A Guide to backing up your digital photos


A Guide to Backing Up Digital Photos- A 3 part series

If you’re snapping away without a backup plan for your photos, beware: In an instant, you could lose them all, forever.



Before I explain how to back up your photos, it’s useful to understand one important aspect of digital photos that relates to storing them properly. Namely, image resolution.

Every digital photo has a certain image resolution, which is the total number of pixels that make up a photo. If an image you shot on your smartphone, say, is 4,000 pixels high by 3,000 pixels wide, it contains a total of 12 million pixels (the height multiplied by the width). Since one million pixels is known as a megapixel, the resolution of your smartphone image is 12 megapixels.

Now, say you upload that photo to Facebook or share the image to your smartphone. When you post it, Facebook and/or your smartphone, in most instances, downsizes the resolution, or reduces the number of pixels to make it smaller. It may digitally compress it, too, throwing out additional data important to image quality. It’s often difficult to visually detect if an image file has been altered, particularly on a smartphone’s small screen. It’s why you might think you’ve backed up your image when uploading it to Facebook or other social media sites, but that’s not really the case. These images will no longer make a quality printed image either.

Most websites, including social media and even photo-printing sites, aren’t designed to truly store photos. That’s because when you back up your photos, you want to be able to retrieve an image file that is as close to, if not identical to, the original photo you captured on your phone or digital camera. That’s also why you want to carefully choose a backup solution, whether it’s online or an external hard drive.

Risky business

Unfortunately, preserving the original photo isn’t the only issue you’ll face when backing up your images. You also need to know that there’s no completely foolproof method to backing up your images. There’s always risk. Stored images on a hard drive connected to your computer can fail. Upload images to an online backup service and you face a different problem: You might think using a cloud service from an established company — like Apple, Google, or Amazon — would be safe. Yet, consider Kodak, which for decades functioned as a powerful and lucrative photography company, declared bankruptcy in 2012 leaving many photographers without storage.

The important takeaway here is that you should consider using a combination of services and solutions to safely back up photos. Ideally, store them both online and on two external hard drives (one stored locally and another at a different location). At the very least, consider using one online backup, which lets you copy and transfer the photos on your phone, as well as other devices, to an alternate location.

Look for more information on choosing an online cloud storage in my next column;  Part 2.