Host Images Using Free Image Hosting Services: Essential Guide

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Many people will tell you that using external (free) image hosting to host your website images is the same as using free hosting overall: unsafe, unreliable and generally unadvisable…. Well, this is not exactly like that. So before we go any further, let’s discuss the pros and cons.

Why using a free external image hosting service might be a good idea?

(1) It’s a good way to save on hosting and bandwidth (especially if you publish multiple images regularly);
(2) It can be one of steps to take to speed up your site.

Of course, there are some cons:

(1) Less control over your images (the service can decide to cancel your account, delete your images, etc);
(2) Less reliable: the service may once just close down, etc.

Am I using them? – Yes, for those sites where there are many images.

Note: Of course, I do optimize the image size before publishing it, but if I have multiple images per page, the page load time will still leave much to be desired (even with a fairly good hosting package) – unlike when those images are hosted on Flickr for example: the page loads pretty fast even with like 50 images on it.

Main (Most Reliable) Image Hosting Services: Overview

Free account limitations One image max size SpeedURL structure
Flickr100 MBFastdynamic
Photobucket500 MBFast/username/image-name.jpg
Blogger and Picasa1Gb20MB max.Fastdynamic
ImageShack1.5MB max.Moderately fast…/imagename.jpg
TinyPic1600 pixels max.Moderately fastdynamic

Note: The table lists only those services I’ve had some serious experience with.

The table is pretty clear but it does require a few comments. While the second and the third columns are more about general features, the last two are aimed to evaluate the SEO-relevant features of the service: load speed and search referral traffic:

1. “Speed” column reflects my personal opinion. I didn’t do any serious tests, this is from my experience of the load time when a page contains numerous images hosted on one of these services.

2. The last column was included there for a reason: “readable” file names in the file paths boost the Google image search referral traffic (if you care about it). I managed to have great results with image search rankings with sites like Photobucket that build the image file path based on the image name.

More posts on the topic to check:

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • John Paul Aguiar

    Great tip.. I have been trying to speed up my load time and have worked on optimizing image size.. but don’t see a huge difference.

    Might have to try Flikr option.

  • Carla

    I’ve been using Photobucket for years and never had any problems. I may try Flickr in the near future.

    • Michael

      If I may, why consider switching if you have been using photobucket for years…

  • Adam J Humphreys

    Credit for images hosted on site vs images hosted offsite on 3rd party sites like photobucket. I’ll pay the extra few dollars, and get credit from search engines for the images on site. If we were talking about video it would likely be worth it but for images the benefits aren’t nearly as high. Even then I’d rather keep content on site rather than all over the place. If it ever came to the point where the hosting was an issue I’d utilize distributed computing from services such as akamai technologies which has servers all over the world for geoip-location.

  • Parthipan

    Hi Ann Smarty,

    Flickr free account is having below features:

    100 MB monthly photo upload limit (10MB per photo)
    2 video uploads each month (90 seconds max, 150MB per video)
    Photostream views limited to the 200 most recent images
    Post any of your photos in up to 10 group pools
    Only smaller (resized) images accessible (though the originals are saved in case you upgrade later)

    So, its not limited only upto 100MB.


  • Photobucket

    Thanks Ann for including Photobucket in your review! We have some upcoming changes launching next week that we are excited about and wanted to see what you think. Get a sneak peek here:

    Thanks again for the support!


  • Marijan Sivric

    I have been usinf flickr but I just started my own free image hosting service, so…I will start using mine 😉

  • Marijan Sivric

    I have been usinf flickr but I just started my own free image hosting service, so…I will start using mine 😉