Thanks to phones equipped with cameras, it’s so easy to take photos wherever you go. That’s great news if you are surrounded by adorable toddlers, want to try and make your dog internet famous, or happen to run into Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, forever!) at the car wash. Being able to snap those photos on a whim and upload them to Facebook or send them to your neighbor for some good old fashioned humblebragging is great, but if you really love your digital photos you’re going to need to back them up.
While the notion may fill you with dread, like with most things in life, once you do it a few times and get used to the process, it’s a snap. The easiest way to back-up your photo library is to use a so-called cloud service from companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, or Dropbox, which all allow for automatic back-ups, making the process completely mechanical once you set it up. If you have an Amazon Prime account you already have a free unlimited photo back-up service through Amazon’s Prime Photos. Simply log into Amazon, click on the Prime drop down menu on the right side of the screen, and click on Prime Photos. From there, click “get started” and follow the directions on the site. Soon you’ll be automatically backing up photos from your phone or computer to the cloud.
If you aren’t an Amazon Prime member, consider Google Photos, which is both free and offers unlimited storage of high-quality image files and has that helpful automatic back-up feature. To make it even easier to learn the ropes of Google Photos, there are YouTube tutorials (like this one) that can talk new users through each step of the process. If you use an iPhone or have Apple products at home, Apple iCloud is a good choice because their products are designed to be seamlessly integrated with each other. They offer free storage and automatic back-ups, although if you take a lot of photos you may need to upgrade to a larger storage plan.
If the only clouds you trust are the ones rolling across a blue Texas sky, or you like to back-up your backup, consider investing in an external hard drive. Hard drives connect to your computer through a USB line or some of the other ports on your computer. Pick one up at your local tech store and follow the instructions that come with it. While an external hard drive in addition to cloud backups sound like overkill, as The New York Times points out, it’s the only way to truly guarantee that your picture of the time you ran into Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman at the Piggly Wiggly is completely safe. While it’s unlikely that Google, Apple, or Amazon will crash and lose your photos or they don’t automatically back up for some reason, it’s still within the realm of possibility. That’s why a combination of cloud storage and external hard drives is the best option for those who really want to keep a digital photo forever.
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As for where to begin, the Times suggests taking a tip from Jill Duffy’s book, Get Organized, and ignore the past, at least when it comes to your photo collection. Instead of backing up every single photo you have ever taken, start with the most recent photos and just keep it up as you move forward, so it doesn’t get overwhelming. Of course, you may want to go back and save a few precious photos of graduations, christenings, and celebrity sightings at the grocery store and that’s fine, too. The only rule is to start backing up your photos in some way. Your future self will thank you.