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 also use Shutterfly to collect photos from a group with shared projects, shared photo books, or unlocked albums.
You do not need a Shutterfly account to contribute to a shared album or project. The owner of the project simply 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 allows for individual downloads, as well as bulk downloads of up to 500 photos. Best of all, Shutterfly will not compress photos collected.
The mobile app is hard to use, and it’s even harder to organize.
Shutterfly is simply not built for collaboration and group collection or posting to social media. As such, it’s a severely impractical choice.
Yogile’s a low-cost platform with both mobile and web interfaces. In their words, it’s “photo storage, simplified.”
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.
Albums are shared via URL, email, or SMS. They 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 maintains the full photo resolution. Users can also share to social media straight from the application.
The app reviews from Yogile frequently report issues of overall functionality. The reviews also note a distinct lack of support and certain promised features not working at all. This includes the touted ability to email a photo and have it automatically added to an album.