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All about backing up your photos: how, where, and how much

Apr 10, 2023

Photo Tips

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harddrive connected to a computer backing up personal photos
Having a backup means you have a copy of your photos in a different place than the original. Let’s pretend you have 100 photos. (lolz) Here are some different backup examples:
  1. You have 100 image files on your computer. You also have those same 100 images printed in an album sitting on your living room coffee table. (Same images, 2 different places.)
  2. You have 100 image files on your computer. You have those same 100 images on an external hard drive. (Same images, 2 different places.)
  3. You have 100 images files on your phone. You have those same 100 images backed up to the cloud.
There are many different ways to have backups—these are just some examples. The purpose in having a backup is so that if something happens to one of your storage options, you have those images somewhere else and they aren’t gone forever. (These are precious memories we’re talking about here!) If your situation looks like number 1 above and your computer completely dies, you will still have those 100 images printed out in an album and available to enjoy. Having at least 2 places to store your photos is recommended (aka having at least 1 backup). Let’s talk through some of these storage options more in depth!
  1. Computer: If you have a computer, it has some sort of drive storage on it. If your computer is newer, it probably has very little. Computers are now being made with less storage to push people to use the cloud. (Don’t know what this is? Keep reading.) If you have images saved on your Desktop, Pictures, or any other folder ON your computer, that’s where they’re stored.
  2. External Hard Drive: Some people get confused when I talk about hard drives. Isn’t that the same as my computer?! The answer is: no. Your computer does have a hard drive (see number 1), but there’s also the option to have external storage. This would be something you plug into your computer like a USB or larger external drive. If you have photos on your computer and on an external hard drive, that’s two different places!
  3. Your Phone: This one seems simple, but might actually be complicated. Are your images on your phone or in the cloud? It’s important to know exactly where they are. (The answer could be both, in which case, you’re backed up!)
  4. The Cloud: What even is this?! When people talk about “the cloud” they’re talking about online servers that store data. Whereas a hard drive is a physical product that holds your data (images), the cloud isn’t physical. It’s accessed via the Internet (without internet you can’t see the data).
  5. Prints/Albums: This one is often forgotten, but yes—printing your photos is a way to “backup” your photos. You can have prints made for your walls, order beautiful albums, scrapbook, etc.—it’s the “digital age” but there are so many creative things you can do with physical copies of your prints too.
Backing up photos is going to look different for each person/family. Which of these ways makes the most sense for your life?
I personally (and professionally) have this system:
All photos are stored on external hard drives. I have 1 for my business and 1 for personal photos. Both of these external hard drives, and both of my computers, are all backed up to the cloud. (That way if any of my drives fail, they’re in the cloud and I can recover the photos.) I also print our personal photos as much as I can. (And am working to have a yearly album made for each year I’ve been married. This makes a third copy for most of our photos, and also gives us the perfect way to enjoy the photos!) 
Let’s talk $$$. Money is one of the biggest factors people consider when choosing how to store and back up their photos. I’m going to list some options for you below!
  1. USB: $15 for 120GB
  2. External: $60-$90 for 2TB (for reference, I store all of my photography work on a 4TB hard drive)
  3. Google Photos Cloud: free, but will only store 16mp, which prints to around an 11×14 size print and no larger.
  4. Amazon Photos Cloud: free, with Prime. You have to pay extra for video storage.
  5. Google Drive (cloud): $20/year for 100GB
  6. iCloud: $2.99/month for 200GB
  7. Dropbox (cloud): $120/year for 2TB
  8. BackBlaze (cloud): $70/year for computer backup. (Includes hard drives, but they must be connected to the computer to backup.)
Does this give you somewhere to start when it comes to backing up your photos? What additional questions can I answer for you?

My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.

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