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For a few years now, I will periodically get questions about photography. Usually about camera bodies or lenses, sometimes where to print, or even how I edit them. But as of recently, managing to save all of those hundreds and sometimes thousands of photos has been the topic of discussion. We all have a camera in our pocket that can take some pretty great photos and can store a large amount of them to some extent. But what happens when you lose your phone, accidentally drop it in the lake, or upgrade to a newer model? Do you have them backed up on your computer? Does your spouse have all the same identical moments captured on their phone? My answer to those questions has been no. I have some images saved, but in no particular organized fashion.
As a photographer, I have all undelivered images backed up in three separate locations. If those images don't exist in three locations before I process them and deliver to the client, by my own standards... I operate as if they don't exist at all. As a parent, I operate the same way with the photos I capture of day-to-day life, as well as professional ones someone else take of us. In this post, I'm going to share my personal archiving process that uses that same idea of storing in multiple locations to safely ensure you won't lose visual history of you and your loved ones. Consider this to be the modern day storing to your grandparents giant box chest full of photos in the attic.
I want to provide free tips and resources to help you document your journey and keep those memories forever.
If you’re just looking for a simple option to back up the photos and videos on your phone without all the work of organizing, here's a couple options that you may be familiar with. The Google Photos app is available for both iOS and Android phones. This apps allows you to backup a high quality version of your photos to their online storage, with unlimited space from my understanding and then 5GB of video. But, if you want to store the original quality of the images, it will use the 15GB of free space you receive with a Google/Gmail account.
Another free option is the Amazon Photos app, available for iOS and Android devices as well. This service is very similar to Google’s, but differs in the fact you’ll need Amazon Prime to have access to the service. They give you unlimited storage and I believe they backup the original quality of every image. Each service will backup every image on your phone with no exception in automatic mode or you can manually select which images to upload. There are other great features but I’m not going to go over all of them, so if you that is something you’d be interested in you can go check each out at the links below.
My recent endeavor into storing all the photos I take of my family has led me to Google One, previously known as Google Drive. One is Google's paid version of online storage, which honestly is reasonable for pricing in my opinion. But before you head over to their subscription page to decide ‘nay’ or ‘yay’ let’s start with the free 15GB you get with your Google account. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you’ll need to create one in order to get the free storage starter but stay here to discover the whole process first :)
Because I like to control the order the folders are sorted, I added a number in front of each of the level 1 folder names. This isn't necessary so make whatever adjustments to make it work best for you. The most important piece of this process in my opinion is the way I name the actual images and videos for storing. I wanted a format that could easily tell me where it belongs and the age of my children. A bonus to this format is if I accidentally misplace the file in the wrong folder I can still locate the images based on date with a simple file name search. If and when I have multiple images of Maggie, Rowan, or whatever from that day, I add a number in parentheses at the end.
The first thing I did was create a folder title “PERSONAL ARCHIVE” inside my Google Drive location. If you have been using Google Drive already, you probably have things everywhere. Maybe it’s organized... or maybe it’s a digital mess of content that takes 10 minutes to remember where you placed your resume (speaking from experience). To keep your photos from burying other things, let’s create some type of folder to separate from everything else.
Every successful organization system needs a hierarchy, so this was my first step of deciding how I wanted to find my images later. For me, I’m following the same process I use for my business –person/place/thing. So, the first level inside my “PERSONAL ARCHIVE” folder will consist of MAGGIE, ROWAN, RACHEL, and OTHER. The next level down inside each of those separates content by year. This way, when I’m looking for a specific image of my children based on age, I won’t have a problem finding it. It can be tempting and way easier to just throw every image into the first level hierarchy, but the number of files to cull through will be way to large when the time comes to find what I need.
Here's a visual example of the hierarchy on my MacBook, mirroring the same organization on Google Drive.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I keep multiple copies in case of lost data. You should never have to worry about Google losing your images, but in the off chance you accidentally delete something without realizing it; I would recommend having another location that mirrors your archive. I have a really affordable, small, fast external storage device that's a complete duplicate of my online archive. Use the following link to purchase.
Thank you for following along! If you enjoyed this content or found it helpful for you, let me know what other topics you'd be interested in the future!
Google has an app for accessing Drive from your phone or tablet devices, available for both iOS and Android. Once you start this method, you'll have access to all of that content from anywhere so if you want to use an image on social media or share with a family member, you can download what you need right to your device. In the like, you can log into your Google Drive from any computer. So if grandma took some photos at Christmas that you want to keep... you can upload them from their computer too.
It's a really simple process, but requires consistency. I currently don't pay for additional storage space, but the nice thing about storing it with Google is having the option to add additional space when the time comes. So use that free 15GB they give you, and when you're closing in on filling it up, you can reevaluate if Google Drive is still the best option for you before committing to a yearly subscription for storage. If you find another service has better pricing or offers features you can't get with Google, you can still apply the same process to another platform.