10 open source alternatives to Google Photos

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Do you feel like you're drowning in digital photos? Sometimes it seems your phone gets filled up with selfies and snapshots all on its own, and yet picking the best shot and keeping your photos organized is never quite as automatic. It takes time to sort through the memories you create, but it's an important task because an organized photo library is an inviting photo library. While your phone OS probably has a service for storing and sorting through photos, there's a fair share of privacy issues around willfully giving copies of pictures of your life, friends, children, and activities to a corporation (for free, no less). Luckily, there are plenty of open source alternatives that provide control over who can see your photos, and there are open source tools to help you find and enhance the very best of all your favorite photos.

Nextcloud

Nextcloud is far more than a photo hosting application, but its photo management stands out thanks to phone apps you can use for opt-in synchronization. Instead of sending your pictures to Google Photos or Apple cloud storage, you can send them to your own Nextcloud install.

Nextcloud is surprisingly easy to set up on your own server, and it has robust controls so you can select who on the Internet can reach your photo albums. You can also purchase a Nextcould hosting service, which on one hand may not seem any different from giving your photos over to Google or Apple, but there's a significant difference: Nextcloud storage is demonstrably encrypted, with source code to prove it.

Piwigo

Piwigo is an open source photo gallery program written in PHP with a large community of users and developers, featuring a number of customizable features, themes, and a pluggable interface. It has over 17 years of history, which is more than can be said of the comparatively recent cloud solutions that most mobile phones default to now. Piwigo has a mobile app, too, so you can sync straight from your phone.

Photo viewers

Storing your photos is only half the battle. Making sense of them is the other half, and for that you need a good set of open source tools. The best tool for the job depends largely upon what you actually need. Nearly everyone's an amateur photographer even if they don't think of themselves that way, and then there are those who make a living off photography. There's something for everyone, though, and at the bare minimum you need a pleasant and efficient way to view your photo library.

Nextcloud and Piwigo happen to both have excellent viewers built in, but some users prefer to browse their collections with a dedicated desktop tool rather than a web browser. A well-designed desktop viewer is a great to quickly flip through multiple images without loading times or even an Internet connection at all.

  • Eye of GNOME, the built-in image viewer with many Linux distributions, does a fine job with displaying images in most common formats.
  • ImageGlass is another open source basic image viewer, which, while simple, benefits from the speed that comes with being so lightweight, and is a good choice for Windows users.
  • PhotoQt is a Qt-based image viewer for Windows or Linux which is designed to be fast and flexible with thumbnail caching, mouse and keyboard shortcuts, and support of many formats.

Photo organizers

A major function of Google Photos and similar services is the ability to organize photos by metedata. Once you’ve got a few hundred photos in your collection, a flat structure just doesn’t cut it; after a few thousand, it’s simply impossible. Of course, just because photo organizers use metadata to organize your pictures doesn't mean they always make sense, so having a good organizer that lets you edit metadata is invaluable. Here are a few open source tools for organizing your photos through automation, with just the right number of knobs and switches so you can step in to sort them the way you want them organized.

  • Shotwell is an image organizer which you'll find as the default in many GNOME-based distributions. It contains basic editing features like cropping, red eye reduction, and adjusting color levels, in addition to automatic organizing including grouping by date and tagging features.
  • Gwenview is an image organizer from KDE. With it, you can view directories of photos, rank them, delete the ones you don't need, and do basic operations such as resizing, cropping, rotation, and red eye reduction.
  • DigiKam is an image organizer that is a part of the KDE family, supports hundreds of different file formats, has multiple different collection organization methods, and supports user plug-ins to extend its functionality. Of the open source image organizers listed here, it's probably the easiest to get working for Windows in addition to its native Linux packaging.
  • Lightzone is a free and open source software for high-end photo editing and management. It's a Java application, so it's available on any platform that runs Java (Linux, MacOS, Windows, BSD, and others).
  • Darktable is a photo studio, digital darkroom, and photo manager all in one application. You can tether your camera directly to it, or sync your photos to it, rank the ones you like best, sweeten your photos with dynamic adjustment filters, and export them for final delivery. This is considered a professional level application, so it may be overkill for the hobbyist, but if you like to ponder over apertures and shutter speeds or debate over the quality of Tri-X grain, Darktable is what you're looking for.

So how about you? Are you a current or former Google Photos user, looking for a new option to manage your photos? Or have you already moved on to something newer, and preferably, open? These certainly aren't all the options out there, so which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.

Jason Baker
Former Red Hatter. Now a consultant and aspiring entrepreneur. Map nerd, maker, and enthusiastic installer of open source desktop and self-hosted software.
Seth Kenlon
Seth Kenlon is a UNIX geek, free culture advocate, independent multimedia artist, and D&D nerd. He has worked in the film and computing industry, often at the same time. He is one of the maintainers of the Slackware-based multimedia production project Slackermedia.

35 Comments

Good article and you're making me think again about how ot move my photos from Flickr to another platform. I'm just using ImageViewer on Gnome currently but I've seen Shotwell and I'll have to check out these others.

Fotoxx

An image organizer and photo editor. Install Hugin and Fotoxx does easy vertical and horizontal Panorama production and image stacking as well.

I actually use a combination of Shotwell and ownCloud. Shotwell nicely sorts photos into date-based directories which I store in an ownCloud sync directory. ownCloud has a built-in image viewer which means you can then view the photos via the web interface from anywhere.

You're missing the whole suite of simple edits that can be made from within Picasa: contrast, color balance, lighting, rotate, crop, sharpen, and other simple effects.

Do any of the tools mentioned provide a reasonably complete replacement for all of Picasa's features?

+1 (hundred!)

Almost all of the features in Picasa I can find somewhere else. However the two reasons I use Picasa are the collection of functionality that most apps get at best 75% of, but primarily the "edit for idiots" features are missing or underpowered in other apps- auto color balancing (I don't know how to do myself and attempts to learn usually leave portraits looking like oompah loompahs), quick red-eye fix, quick blemish fix, etc.

iPhoto is the only app I've found comparible in such features, and ideally I need a MS Windows available app. If Picasa dropped or neutered the edit functions I'd have moved to a different app already, that's it's true appeal.

That it does great at organization, is multi platform, and publishes to one of the few decent usable web gallery services is bonus. Sucks I'll have to find a new gallery provider with a simple usable interface (most are bloated or confusing UIs for simple browsing, lack privacy controls, or are missing obvious basic functions).. But push come to shove I can always go classic html on my own if needed.

Any multi platform options or easy to use retouch options to explore???

In reply to by Jeff McWilliams (not verified)

Anything for OSX? I've had a falling out with iPhoto. Just started using Picasa and like it.

Have you tried Preview.app? It's part of your default OSX installation and should be found in the Applications Directory.

You can open entire folders in a slideshow view, plus all the editing features that Picassa has are also available. Broad export capabilities as well (to change format, image size, compress to a specific file size for uploading to webpages and forums, etc).

In reply to by Ed Null (not verified)

Preview.app is not open source, as far as I know :-)

A few of the projects in the comments, like Lightzone, do have OS X versions.

In reply to by GN (not verified)

Digikam installs on OS X. I am in the process of migrating from Picasa to Digikam on an older macbook pro running OS 10.9.5

In reply to by Ed Null (not verified)

LightZone is professional-level digital darkroom software for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, that includes RAW processing and editing. Rather than using layers in the way that other photo editors do, LightZone lets the user build up a stack of tools which can be rearranged, readjusted, turned off and on, and removed from the stack. It was closed source, but is now available as open source. http://lightzoneproject.org/

Also Camera Life github.com/fulldecent/cameralife

A helpful article but it should have included a mention of the too oftern overlooked Geeqie which has a lot more features than the basic EyeOfGnome (eog) or EyeOfMate (eom)

It has a function to search for similar looking images which usually provides some very good matches, some basic image processing, support many image formats, as well as integration with Gimp and other image editing software.

You've also missed the best of all the ones that I've tried: http://rawtherapee.com/
It's FOSS and really impressive.

I use Picasa on both Windows 7 and OS X (10.10) because it manages my fairly large (> 40,000) photo collection the way I prefer - leaves them in place, does facial recognition, and allows easy simple modification. I will continue to use it as long as I can. Since I only use it as a local editor, I am not interested in using any cloud-based system.

The 2 features I want in a replacement for Picasa are:
1) I love that Picasa keeps your original photos and just stores the changes (crop, rotate, colour change etc) as a series of steps in a secondary file. This changes are just reapplied each time your view your photo and the original is untouched.
2) Uploading to Google Photos. I like how this hooks into my Google account and I already have paid storage. I note Google don't provide a Linux uploader (it's Mac and Windows only) and the Web uploader is a bit hit and miss for large albums.

Can anyone recommend something from either this collection of software or elsewhere.

Which of the alternatives can import the tags from an existing collection of photos in Picasa? Needing to keep those tags is the only thing that has kept me using this program (under wine)

Digikam on os x imported my picasa tags just fine

In reply to by David Hembrow (not verified)

Google tells me that current users will be able to continue to use Picasa but they will accept no new users.

Picasa as a desktop app is not going to stop magically, you just have to backup the installer (or someone will host it).

Picasa Webalbums is going to be set _read only_. So your data isn't going anywhere but you can't add or change anything.
Google has yet to give any word about a proper replacement or plan for the Picasa Webalbums. I'm kinda pissed of that as a paying user the service just drops but that happens sometimes.

Through Google Takeout you can download all your photos in one big zip file to take it somewhere else. All tags and metadata is in text files with it, but I doubt all programs will import or read this without issues. The data isn't gone and readable that's at least something

In reply to by Tom Jackson (not verified)

Nice article, but does any of the organiser have face recognition ? That's the one feature I can't do without

Gallery Server is a good choice if you don't mind installing it on your own web server. https://galleryserverpro.com

Gallery Server is Windows-only and leverages other Microsoft products. :(

In reply to by Roger (not verified)

ZenPhoto is a great web gallary

xnview is freeware (just saying) and some people also like irfanview. Both are great, though freeware.
getPaint.net has some more advanced features than picasa editor, but it works as a photoshop light sort of thing. It's open source by the University of Washington + microsoft ;)
Digicam seems a great, better in terms of pro features option.
Still, unfortunately, I feel picasa hasn't yet met its match.

I currently use Shotwell, which does alright. DigiKam included some nice features but most of what I am using it for is to collect digital photos and move the files around, not so much for editing.

The only missing piece I've found is that Google doesn't provide Google Photo Backup for Linux (and after waiting for Google Drive for Linux, I'm not holding my breath even if Google "promises" one ... I can only believe it when I see it).

Shotwell has the ability to "Publish" to Picasaweb, which ends up in Google Photo but it can modify the size (L&W) while the latest iteration of Google Photo make it free for 16MP or less, not by the length & width. So I don't know if I am taking advantage of this free space when I publish from Shotwell. I'm also not sure about digiKam, as I haven't used it in a while.

I am using Picasa for 2 year but your article is very helpful.
I am trying Piwigo now, it seems very good.
Thank you

The facial recognition is the special sauce that makes me use Picasa, although the simple touch up tools and nondestructive edits are great too.

Does anybody else do facial recog?

My mother does. And she also used the easy to use correction tools.
She also uses the Gift CD function.

Picasa is very easy to use. I haven't found anything similar yet.

In reply to by furicle (not verified)

Loved picassa (most of the time) Googles replacement offering not much help as it is the photo editing (idiot proof) sorting and storeage I use. Cannot always get good enough on line connection for uploading photos (use memory stick) as travelling around so web storeage not much help. Very sad lost Picassa when I wiped hard drive as last ditch attemp to deal with viruses. Have not found anything as simple to use as Picassa and because I am limited on downloads cannot keep trying diferent ones

Facial recognition is what I use most plus the ability to sort the fotos on date and select them with a star.
Also nice is the ability to create a face-movie and foto-collage.
I now have 20.000 fotos scanned for facial regognition with 60 different persons.
I have my own system for storage and backup so I don't want to use cloud storage or backup.
Which program has the same functionalit as Picasa and is able to read the Picasa-files so I don't have to repeat the face-recognition?

Hey! I've only just found out about the change. I
would happily pay an annual fee to keep Picasa with all its present functions. It is too much for my 60+brain to cope with the change. I am a very keen amateur photographer

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