Posted by Denise May Levenick on December 22, 2015 in Website

backup-smartphone-headYou’re not alone if the photos of last year’s holiday dinner are still on your smartphone or buried in a cloud backup service. But unlike forgotten leftovers, those pictures can still be saved.

Professional photographers track thousands of images with a dedicated workflow that includes routine file import. Genealogists face similar challenges with downloaded and scanned images, but when it comes to the pictures we take every day with our smartphone cameras, we tend to be a bit lax in managing those digital images. Anyone who uses a mobile device for photography will benefit from understanding and using a photo import workflow or Digital Asset Management program adapted for family historians like DAM Workflows That Really Work.

Basic Backup 3-2-1

It’s tough to back up your family photos if you don’t know where they are. A true backup, after all, is more than just a single copy — on a cloud service, a flashdrive, or your computer. To be secure, a backup should include:

  • three copies on
  • two different media
  • one copy stored offsite

Photos Lost in the Cloud?

Many smartphone photographers sign up for an automated backup service such as the Apple iCloud or Dropbox picture upload and forget about it. It’s easy to use a mobile device to share photos on Facebook, email pictures, and even order prints and photo books. We may not need the actual image file for months, or years. By then, originals are often buried so deep in digital clutter they’re nearly impossible to find. Or, even worse, the storage prices have increased or the cloud service policies have changed.

Simplify photo management by gathering ALL your digital images in one location, and back up other media and devices from there. Consider using an external hard drive or another local storage media so you have ready access to your images and can set up additional backups as needed.

These photo workflows from How to Archive Family Photos will help get you started managing the photos you capture on your smartphone:

Cloud Plus Photo Management

Set up your smartphone to automatically back up photos to a central cloud storage location. As you create new photos, they will be uploaded to the cloud service. Choose your favorite cloud storage service, such as Apple’s iCloud, Dropbox Photos, Amazon Cloud Storage, or Google Drive. You will have two copies of your pictures: one copy on the mobile device and one copy on the cloud service.

The next step is the MOST IMPORTANT: Make it a habit to routinely download your photos from the cloud service to your designated central storage location. This set of files becomes your third copy for Backup 3-2-1.

Be aware that full-resolution copies of your photos will require more storage space. If you have a lot of pictures, this could quickly fill up your available storage and bump your costs. Another consideration is how the cloud storage handles deleted photos. If you delete a picture on your smartphone, will it be deleted from the cloud account? Confirm the provider’s claims to save your images before hitting the delete button.

Hands-On Photo Management

Not everyone wants his or her pictures on the cloud. And that’s fine if you make a point to regularly download pictures from your mobile device to your computer and back up to your central storage location.

Set up a local wifi connection to funnel photos from your phone to computer or use a USB cable for a faster transfer speed. Smartphone apps can help you transfer photos wirelessly from phone to computer and give you options to select which photos you want to move.

Once the images are copied to your computer hard drive, perform a local backup and get them onto yet another storage device. If the pictures are deleted from the smartphone, remember to back up once more to meet the Backup 3-2-1 guideline.

Belt and Suspenders Backup

Because most of us delete photos off our smartphone to make room for new photos, it’s always a good idea to back up these photo files one more time to yet another storage location. You might back up to your computer hard drive, a flash drive, a cloud backup, or a second external hard drive. You’ll find sample workflows, filenaming strategies, and file organizing schemes in How to Archive Family Photos. One of the easiest systems uses a date-oriented folder system that takes advantage of your camera’s automatic date and time setting.

Preserve the photos of past family celebrations by gathering your photos in one central location, and make room on your smartphone to create new family memories.

About the author: Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally and writes frequently about family photos and projects at TheFamilyCurator.com website.

Denise May Levenick

Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records, and the new book How to Archive Family Photos (coming Spring 2015). For more ideas on preserving your family treasures, visit Denise's website

3 Comments

  1. Mary Beth Marchant

    What does saving my Smartphone anythings have to do with Genealogy at all. Just more Social Media in a web site gone terribly bad.

  2. Veronica Dunn

    For those of us that might not have thr same information as you do or two different people with simular names with pictures and family stories you should be able to collect some things that you might like and didn’t have so F thats why

  3. Hi Mary Beth. I use my smartphone all the time to take photos of records in libraries, gravestones etc. Backup of photos is important as you don’t want to lose all that research info when your phone breaks. The 3-2-1 approach works for your family tree data too – don’t trust it all to a cloud service – Ancestry included!

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