Stories & Features

Keep your photos safe, and get the most out of them

Image of tourist and beached ice chunk in Iceland
When you take a photo of something special, such as this shot of a beached chunk of ice block in Iceland, you want to ensure you have it stored safely. Also look for ways to share it, and not just digitally.

5 things you should know about digital images

Blaine Kyllo

These days, everyone is a photographer. It may be your grandchild's first step or your daughter's winning goal. The humpback breaching at just the right moment or an exquisite close-up of a beautiful blossom in your garden.

Even if you're not carrying around a "selfie stick" to make it easier to put yourself in the picture, we're all using the smartphones in our pockets to document our lives. In its annual Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Trends report, Deloitte estimates that 90% of the photos that will be "shared or stored" online will be taken with a smartphone.

Which means most of our photos are digital. Here are five things to consider to ensure you keep them safe and get the most out of those memories. And don't forget to enter this month's Team Power Smart contest, which features a prize pack of a 1-Terabyte external hard drive and $100 in photo services from London Drugs.

1. Laptops and hard drives can fail

Generations ago, photos were stored in albums or displayed on mantels, but today almost all photos are digital. Good thing, too, because we're taking more photos now than ever before.

These days, we store our photos on computers, and this is supported by the latest Team Power Smart poll. Most said they're storing photos on a computer (37%) or external hard drive (25%).

In a reasonably priced external hard drive with 1 TB of storage capacity, you can store about a half a million images. There's not a closet in existence that can hold enough shoeboxes for 1 million printed photos.

Storing your photos locally is fine, but you should make sure you've got a good backup, because hard drives do fail.

Ideally, you'll have a backup of your photos stored away from your home, too, because if your backup is stored beside your computer, you'll lose them both in a fire.

2. Consider cloud-based photo storage

This is where cloud-based photo storage comes in handy (16% of you are already doing this, according to the poll).

By storing your photos using an online service, you can access them from anywhere and on nearly any device. And if you use a reputable, reliable service you can be sure that your photos are being backed up for you.

And because so many of our photos are being taken by our smartphones, which are connected to the Internet, you can instantly upload every new photo to your digital albums.

Some popular and reliable online options for photo libraries include Flickr, Google Photos, and iCloud Photo Library. Flickr and Google Photos both have apps for Android and iOS devices, while iCloud is exclusive to Apple products.

But each of the three offers an amount of cloud storage space available for free. If you've got lots of photos, you can subscribe for low fees (about $10 a month for 1 TB, enough for nearly half a million photos).

3. Digital photos look great when printed large

No matter where you actually store your photos, we ultimately take pictures so that we can share them. You can post them easily to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but because the camera sensors in our smartphones are becoming more powerful, the pictures we take have a better resolution. This means that you can make prints of your photos as big as billboards if you want.

London Drugs doesn't print billboards, but the company has a strong reputation for photography, and each store has a photo department where you can arrange to have dozens of different products created from your photographs. You can put images on t-shirts and hoodies, or create calendars and fridge magnets. Holiday cards and ornaments can be adorned with your photos.

4. Photo books can be amazing

As a memento at the end of the last soccer season, my daughter's team had books printed that collected photos from the four seasons they had played together.

It's a great way to ensure those memories aren't just kept, but that you'll actually revisit them now and then. The days of getting a team photo and then storing it in a drawer should be behind us. A blend of team shots, action shots and closeups collected in a book are great for sports teams. And everything from weddings to vacations can look best – and can be easy to share – when collected in a book that opens the door to creativity.

5. You can get more out of your smartphone

A friend of ours recently spent a month with his family in France and Spain and documented it entirely with images from his smartphone. That's a big switch because on previous trips, his family lugged around a digital SLR with various lenses.

Digital SLRs can still do a wonderful job and, especially when you get really good at using one. But the convenience of a smartphone, and the improved quality you can get with the latest phones, makes it tempting to go with a smartphone alone.

But how well do you know your smartphone's camera? Take some time to learn about all its features and you'll take better photos. Here are some resources that can help you take even better images:

Blaine Kyllo is a North Vancouver-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to BC Hydro's Connected eNewsletter.