Phone Photo Storage

Recently a friend asked me about managing photos on her iPhone. She is a prolific photographer, taking photos for personal and professional social media use. Her challenge is managing the volume of photos, but also being able to go back and find them again.

We’ve probably all had the experience of losing a photo we treasured. The digital age has been a double-edged sword for photography. On the one hand, never before have so many people taken so many photos. On the other hand, seldom has less attention been paid to each photo. Today’s phone photos are digital snowflakes: each unique and special and each immediately lost in a flurry of other unique and special photos. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While iCloud works pretty well for most people, if you have a lot of photos you may run out of space. It can help organize and search for photos using albums and its ability to let you search for people, places and events. The biggest shortcoming is space. That and having photos sync between iCloud and your phone can fill up your phone’s storage and deleting them off your phone can remove them from iCloud. Not an ideal situation.

What works better for me is Google Photos. It’s a free app in the app store but requires you to have some kind of Google account: email, YouTube, etc. Once you install Google Photos on your phone, it’ll ask you for access to your photos. Once that’s granted, and assuming you’re on wifi (though you can change it to use cellular data if you want,) it’ll backup all your photos to Google. You can access them on your computer by logging into your Goggle account and then choosing Google Photos from the application list in the top right of your screen.

Deleting photos on your phone doesn’t delete them on Google Photos like it can on iCloud. Google Photos also sorts everything into easily searchable categories like people, places, and things. And it’s AI will also create subcategories for things it recognizes like mountains, forests, flowers, boats, dogs, etc. As well, you can create albums and add photos to them. I use albums like tags. I create albums for all kinds of things and continually add photos to them.

For example, I have an album for Wapiti. I add Wapiti related photos to it and then later when I want to find photos from Wapiti 2016 I search for “Wapiti 2016” and get all the photos for that year related to Wapiti. I can even search for “Wapiti 2016 Food” and just get pictures of food at that specific festival. Google’s photo search is remarkably good.

Google Photos has essentially unlimited storage. As long as your photos are smaller than 16 megapixels each then they don’t count against your Google Drive space. My iPhone XR takes 12-megapixel images so I can upload them forever. Of course, if you’re still walking around with a Nokia Lumia your 41-megapixel photos are going to eat into your Google Drive space. But if you still have a Lumia, that’s probably not your biggest concern with it.

Google Photos has a few other nice features such as sharing. It makes it very easy to share individual photos or albums with other people. You can easily create nice collages. You can create photo books right from your phone if you’re a fan of hard copy. These make nice gifts and start at about $10 plus shipping and tax.

If you haven’t already then give Google Photos a try. At worst it’ll provide free backup storage for your phone photos. At best it’ll help you manage your photos so they don’t get lost in the avalanche of images you’ve taken. And perhaps the best feature is it works just as well on Android as iPhone.