What do you do with the images and movie clips you record while you’re travelling? Most photographers like to download each day’s shots to a portable computer and cull any obvious failures (blurred and out-of-focus images, for example). Having a laptop also allows you to back up shots on an external drive or upload them to ‘cloud’ storage.
Examples of the basic editing adjustments provided in Instagram.
Professional photographers recommend a “3-2-1” rule: make three copies, store two on different types of media and one in a different location. For travellers, this could mean keeping images on memory cards and backing up to an HDD and also the cloud. Whether you will adopt this plan depends on your requirements and resources. Devices with fast read speeds will save valuable time.
Many travelling photographers find a portable hard disk drive (HDD) that can be attached to a laptop the quickest and most efficient way to store images taken during the day.
A more recent option is a Solid State Drive (SSD), which uses flash memory (like memory cards and USB thumb drives). Having no moving parts, SSDs are more robust than HDDs, offer faster transfer speeds and use less power.
Samsung’s new Solid State Drives (SSD) are based upon flash memory and have no moving parts. They are compact and light to carry but require a computer to transfer image files to them from a camera.
Lexar Media offers solid state storage in its Professional Workflow products, which include two four-bay reader and storage drive hubs, a selection of card readers, and two storage drives. Users can select the best combination of card readers and storage drives to suit their own requirements and the system supports Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 technologies for high-speed transfer and backing-up of RAW images, high-resolution JPEGs and HD, 3D and 4K video footage. The hub is also backwards compatible with Thunderbolt and USB 2.0 (at slower speeds), while using the same cables and connectors.
Lexar Media’s four-bay Professional Workflow hub provides space for four storage drives with capacities up to 512GB. The modular design enables individual drives to be removed for use while photographers are on the move.
The system’s USB 3.0 storage drives provide 256GB or 512GB of capacity and they can be paired with a hub or used separately while photographers are on the move. Lexar also offers two USB 3.0 compatible card readers; one supporting 25 memory card formats and the other a dual-slot (CF and SD) Professional reader with an interface speed up to 500MB/second. Both support concurrent downloads and card-to-card file transfer.
‘Cloud’ storage is something of a mixed bag with lots of players and a variety of prices, ranging from ‘free’ bundling of storage with a subscription service to $10/month for up to 1TB. Dropbox, Flickr, Bitcasa, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SmugMug, Canon Irista and Amazon are among the market leaders.
The main problem with cloud storage is that you are entrusting your precious image files to a third party that also deals with a lot of other customers. Your data may be stored on a server farm, which is usually located off-shore. If the network connection is disrupted, it will become inaccessible.
Most service providers place limits on how much capacity they offer before they start to charge you to store files. Advertising is often a ‘given’ with plans that are free. One way to circumvent this is to have ‘personal cloud’ storage, which is a hybrid between an external drive and a cloud service. Files are stored on your local networked drive, which is usually a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device beside your home computer.
Several hard disk drive manufacturers have developed storage devices that support ‘private’ cloud storage that you can access from your smart-phone and tablet computer. The advantage of such systems is that they are free. However, you have to set up dedicated user accounts and apply encryption to protect your data. You must also set up internet access before you can store data. Internet upload speeds are critical for your private cloud storage to be practical because you will be required to pay for both uploading and downloading when accessing files as you travel.
Personal Cloud storage can be accessed from any networked computer or device, or remotely using Wi-Fi or Internet connections on your phone, tablet or laptop. You have complete control over your files; they can be password protected and encrypted, and when you delete something you know it’s gone. And after you buy the equipment, there are no annual storage fees.
Photographers with Wi-Fi enabled cameras can also use their smart devices to back-up their images and movie clips to their home storage with this system ““ provided the Wi-Fi network is capable of handling the amount of data involved. (Capacity, system stability and transfer speeds will dictate how well the system operates.)
Making server-based cloud storage work isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s an ever-present concern that the transfer of files could be interrupted, the provider’s servers might crash or somebody may interfere with your data. And even when things run according to plan, you will require a reliable way to access the files you’ve stored at the sizes you want when you need them.
Some services assume you are uploading images solely for the purpose of sharing them online and will automatically re-size the files accordingly. Most place limits on movie files and some won’t accept raw files. The table below compares a few of the more popular image hosting services.
As at November 2015:
And Google Drive offers 15GB for free and 1TB for $9.99/mth.
For several years, Photo Review has been using Dropbox, one of the most versatile forms of cloud storage, for sharing documents and image files. It has the benefit of synchronising the files across all of our computers and mobile devices but for images it’s JPEG-only.
Adding images to Dropbox is easy; you simply drag them from your folder and drop them into a storage folder you create in Dropbox. The images can then be viewed as thumbnails by opening the folders and downloaded for you to use.
Dropbox is a great place for synching your photo collection because it provides automatic backups by putting your images in the cloud, although as with other online storage services, limits and pricing apply.
You can access your photos from almost any mobile device through the Dropbox app, which also serves as a good photo viewer. You can star any photo you want to save on your phone or tablet and easily share a photo album with a right click.
Shooting with Smartphones
Smartphones have begun to replace tablets and laptops in some travellers’ kits. Being able to email shots you’ve taken with the built-in camera in your mobile device while you’re on the move is extremely convenient. Smartphones are also smaller and lighter to carry than even a compact digicam. They also have higher-resolution cameras than most tablets and provide a wider range of adjustments. This makes them appealing to travellers who must minimise the weight they carry.
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-CM1 is the closest to an ideal smartphone for travellers since it has an expansion slot that accepts microSD memory cards (shown above). It also has a large 12.8 x 9.6 mm sensor. Unfortunately, its battery isn’t removable and it has a fixed focal length (28mm equivalent) lens.
Unfortunately, even a sophisticated camera-phone that can record raw files is limited in its capabilities and usually has a limited zoom range (or no zoom at all). In these respects it’s no better than a basic compact camera. Many lack memory card slots and their batteries may not be removable. So if you’re at all serious about your photography and want to come home with memorable images of your trip, you really need a dedicated camera.
However, there may be situations where a smartphone is preferable, such as when you must travel really light and if you plan to blog or share images while you’re on the move. The main requirement is decent cellphone coverage, which provides internet access in the place you plan to visit. (Your service provider should be able to provide details of coverage and costs for your plan.)
Views of the Instagram user interface on a smartphone (left) and computer monitor. (Source: Instagram.)
Many smartphone users, particularly bloggers, sign up to Instagram and download a free app, which enables them to set up a profile page where images are posted. The app is available through the Apple App Store and Google Play store.
This service is primarily designed for image sharing from portable devices and accepts JPEG files and movie clips captured with the app. JPEG files may be further compressed, although the compression isn’t as aggressive as Facebook’s. Videos recorded with a recent smartphone can also be uploaded to Instagram but they’re limited to 15 seconds in length.
The current image size is 1080 x 1080 pixels at 72 pixels/inch. You can upload smaller images, but they won’t look as sharp. The header images are automatically arranged in a grid with a thin black line separating them. The images automatically rotate and there’s no way to control which image displays where.
The app provides a range of fairly basic adjustments that can be used to ‘improve’ your photos. If you want to be able to print your photos, it’s best to set Save Original Photos to ON in your Instagram settings. This ensures edited photos are saved at full resolution to your device’s photo library.
All photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram or on the www.instagram.com website. Any viewer can also download and use them (as can Instagram) so if you don’t want your shots ‘stolen’, watermark your images before posting them to Instagram. An option exists for accounts to be made private so only people who follow you on Instagram will be able to access your photos.
The Instagram app includes links to Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter and users can share individual snapshots, view shots on users’ camera rolls and access images for printing via a computer.
Excerpt from Travel Photography pocket guide.