My Photo Storage Options

With overwhelming options to backup and store digital photos you might wonder which ones should you use.  I’ve had the same questions.  I’ve done a lot of research and trial before choosing the listed options below.  I’m going to explore these options that have risen to my top choices.

Smugmug:

Benefits: I currently use Smugmug for my website and digital backups.  With 5 layers of organization, you can sort similar to lightroom collections using the Smugmug collect feature.  There are also several different privacy options, display options and a right click blocking option to prevent viewers from saving or downloading your images without your permission or purchase.  They provide the option to order prints, canvas, metals, mugs, etc.  Watermarking is an option in the higher packages with options to also sell your work.  I’ve choosen the Power option, so I can have a private domain (website name) and have chosen to not use watermarking or selling on Smugmug.  Even if you are not wanting to be in business, you may want to make a portfolio with the templates provided, so you can easily share your beautiful website with friends and family.  Smugmug also offers a plugin for lightroom so you can upload your images straight from lightroom to Smugmug.  Check out my website here.

Drawbacks: There are no free options with Smugmug, just a free trial.  Each package comes with unlimited storage options for your original sized images ranging from $5.99 to $41.99 a month.  It is a separate location for your images, so not easily accessible when wanting to find and use an image for social media (although I’ve noticed that facebook doesn’t like any outside photo storage location except what is on your phone).  You would need to export the photo to your desktop before you are able to upload to social media or create a blog, etc.  This is not much different than Lightroom.  I started using this site to sell my fine art photography, but found it not to be user friendly and they take 15% of my sale in addition to the monthly subscription.  There wasn’t a great way to show customers what the item will look like before purchase.  You’ll see my chosen website for selling my fine art photography later in this article.

Flickr:

Benefits: Create your own portfolio with a beautiful masthead and collection of your top 25 images. Be part of a community of photographers as well as friends and family.  Printing canvas, metals and prints directly from Flickr ever since Smugmug purchased Flickr.  Your order gets printed and shipped directly from White House Custom Colour.  Create album collections and albums to keep organized.  Label each album of images or separate images as: Private, Family, Friends, Friend & Family, or Public.  Label albums or separate images as safe viewing, moderate or restricted.  Free for your first 1,000 uploaded items.  Join Groups for inspiration and post to groups for more exposure.  You can favorite images and put together galleries of favorite images from your favorite photographers.  When you join Pro you get unlimited uploads, Ad-Free brousing, advanced stats, advertising of your business.  There are also many benefits/coupons with the following companies: Smugmug, Adobe CC Photography Plan, Blurb, Chatbooks, Peak Design, PHLEARN, Priime, Pixsy. With Auto-Uploadr, quickly and easily back up your entire photo collection from your phone, computer, hard drives, Dropbox, Adobe Lightroom Plugin, and more.

Drawbacks:  Minimal cost to go Pro $50/year.  Really not a drawback at all considering all the discounts you receive each year.  Can you sell fine art photography on this site?  I’ll need to check into it.  It doesn’t provide a website platform like Smugmug does.

Dropbox:

Benefits: I currently use Dropbox for most of my accessibility between my desktop and mobile for photos and documents.  I’m able to export from Lightroom directly to Dropbox folder of my choice.  Within Dropbox I have a master folder of subfolders to share with friends and clients via a copied link to their own folder.  This separate folder reminds me to not touch the folders or move them around as doing so can create issues when the person I shared that folder with is not able to access the photos.  Dropbox is also very accessible to many sites of which you want to upload a photo.  It is Dropbox that I use to show many of my friends and family in person my latest images on my phone.  I’ve also created a separate folder called “Archive” to keep my original images that were exported from Lightroom in a jpeg format.  Dropbox is free up to 2GB. You can access the images direct from Instagram, if you wish to post a favorite.

Drawbacks: You need to pay $9.99 month to get 1TB of storage.  That could add up over the years, if you plan to keep Dropbox as your source for permanent storage.  It’s also not very pretty site. It’s very utilitarian in a folders organization.  So, if you are looking for a nice presentation for viewer, then you will need to find another means.  This is a utilitarian site to organize and store your photos and documents, it doesn’t have features like printing, editing, or creating a portfolio, etc.  If you want to see my comparison to Google One and One Drive read my blog Happy New Year! Which one to use: Dropbox, Google One (Drive), One Drive

Google Photos:

Benefits:  I use this site to share family photos with my family.  Sometimes a family member is more persuasive than you, so you use what works for them.  It’s very accessible to all the external sites if want to upload a photos to a site including social media sites.  It’s free as long as you don’t mind that the original file size is limited to 16 megapixels.  It uses AI (artificial Intelligence) to help you find faces, subjects or places (this feature is really cool and creepy at the same time).  Easily share photos with friends and family as they can upload images to a shared folder that you create or you can upload images to a folder that someone has invited you to join.  It also features automatic photo uploading and photo printing services.  You can access the images direct from Instagram, if you wish to post a favorite.

Drawbacks:  It’s free to use unlimited as long as you don’t mind the file size of 16 megapixels or less.  When you choose to upload your originals you are now limited to 15GB for free.  I’ve already exceeded this amount in just a years time, so I needed to make a decision to not use Google Photos, not upload originals or pay for more storage.  It doesn’t have a way to organize your photos into folders and subfolders.  Even the main page doesn’t let you organize the folders manually, it does what it wants to.  If you love being organized like I do, then Google Photos will drive you crazy.  If you don’t mind Google handling the sorting for you and uploading a smaller size than the original, then Google Photo could be for you.

Shootproof:

Benefits:  This is a beautiful looking site for client proofing, which means my clients can favorite their top images and then I’ll send them their choices via Shootproof. While this is mostly for those who are in the portrait/wedding business of photography I thought I’d still share this option.   This site also gives them the opportunity to purchase prints, canvas, metals, etc.  For me another benefit is that it links with my CRM software Tave.  Tave is how I was introduced to Shootproof.  Shootproof also works with my choice of professional printer, White House Custom Colour (WHCC).

Drawbacks: Somewhat cumbersome to use.  So many options to keep the clients site private and still allow the client to share with their friends and family (great for wedding clients).  It’s hard for me and the client to keep track of what password or pin to use when and where.  I did hear a tip that Adobe is working on a proofing site!  I tried to use this site to sell my fine art photography, but it just wasn’t coming together well.  You’ll see the next option has been my choice to sell my fine art photography.

Fine Art America:

Benefits: I use this site to sell my fine art photographs.  It was April last year that a coach from Adobe Lightroom was speaking at my photography club and he gave us a preview of his selling website.  I knew I needed to look into this for myself.  Hands down, it’s the easiest site that I’ve used to date.  It looks so professional and solves many of the issues that was stopping me to continue to work with other sites.  A buyer is able to easily see what the item looks like on a wall in the correct size and other items in 3D.  Once a buyer purchases a selected photo size and product, Fine Art America prints, assembles and ships direct to the customer.  I don’t touch anything.  How great is that?  You can even create your own project and print through Fine Art America, of which they take off your markup.  You can also keep a blog for marketing purposes, gather a community of followers to advertise to, etc.  The benefits just keep growing as I explore the site.  You can check out my site here.

Drawbacks:  Can’t think of anything.  It’s free for your first 25 images.  I knew that I wanted to upload and sell more than 25 images, so I jumped in and paid the $30 for the year.  Yes, I said a year.  What’s the catch?  Why so cheap?  I set my profit for each item and print size so there are no surprises, but there is also no way for me to see what commissions they add in addition to the cost of the product because I don’t know their cost of the product.

Forever:

Benefits: I’ve chosen this option to keep my family photos to be passed onto my sons and their children.  It also would be a good place to keep my top favorite 100+ fine art photography images.  This storage option was introduced to me by my scrapbooking friends.  Creative Memories, a scrapbooking company, continues to sell albums and their digital department separated from Creative Memories to become Forever.  While you can also print, make cards, make digital albums, purchase media transfers, etc. this option is mostly about permanent storage of your photos.  You pay a large sum of money to own instead of rent your storage.  They also guarantee your photos for 100 years past your lifetime.  How do they offer that?  They invest your purchase into a Forever Fund that not only keeps your photos private, accessible to you and those you want to access your photos, but they will also transfer the current data format into the future data format.  Sounds too good to be true?  Well, it’s not cheap.  Have you ever wondered if your family will be able to access your photos after you’ve passed?  Forever purchase includes having a beneficiary to maintain your photos for you now and after your lifetime.  This means you will be able to leave a legacy of your photos to your children and grandchildren.  By no means do I think I’m going to upload every photo that is in lightroom, but I upload and organize the photos that I care about the most (you know the 5 star images).  You are able to organize the albums and create sub-albums, which I love.  Check it out my profile here.

Drawbacks:  While the upfront cost is significant, the long term cost is worth every penny.  This too is a separate website and you would need to export your images from Forever to your desktop to be able to upload to an exterior site, as well as export to your desktop from Lightroom to import/upload to Forever.  They listen to their users and make upgrades, but they need to work on making it user friendly for the professional photographer. If they want to market to photographers (a huge pool of photo lovers that they are missing out on).  For starters, I would get a plugin for Lightroom, ability to watermark virtually on the site, and ability to add a link to the photographers website.

Amazon Prime Photo:

Benefits: If you are already a Prime member, then Amazon Photo is free for unlimited full resolution storage and 5 GB of video.  You can pay more for more video storage. It features automatic photo uploading and photo printing.  It also has a mobile app, Prime Photos for editing features, tagging and support for those “live” motion photos you see on smartphones.  It uses AI (artificial intelligence) to find objects, people, places when searching for your images.  You can access the images direct from Instagram, if you wish to post a favorite.  I just picked up Amazon Photo in writing this article, so there is a lot more to explore and I think I’ll be happy.  Will it replace a few on my list?  Keep in mind there are only about 1-3 major cloud storage companies and they sell cloud storage to smaller companies, of which sell to you.  Amazon is one of the top 3 storage companies.

Drawbacks: You need to be a Prime member for $119/year.  If you are not a prime member, then check it out.  You get free shipping with 2 day delivery.  Amazon Music, Movies, Photo and Drive, etc.  Amazon Prime will let you download to your computer, but it doesn’t sync to the cloud, like Dropbox does….hummm.  The organization is similar to Google Photo in that there isn’t much organization.  You can create albums, but there are no sub-folders nor sorting of the albums.  It will sort the albums by date created or by name, then uses the AI feature to help you find photos.  You can however add photos and sort with folder and sub folders in Amazon Drive.

Adobe Cloud:

Benefits: After all the listed above you might be wondering about Adobe Cloud.  I was very excited to find out that Adobe has a cloud of their own.  After all, I’m already paying for Adobe Photography Plan, which is $120/year.  Can Adobe replace 1 or 2 options above?  Each year I review my paid sites and determine if there is a way to combine sites and achieve the same thing or if each of the options above has a specific need met.

Drawbacks:  I work with Lightroom Classic CC, so I know if I sync my photos to the cloud it is actually only a smart preview, not the original file and I’m limited to 20GB.  If you are using the cloud based Lightroom Desktop CC or mobile CC or web CC, then your photos are the original and you get 1TB with your annual subscription purchase.  I’ve worked with it some and have had trouble with the syncing.  My syncing stopped working and there is a work around which requires me to delete all my collections (100+).

Adobe Portfolio:

Benefits: This is a portfolio/website site that is included with your Adobe Photography Plan, which is $120/year.  Since, I already pay for the the plan, I checked into this option for cost saving, right?  It comes with beautiful templates that can be fully customized with options to add galleries, pages, links, embed videos, etc.  The website is also responsive, which means it automatically changes the format to look great on desktop, tablet, and mobile both horizontal and vertical.

Drawbacks:  This is not really a photo storage option as it counts against your 2GB limit, which it not alot of storage.

Good Sync (for your external hard drive):

Benefits: Good Sync will make an exact copy of your external hard disk drive.  Once a week I’ll connect my backup external disk drive to my laptop and run the software Good Sync.  It’s so easy to use.  This is an option listed at the bottom only because this is the more obvious option that many people and photographers do to back up their documents and photos.  In my case, while I knew I needed to back up my images I was doing this process manually, which as you can imagine was cumbersome and not accurate.  I finally, took the plunge and choose a software that was recommend the most (there are several software options that will work just as well).  I downloaded the software on my computer and pushed the anaylize button, then sync.

Drawbacks:  Now that it’s all set up I’m good until the external drives fill up.  This is where my journey continues.  As my business grows and I continue to shoot more and more photos and the cameras data for each photo gets larger, I need to continue to upgrade and increase in size my external disk drives, which also costs money.  Finally, there is always the risk of the disk getting damaged or stolen.

Thanks for Reading.

Karen

 

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