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diagram showing the steps to protect digital images

How to Protect Your Images

It all starts with a gasp. A tightening of the chest, prickly skin, perhaps even a cold sweat.


What happened to my images?

If you are like me, your smart phone is never far from hand and you take pictures daily. Sometimes it’s just a shot of a pretty flower or interesting shadow. Other times it’s of something you don’t want to miss, a reunion with friends, a child’s first step. Whatever the images on your phone, they are important, precious. What if you lost your phone, or it was stolen, or the hard drive failed? What if you no longer could view your images? It’s almost incomprehensible. Not to worry, there are simple ways to protect your images from loss.

Most of you already know this. You would have to live on another planet not to know about Google Photos or iCloud or Dropbox. You know you can save your images to the cloud. You know you should save them and those images on your SD cards to your computer. Knowing doesn’t mean doing though.

Unless you were born in the 2000s, technology is something you adapt to, it’s something you have to learn. It is not necessarily instinctive. It is also something to be suspicious of. What does it mean to save my images to the cloud? What is this stupid cloud and why is it called that anyway? What if my account is hacked? Who is spying on my images? Really, I’m a busy person, I don’t have time to figure this all out.

Trust me, I was also very suspicious of the cloud. But I came around to understanding its benefits. If privacy is not a concern it is easy to get hooked up. If you are more cautious there are ways to align your settings accordingly. The most important thing when it comes to your images is to make sure they are backed up to some device other than your phone. Phones get stolen, they get lost, and yes, they get dropped into toilets.

I have been a photographer since I was 15. I have taken many, many photos. You would think that I had my process down pat and that I was a paragon of virtue when it comes to backing up my images. Nope. I also get distracted by life and I put off the simple tasks well, because I would rather be out shooting. If you have been procrastinating about your photos, you may find this article useful.

If you are ready to move forward, as the diagram above shows, it starts with getting your images onto your computer and the cloud. There is no way around this. Saving your images to your computer is as easy as connecting with a cord and using either iTunes, Image Capture or the File Manager (PC) to save them to your preferred Pictures file. Setting up Google Photos or iCloud is easy too, simply open an account, get to a place of high speed wifi and press go.

This is the minimum. Get this done and you will be secure. The extent of your photo management process however, depends on how you take pictures.

I like to think that there are three different types of photographers. I like to call them the Socialite, the Adventurer, and the Pro.

The Socialite

The Socialite likes to record her social activities and share them on social media but after that, she is done. She may have photo albums from the distant past when she used a film or digital camera.

The Adventurer

The Adventurer takes pictures with her phone but she also has a digital camera and she travels with both. Sometimes she has hundreds if not thousands of images to deal with after her vacation. If she was organized in the past, she has many scrap books to show for her travels. For her images to be secure she needs to go to the next level.

She needs to gather all of her images onto her computer. She needs to copy her SD cards to her Pictures folder and she also needs to scan her slides (yes, I am dating myself) and her prints into a digital format and onto her computer. Once all her images are in the same place she can rename and organize them. From there she should save a copy to the cloud as well as an external hard drive. There are many types of Adventurers and that will determine what software they use to manage their photos and how many places they back up their files.

The Pro

The Pro already knows what to do and isn’t reading this article. They are the Adventurer x10 and because they shoot for clients, there are legal and security protocols built into their process for managing photos.

Whatever type of photographer you are, the fundamentals don’t change when it comes to protecting your images. We all need to back up our photos to one or more places other than our phones to make sure they are safe.

In this document, I break down the steps to get started backing up to the cloud with Google Photos. But here is a quick overview of how to get started protecting your photos from loss.



Step 1 – Back up everything on your phone

  • Connect your phone to your computer to either sync to iTunes (MAC) or copy all the files to a folder on your hard drive (Android). This is extra insurance in case of phone damage or loss.
  • Using Apple Photos, Image Capture or File Manager, copy all your photos to your Pictures folder or your preferred folder.

Step 2 – Save to the Cloud

  • If you have an iPhone, you have an Apple ID which means you have a choice of either using iCloud or Google Photos or any of the other cloud providers. Android users can save to any application but they generally stay away from iCloud.
  • For iCloud, go into Settings and turn on iCloud. There are fees for storage with Apple so depending on how many images you take, you may prefer to use the unlimited images for Free option of Google Photos.
  • To save to Google Photos you need a Google account and to download the app. If you have a gmail account you already have a Google account. If you don’t have an account simply go to Google.com and set one up. After you download the app to your phone, use your account information to sign in.
  • To upload your files to either iCloud or Google photos, make sure you are in an area of free wifi. How long it will take will depend on how many images you have to upload. If you have a lot of images, you don’t want to upload them over your data plan.




Apple fees start at $1.29/month for 50GB of storage. You can determine if you want to store anything other than your photos for that limit. Generally, images shot with an iPhone are anywhere from 3-5MB. You would have to upload around 10,000 images before you reached your limit. Of course if you want to store other things like documents and music with iTunes, you would have to store fewer images or upgrade your plan to the next level of 200GB.

Google Photos

Google offers a High Quality setting for their Back up and Sync that allows unlimited storage so long as each image is under 15MB in size or video no larger than 1080p. There is no smart phone on the market yet that shoots jpgs larger than 15MB. If you do shoot video larger than the limit or you upload images larger than 15MB, Google will resize them if you choose High Quality. For most people this is not an issue. If you prefer not to have your images resized or compressed and choose the Original setting your uploads will be applied to your quota. Google’s paid service – Google One, is a  family plan that starts at $2.79 for 100GB. Their plans change frequently so its good to check back regularly.

While simple in concept, knowing what is the right option or package for you and your family can be confusing. If you need help with any of this, please contact me. I can customize my services to your needs and the first consultation is free.


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