How to backup your photos while on the road

Why do we take photos when we travel?

Obviously that depends on each one of us, for some photography is their way of living, for others it is just a hobby, and for a few others it is a way to preserve memories. But there is something in common to all of us, losing all photos taken during our holidays is enough to spoil at least one day! And for those that make a living out of that, losing photos is also losing loads of money…

Usually I can’t take time off to travel for more than two weeks, but it already happened to me to lose all my photos on a weekend trip, and I still don’t know how I did it…, therefore, backing up my photos is something that became quite important to me. I learnt my lesson, and I because more cautious of my photos.

 

On my last trip, to Australia, my levels of concern increased to an almost psycho level…, two months on the other side of the world. Those were literally thousands of memories that I will never want to lose, and misplacing one of those cards filled with memories would be enough to have a few grumpy days. To avoid those levels of concern to reach a level of not even having fun, I had to look for other ways to insure I wouldn’t come back without those precious photos of my epic trip. After some research, I decided by a combination of strategies, all listed below. Yes, all of them!

Several memory cards

This is probably the most common way of backing up, actually, technically I don’t even think this can be considered as a backup as there will be no copies. I am talking about the camera’s SD card, where I’ll have all my photos, and we simply change to another card, and another, and another one… Since that was the most obvious option, and since I already had a few spare SD cards, I even considered to mail them home. But then, maybe that would stress me out even more. What if the envelope would be lost as well? I already had a bad experience with something alike, a package that never arrived to its destination… So, I had to think of other options…

SD memory cards
SD memory cards

Macbook Pro / iPad

At first I considered to take the iPad with me. Perfect to take several books inside a single device, I could take notes, I could edit photos right there, etc. But before I decided by that, for a month I only used the iPad to copy photos, to blog, etc. In fact, I can do all of them on an iPad, but it wasn’t the same as on a computer, and besides that, even the available space for backups was way more limited.

I hesitated a lot in taking the Macbook Pro with me. Extra weight? Well, I did realize quite fast that it wouldn’t be a problem, I wouldn’t carry it with me often, only from the bus to the hostel and vice-versa. Therefore, the extra weight wasn’t even a problem to consider. Safety? Yep, same as the iPad, actually, considering that the iPad is smaller than the Macbook, that makes it even easier to steal… Available space in the hard drive? A lot!

I ended up by taking the Macbook Pro with me, and the fact that it is already quite old and that I was already considering to replace it, the decision became obvious…, but…, what if someone stole it? Memory cards in one bag, backups on the Macbook Pro…, and I was still not happy with it…

MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro

Cloud Backups (iCloud)

Yes, my psychotic levels of concern were high! I decided to pay for a iCloud photo storage plan, 1TB. About 10€ /month, and some peace of mind. But I still had some doubts, I did quite some research how to backup while on the road, and one of the comments that made me feel more uneasy was regarding internet access in some remote places. In fact, just to upload all my current library to the cloud it took me almost a full week! The upload speed made me feel even more nervous, even though it sounds like an awesome solution, it could go terribly wrong if I couldn’t find a good internet connection.

Well.., as a matter of a fact, I rarely found places with proper internet. In two months on the road, I didn’t even manage to upload half of my photos…, I still needed a plan D) to backup my photos without the need of internet…

External Hard Drive

And I found the perfect solution! I purchased a 2TB My Passport Wireless! It is an external hard drive with SD card reader, that copies all the card’s content without duplication content previously backed up. I just loved that solution, and to test it, I used it a couple of times before my holidays, and I honestly loved it! They have a companion app for iPad/iPhone, and with that we can have a better control of what is being copied, the backing up progress, free space, etc. We even can used as a router, we can connect the hard drive to a wireless network and from there, we can keep our iPhone always connected to the disk without having to switch network each time we want to access the hard drive and/or to the internet.

Not so good things about the My Passport, I found it a tiny bit too slow, and the fact that we can’t have it connected to a wireless network while being connected via USB to the computer, is a bit of an annoyance… (I took a while to figure this out). But in general, it was the perfect solution, a full backup of my SD card, and an external hard drive that I can just place in some other bag.

Hard drive with SD card slot
Hard drive with SD card slot

The combination of the hard drive with the iPad would be perfect, way lighter than the Macbook Pro. But why still insisting by carrying the Macbook Pro? Mostly because it is harder to blog on the iPad, possible but a bit harder…, and at this point I was already decided, therefore it didn’t even cross my mind to change plans.

Summarizing

  • Never delete your photos from the memory cards, it’s always better to have a few spare ones than trusting that everything will be fine, and then…
  • Computer or iPad to edit and process the photos directly from the SD cards, also as a backup alternative
  • Cloud Backup, not the way I recommend the most, but it is always an option for those who don’t take photos in RAW or are not crazy about shooting every single thing they see…
  • External hard drive, to keep somewhere else all the remaining backups. If we get stolen, there are less chances that they take everything from us…

The strategy, obviously, it is up to you. For sure there are other ways to make sure you’ll get home with all your photos.

What about you guys? Do you backup your photos while on the road? Write down a comment with your strategy 🙂


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Backing up your photos while on the road

Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

5 thoughts on “How to backup your photos while on the road

  • July 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm
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    Good post! Your Mac is waaaay cleaner than mine. My online images are scattered over differnt Google drive pages, I need to start paying for an online service and have them in the one place, drives me nuts.

  • July 29, 2016 at 6:46 pm
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    Ahaha, I have to admit I cleaned it up for the photo 😛

  • August 8, 2016 at 8:17 pm
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    I really feel as if this topic isn’t covered enough! Great post.

  • August 8, 2016 at 8:19 pm
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    Thank you 🙂 I totally agree, I had to search a lot before my trip, there aren’t enough information out there regarding this…

  • September 14, 2016 at 8:56 pm
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    We have the Passport too as my biggest fear is losing photos. Unfortunately we do not have iphones for the app! It is slow. We backup everything on a computer and DropBox but I’d like one more fast way to back up when travelling! Nothing is fast enough.

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