How to Store & Organise Your Smartphone Photos
The other month I started getting that dreadful pop-up all iPhone users love to hate. You probably know the one I'm talking about:
For a few days I stubbornly ignored it. But then, THIS happened:
And that's when I realised that something needed to be done. I had thousands of photos in my Camera Roll, so much that my phone could not not take and store anymore.
The idea of trawling through EVERY photos was extremely daunting so, being the lazy person I am, I started looking for alternatives.
Top Tip: One System to Rule Them All
However you choose to organsie and store your photos, make sure you have just the one system. If you use multiple methods and systems (or worse, have no system at all!), you'll struggle to find specific photographs when you want/need them, and you may find that you even lose precious photos over time!
Method #1: Cloud-based Storage
Cloud-based storage is a fairly recent initiative, but one that has been happily adopted by many. Cloud-based storage means storing data (in this case, digital photographs) in ‘the cloud’, which is just a fun way of saying ‘on a secure internet network’.
You’re probably already using cloud-based programs without realising. For example, when you upload photos to Instagram, you are uploading them to the cloud.
You can find out more about the cloud and how it works in this beginner’s guide.
There is a large number of cloud-based storage providers to choose from, all with their own unique pros and cons. I’ll briefly explain the different photo-storing options from Apple, Google and Amazon below...
I currently use iCloud Photo Library for all my images, purely because it enables me to sync my photos between my iPhone and my Macbook Pro with ease. Plus, it only costs me £0.76 per month for 50GB - which is less than a tenner a year; an absolute bargain!
With iCloud you get two options; “Download Originals” saves all photos to the device storage in their original quality, but “Optimize Storage “ will compress photos that download to the device to avoid taking up space, with the originals staying untouched in the cloud.
The great thing about this is that you can access ALL your photos on any device. You can manually create albums, or let Apple create ‘smart albums’ - which groups photos automatically based on criteria you specify (e.g. edited photos).
iCloud Storage Plans
Google Photos offers a similar photo storage and sharing service as iCloud Photos, although with a few differences.
Google offers unlimited free storage for photos up to 16 megapixels (and videos up to 1080p resolution). This will suit the majority of smartphone photography, but those who use digital cameras will be required to pay to store larger images.
Compatible with both iOS and Android phones, Google’s cloud-based storage is, again, accessible from all your devices.
Google also uses facial recognition to group photos of friends and family together, as well as having a rather sophisticated search feature. For example, searching for “food” will bring up every picture containing food in your collection.
Upgraded storage is shared across your entire Google Drive account, so you can store additional files and folders as well.
Google Storage Plans
Amazon Prime Photos
Prime Photos offers unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime members, and is available for both iOS and Android users across all devices. This also includes 5GB of storage for videos and other file types.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can purchase an ‘Unlimited Everything’ cloud storage plan for £55/year. This includes photos, videos, music, documents and more, and comes with a 3-month free trial.
Method #2: Hard Drive Storage
This is probably considered a bit ‘old-school’ now, but my Mum swears by this tried-and-tested method of photo storage.
It’s simply really, you load all of your photos onto your laptop/desktop, and then place them in a folder or external hard drive for safe-keeping (my Mum uses multiple usb sticks).
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this method, as long you remember to create backups. If your hard drive suddenly corrupts one day (it’s happened to me), and all of your photos are on it - it’s going to really ruin your day.
You can do this by either having two hard drives, or by using backup discs.
Method #3: Print Storage
Nothing beats a good photo album, and they are one of the oldest ways to store printed photographs.
This is probably the ideal method, because it also means you can browse through them at your leisure.
It's also one of the best ways to ensure your photographs won't get forgotten. It's a bit morbid - but when a person dies, one of the most important things people choose to keep is the photo albums.
Will people be keeping hard drives or hacking into Cloud accounts in the future? Will they even know how?!
Who can be sure anymore? Having said that, I would always recommend keeping a digital back-up of your printed photos if possible, in case your printed images get lost or destroyed.
BONUS: 4 Ways to Stop Accumulating Unnecessary Photos
With so many photo opportunities, it’s really easy to accumulating hundreds of new photos on your smartphone each and every month.
That's what got me in trouble in the first place!
Use these methods below to reduce your digital clutter, save some valuable space, and stick to your new storage system...
1. Stop Auto-Saving WhatsApp Photos
I use WhatsApp to talk to multiple friends who no longer live near me, usually in a large group conversion.
We regularly share photos among the group, but I didn’t realise these were all automatically saving to my Camera Roll. I had hundreds of irrelevant photos of my friends’ messy bedrooms and silly selfies that I definitely didn’t need, as well as the odd random photo from my Mum (“Aww, look at how cute Maia (the dog) is!”).
However, you can change these settings in WhatsApp by going to Settings > Chats and turn Save Incoming Media off.
2. Print Your Favourites
Isn’t it funny, how we ‘cling’ to photos through storage, and yet barely spend any time looking at them?
When you’re organising your photos and deciding what to keep and what to delete, you’ll come across photos that take you back to a moment with clarity; photos that’ll make you laugh, smile - or even cry.
If those memories are truly significant, you should seriously consider printing them. There are loads of options available to you (including POP BOOK *cough cough*) that can bring your digital photos to live.
If nothing else, consider it as another form of backup. You can still make copies from printed photography, and are an “off site” form of storage that doesn’t rely on digital technology.
3. *Cyberman Voice* Delete, Delete
(I’m assuming everyone got the Dr Who reference. If you didn’t, I’m disappointed.)
You know the 10 selfies you took before you got the ‘perfect’ shot? Delete them. And the 50+ photos you took on your family day out? Whittle them down to the best 5-10.
When it comes to photos, we’re all hoarders.
The only time it is acceptable to have duplicate photos is for backup purposes. And that means stored on an alternative device/medium.
Oh, and those screenshots you have? Sort through them and delete them too. Chances are you took them for offline viewing (map, coupon, etc.) or for referencing on a later date.
iPhone now automatically groups all your screenshots into an album, making it easier to go through and delete them.
4. Take Better Photos
Are you guilty of taking multiple photos of the same thing, trying to capture the ‘perfect’ shot?
Yeah, me too.
Take the time to learn how to take better photographs. Think about the photo you want to take, and if it’s not working then do something different - don’t just keep snapping.
When it comes to ‘generic’ shots - think about how you could tell the story. For example, instead of taking a photo of a Christmas tree, consider taking a close-up of the star or a bauble instead. You’ll tell the same message, but in a more creative way.
Eventually, you’ll learn that you don’t need to take multiple shots to get the picture you want. And if you do, make sure you delete the series, keeping no more than two.
How do you store your smartphone photos? Please share any tips and tricks in the comments below!