Back It Up Series
- Back Up Your Photos with Picasa
- Back Up Your Non-Photo Files With DropBox
In part two of our series on keeping your photos, videos, and other files safe while traveling, we walk you through Connected Traveling’s methods for backing up your photos. As described in part one the easiest methods described require traveling with a netbook or other portable computer, however we also include backup methods that can be done from a web browser on any computer, be it your friend’s laptop or a public computer in an internet cafe.
Before we go over the right way to upload photos, we first want to help you avoid the wrong ways.
Facebook Is For Sharing Not Storing
Facebook photo albums are a great way to share the best parts of your trip with your friends from home and around the world. In fact we have an entire article on how to do this effectively. Facebook, however, is NOT for backing up your photos. This is true for a number of reasons:
- Facebook resizes and compresses the images you upload. Any photos you upload are automatically decreased to a width of 720 pixels. That’s about 0.4 MegaPixels. So much for all the money you dropped on that brand new 12 MegaPixel camera. This is fine for showing off your shots of Angkor Wat to your friends back home but certainly not for saving a backup copy in case the originals are stolen. Don’t blame Facebook; at last count they were hosting 40 billion photos…for free!
- Facebook provides no easy way to download photo albums after you’ve uploaded them. What good is an online copy if you have to right click and save each photo one at a time in the event your camera is stolen?
- You should back up all of your photos but you don’t want to spam all of your Facebook friends in the process. No one’s going to go through the 200 or so photos I took of the Taj Mahal that I want backed up online, so I’ll only post the best 30 or so to Facebook to show off to my friends.
- Facebook is not a photoraphy site. It’s a social networking site that happens to have photo albums. Thus, its photography features will never be as robust nor as actively developed as sites dedicated to photography.
What about Flickr?
Flickr has a pretty loyal following so we’re treading on dangerous ground by advising against it for back up purposes. Flickr is a fantastic photo sharing site with a wonderful community of photographers. But without a $25 a month pro account your images will be compressed and resized and you’ll only be able to upload 100mb a month, which isn’t much when your filling up your camera with 12 MegaPixel shots of the Sydney Opera House. Other fallbacks to using Flickr as a back up site:
- There’s no easy way to download full albums
- You have to maintain and organize a separate friends list to manage privacy.
- If you don’t have time to upload all of your photos in one internet session, there’s no sync tool to resume uploading where you left off.
Meet Picasa Web by Google
After playing with numerous photo sharing and file storage sites, we at Connected Traveling whole heartedly endorse Picasa Web by Google for backing up your photos. There are several reasons for this. For one, Picasa Web is essentially a hybrid between a service that stores yours files and website that shares your photos thus giving you the best of both worlds.
Secondly, it allows you to synchronize your photos with the Picasa Desktop application, a fantastic and easy to use photo manager and editor that even the least tech-savvy travelers can learn and use quickly. This means that, when you have an internet connection, your photos will automatically upload from the Picasa application to the Picasa Web site. When you lose that connection or exit the program, the upload pauses and will pick up where it left off when you connect again.
Even better, the photos then remain in sync! For example if I use the Picasa desktop application to make a few edits to my photos on my netbook, such as removing red eye, I don’t have to upload those photos again. Picasa will automatically sync the changes with the backed up photos in Picasa Web whenever there’s a WiFi connection. If I lose internet connection before all the changes are uploaded, they’ll just resume uploading the next time I go online.
I really can’t stress how useful this feature is while traveling. My netbook is usually in my backpack, so when I stumble across a restaurant, in say Manali up in northern India, with free WiFi, I can easily turn it on, connect to the WiFi network, load Picasa, close the cover, and put it back in my bag. By the time my friends and I finish eating, an entire album will have uploaded along with recent edits made the night before to a previously uploaded album.
We talk a lot about the Picasa desktop application on this site and the fact that it works so well with Picasa Web makes both solutions a great pick. Here are some other stand out features of Picasa Web:
- It lets you upload small, medium or full resolution images without compressing them
- It is very easy to download full albums with one click in case you lose the originals
- It gives you 1gb of storage for free and has extremely reasonable upgrade rates. I pay $5 USD a year for 20gb of storage.
- It stores your photos on the reliable Google cloud so you can sleep easy knowing your photos are safe and secure.
- Google has servers all over the world, so uploading is as fast as your internet connection regardless of where you are.
- It has a wide range of privacy options making it easy to mark an album as friends only, provided that your friends have Google accounts. If they don’t, you can still create a private link to pass to your friends or post on Facebook. You can change this link at any time.
- It provides you with embed code that you can copy and paste into your blog in a variety of sizes.
- It has a mobile website that lets you easily view your photos on any mobile device.
- It has an interface for developers so there are dozens of third party websites and apps. For example iPicasso lets you download your albums to your iPhone.
- It supports geo tagging to keep track of where your photos were taken.
- It lets you tag friends in your photos and it then uses facial recognition to automatically find those same friends in all of your photos.
Traveling With a Computer
I worked out a system that ensures my photos and videos are stored in two locations at all times. The short of it is that I leave a photo album both on my camera and my netbook until the images are uploaded to Picasa Web. Once I’m sure an album has been uploaded I remove those pictures from my camera to free up space on the memory card.
For added security, I try to keep my camera and netbook physically separate at all times. That way if my camera is stolen before an album is uploaded, I still have a copy on my netbook. If my netbook is stolen, I still have a copy on my camera. If both are stolen I only lose whichever photos haven’t been uploaded yet.
Step-By-Step Walk Through
Connected Traveling has a Picasa Primer that explains the basics of getting around the Picasa desktop application. While not required, it’s a good idea to read it first in order to get acclimated with the layout and basic functionality of Picasa.
- At the end of each day of shooting, create a new folder on your computer wherever you store your photos. Give the folder a name that includes the date for easy sorting. For example “2010-01-25 Bokor Hill Still Station”
- Copy your photos from your camera to this new folder. Make sure the originals are still on the camera in case your computer gets stolen before they’re backed up on Picasa Web.
- Open the Picasa desktop app (download here) and wait for it to recognize and add the new photos to your library.
- Locate the new album in Picasa and click on the Sync to Web toggle
- Login with your Google account
- Click the Change Settings button in the dialogue window that appears
- Next to Default upload size select “Original size (slowest upload)” from the drop down menu
- Uncheck “When syncing large files, upload previews first.“ This will save you time.
- Choose your desired privacy level next to New album visibility:
- “Public” means that anybody browsing through Picasa Web can see your photos as well as anybody who comes to your Picasa Web gallery at http://picasaweb.google.com/YourUserName
- “Unlisted” means that you’ll get a private link for this album that you can give to your friends and family or post to Facebook
- “Sign In Required” means just that. You choose from your gMail address book which google accounts can see these photos.
- Click OK
- Click Sync
This will add the photo album to the queu of albums Picasa intends to upload. You can do the above steps on all of your photo albums whether you have an internet connection handy or not. As long as Picasa is running, the next time it detects an internet connection it will resume uploading where it left off.
You can see the upload progress, manually resume the upload if it doesn’t automatically detect the connection, or slow the upload down if it’s hogging up your internet connection by clicking Tools (on the menu bar) -> “Upload Manager.”
And that’s it! Your photos are now backed up and viewable online at http://picasaweb.google.com/YourGoogleUserName. If you made the album private or unlisted you’ll have to login and click “My Photos” before you can see them. From the Picasa Web site you can share your photos via email, post them to your blog, view them as a slide show, and view all of the photography information including the camera used, exposure and aperature. You can download an individual photo or an entire album by clicking the Download link and even edit the photo from within a browser by clicking Edit.
If you had any video clips in the photo album, Picasa will upload them as well to Picasa Web as YouTube-like flash video. This is a nice way to share your videos in Picasa Web but is not a backup method since the flash videos are low quality and cannot be downloaded from Picasa Web if something happens to the original. To make true backups of your videos and other files see part part three of this series, Backing Up Your Non-Photo Files with DropBox.
Traveling Without a Computer
Without your own computer, you’ll have to rely on the public computers in internet cafes or friends’ portable computers to back up your photos. These computers most likely won’t have the Picasa desktop applicatoin installed so you’ll have to upload your photos to Picasa Web through a web browser.
Oddly enough, it’s much easier to upload your photos when using Internet Explorer. Google wants you to download and use the Picasa desktop application so in Firefox you can only upload five photos at a time and have to select each manually. If you’re using a Mac that doesn’t have Internet Explorer, there’s a work around for Firefox and Safari described on this blog. Any public computer should have Internet Explorer installed though.
Uploading using Internet Explorer is fairly self explanatory. Just log in using your Google account at http://picasaweb.google.com and click the Upload link. If prompted to install an Active-X plugin, just click accept and follow the directions to select multiple photos from your camera.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Select smaller sets of files at a time to upload. That way if you run out of time at the internet cafe it’s easy to know where you left off.
- In this same vein, once you confirm that a set of photos has been uploaded, delete them from your camera so you know where you left off.
- If using a public computer, you won’t be able to rely on free WiFi for larger uploads, so consider resizing the images first. Lowering the resolution from 12 MegaPixels to say 5 won’t amount to much quality loss but will save a lot of time. Check if the computer has any image editor you can use. If the internet cafe hasn’t blocked installing softare, Microsoft makes a free and easy to use Image Resizer.
- As described in Part 1, if you can’t upload your photos fast enough and are low on space, purchase an additional memory card. Don’t rely on burned CDs or DVDs!
- Always remember to log off when you’re done. Public computers can be sketchy.
Losing trip photos is heart breaking and, with the methods described above, easy to avoid. With minimum effort you can get your photos whisked away to safety of the Google cloud while getting to enjoy all the perks of Picasa Web’s photo sharing functionality and, if you’re traveling with a computer, all the great photo management and editing features of the Picasa desktop application. You’ll be glad you did!
What about the rest of your files? Your video clips, typed journal entries, audio recordings, or any other digital creation deserves some backup love too. Fortunately there’s a quick and wonderful solution with lots of great features called Dropbox.