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Home / Tips and Tricks / 6 of the Best Photo Saving Options for 2021: How to Back Up Your Photos in an Emergency

6 of the Best Photo Saving Options for 2021: How to Back Up Your Photos in an Emergency



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Do you have a plan to protect your physical photos in an emergency?

David T.

This story is part of Road trip 2020, CNET̵

7;s series on how we’re preparing now for what could come next.

When a natural disaster strikes and your belongings are lost or destroyed, people sometimes offer the phrase “things can be replaced” for comfort. This is true to an extent – you can easily buy back furniture, curtains, and kitchen appliances. But lose photos? Devastating. Especially if you only had prints of your family’s old photos.

It is not enough to scan your prints and save them to a computer. If your computer crashes, or you fall victim to a virus or a nasty data breach, you can still get rid of it. I learned this lesson the hard way when our old Dell family took a bad turn in the early 2000s and took numerous photos with it.

Portable hard drives allow you to store your memories and they fit nicely into one bug-out bagYou can too create a photo book Back up your all-time favorites and keep it somewhere like a fireproof safe. But a digital backup is the best way to protect your memories. Even if you lose your computer, you can still access a cloud account with your photos attached.

Choosing the right option is critical. While Facebook and other social media platforms can preserve your photos, not everyone will feel comfortable making them the keepers of your memories. Plus, your photos will be compressed to a lower resolution – they won’t look as good when you want to print them.

Robert Rodriguez / CNET

Better yet, there are special services to keep recordings, whether they are from your phone, a digital camera or something movie camera that you used years ago. Think those black and white photos of your grandparents as kids, the crazy photos you took with a disposable camera, and more. But before you entrust treasured memories to any service, you should definitely do so read the terms of serviceInvestigate how the company handles photo retention and what rights you have over the photos once they are on that site. For example, Photobucket has a Bill of Rights for its users.

Here are a few different apps and services you can use to protect your memories for little or no cost.

Cloud photo services

Sarah Tew / CNET

Google Photos is a great resource for both organizing and editing photos that require little to no work. The Google Photos app – available on iOS and Android – can back up your photos to your Gmail account. I backed up photos from 2014 when I first switched to Android.

The backup and sync feature should be enabled by default when you download the app, but you can also enable it manually in your settings. Either way, you can easily manage your Google Photos library from your phone or desktop. From time to time, Google will ask if you want to free up space on your phone by backing up the images to your Google account, which can also be accessed through Gmail.

Google Photos offers a free plan with unlimited storage for photos smaller than 16 megapixels and videos of 1080p or less (however, this plan will end in June and you may need to sign up for Google’s storage plan service, Google One). You should be able to adjust the settings on your phone, for example if you want videos to be recorded at a lower resolution and take up less storage space. For context, an average photo taken on my Pixel 3 was 12.1 megapixels.

While it’s a solid option for automatically uploading photos you take with your phone, you can also manually upload photos from a digital camera or photos you’ve scanned to your computer.

If your media is larger, you will get up to 15 GB of free space. The service has a paid version that offers 100 GB for $ 2 per month or 1 TB for $ 10 per month.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Apple’s cloud-based photo service is part of the company’s larger iCloud storage system and is compatible with iPhones and Macs. To find the service, you need the Photos app on Mac or iOS. On PCs, you can manage your photos and videos from iCloud.com in your browser or with the Windows iCloud app.

Like Google Photos, the iOS service automatically organizes your photos by date. However, you should know that your device’s iCloud backup doesn’t automatically save photos to iCloud Drive – it’s a separate part of iCloud. For example, if I delete a photo from my iPad, a message appears telling me that the image will also be deleted from iCloud Photos. Apple Toolbox suggests keeping copies of things you don’t want to delete on the iCloud Drive, but don’t just rely on the iCloud Drive – archive them in multiple places, like a local hard drive, for example.

iCloud is built into iOS devices and gives you 5 GB for free, but for $ 1 per month you can upgrade to 50 GB. The following tiers offer 200 GB for $ 3 per month and 2 TB for $ 10 per month.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

Flickr, acquired by SmugMug in 2018, lets you store up to 1,000 photos on its platform for free. (It used to offer 1 TB of free storage, but turned it back to encourage users to sign up for its pro accounts). The app has more of a social media feel as you can be part of a Flickr photographer community. You can download it for iOS and Android.

If you subscribe to Flickr Pro for $ 7 a month or $ 60 a year, you get unlimited storage for your images. Additionally, Flickr’s Uploadr feature, available only to Pro members, allows you to back up your content from locations such as your computer, hard drives, iPhoto and Dropbox.

Screenshot by Oscar Gutiérrez / CNET

The iconic image hosting site from the early 2000s is still there – it looks a little different these days. After creating a Photobucket account, you can store up to 250 images for free and then choose from three different plans.

Beginner stores 2,500 images or 25 GB for $ 6 per month, Intermediate stores 25,000 images or 250 GB for $ 8 per month, and Expert has unlimited image storage for $ 13 per month. All paid tiers are ad-free. Plus, you can store uncompressed original photos so your photo quality isn’t compromised with the Expert plan.

How to digitize physical photos

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Joshua Goldman / CNET

If you have a collection of old physical photos that you want to digitize, you have a few options. The simplest is a scanner: if you can access it, CNET has a helpful guide that breaks clean the glass, scan multiple photos at once, and organize and edit options.

Scanning photos is usually the best way to maintain their resolution, but if you’re in trouble, you can take a photo of the physical photo using your phone. From there you can edit and back it up to your liking. The downside to this improvised method is that sometimes depending on the lighting, you will get a reflection from your phone in the photo and light will sparkle while trying to keep the photo flat.

Here are some apps and services that can help you keep your old physical photos if you don’t have a scanner handy or if you have a lot of photos and don’t want to spend time scanning them individually.

Photoscan / Screenshot by Shelby Brown / CNET

With Google’s free PhotoScan app, you can scan printed photos with your phone’s camera and back up the scans to the Google Photos app. The app is available for iOS and Android.

Knows German / CNET

If using an app is not enough, you can turn to a professional service. ScanMyPhotos, based in Irvine, California, offers scanning of physical photos, negatives and slides. You can email the company a box of photos to restore or the website can transfer VHS media and 8mm movie to DVD to save old home videos.

Depending on your photo scanning needs, the site has several options to get the job done. If you don’t have that many photos, scans start at 8 cents each. If you get close to 2,000 photos, the $ 145 prepaid box is the best idea. Pack the box, send it in, and after the project is complete, you’ll get the box back with electronic copies of your scans and a book of your photos. CNET editor Kent German tried ScanMyPhotos to digitize his photo collection and spoke positively about the service in his article.

Other services to try

For more information on photo storage, check it out best hard drives and storage devices for 2021 and the best online photo book services of 2021For more information on disaster preparedness, check out our Hacking the Apocalypse series.


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