Travel Photo Management

On our trip to Reunion Island, we shot 2,039 photos. That kind of volume can be a challenge to deal with. While you can certainly go deep on photo management, there are a few basics every traveler should square away. 

Pay the Tax

Whether you’re an Apple iPhone user, or you’re in the Android ecosystem, it can sometimes feel like you’re constantly being solicited to sign up for a new cloud service from your platform provider. A recurring monthly payment for a service is pure gold for Apple or Google. It can be tempting to forgo that extra iCloud storage or Google Drive space and just stick to the free plan. But – and I’m begging you here – don’t! 

If you’re a frequent traveler and you (like most of us) mostly take photos with your phone, the automatic cloud backup of your photos as you travel is well worth the monthly or annual cost. And as an added benefit, you won’t have to worry about running out of space on your phone either, as both platforms will smartly shuffle data to the cloud to make room for more photos. 

A few years ago, we had our bags stolen while traveling back from Naples. Along with a couple t-shirts that I really liked, we both lost laptops. Thanks to cloud backup of our laptops via Backblaze, and the automatic syncing of our photos with iCloud, we didn’t lose a single byte of data or a single photo of our trip – what could have been really tragic just turned out to be a minor hassle. 

In addition, having all of your photos synced to the cloud means you’ve got your library at your fingertips. I love being able to pull up photos from a past trip, or search by location to give a friend recommendations for a restaurant we loved. And I love that I don’t have to buy the most expensive phone with terabytes of storage space to keep a full copy of my library synced to my pocket. 

Get Organized

Modern phone features like face recognition, smart search, and fast scrolling mean we don’t need to carefully organize our photos like we used to. If I want to, I can quickly scroll through all 81,715 photos in my library. However, I find it really helpful to keep my photos grouped by trip.

I’m an Apple Photos user, but the general advice applies no matter which photo management tool you use. I’ve got a folder called “Travel” and then I create an album for each trip – “Mexico 2023”, “Italy 2014”, etc. As a trip wraps up, I just drag all my photos into that album, and I’ll forever have easy access, without having to remember exactly when I took a trip. 

You can certainly go much deeper than that – adding keywords, favoriting photos, or creating sub-albums. With all of the AI-based search tools these days though, I find that unnecessary. Whether it’s looking for photos of a person, a food, or even a particular dog, the search tools tend to find what I need.

Share the Work

Both Apple and Google have easy ways to make shared albums, so everyone on a trip can contribute photos. A couple years ago, Apple added a new feature to iOS called “iCloud Shared Photo Library” which goes one step further. Once set up, it can recognize when you’re near someone else in your iCloud family, and then automatically add any pictures you take to a shared library. I’ve really enjoyed this feature – when Kat takes a photo, it automatically shows up on my phone, and vice versa. When we’re back at home and going about our individual lives, we’re not constantly spamming each other with photos. 

As far as I know, there’s nothing that works quite the same built into Android, but I imagine there are apps which can provide similar functionality. 

One caveat with all the sharing features, as mentioned in last month’s photo book tip: the shared albums on iOS share lower resolution copies of your photos (iCloud Shared Photo Library doesn’t have this issue). Similarly, depending on your Google Photos settings, you can easily accidentally end up sharing “space saver” versions of your images. If your intent is to collaborate with other people on your trip, make sure you’re doing the necessary steps to share the original quality files so nobody ends up with a low quality experience. 

So, those are my basic bits of advice. One thing worth mentioning – I rarely record video when traveling, so I don’t have a separate strategy for working with video files. They’re just mixed in with my photos (and I never do anything with them). If I were editing clips together for YouTube, I might handle them differently. So, what’s your photo management strategy?

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