In a recent (and very funny) blog post, The edge‘s Liz Lopatto laments the advertising and TikTok-ification of Instagram and other social media sites. “Can someone just make a simple photo app that isn’t sleazy and let me know where it is so my friends can join it?” she asks. And she apparently wasn’t the only one — it’s gotten to the point where Instagram is starting to roll back some of its changes due to user complaints.
The comments section of Liz’s post was quickly filled with various suggestions for alternative photo sites where you can post your cat photo and other cute/funny/beautiful photos and allow your friends and family to view them. admire and discuss it. I took a look at some of them (and some I found elsewhere).
Most of the sites listed below have the following in common: they focus on still photography (and don’t push you towards short videos); they run on a variety of operating systems; and they allow comments. Most have at least a basic free component, although we’ve included a paid site as well. However, they also have one other thing in common: they’re not as well-known, so it’s much more unlikely that someone you don’t know will see and follow your work. This could be a major problem, especially if you’re just starting out as a creator; it’s often best to hang out where the people are, even if you don’t particularly like the place.
But, if you’re serious about photography, many of these sites offer a community where you can discuss your work (and the work of others) with other photographers who can help and chat.
Here are a few photo-friendly social networking sites you might want to consider (assuming you can get your friends to come there too).
If you’re looking for a simple and attractive version of Instagram – in other words, without all the video add-ons – Vero may be your solution. Vero wants to make a place for creators, including photographers; creators can, in fact, get verified (or “verified”) for better discoverability on the site. Vero is currently ad-free and, it says, algorithm-free; an FAQ page explains exactly what data it collects and when. The app is currently completely free for “early adopters”, but it may institute annual fees for new members in the future.
The focus here is on social media rather than just posting photos. You can create a post using a photo, site link, or audio file. And you can also create a post based on a book, app, game, or location. You can choose to share your posts with close friends, close friends and their friends, or the public. You can search and follow “featured users” (Zack Snyder, Madonna, and photographer/influencer Peter McKinnon were featured when I logged in) and for various accounts in categories like music, nature, and photography.
So while Vero probably has a much smaller user base than any of the major social networking sites, it might be worth a try if you’re looking for a place to post your best photos (and that doesn’t bother you). don’t mind having to direct your friends to a new site).
Do a Google search for an alternative to Instagram, and you’ll likely see Pixelfed mentioned. The open-source tool markets itself as “a free and ethical photo-sharing platform” with no ads, third-party analytics, or tracking. Sounds great – but if you’re unfamiliar with its format or that of similar apps, it might take a bit of education to get started.
To sign up, you select one of the many Pixelfed servers (or you can create your own using the easy-to-access code). Be aware, however, that the most popular server, pixelfed.social, which has 54,200 users, was not accepting new registrations when I logged in. The next available English server appeared to be shared.graphics, which at the time verified boasted just under 1,250 users.
That being said, Pixelfed has a very similar interface to Instagram (minus the ads, stories, and reels). If you have the know-how and inclination to create your own Pixelfed server for you and your friends, Pixelfed could be fun and useful to try. However, if you’re looking for a more robust crowd size for social media, you’ll probably have to look elsewhere.
Flickr has been around for a long time. It got a bad rap a few years ago when it informed its free users that they would no longer be allowed 1TB of storage space, but it might be worth a second look if you’re looking for a place to share your stuff without having to deal with superfluous features.
The app has two types of accounts: Free and Pro. Flickr’s current free accounts come with various limitations: you can only upload up to 1,000 items and cannot post what Flickr calls “moderate and restricted content” (in other words, partial nudity and complete as well as other sexual nonsense). Also, free accounts are not allowed more than 50 non-public photos. And, like Instagram, Flickr’s free account includes ads – in this case, at the top of the page, on the side, and sometimes in the photostream itself.
If you can live with those restrictions, Flickr still offers a nice range of features if you’re into photography. Each photo not only has a comments section, but also information on where the photo was taken, what camera it was taken on and at what aperture – all the details. If the photo owner allows uploading (and it can be disabled), you can choose from a number of different sizes and dimensions. You can organize your photos into albums and edit information in batches.
If you want more — unlimited uploads, unlimited non-public photos, fewer restrictions on what you upload — it’ll cost you $8.25 a month, $72 for one year, or $133 for two years.
Degoo is not a social networking site and as such you cannot make your photos public for anyone to see. But you can organize them into albums, share them with friends, and collect comments. The ad-based free version of Degoo provides 100 GB of storage (with bonuses for referrals). You can use it on unlimited devices, but you can only download up to five devices.
You should also access your account at least once a year to keep it active. Paid accounts include Pro ($2.99/month), which removes ads and time limit and gives you 500GB of storage, and Ultimate ($9.99/month), which gives you a whopping 10TB.
If you’re looking for a place to show off your cat photos, this isn’t it – unless they are really good cat photos. 500px gives professionals a place to store, exhibit and license their work – and get feedback. So while you’re not going to get the kind of back-and-forth you get on, say, Instagram, you can get some reactions to your best photos.
The ad-supported free plan allows you seven downloads per week. Alternatively, you can try the Awesome plan, which offers unlimited downloads, priority support, no ads, “liked” photo history, gallery slideshows, and a profile badge for $59.88 per year or $4.99 $ per month. The Pro plan adds a way to view your organization services and tools for $119.88 per year or $9.99 per month. (You get a discount on your first year: Awesome costs $47.88 per year or $3.99 per month, while Pro costs $71.88 per year or $5.99 per month.)
Like 500x, DeviantArt is aimed more at professional photographers than casual photographers, although anyone can join for free. It offers visitors a wide range of artist galleries to see, divided into categories such as traditional, animation and illustration. The focus here is on creating a community of artists, so it’s not just comments but also new chat features.
With a free subscription to DeviantArt, there are no restrictions on how much you upload for public access (there’s an 80MB limit on photo sizes), and you’re admitted to the artist community and DA art lovers. If you want to sell your photographs and exhibit them, you can consider becoming a principal member. Starting at $3.95 per month, you can sell your art with a 12% fee on gallery, download, or commission sales; there’s also a maximum price of $1,000 per digital item as well as 20GB of private storage space. Several other levels are available.
VSCO is an online space for photographers to store, edit and share their work. It’s currently rolling out a new feature called VSCO Spaces, which allows members to create shared galleries “around a particular theme, style of photography, event, or location.” Up to 15 members can leave comments on the work; non-member guests can view the work but not view or contribute comments. There are free versions of the app for iPhone and Android with limited editing features. If you want to become a member (which offers more robust features like video editing and a wide range of presets), VSCO costs $7.99 per month or $29.99 per year; there is a seven-day free trial.
Glass provides a showcase for photographers – a place where they can create and share portfolios. Originally by invitation and Apple only, it opens slowly. You no longer need an invite to join, and while you do need an Apple ID, that (according to Glass) should change soon. You can also access it through iOS and the web. (However, according to the FAQ page, no Android apps are currently on the horizon.) Glass costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year; there is a 14-day free trial.
August 1, 2022, 3:40 p.m. ET correction: Three errors were made in the description of VSCO. First, the free trial for membership is seven days instead of 30 days. VSCO Stories is a blog, not a member feature. And there is a free version of the app for iOS and Android. We regret the errors.