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What is Image Hosting?

Image files must be uploaded to a server to be displayed on the Web. Image hosting services allow you to do just that. You’ll find many different image hosting providers online. Hosting may be offered for free, as a fee-based subscription, or as a pay per storage.

Popular image hosting websites include Flickr and Imgur. There are also a number of more serious services with for professionals and enthusiasts, often with content monetisation models. Shutterstock is one such service.

Images may be uploaded one of several ways, depending on the provider you’ve chosen. File transfer protocol (FTP) tends to be accessible only with paid image hosting service. More commonly used are Web-based upload interfaces. Smartphone and tablet applications for uploading photos are also very popular. Instagram began as a smartphone app, solely for uploading photos to host and share with others using the same application.

Points to remember

Beyond simply displaying your images on a website, image hosts offer other features.

Depending on the host you choose, you can order paper prints and a variety of other products featuring your photos. You may be able to set licensing for your photos, allowing others to use them for personal or commercial use, with or without attribution, and with or without manipulating the image. Creative Commons licensing options are available to Flickr users.

Another feature some image hosts offer is hypertext markup language (HTML) code for linking to your image or embedding it in a Web page. Other possibilities for your images include creating photo galleries and slideshows.

As far as technical requirements go, image hosting is relatively straightforward. Most dedicated image gallery software suites require a PHP/MySQL environment. They tend to rely on FTP and HTTP for upload, while some have added Flash and Java uploader support, so the requirements vary depending on what sort of software you choose.

It is more or less a matter of available storage and the way you want to implement it on your site. The popularity of free content management services (CMS) and perhaps more importantly familiarity with platforms like WordPress has led many users to employ them in this role as well.

What's on offer today

You will find image hosting built into Web hosting packages from many hosting providers.

You can purchase packages with software for image hosting, photo galleries, and photo blogging installed, with technical support included. This option is perfect for those of you who need to get your site up quickly, as well as anyone who may need some trained assistance along the way.

A wide range of different plans is available, starting at a few dollars a month for entry-level plans with limited storage and shared hardware. More elaborate VPS and dedicated plans offer more features, bandwidth and storage. When it comes to storage, it is always a good idea to read the fine print when looking into entry-level plans with promises of unlimited disk space and bandwidth.

Keeping up with the times

While this is good news for novices, more demanding users may have different requirements. Traditional image hosting has evolved and the use case for many services has changed (or disappeared altogether).

In recent years, social networking, personal cloud storage and smartphones have altered the landscape drastically. It is important to bear this in mind, along with other factors. However, the changes have also opened up new niches.

Social networking and popular mobile services like Instagram have a number of limitations, making them unsuitable for many uses (especially for professionals). Cloud services that seamlessly sync with mobile devices are a godsend for many users, but they can also suffer from some shortcomings.

A lot of people and small businesses still need their own image hosting for a number of reasons and this won't change even if free services improve, or if gadget makers convince even more people that their 20-megapixel smartphones can go toe to toe with proper cameras.

However, social integration, hassle-free access via mobile platforms (including mobile uploads) are very relevant even for niche services. It is crucial to make sure your hosting plan can keep up in case you decide to expand or deploy new standards and technologies.

While image hosting remains relatively straightforward, it is always a good idea to go for scalable and flexible plans.

Image Frequently Asked Questions

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