Smartphone users take hundreds, if not thousands, of photos every year, and many rely on Google Photos to automatically upload and save their vacation snaps for free. The service stopped offering unlimited storage in 2021, meaning users had to either transfer 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 property. It can be as simple as a static website, or as complex as a curated suite 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 host a photo backup and storage solution yourself
The requirements are quite simple and for most of these projects all you need is a reliable internet connection, a domain name and a computer running Linux. A cheap Raspberry Pi is perfect for this.
Another important requirement 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 don’t need a Raspberry Pi to use it. Any Linux machine will do, and installation is easy with Docker with docker-compose – although if you want to get your hands dirty and be comfortable with Node.js and building npm packages from source, you can do a direct install can do.
The main selling points of PiGallery 2 are its simplicity and speed. All you have to do is point the software to the folder containing your images, and you can access your photo library from a browser on any device.
Galleries are built automatically, with subfolders 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, as long as each gallery contains less than 5,000 individual photos.
PiGallery 2 doesn’t come with any sort of sync software or mobile app, so you’ll need a way to get photos from your phone to the Pi (or whatever computer you’re using). One way to do this is to use SyncThing to sync your files across multiple devices.
2. Nextcloud Photos
Nextcloud is often the first thing self-hosters 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 additional user input and can be easily viewed in the mobile app, via a browser or, thanks to WebDAV, via the file manager on your desktop computer .
When you access Nextcloud photos via a browser, photos are displayed on an infinitely scrolling page, with thumbnails taken instantly. This can be painfully slow.
Nextcloud, along with Nextcloud Photos, will run smoothly 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.
3. Photo prism
PhotoPrism is an incredibly competent image gallery and you can install it using Docker and docker-compose.
Using Google’s TensorFlow library, PhotoPrism can tag and categorize images as they appear on your server, instantly create albums, and even recognize the faces of the people in your photos. Image tagging and machine learning are performed on your server and data is never sent to Google. If that doesn’t satisfy your need for privacy, you can easily disable the machine learning features by editing the docker compose.
PhotoPrism’s search feature 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 information from each image’s metadata (if available) and places thumbnails of each image where it was taken, creating a thumbnail map of the world!
PhotoPrism is still under development and new features are added regularly. Currently it only supports one user account and there is no automatic sync 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 subscriptions starting at $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 compressed file to your server’s DocumentRoot, extracting it, and populating database information in a browser.
You can upload photos using a web browser and manage them by manually adding, tagging and moving them to albums. You can add keywords to help search and batch edit multiple files.
By default, Piwigo will not display a photo in full screen, as it reserves an area of the screen for information such as file name, size, album information, and tags.
You can now host your own alternative to Google Photos at home!
Photography is a great hobby that almost everyone has the equipment for. Set yourself apart from other amateur photographers by mastering the composition, lighting and processing of your images.