What to do with your photos

It’s not as hard as it seems!

Your photos remind you that life really is this good

Digital photos: if you give me a few minutes here, then do 10 minutes of work, you can get it off your mind.

I take a lot of pictures. Over the winter holiday, my husband and I took 1,500 photos of family and friends. In my day job at the Library of Congress, I’m a software developer working on digital collections, so you can see why I think about problems like this a lot.

The Short, Easy Version

Download the Amazon photo app to your phone. BOOM, you’re pretty much done! This app constantly uploads your photos and videos to Amazon’s cloud storage. Now when your brother-in-law throws you into the pool you won’t lose every memory in your pocket.

Unlimited photo storage is free for Amazon Prime members ($20 a year otherwise). If you also have a lot of videos, you might have to spring for the $60 a year plan.

Use the Amazon Cloud Drive web application to upload any other pictures you take with a camera that’s not a phone.

That’s it! If you want more details, keep reading. The important thing is to pick up your phone and do this right now. RIGHT NOW. You can price shop or optimize later, just do something now so you can clear it off your brain.

The Longer, Easy Version

There are two important principles here:

  1. Don’t keep the only copy of anything important on your device.
  2. Have two copies in two different locations.

Ideally, your laptop, phone, tablet, whatever, is a machine for doing things, not storing things. Don’t keep your photos (or anything irreplaceable) there. These things are incredible pieces of engineering that we treat like paperback books. Don’t leave your only copy of your kids’ baby pictures in the back seat of a cab.

To do this you need to move your stuff to external storage and keep another copy in the cloud.

1. External Storage

If you take photos on your camera, after you copy your photos onto your computer, move them to an external hard drive. That way, if something goes wrong with your computer or you lose your laptop, you’ll still have them.

For the pictures on your phone, get the Dropbox app. Upload your pictures every once in a while. Then download the photos to your laptop and copy them to an external hard drive.

2. Keep a second copy in the cloud

If you have Amazon Prime, you can store all of your photos for free in their data center.

I know, I know, I’m with you. I also worry that it’s one more piece of my soul. But if you remember, before Amazon, we had to go to MALLS at Christmas. And pack PAPER BOOKS in your suitcase on vacation. So, basically, Amazon already owns me. What’s one more hook into the meat?

Malls.

Download the Amazon photo app to your phone. BOOM, you’re pretty much done! This app constantly uploads your photos and videos to Amazon’s cloud storage. As I said above, unlimited photo storage is free for Amazon Prime members ($20 a year otherwise). If you have a lot of videos, you might have to spring for the $60 a year plan.

If you take pictures on a camera that is not a phone (true story: a 20-something offered to take our picture a few weeks ago, but we had to teach him how to use a camera because he’d never held one before), upload the pictures before you clean off your SD card.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, pick another cloud vendor. Flickr is free, just make sure to set your photos to private if you don’t intend to share them. Flickr, Amazon Photo, Dropbox, and Google have apps for your phone that make this all easy. Just pick one and do it. Seriously, right now. Don’t think about it or price shop it. You can always change later.

Once you get this done, if a kid social engineers their way into your Apple account and deletes everything, if your best friend spills a pint of Cognac on your laptop, your pictures are safe! Most of the cloud vendors also provide a viewer for browsing, so you’ll be able to page through your photos. Much better than scattered in random folders on your PC.

That’s It!

It’s not that hard to make sure your photos are safe. There’s more you can do, if you want. Get a 2nd hard drive for redundancy. Figure out how you want to share photos with friends and family. Print some photobooks or calendars. But that all can wait, just protect your memories.

The secret part is optional

Two things are going to be your enemy, so I’m going to talk about them now so they won’t: trying to invent the perfect thing and trying to clean up what you have.

You can really go down the rabbithole with this, but the first couple of steps will get you 99.9% there, so do those and iterate.

Do start with the retrospective. Retrospective inventory is what stops people from doing the right thing now. It’s trying to eat an elephant. Set stuff up for the new things and go back to the old things on some snowy day when you’ve eaten too many brownies to do anything useful.

At some point you will feel overwhelmed and need to stop. That’s OK. Stop for a while, then pick it back up again. Scribble down what you did so you can remember. Follow the plan, not the feeling.

Hope you find this helpful. If you like what I’ve wrote here, please click on the heart below, it shows the overlords that I am useful. And everyone needs to be useful to their overlords.

Update 01–27–16 @McK_Landgraf reminds me that if you’re partnered and you don’t mind sharing photos, you should do this all under on Amazon log-in.

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