sharing digital photos
We invited tech expert (who is also my brother) Kevin Allgaier to weigh in and help us all understand a little more about sharing digital photos. We’re always grateful for his expertise and hope you’ll find these tips and insights helpful as you try to best determine how to effectively share digital photos in your own life.
More than anyone, if you’re reading this post, you understand the importance of photographs in preserving memories. The late Marc Riboud (French photographer) once said that “taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” How true that is! Family, loved ones, events, homes, cityscapes, landscapes . . . these are all things that mean something to each of us and we capture them as often as we can to preserve those memories.
We capture our photographs (and videos) using our iPhones, Androids, iPads, laptops, even our dSLRs. We store those files on our internal hard drives, SD cards, thumb drives, and in the cloud. In today’s post, we won’t be talking about capturing our photos, nor will we be focusing on storing our photos. Instead, we’ll be talking about sharing our photos. After all, isn’t that partially why we capture them?
The other day, the Becky Higgins team posed a question on social media, which came in response to a reader question: “How do you share your photos between family members?” This post on Facebook and Instagram certainly stirred the pot as MANY of you responded with what works well for you (as well as what doesn’t work). As I read through the responses, I quickly realized something . . . every single one of us is different, and this is a great thing! Some of us use iCloud. Some of us use Google Photos. Some of us use Dropbox. Others use Amazon Photos, LifeCake, Facebook, and even simple text messaging to share your photos. Many of us use a combination of multiple photo-sharing services.
If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s this: there is no silver bullet answer. Everyone’s needs and preferences are different and there isn’t one service that works perfectly for everyone. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you how I share my photos. Spoiler alert — I rely on multiple services to achieve my goals.
Before I talk about sharing, let me start at the beginning — capturing the shot. I take the vast majority of my photos today on my iPhone 7 Plus. In fact, as of right now, 100% of my photos and videos are taken on my iPhone. It’s with me all the time and the quality is great.
Now that I have my shot, where does it go? Well, first and foremost, a local copy of that photo is stored on my iPhone. In addition to that, I use (and LOVE) Apple’s iCloud Photos Library feature (part of Apple’s iCloud service). This is a critical part of my workflow for two reasons. First, it means that all my photos and videos are synced across all my devices. I have an iPhone, iPad, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, and iMac. My entire Photos library is available on each and every one of those devices as far back as I want to go. Second, it means that every photo and video I capture is automatically backed up (in a sense). If I’m on vacation (taking lots of pictures, of course) and I lose my iPhone, I’m not stressed because I know that all my pictures are automatically synced to iCloud (using iCloud Photos library) with zero effort on my part. It’s 100% automatic.
One mistake I see people making all the time is when a family has one iCloud account used by everyone in the family. Yikes!! Unless you have a very specific need, please don’t do this!! This causes several problems. First of all, Mom doesn’t always want to see every single picture that Dad takes and vice versa. More to the point, do you want every picture that your teenagers take part of your library? Another common problem is with messaging. If you’re using the same iCloud account, that means you will experience cross-talk with messaging. Everyone gets everyone’s messages. iCloud is designed to be used by a single person across their devices, not for an entire family to use one account.
One caveat with using iCloud Photos library: the more photos and videos you want to store, the more storage is required. The standard free iCloud account allows you to use 5 GB of storage. That’s not much, so you will most likely want to upgrade that to 50 GB, 200 GB, 1 TB, or even 2 TB (I use the 1 TB plan because I use iCloud for more than just photo syncing).
Another benefit to using iCloud Photos library is it makes sharing super easy (and super quick). You can share photos with others by selecting a series of photos, then creating a new (or adding to an existing) Shared Album. Sharing using Shared Albums is very quick because the photos are already in the cloud, so additional uploading is not required. It simply flags those photos as being shared with the appropriate people. You can invite others to view your photos by sending them an email (part of the creation process for a new Shared Album) or sending them a link. If you set the Shared Album to also act as a public website (by the flip of a switch in the Shared Album settings), a special URL is created so anyone can view the Shared Album on any device (Mac, Android, Windows, Linux, DOS . . . just kidding about DOS).
For those who use Android, don’t stress out with all this Apple talk! Similar features are available through Google’s own photo-sharing service called Google Photos. While the details may be slightly different, the concepts are the same.
Shifting gears a little, let’s talk about traditional cloud storage. There are many cloud storage providers available: Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, the list goes on forEVER. Although the concepts are the same from one provider to another, my personal favorite for many reasons is Dropbox. It’s easy to use and gives you a lot of features. It’s also nicely integrated into the Project Life® App!
Earlier I mentioned that I use iCloud Photos library. While that’s true, it’s only true for 1-2 years of my photos. Photos older than 2 years old are moved out of iCloud Photos library and into Dropbox. There, I have a folder called “Archived Photos.” Inside that folder, I have folders called “2000,” “2001,” “2002,” etc. All photos taken in 2002 live inside the 2002 folder. By storing my photos on Dropbox, it means I have a built-in backup of those files AND I can access those files from any device anywhere, any time. Imagine the cool factor here. I’m at a party re-living my glory days in high school. Because I took the time to scan all my high school photos and have stored them on Dropbox, and I have the Dropbox app on my iPhone, I can pull up those awesome pictures of me playing my trumpet solo in front of dozens of spectators!
Let’s talk about social media. I absolutely love Instagram and Twitter. I love that it’s simple to share a photo or video and add a few comments about that photo or video. I love to see others comment on them as well. That’s what sharing is all about! There’s really not much more to say about that. I just felt it needed to be said.
Finally, I wanted to mention this idea of sharing via text. YES! I share photos and videos via text all the time. It’s the absolutely simplest and quickest way to share a moment with someone. In an average day, I bet I text at least a few dozen pictures with various people (work and personal). It’s just fast and convenient. But one thing to keep in mind . . . photos that are texted are not designed to be archivable. In order to save on bandwidth, those images are compressed. It’s hard to tell on a screen the size of a deck of cards, but if you were to compare a texted photo with its original version blown up to 8×10, you would see the difference. If you want an easy way to share a photo with someone who you know will want to archive the photo, at the very least, email it and choose original size. This will send an uncompressed version of the photo.
My final thoughts: sharing is awesome, sharing is fun, and sharing is a great way to keep in touch with family and loved ones! It’s also a great way to conduct business. It’s good for so many reasons. There are thousands of ways to share photos. Explore the options, talk to those you trust, keep up on trends, and try different services until you find the combination of services that works for you. At the end of the day, you need to feel comfortable with what you use. If you feel inhibited, then you won’t share.