Capturing the moments in our children’s lives is much different than it was for our parents. If you’re like me, you take pictures of your family almost exclusively with your smartphone. Previous generations did not have the luxury of a portable, high definition, always in your pocket camera.
Smartphones burst onto the scene almost two decades ago, and the number of digital images captured each year has increased at a staggering pace. It is estimated that 1.5 trillion photos will be taken in 2021. By comparison, 3.5 trillion photos were taken between 1826 when photography was invented through the year 2012.
Saving and storing those 1.5 trillion photos presents a problem for modern parents. How do you save these memories for future generations to see? Growing up, my mom would keep photo albums that she could bring out when the time called for it. That’s a bit more difficult when the average family takes over 4,000 photos each year. Let’s look at what parents can do to ensure life’s most memorable moments end up safely stored away in the Internet’s version of a shoebox under your bed.
Facebook Isn’t the Answer
Merely saving your photos on your home computer or leaving them on your smartphone is not a smart idea. This creates a single point of failure for a lifetime of memories. If your home computer gets infected or your smartphone breaks or gets stolen, you can lose years of your digital memories in mere minutes. I’ve talked with parents who believe uploading their photos to Facebook is the answer. Unfortunately, this is not a reliable option, either. Facebook is fantastic for sharing pictures, but the site reduces the quality of your photos substantially during the upload process. The original image is reduced to a web-friendly version that cannot be resized, enhanced, or printed. There are settings on the site that can help with this, but there are other factors to consider. Social media sites were not developed with long term storage in mind. Any of these sites could decide to remove posts before a set date without much warning.
Lastly, Facebook, Instagram, and similar sites are designed to showcase a few photos. You don’t upload ALL of your pictures to these services.
Look to the Cloud
Parents need a solution that allows easy access to every photo while keeping them backed up in their original, high definition quality. I tend to err on the side of caution, so I use a few different tools to ensure my images are safe. Much of the process is automated and doesn’t require any interaction on your part.
Step one in this process is choosing a cloud storage option that works best for your needs. Cloud storage is similar to a giant flash drive that resides on the Internet. The benefit of storing your photos in the cloud is that it’s not your home computer or smartphone. You can’t accidentally drop the cloud into the pool while you’re swimming. Clicking an email that releases a virus onto your home computer has little to no impact on your data in the cloud. Cloud services are designed in a way that prevents accidents, malfunctions, or malicious software from ruining your files. Additionally, most services use sophisticated backup technology to avoid possible data loss. There are quite a few options out there, such as Flickr, iCloud, and Amazon Prime Photos. The two standouts, in my opinion, are Dropbox and Google Photos.
Google Photos offers 100GB of storage for $1.99 per month. This is a similar pricing model to the services mentioned above. Google Photos includes technology to help you organize and even edit your photos. Google does reduce the quality of your photos by approximately 30% when using their service. The research I’ve done online suggests that the photo resizing will not be noticeable to most people. The quality reduction is noticeable when uploading videos thought. Amazon Prime does not adjust the quality of your photos or videos; however, Amazon does not offer as many tools for organizing images as Google. For the price, Google gets my recommendation. For those of you willing to spend a bit more money, Dropbox is the best option.
Dropbox provides two terabytes in their Pro plan for $129 per year. The two terabytes should be plenty of storage for most families. Images and photos are not compressed, so they are kept in their original quality. The best feature of Dropbox is the apps that come with it. There’s a smartphone app and a desktop app. You’ll want to download them both. The smartphone app includes an option to upload your photos to their site automatically. The app will wait until you’ve connected to wifi and send your photos to the cloud in the background. I’ve installed this on both our phones, and it works like a charm. Whenever we snap a pic, I have full confidence it will be saved to the cloud in a few moments. The desktop app sits on your and pulls down a copy of everything to send to the cloud. This feature provides a backup copy of all of your memories that you can easily access in the event something were to happen to the Dropbox cloud. The same is true if something happens to your home computer. There’s no need to worry because there is a copy in the cloud. It is an extra layer of protection.
One Additional Safety Step
Can you imagine telling your spouse that all the photos you both have taken over the last few years were lost forever? As I stated early, I err on the side of caution. There is one additional safety measure you can do every six months or so for maximum protection. Dropbox creates a folder on your home computer where your photos and videos are housed. Purchase an external hard drive on Amazon for $60. Connect the drive to your home computer and copy the Dropbox folder to the external drive. This process will take hours, so be prepared to walk away and let it run. Store the external hard drive in a safe place once the process eventually completes. Copying to an external hard drive provides you with another backup in the unlikely event that both the cloud and your home computer are compromised. It may be overkill, but for a low cost, you can sleep well at night knowing your digital memories are safe.
Once you’ve got the storage aspect taken care of, you’ll probably want to begin organizing those photos in a way that makes sense. Much like the cloud storage options, there are a variety of choices available to clean up your clutter. Adobe Photoshop Elements provides an easy to use interface for arranging, tagging, and organizing those memories. Additionally, the software offers features to help you create stunning slideshows, collages, and videos with minimal effort.
We created email accounts for all of our children when they were born. From time to time, we send the kids an email with photos attached. For example, I sent my oldest son a picture of when he hit his first home run in baseball. The kids do not have access to these emails so think of it like a time capsule they will get to open when they are older. This is another fun way to preserve these memories.
Creating a plan to organize and save your digital memories may not be at the top of your priority list. It may even seem daunting. Start small and take it one step at a time. Within a few months, you’ll have a gallery that puts your mother’s old photo albums to shame.