Backup Photos - Google Photos

As you travel, you should take important safeguards to protect the valuable photos you have taken.  Other than your memories, your photos may be the most important thing you will have to remember your trip.

You should consider a way to backup your photos and one of the best ways is by using Google Photos.  See our Google Page for more information on Google Photos and creating a Google Account.

On this page, we go through the steps of getting your photos from your camera your Smartphone and then to Google Photos.

Using Google Photos involves a few steps, but once you understand the process, it's fairly simple.

If you decide to use this method, take some time prior to your departure to be sure you understand the process and that it works flawlessly for you - don't take chances with your photos!  For the following steps, we assume you are using a digital camera.  We highly recommend a good Digital Camera but some people choose to use their Smartphone to take their photos and that is fine.  If you are using your Smartphone then you can skip the step of transferring the photos to your phone.

There are basically 4 steps involved to get your photos from your camera to your Smartphone and then synced with Google Photos.  Although it may seem confusing at first, the entire process can be accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

  1. Connect your camera to your Smartphone
  2. Copy photos from your camera to your Smartphone's Micro SD Card
  3. Establish a Wifi connection for internet access
  4. Sync your Smartphone photos with Google Photos
  5. Organize your photos into albums

Below is an overview of the process.  We currently have a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone and everything below works perfectly.  The procedures for some of the steps may be different based on your phone.  Once you get your photos synced with Google Photos, the process is the same.

Micro SD Card Your camera must have enough memory to hold the photos you will transfer to it from your camera.

Consider purchasing a Micro SD Card of 128-256 gigabytes and insert it into your camera.  Be sure to check if your camera is able to accommodate a card and the maximum memory size it can accept.  If the card get's full, you can simply swap it with a backup card.  This will also give you another form of backup.

How many photos can be saved on a memory card

To help you decide on the SD Cards and Micro SD Cards to purchase, the following table will give you an idea of how many photos each size card can hold.  The larger a photo size, the fewer can be saved on a memory card.  The larger the memory card, the more expensive they will be.

Megapixels

File size (MB)

1GB

2GB

4GB

8GB

16GB

32GB

64GB

128GB

4MP

1.2

715

1430

2861

5722

11444

22888

45776

91552

5MP

1.5

572

1144

2288

4577

9155

18310

36620

73240

6MP

1.8

476

953

1907

3814

7629

15258

30516

61032

7MP

2.1

408

817

1634

3269

6539

13078

26156

52312

8MP

2.4

357

715

1430

2861

5722

11444

22888

45776

10MP

3.0

286

572

1144

2288

4577

9155

18310

36620

12MP

3.6

238

476

953

1907

3814

7629

15258

30516

14MP

4.2

204

408

817

1634

3269

6539

13078

26156

16MP

4.8

178

357

715

1430

2861

5722

11444

22888

22MP

6.6

130

260

520

1040

2080

4161

8322

16644

 
1: Connect your camera to your Smartphone

The first step is to connect the camera to your phone.

Direct Connect

As our phone supports OTG (On-The-Go) USB Connections, all we have to do it plug our camera directly into the phone using the charging port and launch the 'My Files' app.

USB OTG (On-The-Go) allows your phone to act as a host for other USB devices such as USB flash drives, digital cameras, mice or keyboards.

USB Cable Types

There are two types of USB Cables and it can be hard to tell them apart as they look virtually identical.  Both cables have the same USB plug at one end and the Micro USB plug or other type adaptor at the other end.

If you plug your camera into your phone and your phone does not recognize the camera as a plugged in USB device other than for charging, you are probably using a Charging Cable and need a Data Cable.

Charging Cable

A charging cable has two internal wires that are used to charge your phone.  When using a charging cable, you will not be able to perform a data sync to transfer photo from your camera to your phone.  In fact, when you run the Files app on your phone, you will not see that any USB Device (Camera) is connected to the phone.

Data Cable

A data cable has four internal wires allowing the cable to be used for charging as well as for syncing data.  So, a data cable can be used to sync photos between your camera and phone while charging your phone at the same time.

When we were researching how to get photos from our camera to our phone, we talked to people at Best Buy and T-Mobile and were told by sales people at both places that it was not possible to do it.  We happened to run across a video on Youtube where someone was actually showing how they could connect a mouse, keyboard and other devices directly to their phone.  We gave it a try and it worked fine.  In fact our phone came with an adaptor allowing us to plug it into the charging part and then plug in other USD devices.

If you camera plug does not match your phone, you may need to purchase an adaptor to make the connection.  Adaptors can be found online for only a few dollars.

Wireless Method

As our camera is Wifi enabled, we gave this method a try and it worked fine but is slower performing the transfer and a little more involved than the Direct Connect method described above.  It also involves downloading an app from the camera's manufacturer to manage the file transfer.

Depending on your camera and phone, the steps to make the Wifi connection may vary, so we will not go into more details at this point. 

SD Card Reader

Another possibility is to purchase an SD Card Reader which can be found online for only a few dollars.  You simply insert your memory card into the device and then plug it directly into your phone.

This is going to work exactly as the Direct Connect method described above it's just that you are plugging the reader into your phone rather than your camera.

If you decide to purchase a reader and your home computer does not have a slot to plug a Memory Card directly into it, with the correct adaptor, you should be able to plug the Memory Card Reader directly into a USB slot on your home computer to quickly transfer photos from a card to the computer.

 
2: Copy Photos from your Camera to your Smartphone's Micro SD Card Once you have connected your camera to your phone using one of the methods described above, you are ready to copy your photos to your phones Micro SD Card.  (You can copy directly to the phones internal memory, but having a card will provide much more memory and allow you to save a greater number of photos without taking up your phones internal memory)

We mention copying photos to a Smartphone, but this could actually be any Wifi enabled device that will allow you to sync your photos online with Google Photos.  If you are not planning on syncing the photos with Google Photos, you can stop right here once you get them copied over to another device which in this case would not need to be Wifi enabled.

Copying files from your camera to your Smartphone (based on our camera and phone types)

  1. We have directly plugged our camera into our phone as described above
  2. Turn the camera on
  3. Click on the 'My Files' app
  4. Click on 'USB Storage 1' to display the cameras file directory
  5. Select 'DCIM' just as you would on your computer when your camera is plugged in
  6. Select 'Edit' and the click the folders you want to copy to your phone (you can select the entire folder or multiple folders and not just individual files)
  7. Select 'Copy'
  8. Select 'SD Card' as this is your phones Micro SD Card
  9. Select 'Done' to copy the same directory structure matching your camera (You have the option to select 'Create New Folder' if you want the files in a different location)

Note: When you plug your camera into your phone, it may popup an application for file transfers.  For us, we get a 'Smart Switch' appliction for USB Cable Transfer asking us to select the action to take such as send or receive files on the phone.  Smart Switch is an application used to transfer files from one phone to another for example when you purchase a new phone.  If something likes this pops up on your phone, you should be able to ignore it.

Your may get a notification on your phone that a new folder or photos have been found asking if you want to go ahead and sync them with Google Photos.  Click this will take you directly to the location where you can select to perform the sync.

 
3: Establish a Wifi connection for internet access If you plan on syncing your photos with Google Photos, Wifi is important.  Basically Wifi allows your Smartphone or other Wifi enabled device to connect to the internet without having your own internet service provider.  You are piggybacking on another network that is allowing you to access the internet.  You will find that almost everywhere you go, Wifi will be available including hotels, restaurants and even on trains.  You may be required to enter a password to make the connection, but the service is usually free to patrons.

Once connected, you are not using your mobile data or any part of your own plan.  This is how it works if you purchase let's say a Tablet Computer with no internet service, but it does support Wifi.  You simply connect to a Wifi network, then you will have internet access.

The reason we mention this is that if you choose to not use Wifi and instead use your mobile data plan, you could go over your limit and incur additional charges by your service provider or they may slow down your connection speed due to excessive use.

In conclusion, use a Wifi connection to perform the photo sync from your device to the internet and Google Photos.

See our WiFi page for additional information.

 
4: Sync your Smartphone photos with Google Photos On your phone, select the Google Photos app.

If your phone did not come preinstalled with the Google Photos app, visit the Google Play Store and search 'Google Photos' to install it.

Activating the 'Main' sync on your mobile device

Using the Google Photos app on your mobile device, click the main menu then select 'Settings'.  On the 'Settings' menu, click 'Back up & sync'.  On this page, turn on the option 'Back up & sync'.  This is the main control that indicates you will be wanting to sync your photos when new ones are added to your device.  It does not perform the actual sync, only indicates that you want to.

There are other options on the page such as 'Cellular data back up' that should probably remain off as turning it on will perform backups using data on your mobile plan compared to using Wifi.

Syncing your albums with Google Photos

Selecting the 'Albums' page will show 'Photos on device'.  These are the albums you have created on your device using the 'Gallery' app or file folders you have uploaded from your camera.

You will see that some 'Photos on device' folders may have a little cloud symbol with a line through it in the bottom right corner.  This indicates that the folder has not been synced with Google Photos.  If the cloud symbol is absent, the folder has already been synced.

To sync the folder, simply click on it then turn on the option 'Back up & sync'.

Upload and Sync Process Overview

Immediately after uploading photos from your camera to your mobile device, Run the Google Photos app and select 'Albums' where you will see the new un-synced cloud indicator, click the album and turn on 'Back up & sync'.

 
5: Organize your photos into albums On your computer or mobile device, your photos may be nicely organized in meaningful folders, but when you upload/sync them on Google Drive, they become organized by date; different than the directory structure on your device.

As photos are displayed on Google by date, you may select the 'Layout' menu option to display them in a 'Comfortable View', 'Day View' or 'Year View'.  In order to group them into meaningful categories, you must create 'Albums'.

Selecting the 'Photos' option displays all the photos you have ever uploaded; this is the original or 'master' photo.  Now think of an 'Album' as a folder where you may group photos together in a more meaningful way.  Placing a photo in an album only moves a reference to the master photo.  It works like this, if you delete a photo from an album, it still remains in the 'Master' photo list but if you delete a photo from the 'Photos' list, it will delete it from all albums having a reference to it. 

Creating a new album

On the 'Albums' page, select 'New Album' to create a new album.  You may then select any of the photos to move into the album.  Remember, a photo may reside in multiple albums as it's just a reference to the master photo.

There are a couple of options to add photos to an album.  When adding, select the date displayed and that will select all photos that were uploaded on that date to be referenced by the album.  You may also select individual photos from different dates to be referenced by the album.

When you are done, select 'Create' and you will be prompted to enter the Album Name.

Repeat the process creating multiple albums for all your photos, organizing them into meaningful categories such 'Eiffel Tower', 'Notre Dame', 'Sacre Coeur', etc.  This can be a bit of a pain as all your photos for the day that were synced will display together and now you must select the ones that go into each album.

 
Multiple photo backup locations When you are done, you will have 3 copies of all your photos.
  • The camera's SD Cards
  • The Micro SD Cards used in your phone
  • Google Photos

When using your camera or phone, you may use one or more SD Cards and Micro SD Cards so it's important to have backups.  When a card gets full, simply pop in a new one.  Do not erase memory cards as they should be kept as backups until you arrive home and have downloaded all your photos to a permanent storage area on your home computer, CD or some other location.

SD Memory Card
 
Micro SD Memory Card
 
Memory Card Reader