Online photo hosting: How not to kill your website

Auschwitz Concentration Camp sentry post
Photographs to remember and backed up: Sentry post at Auschwitz Concentration Camp (click to enlarge HDR)

What is photo hosting?

Photo hosting is only for selling photographs. That’s what I thought, at one stage.

update: I’ve written a huge review of online photo hosts as a complement to this article. The link is at the bottom of this page too.

Travel blogs & photographs generally go hand in hand. And, rightfully so. The main reason I started putting so many photographs up here, was not to attract people (even if it now does), it was simply a place to hang my memories.

I don’t have a permanent place to live, so an important aspect of this website was to have a place I could go and remember places & people. And, to keep them safe!

Online / Offline realities of photo hosting

So what happens when an earthquake hits your house? The travel photographs fall. This happened to my website last October.

My journey was featured on the front page of La Republica (a main stream Italian Newspaper). Over 50,000 people came to my site that day. My hosting provider shut off my site as they thought it was an attack.

Thankfully my web host is very quick to respond, and had the site up again in a few minutes. But, it came with a warning:

“You won’t stay up for more than a day, you’ve too many photos, it’s eating up your bandwidth …”

What? I had spent countless hours processing all my photographs so that they would be resized, and tiny. Isn’t that what all the webmasters tell you?

Optimize your images for display! Most of my images were only 43kb!

But then I have large headers weighing in at 150-200kb. And then, on the travel blog, I had some at 300kb.

How could I get them any smaller without killing the very reason they were there …  to be seen?!!

The problem with website hosts

Website hosting firms are not all what they seem. They have file limits, and even unlimited bandwidth does not mean unlimited.

Naqsh-e Rostam Tombs in Iran
I couldn't get my photographs any smaller! I wanted them big! (click to enlarge the Naqsh-e Rostam Tombs in Iran)

Someone from fair trade or the better business bureau really needs to do something about the latter.

Travel photographs suck bandwidth.

Let’s look under the cover of our photos on a website briefly to understand this. If I shoot a photo in RAW, its 20MB+, process it to JPEG it’s 12MB+, resize to 300×220 it’s 500kb-1MB, optimize and it’s down to 50kb.

That’s great! For a website that has only a few people visiting it.

10 ppl x 50kb = 500kb or .5MB of bandwidth

50,000 x 50kb = 2 500 000kb or 2 441MB or just about 2.5 GB

That’s a lot, and it’s only one image! That has been optimized?!!

Now for a hidden killer. WordPress, self hosted blogs, consume a lot of resources, CPU & bandwidth. It’s yet another burden many travel bloggers don’t take into account.

Host a lot of travel photographs yourself using WordPress – and you might have your whole travel blog banned by your host. With or without a lot of people visiting.

I had 1000’s of images. Was I doomed?

The answer to online photo hosting

Host travel photographs on a specific photo hosting site and link them to your website. Photography hosting is not as expensive, in general, as web hosting. Some are even free.

Hosting your travel photography on a photo host will remove all that bandwidth from a website, and even cut costs. What’s more there are some huge advantages from hosting photographs externally.

Advantages of photo hosting externally:

  • Save web hosting bandwidth & costs
  • Display larger images on your website without worry
  • Another source for people to see your work
  • Forums to help you improve your photography
  • Photographs are backed up securely
  • Protect the original photograph from being stolen or copied
  • Add watermarks easily
  • Only show certain sizes of your photograph publicly


  • A little more time is needed to login, upload elsewhere, and then link.
  • New learning curve (is that a bad thing)
  • Small increase in yearly expenses

(All of the above plus a lot more is covered in my comprehensive review of online photo hosts and online storage providers, see  Including direct company comparisons, top picks, alternatives, how to protect your photographs from theft, and much, much more )

Use what I learned before it’s too late

Thankfully the way I built my website I was able to stay online during this huge spike in traffic, and the ones that have occurred since then. But it did take me weeks, to transfer all my photographs to my photo host, redo all the links. This in turn cost me a lot financially, and in time,  as I had to extend my stay in a place with wi-fi.

If you are starting a travel blog or any blog with many photographs, or already have one up and running and hope to have a lot of people visiting it. Take the above into account. Start hosting photographs on a photo host now. Before it will cost extra time, money, and a lost travel blog.

I am preparing two follow-up articles to this, including a giant review of storage & photo hosts that I have tested out personally. If there’s something you would like covered, now would be a good time to leave a comment / request.


The review page is now live here: Online storage & photo hosting reviews (please be warned, it’s a quite a big review)

Coming soon:

Part 2: Online file storage, why every good traveler needs some. Plus a review with names & links to over 20 storage providers!

This is an additional article written to help others in travel & life

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19 Replies to “Online photo hosting: How not to kill your website”

  1. Great advice, something I certainly hadn’t considered. I appreciate the way you explained it, especially:

    10 ppl x 50kb = 500kb or .5MB of bandwidth.

    50,000 x 50kb = 2 500 000kb or 2 441MB or just about 2.5 GB

    It’s so easy to focus on content, and forget the basic principles of the web.

    1. -Ant- Thanks Ant, glad it was of use to you! You’re right about putting so much effort into content, and sometimes forgetting about keeping it live!

      -Renny- Yep, it’s a good thing to do in my opinion. No, I’ve not come across any photo hosting sites that ask for advertising. Though Flickr free accounts technically ask for a link back to your flickr account.

      -Marc- The next article will cover online storage for travelers pro’s and cons. Around that time I will also publish the big review on both online photo hosts and online storage :)

      – craig | – You certainly raise some very good points! Hosts like or offering subdomains can indeed change everything on you without much notice. Definitely something for bloggers and site owner to take into account when launch their sites!

      On the subject of sizing. Yes, I host externally. I’ll be mentioning them in my big review next week. They offer many, different sizes of image for their clients to use. All the ones here are the direct size from them. I’ve not had to do a thing. In fact, due to a javascript on my blog, if you click a thumbnail then it will expand into a second much larger size. One of the reasons I don’t resize (I did once) is the extra processing power it makes your website host use. And, another excuse for the website host to complain!

      9,000 images certainly a lot! I can only imagine the bandwidth. With the photo host I am with right now, I don’t feel worried about them changing anything. It’s their service. I do know that I wouldn’t be able to afford the web hosting that self hosting my own images would entail! You must be doing well! :)

  2. This is really good! I never thought that you could put photos somewhere else & have them show up on your blog. Neat idea. Do they advertise on your site then?

  3. Another con that you need to worry about is your lack of control over the development of your hosting service. As many know, Google continues to upgrade their services (like Blogger), which you’ve no choice but to accept the changes of. Many times, these forced upgrades destabilize a customized front end, or add drama without notice. Not have 100% control over your content and delivery can really be asking for headaches.

    Additionally, on the subject of thumbnails… Most bloggers are embedding images in their posts, just like you’ve done in this one. Hosting it externally? Well, you’re going to be locked into those predefined resizing options (think of Picasa or Flickr). Yes, you could certainly still pull that image and manually figure out the aspect ratio and shrink it down to a smaller size just by adjusting the height and width attributes, but that often doesn’t look very pleasing and the user is still forced to download a larger image than is technically being displayed. In short, if your preference is a 250px width and your hosting provider doesn’t offer up just that, there’s an inconvenience for someone there, be it visitor or author or both.

    I totally agree on bandwidth impacts. I’m offering & hosting nearly 9,000 travel images myself. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t, and other times I’m glad I do. But authors should ALWAYS be careful of linking to off-domain images… you never know when your relationship with your provider is going to end, possibly taking with it every single image you’ve uploaded and certainly every link you’ve embedded into your posts.

  4. Just on the subject of images and travel blogs — users beware of linking their iPhoto library to their Flickr account, and then linking into their Flickr account from their blog or website.

    The synchronisation is essentially live, so if you delete a photo from your iPhoto library, it deletes it from Flickr, and it’s unable to display on your website. This could have serious ramifications if you use Flickr to back your images up.

    Just a friendly warning for your readers and the community as a whole.

    1. -Ant- Good points Ant, thanks for sharing here.

      -Michiel – BKK Photography- Welcome, and yes I use Zenfolio. An excellent dedicated service that can do so much more than just host photos. More on that and other services next week!

  5. Nice article. Indeed with more and more pictures it starts counting fast.

    I see you use Zenfolio as well, great service. A good dedicated photo hosting service that improved a lot lately.

  6. I never realized the way the bandwidth ramps up each time a different person comes to the site and looks at a photo. This might be something I need to address. Thank you.

    Any recommendations? I’m going to check out ZenFolio

    1. – craig | – Yep, so that’s around .004 MB per visitor? For 33k, 150GB per month is pretty good. Problem I was faced with was that I wanted to increase photo size. I looked down the road at hosting, and traveling, and just felt outsourcing the image hosting was the best option. Likewise for selling prints etc :)

      – Trans-Americas Journey – Thanks, and welcome! Glad this was of use to you. I think looking at other people, and how they did things can help a great deal rather than just listen to a sales pitch. Hence I am writing these now.

      I also use online backup companies for backups of my backups. I carry hard drives, but realize that it’s not the greatest solution for traveling. You’ll be glad to know I’ll be covering this in the follow up article to this one. And, online storage companies will be review in the follow up review! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Great post. I eagerly look forward to next weeks post and your review of hosting services. I currently self-host images for my site. As my host allows for unlimited bandwidth (theoretically), but who knows if I was lucky enough for the site to have some huge spikes, I have not really considered photo hosting as something I should be concerned about regarding bandwidth, but maybe I should.
    I have been considering a hosting service to back up my photos online. As we’ve been on the road for over 3 years and I have nealy 500GB of photos just from this trip, I am always looking at solutions of cloud hosting. Both Mozy & Carbonite completley screwed me and lost lots of data, with barely an oops, we’re sorry. I currently back up using google docs, but it’s not the most elegant interface, particularly for images. I’ve been thinking about Fliker Pro, but Zenfolio also looks interesting.
    Thanks for the info and I look forward to learning ore in the upcoming posts.

  8. @Dave: hehe… I think you missed a zero there… 133,120 megabytes / 33k = ~ 4MB per visitor. I’m currently offering full-resolution images, but I think that might change this year. I know there are numbers of visitors who use some of my imagery as desktop wallpapers, though won’t be sure just how many until the system is more granular.

    1. -craig | :) So I did! Okay, 4mb per visitor is pretty heavy., at least for me. Well, you could always try out photo hosting on a section, or a project of your site and see how it helps with your bandwidth. But then if you are okay with your host and consumption, then you’re on good ground!

  9. oo wow! great tips! i just started a travel blog, so i’m def looking around for travel blogging n photography advice.

    thanks lots!

  10. Most travelers who blog travel for finite periods of time — 2 weeks, 2 months, a gap year… but the longer you’re out there, the more blog entries you’re going to accumulate. And within each entry you’ll have hyperlinks to photos (including thumbnails)… and the permanence of those links are something you’re going to have to live with for the life of your blog.

    Will you, for the life of your blog, pay ZenFolio or Flickr to host your content? What happens when they raise their rates? What happens if your account becomes compromised or gets suspended? Risk mitigation is a part of this game, because if you end up getting a passive income from your site (in the form of AdSense or whatnot) you stand to lose income from that downtime or recurring investment.

    For most bloggers, this isn’t really an issue. If you’re running a Blogger blog or something off of you need not deal with the semantics of photo hosting — you’re already at the mercy of your platform provider and their forced updates. Then again, it’s easy and free and most people don’t do well with travel blogs anyways, or give them up after they return home from their trips.

    But if you’re in this for the long haul, I caution folks when they’re considering keeping part of their site hosted elsewhere. You’re going to have a loooong relationship with that entity, and you’d better be sure you’re ready to commit. Folks like Flickr have grown so large it’s unlikely they’ll pull the plug, but terms and conditions of use and plug-in compatibility is guaranteed to evolve over time.

    1. -craig | You certainly bring up some good points. Certainly when I switched over I weighed these things up as well. However having a dedicated photo host did help save my site last year. A lot depends on ones circumstances.

      For me, there are also secondary benefits of photo hosting such as backups, eCommerce and on the road speed. Who do I trust more, my web host, or a photo host that so far has a very personal approach? I don’t want a web host to back up my photos, it’s not their job. And, they state this. A photo hosts job is just this. Host, back up, eCommerce and much more.

      At this stage of my on the road travels, I’ve found dedicated photo hosting has sped up my photo processing. I spend less time uploading back ups, linking etc, and more time traveling. Something I value.

      When dealing with third party companies theres always a risk. Just like with web-hosting, feedburner, google search, e-mail lists, e.t.c,. We can only weigh everything up and make a calculated, informed decision and go for it!

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