Smartphone users take hundreds, if not thousands of photos every year, and many have relied on Google Photos to automatically upload and store their holiday snapshots for free. The service ceased to offer unlimited storage in 2021, meaning that users had to either fork over cash to Google or find another solution—either by moving to another provider or self-hosting.
Here are some of the best self-hosted Google Photos alternatives to create your own media server on Linux.
What Is Self-Hosting?
Self-hosting means running a web server that is physically located on your own premises. It can be as simple as a static website, or as complex as a managed array of streaming software, VPNs, office suites, and photo galleries. Self-hosting is a fun hobby and easy to get into. A good starter project is hosting your own WordPress site at home.
What You Need to Self-Host a Photo Backup and Storage Solution
The requirements are fairly basic, and for most of these projects, all you need is a reliable internet connection, a domain name, and a computer that can run Linux. A low-cost Raspberry Pi is perfect for this.
Another important prerequisite is a reliable media server to host your media files on, similar to Google Photos.
1. PiGallery 2
As the name suggests, PiGallery 2 was designed with the Raspberry Pi in mind—but you won’t need a Raspberry Pi to run it. Any Linux machine will do, and installation is simple with Docker with docker-compose—although if you like to get your hands dirty and are comfortable with Node.js and building npm packages from source, you can do a direct install.
The main selling points of PiGallery 2 are its simplicity and speed. All you need to do is point the software at the directory containing your images, and you’ll be able to access your photo library from a browser on any device.
Galleries are built automatically, with subdirectories acting as albums. All photos are searchable with full boolean logic and keywords including date, location, and subject. Performance is fantastic with photo collections of up to 100,000 images—so long as each gallery contains fewer than 5,000 individual photos.
PiGallery 2 does not come with any kind of synchronization software or mobile app, so you will need a way of getting photos from your phone onto the Pi (or whatever computer you are using). One way of doing this is to use SyncThing to sync your files across multiple devices.
2. Nextcloud Photos
Nextcloud is often the first thing that self-hosters will install on their server. It comes with apps for almost anything you can think of including office suites, music players, video conferencing, and, of course, a photo gallery.
With mobile clients available for both Android and iOS, photos are automatically uploaded to the server with no extra input from the user and can be easily viewed either in the mobile app, through a browser, or, thanks to WebDAV, through the file manager on your desktop computer.
When accessing Nextcloud Photos through a browser, photos are displayed on an infinitely scrolling page, with thumbnails created on the fly. This can be painfully slow.
Nextcloud, together with Nextcloud Photos, will run happily on most Raspberry Pi models. If you don’t already have it, read our guide on how to build your own cloud server with Nextcloud.
PhotoPrism is an incredibly competent image gallery, and you can install it using Docker and docker-compose.
By employing Google’s TensorFlow library, PhotoPrism is able to tag and categorize images as soon as they appear on your server, create instant albums, and even recognize the faces of the people in your photographs. Image tagging and machine learning is carried out on your server and no data is ever transmitted to Google. If that doesn’t satisfy your need for privacy, you can easily turn off the machine learning features by editing the docker-compose.
PhotoPrism’s search function is impressive, offering drop-down filters for dates, locations, people, camera models, and even the dominant color in an image.
Another great feature is the map. PhotoPrism extracts location data from the metadata of each image (when available) and will place thumbnails of each, at the place it was taken—creating a thumb tack map of the world!
PhotoPrism is still in development, with new features being added on a regular basis. Currently, it supports only one user account, and there is no automatic synchronization or mobile app. The developers recommend using the PhotoSync mobile app to upload and view images.
Piwigo exists as both a paid service—complete with support and storage, with plans starting from $45 per month, and as a free, self-hosted version that you can run on your own hardware at home.
Installation is as simple as downloading a zipped file to your server’s DocumentRoot, unzipping it, and filling in database details in a browser.
You can upload photos using a web browser and manage them by manually adding them to albums, tagging, and moving them. You can add keywords to help with the search, and perform operations on multiple files in batches.
By default, Piwigo will not display a photo at fullscreen resolution as it reserves an area of the display for information such as file name, size, album information, and tags.
You Can Now Host Your Own Google Photos Alternative at Home!
Photography is a great hobby for which almost everyone has the equipment. Make yourself stand out from other amateur photographers by mastering the composition, lighting, and processing of your images.