In a recent (and very funny) blog post, The edge‘s Liz Lopatto deplores the ad-ification and TikTok-ification of Instagram and other social media sites. “Can someone just build a simple photo app that isn’t sleazy and let me know where it is so my friends can join it?” she asks. And apparently she hasn’t been the only one – it’s gotten to the point where Instagram is some of his changes are starting to recede due to user complaints.
The comment section of Liz’s post was quickly filled with several suggestions for alternative photo sites where you can post your cat pictures and other cute/funny/beautiful pictures and let your friends and family admire and discuss them. I looked at a few (and a few I found elsewhere).
Most of the sites below have this in common: they focus on still photography (and don’t force you into short videos); they work on different operating systems; and they allow comments. Most have at least a basic free component, although we’ve added a paid site as well. However, they also have one thing in common: they’re not that well-known, so it’s much less likely that someone you don’t know will see and follow your work. This can be a big problem, especially if you’re starting out as a creator; it’s often better to hang out where the people are, even if you don’t like the location that much.
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 provide support and conversation.
Here are a few photo-friendly social networking sites you might want to consider (assuming you can actually make your friends come).
If you’re looking for a nice, simpler version of Instagram — in other words, without all the video add-ons — Vero might be your solution. Vero wants to make itself a place for makers, including photographers; creators can in fact get themselves verified (or ‘verified’) for better findability on the site. Vero is currently ad-free and, it says, algorithm-free; a page with frequently asked questions explains exactly what data it collects and when. The app is currently completely free for early adopters, but may require an annual fee for new members in the future.
The emphasis here is on social networking rather than just posting photos. You can create a post with a photo, a link to a site, or an audio file. And you can also create a post based on a book, an app, a game, or a place. You can choose to share your posts with close friends, close friends and their friends, or the public. You can search for and follow “featured users” (Zack Snyder, Madonna, and photographer/influencer Peter McKinnon were featured when I signed up) and for various accounts under categories such as music, nature, and photography.
So while Vero probably has a much smaller user base than all the major social networking sites, it might be worth a try if you’re looking for a place to post your best photos (and don’t mind sending your friends to a new website).
Search Google for an alternative to Instagram and you’ll probably see it called Pixelfed. The open-source tool advertises itself as “a free and ethical photo-sharing platform” with no ads, third-party analytics, or tracking. Sounds great – but if you’re not familiar with the format or that of similar apps, it might take a little education to get started.
To join, select one of several Pixelfed servers (or you can create your own using the easy-to-access code). However, keep in mind that the most popular server, pixelfed.social, with 54,200 users, was not accepting new registrations when I signed up. The next English-language server available appeared to be shared.graphics, which at the time I checked it boasted just under 1,250 users.
That said, Pixelfed has a very Instagram-esque interface (minus the ads, the stories, and the reels). If you have the know-how and inclination to create your own Pixelfed server for you and your friends to use, Pixelfed can be fun and useful to try. However, if you’re looking for a more robust social networking crowd, 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 get 1TB of storage, but it might deserve a second look if you’re looking for a place to share your stuff without having to deal with it. strange features.
The app has two types of accounts: Free and Pro. Flickr’s current free accounts have several restrictions: you can upload up to 1,000 items and not post what Flickr calls “moderate and limited content” (in other words, partial and full nudity along with other sexual no-nos). In addition, free accounts cannot contain more than 50 non-public photos. And like Instagram, Flickr’s free account contains ads — in this case at the top of the page, on the side, and occasionally in the photo stream itself.
If you can live with those limitations, Flickr still offers a nice array of features if you’re into photography. Not only does each photo have a comment section, but also information about where the photo was taken, what camera it was taken with, and at what aperture – all the details. If the owner of the photo allows downloading (which can be disabled), you can choose from a number of different sizes and sizes. You can organize your photos into albums and batch edit the information.
If you want more — unlimited uploads, unlimited non-public photos, less restrictions on what you upload — it’ll cost you $8.25 a month, $72 for a year, or $133 for two years.
Degoo is not a social networking site and therefore you cannot make your photos public for everyone to see. But you can arrange them in albums, share them with friends and collect comments. Degoo’s free ad-based version offers 100 GB of storage (with bonuses for referrals). You can use it on an unlimited number of devices, but you can only upload from a maximum of five devices.
You also need to access your account at least once a year to keep it active. Paid accounts include Pro ($2.99/month), which removes the 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 For real good cat pictures. 500px provides professionals with a place to store, exhibit, and license their work — and get comments. So while you won’t get the kind of back and forth you get on Instagram, for example, you might get some reactions to your best shots.
The free, ad-supported plan lets you do seven uploads per week. Otherwise, you can try the Awesome plan, which offers unlimited uploads, priority support, no ads, a history of “nice” photos, 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 services and organization 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 more for professional photographers than regular photographers, although anyone can participate for free. It offers visitors a wide variety of artist galleries to peruse, divided into categories such as traditional, animation, and illustration. The emphasis here is on creating a community of artists, so there are not only comments, but also new chat features.
With a free membership to DeviantArt, there are no limits on how much you upload for public access (there is an 80MB limit on photo sizes) and you get access to DA’s community of artists and art lovers. If you want to both sell and display your photography, consider: become a core member. Starting at $3.95 per month, you may sell your art with a 12 percent fee for gallery, download, or commission sales; there’s also a maximum price of $1,000 per digital item, along with 20GB of private storage space. There are a number of other levels available.
VSCO is an online space for photographers to store, edit and share their work. It is currently rolling out a new feature called VSCO Spaces, which will allow members to create shared galleries “around a particular theme, photography style, event, or location.” Up to 15 members can leave comments about the work; non-members can view the work, but cannot view or contribute to the comments. There are free versions of the app for iPhones and Android with limited editing features. If you want to join (which offers more robust features like video editing and a wide variety 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 invite-only and Apple-only, it’s slowly opening up. You no longer need an invitation to join, and while you do need an Apple ID, that’s going to change (according to Glass) soon. You can now also access it via both iOS and the web. (According to the FAQ page, however, no Android app is currently in the works.) Glass costs $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year; there is a 14 day free trial.
Correction August 1, 2022, 3:40 PM ET: There are three errors in VSCO’s description. 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. In addition, the annual fee for Glass is $29.99, not $49.99 as originally stated. We regret the mistakes.