Has your smartphone become your primary camera? Do you have a gallery that’s packed to bursting with shots of your kids, your partner, holidays, and days out? It’s a common trend. NPD research found that smartphones accounted for 27 percent of all photos captured in 2011. Considering the total was 17 percent in 2010, we can safely assume it’s a lot higher now. The question is – what do you do with all those precious snaps?
If you have an Android smartphone, there are various ways of easily sharing your photos with others. We’re going to run through some of the basic methods for newbies, and then discuss some great apps and services, for casual or power users, that allow you to back up and share your photos with selected family and friends.
Updated on 6-22-2015 by Simon Hill: Refreshed text, updated instructions and screenshots, switched Google Photos for Google+, removed discontinued apps, and added new suggestions.
Photo sharing basics
When you take a photo and review it–or you browse through your photos in the gallery app on your Android device–you’ll notice a share icon at the bottom of the screen. It is three points joined by two lines; tapping on it will open your sharing options menu. This menu includes a list of all the apps and services that you can share photos directly with. At the very least, it will have Email and Messaging options. It’s also likely to include Bluetooth and a bunch of apps like Facebook, Twitter clients, LinkedIn, Flipboard, and more–it really depends on what apps you have installed.
To share an individual photo, just tap on the option you want and send it via email or text message and post it to your account on Facebook, or wherever else. Sometimes you’ll have to resize it before you can send, but this is generally handled automatically and it won’t affect the photo you have stored in your Gallery or Photos app.
These options are all well and good if you want to share an individual photo, but what if you want to share or back up your whole collection, or create individual albums? What if you want to share with a lot of different people? A lot of phones and contracts don’t cope with picture messaging very well, so sending photos by MMS can be tough. Let’s take a look at some other photo sharing options.
How to share photos with Android Beam
If you have a device with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above, and it has NFC functionality, then you can use Android Beam to share photos. Navigate to the photo you want to share and hold your device back-to-back with another Android device, and you should see the option to “Touch to beam.” If you want to send multiple photos then long-press on a photo thumbnail in the gallery app and select all the shots you want to share.
It’s worth mentioning that Samsung had its own version of this functionality called S Beam which uses NFC and Wi-Fi, instead of NFC and Bluetooth. This allowed you to share larger files, but, from a user point of view, it worked much the same way. If you want to use Android Beam, and you have a Samsung phone with S Beam, then it’s advisable to turn S Beam off first. You’ll find it in Menu > Settings > More settings. You may also have to turn NFC on, but the Bluetooth will activate by itself as part of the process.
How to share photos using Google Photos
There’s a major incentive to use Google’s Photos app to backup all your pics – you can upload as many photos as you want for free. You can also upload videos for free. The only limitations are that photos must be 16MP or smaller, and videos recorded at 1080p or lower. If you want to automatically upload photos and videos at higher resolutions then you can also use the 15GB of free space that comes with Google Drive before you need to consider a paid plan.
Photos works with your existing Google account and it can be accessed on all your devices, including iOS devices, and in the browser on a laptop or computer. When you open the app up, you can tap the menu at the top left (three horizontal lines) to find Settings > Backup & sync. You can choose Upload size in here and see how much space you have remaining (if you decide to go with Original quality). If you choose High quality, then your photos will automatically be re-sized and there’s no limit to how many you can store. You should also take a look under Backup Settings and make sure that you select Over Wi-Fi only to avoid using your data allowance for photo uploads.
Once your photos are in the app, it’s very easy to share them via the share icon. You can even create a link to a specific photo and send it as a URL.
Next page: Sharing with Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and more.
How to share photos using Dropbox
One of the simplest ways of backing up and sharing your photos is to use Dropbox. You can get 2GB for free when you set up an account and you can earn more through referrals, or you can buy more space. A number of Android device manufacturers also signed deals with Dropbox to snag you extra storage space. The Android app is free and very easy to use.
You’ll need to install the Android app and the desktop computer client to start. You can then create folders and choose exactly who you want to share them with. You can also enable automatic upload of photos and videos, so that whenever you take a new photo (or record a video) on your smartphone or tablet, it will automatically upload to your Dropbox account on the Internet. You can enable this via Settings in the Dropbox app, but we’d advise setting Upload using to Wi-Fi only to avoid using a lot of your data allowance.
By default the app is going to send your photos and videos to a folder called Camera Uploads. You can click on the folder in the Dropbox app, or right click the folder on your computer or laptop, to share it with other people.
If you are a big Facebook fan, then you’ll be interested to know there is a photo syncing feature in the official Android app. You can turn it on in Photos and you should see a Synced tab in the app if you swipe to the right. You’ll then get step-by-step instructions. You get 2GB of storage space for free and the photos are automatically uploaded into a private album in your Facebook account.
You should be careful syncing photos via your cellular network. It will eat into your data allowance, although, Facebook does limit the size of photos for cellular network uploads and then replaces them with high resolution versions later, when you are in Wi-Fi range again. You can always just opt to go for Wi-Fi only in the syncing settings.
There’s also a separate Facebook app called Moments, which is designed to help you share group event photos privately. If you and your friends all go to the same party, for example, then all the photos taken there will be grouped based on who is in them and where they were taken. You can choose exactly who has access to sync photos to the group.
Instagram may seem like the perfect solution. You can upload as many photos as you want and you only share them with users you’ve approved to follow you. It also ties into social networks like Facebook and Twitter for easy sharing. Instagram does come with a bit of controversy, though. The service was riding high with millions of users until it was acquired by Facebook. It then hit a bump over privacy, which led to a quick retraction of the terms of service. The risk was that they may have been able to sell your photos without your permission and without compensating you. It is a free service, but reserves the right to charge money in the future and those terms could change again.
Instagram has a host of built-in filters to edit your photos, which is one of its main attractions. In terms of limitations, you have to make images square, which means cropping, or adding black bars. Instagram still has a lively community and it works like a social network in its own right with profiles and user groups.
Here’s another free Android app that lets you upload photos and videos and choose who to share them with. Flickr is owned by Yahoo. It also includes filters for photo editing and there’s a busy community with various groups for specific interests. You can choose what to keep private and what to share. You’ll also find the usual social network integration with Facebook and Twitter.
You can get 1TB of free storage, that’s 1,000GB, which is potentially enough for 500,000 photos. The catch is that you’re going to have to put up with adverts, unless you’re willing to shell out $50 a year. You can also access Flickr on your PC or iOS device.
There are a lot of apps out there that allow you to edit and share your photos. Shoot is a BitTorrent app that allows you to share large video files or groups of photos quickly, privately, and easily. You could check out Path for limited group sharing. FotoSwipe offers an easy way to share individual photos with another Android or iOS device by swiping them across. Muzy is great for creating collages and it offers unlimited uploads and storage for free.
If there’s another photo-sharing app on Android that you particularly love, or if you have some handy tips on how to share photos, then please post a comment.