This story is part of7;s series on how we are now preparing for what may come next. , CNET̵
When a natural disaster strikes and your property is lost or destroyed, people sometimes offer the phrase “things can be replaced” as comfort. This applies to some extent – you can easily buy furniture, curtains and kitchen appliances again. But losing photographs? Devastating. Even more about all you had was print on the family’s old photos.
It is not enough to scan your printouts and save them on a computer. If your computer crashes or you become a victim of a virus or a nasty hack, you can still lose them. I learned this lesson the hard way when our old family Dell took a trip to the worst in the early 2000s and took countless pictures with it.
Portable hard drives can store your memories and they fit nicely in a bug-out bag. You can also create a photo book as a backup of your favorites all the time and store it somewhere as a fireproof safe. But a digital backup is the best way to protect your memories. Even if your computer is lost, you can still access a cloud-based account with your photos attached.
Choosing the right option is crucial. Although Facebook and other social media platforms can hold your photos, not everyone may be comfortable making them your memories. In addition, your photos will be compressed to a lower resolution – they will not look as good if you want to print them.
Here are some different apps and services that you can use to protect your memories for little or no cost.
Clouds Photo Services
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Google Photos is a great resource for both organizing and editing photos that require little or no work on your part. The Google Photos app – available on iOS and Android – can back up your photos to your Gmail account. I have backed up photos all the way from 2014, when I first made the transition to Android.
The backup and sync feature should be enabled by default when you download the app, but you can also turn it on manually in your settings. Anyway, you can easily manage your Google Photos library from your phone or desktop. Every so often, Google asks if you want to free up space on your phone by backing up the images to your Google Account, which is also available through Gmail.
Google Photos offers a free plan with unlimited storage for images smaller than 16 megapixels and videos 1080p or less. You should be able to adjust the settings of your phone, for example if you want videos to record at a lower resolution and take less storage. For context, an average photo taken on my Pixel 3 is 12.1 megapixels.
Although it is a fixed option to automatically upload photos you take to your phone, you can also upload photos manually from a digital camera or those you have scanned to your computer.
If your media is larger than that, you get up to 15 GB of free space. The service has a paid version that offers 100 GB for $ 2 per month or 1 TB for $ 10 per month.
Sarah Tew / CNET
Apple’s cloud-based photo service is part of the company’s larger iCloud storage system and is compatible with iPhones and Macs. To find the service, you need the Photos app on Mac or iOS. On computers, you can manage your photos and videos from iCloud.com in your browser or with the Windows iCloud app.
Like Google Photos, the iOS service automatically organizes your photos by date. However, you should know that your device’s iCloud backup does not automatically save photos to iCloud Drive – it’s a separate part of iCloud. For example, when I delete a photo from my iPad, a message appears stating that the photo will be deleted from iCloud Photos. The Apple Toolbox suggests that you keep copies of things you do not want to delete in iCloud Drive, but do not just rely on iCloud Drive – archive it in multiple locations, such as a local hard drive.
iCloud is built into iOS devices and gives you 5 GB for free, but for $ 1 a month you can upgrade to 50 GB. The next levels offer 200 GB for $ 3 a month and 2TB for $ 10 a month.
Screenshot of Stephen Shankland / CNET
Flickr, which was acquired by SmugMug 2018, lets you save up to 1,000 images for free on its platform. (It used to offer 1TB of free storage, but called it back to encourage users to sign up for their pro accounts). The app has a more social feel to social media, as you can be part of a Flickr photography community. You can download it for iOS and Android.
If you subscribe to Flickr Pro for $ 7 a month or $ 60 a year, you get unlimited storage for your photos. In addition, Flickr’s Uploadr feature, available only to Pro members, allows you to back up your content from places like your computer, hard drives, iPhoto, and Dropbox.
Screenshot of Oscar Gutiérrez / CNET
The iconic web hosting site from the early 2000s is still there – it just looks a little different today. Once you have created a Photobucket account, you can store up to 250 photos for free and then choose from three different subscription plans.
Beginners store 2,500 images or 25 GB for $ 6 a month, Intermediate stores 25,000 images or 250 GB for $ 8 a month, and Expert has unlimited image storage for $ 13 per month. All paid levels are ad-free. In addition, you can store uncompressed original photos, so that your photo quality is not compromised with the Expert subscription.
How to digitize physical images
If you have a collection of old physical photos that you want to digitize, you have a few options. The simplest is a scanner: If you have access to one, CNET has a handy guide that breaks down glass cleaning, scans multiple photos at once, and options for organizing and editing.
Scanning photos is usually the best way to preserve their resolution, but if you have a pinch, you can take a photo of the physical photo with your phone. From there, you can edit and back up whatever you choose. The downside of this makeshift method is that sometimes, depending on the lighting, you get a reflection of your phone on the photo and glare while trying to keep the photo flat.
Here are a few apps and services that can help you preserve your old physical photos, if you do not have a scanner on hand or if you have many photos and do not want to spend time scanning them individually.
Photoscan / Screenshot by Shelby Brown / CNET
Google’s free PhotoScan app lets you scan printed photos with your phone’s camera and back up your scan to the Google Photos app. The app is available for iOS and Android.
Kent German / CNET
If you do not mind using an app, you can turn to a professional service. ScanMyPhotos, located in Irvine, California, offers physical photo scanning, negative scanning and slide shows. You can send the company a box with photos to restore or the site can transfer VHS media and 8mm movie to DVD to save old home movies.
Depending on your needs for photo scanning, the website has different options to get the job done. If you do not have that many photos, scans start at 8 cents each. If you get close to 2,000 photos, the $ 145 prepaid box is the best idea. Pack the box, send it away and after the project is completed, you will receive the box back with electronic copies of your scans and a book with your photos. CNET editor Kent German tested ScanMyPhotos to digitize his photo collection and spoke positively about the service in his article.
Other services to try
For more information on storing photos, check out the best hard drives and storage devices for 2020 and the best online book photo services for 2020. For more on disaster preparedness, check out our Hacking the Apocalypse series.