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Hotlinking Photo Host Choices


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Hotlinking Photo Host Choices


Being a photo host is quite a precarious existence, many have failed in the last few years, taking people's precious photo links with them, so it's worth taking time to choose one that will last the course and not leave you in the lurch at some future date. Not all photo hosts are suitable as many are not happy for you to hotlink (direct link) content to other sites, which is what we need for this site.


If you choose to go with a free host please bear in mind that hosting photos uses a LOT of storage and bandwidth, which is far from cheap, so the company in question is likely to want to recoup that cost in some way either by adverts or eventually charging its members, as PhotoBucket famously did a few years ago when they upset virtually all their users with a huge annual fee.


In the list below, if I haven't mentioned the fee, it's free as far as I can tell. Prices quoted are from November 2019, and will usually only change in an upward direction.

Please note: The list in no particular order – being first doesn’t mean it's better, I recommend you read the whole list before you make any decision.


Flickr (now owned by SmugMug)



It isn't easy keeping up with or making sense of Flickr's pricing, so please check yourself. I believe these prices are correct as of Jan 21 2020, but as Smugmug have said that Flickr is running at a loss, I wouldn't be surprised if the prices will eventually match those of Smugmug. There doesn't seem to be a 'one price fits all counties' policy so I've shown the fee for Britain, although some British users are charged the US price (charging their credit card in dollars at the current exchange rate).


It is currently possible to host 1000 photos free, but as they are now owned by Smugmug (who scrapped their own free account option) this may not last forever.

The Annual account fee is £55.92 per year (£4.66 per month billed annually).

The Monthly account fee is £6.49.


*** I'm really not sure what I should show the price as. It appears that some British members are being charged the sterling equivalent of $49.99, and some are being charged £47.88. If someone knows what's going on, please let me know. ***


Flickr does allow hotlinking with one caveat:

Flickr makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to other web sites. Pages on other web sites that display content hosted on flickr.com must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr. This provides a way to get more information about the content and the photographer.”

Flickr Terms and conditions are particularly long and written in very dull legalese :tired:, but these are the items that jumped out at me:

'You authorize SmugMug to collect, use, disclose and otherwise process information about you as set forth in our Privacy Policy.' When I read though the privacy policy, the data they collect is pretty much everything they can. Living in the UK or the EU you can contact them to opt out of data collecting, but good luck with that.


They state that although you retain the ownership of your photos 'by uploading and/or posting any User Content to the Services, you request, and grant SmugMug a perpetual, nonexclusive and royalty-free right to use the User Content'.

Currently Flickr allows 1000 free uploads, but as they are now owned by Smugmug (who scrapped their own free account option) this may not last forever. Click here for information on 'how to use Flickr'





The basic fee is $37.99 per year (currently £29.26) or $3.99 per month (£3.07)


The paid for accounts mention that direct linking is one of the features, but the T&C say “Changing hotlinking/embed codes is strictly prohibited. Free ImageShack accounts are not allowed to link to direct links. Circumventing ImageShacks ability to enforces it's policies on free accounts and changing linking codes may result in deletion of your content and/or account.” I assume that this is specifically aimed at free accounts only, that's why I haven't mentioned the free account as an option.





The basic fee is $48 per year (currently £36.97) or $5.99 per month (£4.61)


I assume that this site allows hotlinking, but I haven't been able to find anything which clearly states that they do. It does mention that it's possible to “Embed photos and videos on other websites”, to be honest, I'm not sure that's the same as hotlinking, but it sounds like it is. Other members have said they use Smugmug without any problems, so if your happy to pay for a host, this looks like a possibility.




The basic fee is £21.75 per year but the maximum storage space is only 5 GB – for some that may not be enough and the next upgrade is to the 'Standard' fee of £39.75. It is possible to have a free “Guest” account but the total storage is only 250 MB or 100 uploads.


IMPORTANT: The address bar shows that the site is 'Not secure'.

This site is like a smaller version of Flickr – intended more to show off your photos than as a host. It started in 2005 but was taken over and run by it's members in 2017.


  • It's owned by its fee paying members, so it's unlikely to do a PhotoBucket and raise the fee to an astronomical level.


  • I've read the terms and conditions and I'm still not sure if it allows holinking. The T&C have been translated from French and the wording is a little obscure in places.





This is free to use and has been around for a while (started Jan 2010). I couldn't find anything in the terms and conditions about hotlinking but I've tried it – it does work.


  • It's a bit of a pain to use, you can only upload one photo at a time and although it was easy to hotlink, it was quite long winded process.
  • Every time I go on, I get sidetracked and loose half a day.


  • Free
  • Allowed to store 200,000 photos.





Imgur is now more of a social media site than a photo host, having originated as the photo hosting arm of reddit. Their rules on hotlinking seem to be quite vague. One site mentioned that Imgur states “While you may hotlink to images uploaded to Imgur, the service's Terms of Service forbid you explicitly from doing so” but I couldn't find that in the TOS. There are quite a few people mentioning that links are liable to break, but one of the BM members has been using Imgur for two years without problems.


Microsoft OneDrive


The free plan allows up to 5GB which should be enough for most people.

If you need more space and are willing to pay, the 100GB plan currently costs $1.99 per month (£1.54).


To use OneDrive:

  1. Navigate to the folder where you keep your pictures.
  2. Click on the 'select' button in the top right corner of picture you want to link. It should get a tick.
  3. Select 'Embed' from the menu at the top of the OneDrive Window. Depending on your screen size and the size of the browser window you are using, it might be hiding under the '...' menu option.
  4. A window will pop out on the right hand side. Choose the size you want (I recommend 1024px).
  5. A complicated URL string will appear in the box under the 'Image Size' selector. It will probably already have the URL highlighted, but if it doesn't just select it all.
  6. Copy it (Right-click gives you a short cut menu).
  7. Paste the URL into your BritModeller post. All things being equal, it should magically convert itself into a picture a few milliseconds later.

(Thanks to @Chaotic Mike for that method).

Please Note: @Sparkie has pointed out that if you have (or thinking of getting) 'Microsoft Office 365 Home (6 users version)', in addition there is 1TB Onedrive storage for each of the six users included in the price. The official price is currently £79.99 per year, but at the moment it's £59.99 on Amazon. Please check before you buy, but some of these packages also include McAfee or Kaspersky virus protection. The single user 'Office 365 Personal' also offers 1TB Onedrive space and is slightly cheaper. Click here for more info on Office product features.




Please Note: The address bar of VP shows that the site is 'Not secure'. Although some major companies use this service, so they must be okay with that.


The fee for an individual (as opposed to a company) is €39 per year (currently £33.05) This allows unlimited storage.

There is also options to pay for more than one year at a time, the 3 year option brings the annual price down to £26.55. This is a link to the pricing options – just click on 'Individual' rather than 'Enterprise'.



Thanks to @JeroenS for letting me know about this one. It's an open source photo host and has been around since 2002. There are two possible ways of using Piwigo:


  • you can have a (paid) account for them to host your photos as with other photo hosts.
  • Or you can download their software and install it on your own (hosted) server (providing your host allows enough space and bandwidth and allows running PHP and a mySQL database). You would basically be running your own local copy of Piwigo on a hosted webserver.




The basic fee is $5.99 per month (£4.61) for up to 2,500 images (25MB)


Photobucket aren't particularly well thought of after they held their members photos to ransom in 2017 and demanded $399 per year. I've read that with the basic option, they will deface hosted photos with a huge watermark that hides one tenth of your photo (if you know this incorrect please let me know). They have also started to blur hosted photos if the user exceeds there allocated bandwidth. Personally, I wouldn't trust them to host a coffee morning.


Free Image Hosting.net



This is what is says about hotlinking “Yes, we allow "direct linking" (also referred to as "hot linking"). You are allowed to embed the images we host into your personal website. Please use the thumbnail codes for large images. Images hotlinked in popular websites may be deleted if the bandwidth usage is extreme.





Hotlinking appears to be allowed and it's free to use, but I've found some very poor reviews and there are several stories about users images disappearing without warning – I don't know if this is true.





This has been running for seven years so far and offers:

  • Hotlinking
  • Unlimited storage space & unlimited storage time
  • They also mention “Please note: No personal information will be sold to any third parties.”

How do they make money then? I didn't see any advertising (I run an ad blocker) so I don't know if there is any on the site.






There are several levels of membership – I'll just show those that are likely to be of interest to members of this site:


  • Upload Size Limit: 4MB
  • Storage: 1000 images
  • Images Expire: After 730 days (2 years) of not being viewed
  • Max. Images Views: Unlimited
  • Watermark: Yes

BASIC £2.99/month

  • Same as 'FREE' plus;
  • Upload Size Limit: 4MB
  • Storage: 2000 images
  • Images Expire: Never
  • Watermark: No

For more information on these accounts and two other accounts, please click here.


This host allows hotlinking and appears to be tailor made for us, but it feels a bit amateurish. That's probably because it's run single handedly (you could argue that money isn't wasted on tarting up the design). It was started very recently by a modeller who is also a Britmodeller member (SteveR), because he was experiencing exactly the same problem of finding a host. It is a very new site – I believe it was started this summer (2019). If you would like to read what Steve said about his site, click here.


Their 'Pivacy Policy' states “We don’t share any personally identifying information publicly or with third-parties, except when required to by law.





If you only ever post work in progress or photos of your completed builds, Scalemates is a possible option. I usually hotlink from Scalemates, but only for my completed build pictures. I don't feel that this is taking advantage of the site because I only ever link to photos that I would have put on SM anyway.


Google Photos

https://www.google.com/photos/ (Free to use, but you will need a Google account).

From personal experience, Google Photo (GP) hotlinks eventually break. One BM member has found there is a way of making the links more secure using a work-around method, although it does involve a few additional steps.

  • On Google Photos, open the photo you want to use and click the 'Share' icon.
  • Click 'Create Link' and then 'Copy'.
  • Go to https://ctrlq.org/google/photos/  paste the GP link into the first box and press 'Generate Code'.
  • After a couple of seconds it will show the new code – copy the contents of the the 'Direct Link (URL)' box.
  • You just need to paste that new code into your post.

If you use a lot of photos this may be too much of a hassle to have to do for every photo, but obviously, only you can decide if you want an easier option.


Other possible alternatives:


Google Blogger



During my search I found this:  “Blogger -- Google's blog platform is just a quick sign up away. You can set up a new blog there using your Google account, and may upload the photos that you plan to display elsewhere on the Internet to it. It may not be the most straightforward way of doing this, but it has worked reliably for users for years. Other blogging platforms may allow this as well.”


One downside to this is that is goes on to say:  “Google Photos works as well”, but I now know that the links can break without warning. I have no idea if links from Blogger will be any more secure. @FalkeEins has said that he has been using this method for ten years or so and there have been no issues with his links.


After doing quite a bit of Googlising I only found positive things about using Blogger as a host. Setting up a blog is very simple: https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/1623800?hl=en


I found this 'how to' for using Blogger to host images: http://googleimageblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-to-host-images-on-blogger-blogs.html


Renting space on a server.

Using a photo host is basically storing your photos on their server, although you may need to have more than basic technical knowledge, it's possible to rent space on any server to do the same thing. There are too many possibilities for me to start listing them, but @Mike has mentioned:  https://www.fasthosts.co.uk/web-hosting

Prices will vary considerably, but if you choose to have a look at Fasthost, remember to swap the pricing to include VAT (on the top bar).


NOT suitable as a photo host


  • Instagram (Instagram image links are designed to expire and renew after a while. It is to prevent hotlinking to their images in external websites). Please note: There is a tool which claims that it will make Instagram links secure in a similar way as I've described above with Google Photos. I haven’t test it so I can't guarantee it works.
  • Facebook (Facebook image links are designed to expire and renew after a while. It is to prevent hotlinking to their images in external websites).
  • Google Photos (Unless you 'process' the links into something more secure as described above, from my experience the links eventually break)
  • Amazon Photo (apparently it is possible to hotlink, but the tutorial I found had about thirty stages so not very practical).



I decided to use Blogger as I feel like it's giving me more control somehow. I am concerned that Google may splat the links as they did in Google Photos, but any of the free hosts I've mentioned may either go out of business or start charging – no one knows, so I think it's worth the risk. I'm not really in the position to pay for a host at the moment and of course, the biggest problem of paying for a host, is that once you start, you have to continue to pay every year or say bye-bye to all your links forever. And prices are only ever likely to increase.


There are dozens of other photo hosts that I haven't mentioned, but that's part of the problem – too many are chasing too little advertising revenue. When TinyPic shut down down its image hosting service, it said “we can no longer support a free service that derives 100% of its revenue from ever declining on-site ad revenues”. So be careful if you choose a free host, as there is likely to be plenty more free sites going belly-up in the near future.


Please let me know if there are any other significant ones that I've missed, and if you think that any that I've mentioned have problems (with either using them, or if they are in financial difficulty). Also if there is anything I've said above that is clearly rubbish – let me know.


I'd be interested to hear your views. If you recommend a particular host, what makes it different to all the other hosts to make you choose it and why do you think it will survive when many aren't?


Thanks for having a look.


Please Note:

The services, prices and the terms & conditions of the sites I've mentioned above, change constantly. Before you sign up for any of them, please take the time to review the information yourself.


I would advise you to ALWAYS keep you're photos on your own device and do regular backups. If you entrust you're photos entirely to a photo host, you could end up loosing the lot.


Please remember, if you delete the photo from the host, it will also disappear from the forums it is posted on as well.


The above information is to help you chose a suitable photo host, please don't blame me or Britmodeller if your choice turns out to be the wrong one.


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Thanks, Gorby. I use Smugmug and there is no issue with embedding/hotlinking pictures. You can size the image yourself, or choose from a variety of ready-made smaller sizes. Embedding is as easy as copy/pasting a URL from Smugmug into your post on BM.




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I've been using imageshack for a couple years or more now.  I don;t mind paying for it either its not really a lot. But have only paid £($) 18.99 !! That is until I retire... Never had any major issues and quite easy to use.

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4 minutes ago, bhouse said:

Any chance of pinning it, @Mike?

It's the FAQ section, so if we pinned everything nothing is effectively pinned. :blink:  If you want to refer back to it, just head over to the FAQ section or put it as a bookmark :)

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40 minutes ago, bhouse said:

That must have taken you quite a while but I'm sure all members will agree it was a generous and worthwhile investment.

After my Google Photo experiment went belly up, I put a week aside to try and make the best and most informed decision that I could in order to find a new host. It did take me the full week, but in the process the document I did for myself (my memory isn't great, and writing it all down helps) I thought may be useful to others in a similar position – it just needed tarting up a bit.


I lost eight months of links but fortunately there were only three WIP that I needed to update with new links. For my RFI photos I usually use Scalemates as the host.


I hope the info is as useful to others as it was to me.

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Very useful, thanks @Gorby  for taking the time to compile this. I'm currently using Imgur with no problems as yet. Odd that they should forbid hot linking whilst at the same time offering the facility to bulk-generate bbcode strings for any number of images! Ah well, I'll continue to use it until they catch up with me then worry about it :)


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.. satisfied google blogger for the past 10 years or so..never really given much thought to the fact that I could lose my pics. Anyway, its child’s play to upload your pics, google give you the link automatically, but you’ll have to go and find it yourself in the page HTML so a bit of basic code knowledge might be required..

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Thanks, Gorby!


Since the Photobucket fiasco, I've been using Flickr. It works great ( it would be even better if BM let me use the EMBED option, like it used to ). I did go for the paid plan after I hit 1000 images, but the cost isn't expensive. I did briefly use Village.Photos as I was having an issue with Windows Explorer. When I switched over to Chrome, it works great bow. I have also switched my BM account to Chrome, for the same reason.





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8 hours ago, FalkeEins said:

satisfied google blogger for the past 10 years or so.

Now that's fantastic news! After my Google Photo debacle I was a bit wary of Blogger, so thanks for letting me know that all is well with yours after a decade.

To copy the link I've just been right-clicking on the photo and pasting it wherever so I haven't needed to learn any code, which is just as well as I've had enough of learning code.


Thanks everyone for taking the time to read through this lot and comment.

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7 hours ago, Gorby said:


To copy the link I've just been right-clicking on the photo and pasting it wherever so I haven't needed to learn any code


..yep, that works well..- been using it all this time the 'hard' way. 

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Thanks for mentioning my site @Gorby



The info in the OP is now very out of date, please check out the site https://hobbyphotohost.com for more info, subscription details can be found https://hobbyphotohost.com/upgrade


I designed HobbyPhotoHost to be as easy as possible to share photos and designed it specifically for use with BritModeller, but does also have lots of other sharing options, like direct links, email, BBcode etc.


I have over 25 years experience in software development and web development and I developed the whole service by myself, from scratch. Over the years HobbyPhotoHost has proven itself to be easy, fast and reliable, plus you get a personal service and direct contact with the developer/owner, me :) and I'm always open to suggestions.



Edited by SteveR
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13 minutes ago, SteveR said:

Thanks for mentioning my site

Excellent, I'm glad you're here to join the discussion Steve.

If it's possible to make images private that would explain why I couldn't find more photos on your site.

If you let me know what the subscription fee is, I could update the information in the main post. 

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Thanks @Gorby

The info in the OP is now (2024) very, very out of date. please check out the site https://hobbyphotohost.com for more info, membership details can be found https://hobbyphotohost.com/upgrade


HobbyPhotoHost has always focused on making it as easy as possible to share photos, and was designed specifically for use with BritModeller, with Britmodeller dedicated 'share options' and sharing photos with a single click, it also has lots of other sharing options, like direct links, email, BBcode etc.


I have over 25 years experience in software development and web development. I developed the whole service by myself, from scratch. Over the years HobbyPhotoHost has proven itself to be easy, fast and reliable, plus you get a personal service and direct contact with the developer/owner, which is something you will not get with any other host, and I'm always open to suggestions.







Edited by SteveR
Noted original thread post by Gorby is now very outdated and contains incorrect information.
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  • Julien pinned this topic
On 11/11/2019 at 11:02 AM, Gorby said:

There are quite a few people mentioning that links are liable to break, but I don't have any evidence if this is correct.

Ive been using Imgur for two years with no issues yet. I don't think I'm shy at the numbers of photo’s I've uploaded either. 


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9 hours ago, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

Ive been using Imgur for two years with no issues yet.

Thanks for letting me know Dennis. I've updated the main post.

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  • Mike unpinned this topic

I can confirm that smugmug allows hotlinking. I use smugmug - switched there after the photochuckit debacle. I have been very satisfied with smugmug, and all my photos are hotlinked from there. 👍

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Thanks for the research and compilation @Gorby. Regarding Google Photos, that's what I've been using, but embedding images in an alternate way. Did you link directly to the image from within Google Photos? There is this website that will parse out the embedding url for the image, https://ctrlq.org/google/photos/. It is a little bit of work in that you have to run each image you want to upload through this site to generate the image URL, but I'm going to be using this until it screws up on me - like you said any other free option could break or shutdown services for any reason, and I like the ease of the Google albums, and that it's one less account for me to worry about.


Just a note if anyone else tries this route - the very end of the embedding link will be ".... w2400". The 2400 represents pixel width of the image. I change this to something more suitable, 880 (which is what I generate my images files at). 


Also worth mentioning about Google Photos in general: by default photos uploaded to Google Photos are downsized. The way they do it really degrades the quality. I actually just found this out yesterday when I some of my photos were showing some really bad artifacting. After some investigation, there is a setting to keep your uploaded photos in their original quality, but they count against your 15GB data cap (if you keep the "let Google downsize my photo" option, you get unlimited photo storage). I optimize my photos to a reasonable quality/file size from Lightroom, so I can control it instead of letting Google do it. And 15GB... it'll take a whole lot of 125kb photos to reach that.  


If this system ever breaks I'll come back in and post an update. 

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Thanks for your reply @Shin. I started using Google Photos as a host as a sort of experiment to start with. I was told that it wasn't suitable as a host and I wanted to find out why. It took eight months for the links to fail and by that point I'd forgotten that it was an experiment and was using it as a full blown host. Yes I was just linking directly from Google Photos as I've never heard of the option you use. Could you please tell me how long you have been using Ctrlq.org for your photos? I notice that they also do something similar for 'Instagram'.

It definitely sounds like and option that would be worth including in the photo host information, so thanks for taking the time to let us know about it.


Just testing this method:


Edited by Gorby
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