The blue screen of death stared back at me as I froze in horror. Apparently, my laptop wasn’t very happy with me.
I crossed everything I could think of as I rebooted and prayed I’d be able to restart. My laptop contained all of my precious photos from the first few months of my daughter’s life.
In my new mother haze, I hadn’t backed anything up yet. It was on my “to do” list, after “take a shower”, and “take a nap.”
The second I saw that beautiful login screen, I grabbed my external hard drive and backed up all my photos, thankful they had been saved. I have everything running on autopilot these days so that never happens again.
When it comes to backing up digital photos, there are so many options out there. It can quickly get confusing, especially if you aren’t comfortable with technology.
In a digital age, digital photos are everything and it’s understandable to do everything in your power to make sure you don’t lose them somewhere along the way.
Do you ever wonder how it would feel to know that you have your photos stored somewhere safe? If you follow these steps, you’ll know that feeling soon!
This post is going to walk you through various types of digital photo backup storage so you can make the best decision for your family. You can’t store your photos on your memory cards forever!
To start, we’re going to learn some digital photography basics.
Do you have a fancy DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex camera)? These digital cameras have come down in price so more and more people are purchasing cameras to take nice photos.
The only downside is that if you don’t take the time to learn how to use them, they can be a bit too powerful for the average user. Point and shoot cameras are fantastic for family snapshots and most cell photos have powerful cameras now that work well too.
If you take photos with your DSLR, you might have RAW images on your computer. These RAW files give you more control over editing, but unless you’re doing a lot of image editing, chances are you don’t really need them.
You also can’t directly print RAW which means you have to have a program that will save them in a different format, most likely JPEG.
If you’re a professional photographer or you use complex tools to edit your photos, then RAW photos are great to back up along with JPEG files. Otherwise it’s overkill.
Most cameras let you take pictures in more familiar formats. It’s best to store your image files in a basic format, like JPEG because it’s like that it’s still going to be around years from now.
You want these pictures long term, so keeping them in the right format is key! You don’t want to be sitting there in 50 years with a bunch of formats that you can’t even use.
External Hard Drives
The most basic way to back everything up includes saving your files on an external hard drive. These drives can be purchased at an office supply store or online. I use this external hard drive and love it.
Because drives fail, I recommend that you use two drives. Overkill? Probably not. The average drive lasts for about five years, though honestly, it could last for two years or ten. You never know.
Another great suggestion from the Guardian is to keep one external drive somewhere other than your house. I sent one of mine to a relatives home, another suggestion is in a moisture proof box in a shed or garage.
These are great for storing photos and can give you a great option that doesn’t include an Internet connection. If you lose your Internet connection (which happens) you still have your backup.
You know you have photos all over the place, but you’re not sure where they all are. How will you remember everything? This worksheet will help spark your memory and give you a place to gather everything together. Make a list of all of your photos and check them off as you get them together so you can backup everything.
Once you’ve backed up to two external hard drives, you’re going to want to focus on online digital photo backup storage solutions. There are many services out there.
When we talk about online storage, we’re talking about cloud storage. If you don’t know what the cloud is (most people don’t), it’s a fancy word for a large building somewhere with a bunch of computers sitting in it.
These computers are connected to the Internet and cloud companies store their customer’s files (like their photos and videos) on these giant computers.
It’s a pretty good system! It’s always a great idea to back up to the cloud.
When it comes to online storage, you have many options.
This post may contain Amazon and other affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You don’t pay any extra for the product. You can read my whole boring policy here if you’d like!
Amazon’s service allows you to save your photos and share them across your computer, cell phone, and any Fire products.
We use Amazon Photos in our home as a backdrop on our Fire TV. We moved some of our favorite photos into an album and set that to play as a screen saver.
It’s a great conversation starter when people come over AND it’s nice knowing that those photos are saved online.
A note to the professionals out there. Amazon Photos can only be used for personal pictures. You cannot use it as part of a business to share photos.
If you leave Amazon Prime, you have the option to pay per month for storage options.
Apple users can back up to the Apple iCloud. iCloud is built into all Apple devices so it’s a natural choice for anyone with an Apple computer or iPhone. Because of the automatic uploads, it’s one method that really can be done on autopilot.
One thing to be aware of is that each user gets 5GB of free storage. You may have to purchase more if you have a lot of photos.
Google Photos is another backup solution. Google Photos gives you the option of storing unlimited photos with a catch. The photos can only be up to 16 megapixels and videos can only be up to 1080p resolution.
With more and more high powered cameras out there, this could get limiting. It should be OK for most cell phone photos, but keep in mind that there are some cell phones that exceed this.
Microsoft has its own version of cloud-based storage. OneDrive gives you 5GB of space for free and has other monthly or yearly plans if you need more space.
OneDrive can allow you to access photos offline, which might be a good feature if you often lose Internet connection. OneDrive also allows you to share pictures through sending links, so it’s a great way to show off those pictures to family and friends.
What NOT to do
I have a lot of friends who say things like “Well, all my photos are on Facebook so that’s a great backup!”
Do you know what Facebook does to the photos you upload? They reduce their quality so their site runs faster.
And what happens if Facebook shuts its doors tomorrow? I know we don’t want to think of a post-Facebook world, but stuff happens.
So depending on a social media site that’s not meant for backing up photos as your digital photo backup storage option is not the best idea.
Should you not put photos on Facebook? Of course not! Facebook is a great way to share photos with your family and friends. Just don’t use them as your backup system.
What this looks like all together
What does a great backup system look like?
All of your photos are organized in a folder system that makes sense. Your files are in JPEG format and have names that help keep the files organized.
Your photos are on your computer and are backed up to at least three locations. You have two external hard drives (one at home in your safe, and another at a relatives house).
Also, you back them up once a month (or more) and rotate them to make sure both always contain your photos. All of your photos are also stored in the cloud. You can access them if you need to (so you remember your username and password) and they are on a legitimate site.
If someone steals your laptop (with your external hard drive attached) or you suffer a house fire, you have another one PLUS the cloud to fall back on. If the cloud system shuts it’s doors, you still have two external hard drives and your computer. Technologies change, so if external drives no longer plug into a new type of computer and they aren’t made anymore, you still have your computer and your cloud.
Whenever you lose a backup, it’s important to find another backup as soon as possible. You don’t want to be the person who loses their laptop and the cloud picks that week to shut its doors.
Where to go from here
There are several steps you can take to make sure you have a good digital photo backup storage solution.
- Get all of your photos in one place and organized for backup
- Purchase two external hard drives specifically for photo back up
- Figure out a cloud service to use for back up
- Back up to the cloud
- Back up your photos to the external hard drives
- Send one hard drive to go live somewhere else
- Set a task on your planner to make a backup every month and swap the drives
There you have it! Happy backing up! If you’d like some help tracking down all of your photos, there’s a photo finder worksheet in the free resource library! You can get access below: