How to back up your pictures while traveling?
It is after all one of the things that truly matters to any traveler: how to save your images while traveling, to make sure you don’t lose them? Even if we tend to say that travel memories are mainly in our mind, who wouldn’t be mad about the idea of doing a year of travel and finally lose all the pictures taken, all the memories? For many, backing up your data is a priority.
Finally, whatever your camera is (Iphone, compact, mirrorless or DSLR), finding a backup solution is always a very good idea, right? Are you looking for a way to shoot great images while traveling?
Backing up your photos while traveling?
In my opinion, there are several types of backup. In all cases, regardless of the method, try to always use 2 different ways (Ex: external card/disk or Hard Disk x 2 or 2 cards, etc.).
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The physical backup
When you think of data/photo storage, it’s often the first type of backup which comes in mind. Backing up by yourself, a real backup, on a support you can touch! With this possibility, you can only store, and not share files, which can be a pity when traveling.
It is finally the first backup, as it is done automatically as soon as the photo is shot. There are tons of them, with very different specificities according to each person’s needs.
To put it simply, we can distinguish memory cards by:
- Their capacities: from 2 GB to 32, 64, 256 GB and more;
- Their formats: mainly CF (Compact Flash) and SD/SDHC/SDXC (Secure digital), or Micro SD (for phones);
- Their reading and writing speeds.
Several brands exist on the market, but almost everyone agrees that Sandisk and Lexar are among the best.
While traveling, you’re sure to get at least your first “automatic” backup on your camera’s card. As a minimum, I would advise you to double this backup on another SD/CF card. Of course, to avoid losses and/or thefts, always keep one SD card in your camera and the other in your big bag, for example (but never both in the same place)!
Be careful however, depending on the camera you have, the memory cards will not always be the same. Some examples of cards, for info: for a compact (class 4/5), entry-level/mirrorless DSLR (class 6/7), and for a high-end SLR (class 10).
Advantages: Doesn’t take up much space, is light and easy to store, doesn’t cost much, several cards are enough to save photos of an entire trip.
Disadvantages: Can get lost easily (considering the size), some may be limited in storage (if you shoot in RAW for example), no possibility to share your photos with your family or friends (except through social networks).
External hard drives / USB key
Here is the second possibility.
In any case, when traveling, I will recommend saving your card (SD/CF) on an external hard drive (maybe even 2). In the same way as with the memory cards, keep one in your small everyday bag, and the other hidden in your bigger bag.
The external hard drive will allow you to store more data than a USB flash drive, but the latter is lighter and takes up less space. Beware also that hard drives are actually much more fragile than flash drives.
If you decide to choose the hard drive option, you should absolutely buy a hard shell to protect it during transport! There is something for every budget, from 500 giga to 1to. A very well-known brand is Western digital.
Backups on computer
This is one of the solutions that also works well when traveling. However, I would strongly recommend you never store all of your pictures only on your PC’s hard drive.
On my side, during my last big trip, I always backed up my photos on my computer, SD cards, as well as hard drive. Triple backups, thus.
Many people had the bad experience of backing up their photos only on PC and then losing everything. Don’t forget that:
- Your PC can let you down at any time during your trip;
- You can have it stolen!
So, I advise you to do the backup on your PC indeed, but also at least on another physical support (SD card, hard disk, USB keys, etc.).
Sending at home
Finally, the last solution that few people think of is sending all your physical backups back home!
And yes, it’s not a stupid idea at all as it allows you to have a copy quietly waiting for you at home, in case something happens during your trip.
The easiest to send will obviously be SD/CF cards, which are small and don’t weigh anything. The hard drive will be heavier, but nothing crazy either.
Personally, I would advise to place it in a small package, taped well, rather than in a simple or even a bubble envelope, which can be easily opened by anyone…
I sent myself a package in economy from Bangkok, and no worries on arrival.
The major disadvantage of this solution is obviously the loss or theft of the package along the way! That’s why I won’t recommend betting everything on it either…
My own experience on how to physically save your photos while traveling
From my experience during my one-year trip to Asia, I would advise to choose at least 3 physical backups. Obviously, do the first backup on the memory card (basically, leave all your photos in the camera), and then, download your photos directly to your PC. Afterwards, save everything on a hard drive, left hidden in your bag. In the middle of the trip, you can maybe send it to your home… A bit paranoid, you think?
Finally, on top of that, I had also opted for an online backup on a secure server, and it also allowed me to share my photos with all my friends and family. That’s as good as it gets! And it brings me then to the second backup option.
Online backup / Storage space
It is indeed one of the solutions which remains, for me, the most secure way to save your photos while travelling. The ideal is to couple it with one (or two) physical backups, as seen in the previous paragraph. Of course, this solution also has drawbacks!
Well, you should already know that there are several types of online backups. We can indeed distinguish two of them.
By backup sites, I simply mean all the websites offering online storage on secure servers. The iCloud backup is one example among many. There are many of them, but some stand out from the crowd:
- Dropbox: It’s one of the best known. With a Dropbox Basic account, you get 2 GB for free. There is a Dropbox Plus offer that allows you to store up to 1TB for 100$/year. Note that this is (very) more than enough for your travels! What I like about Dropbox (even if I only have a free account) is the possibility to sponsor people. You get 500 MB each time (up to 16 GB). If you don’t have an account, you can create one via this link. By the way, I earn (and you too) 500 MB extra, in addition to the 2 GB free.
- One Drive (former Sky Drive): 5 GB for free when opening an account. Then, it’s 2 €/month for 50 GB.
- Google Drive: Here, you’ll get 15 GB for free! Then, several packages are offered, including one at 2€/month for 100 GB of storage.
- Mega: Very interesting offer since they propose 50 GB for free!
All these sites can be used to store your photos when traveling. Be careful, these are only storage websites and not sharing ones. I personally use the Dropbox free version to store important documents during the trip. This allows you to have access to it from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection!
In my opinion, these sites do not have a major interest considering the new platforms that allow to store and also share photos.
Storage and sharing platforms
Here, things become very interesting. It is for me the most reliable and secure solution to save your photos while traveling. I had personally opted for such a platform before leaving on my trip to South East Asia. Living on the other side of the world today, I have since kept the subscription to this platform allowing me to save all my photos and videos, but ESPECIALLY to share them with my loved ones.
There are several such platforms, including:
- Joomeo: This is the solution I’ve been using for several years now to store my data online. Limited to a storage of 2go in the free version, they have two other interesting offers (2,26€/month or 4,51€ according to your needs). Superb photo storage and sharing platform (French), it allows you to do almost everything: unlimited storage in the paid versions, organization with folders, albums, etc., contact book, management of shared photos, etc. You can synchronize all your mobile devices and retrieve data as long as you are connected to the Internet. Everything will then depend on the bandwidth for the transfer speed to store your photos.
In short, I’ve been convinced of this one since several years now.
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- You have access to unlimited space for the same price (or even less) than traditional storage sites (which then only do storage);
- You can share photos with your friends and family;
- You have the assurance during your trip to not lose your photos, even if your camera or any other physical backups are stolen;
- You avoid any risk of data loss in case of hardware problems (PC that no longer works, hard drive out of order due to a shock, for example, etc.).
- It is necessary to have an Internet connection to back up your photos (that’s why I say that this should not be your only solution…);
- Depending on countries or places, connections can be very weak, and it can therefore be difficult to transfer your data (especially if you shoot in RAW or with a Full Frame…). For all large files, it will be more difficult.
The best solution (in my opinion) to save your pictures while traveling
In the end, considering all the solutions presented in this article on how to save your photos while traveling, this is what I personally recommend:
- Always keep the photos on your camera memory card (1st backup then);
- Buy a hard drive with a solid protection, on which you will download all your photos as soon as the opportunity arises (2nd backup). Next to that, take a 2nd hard drive that will be used as a third backup and that you can send at home along the way;
- Finally, opt for a storage and sharing platform for the duration of your trip (I do recommend Joomeo with my eyes closed, since I use it daily). The latter will allow you to relocate your backups and will ensure you a copy on the net, nice and warm. Moreover, your family will be able to visualize your entire journey as you go, instead of always having to go on social networks!
That’s it, I think I’ve gone through all the existing possibilities to save your photos while traveling. And you, how do you do it? Are you more into hard drives? Or memory cards?
See you soon,