Affordable and safe ways to save and share your images.

Digital files can be easy to lose while you’re travelling. It may happen while they’re being uploaded to the internet or if you format a memory card before transferring the files on it to backup storage. Fortunately, it’s never been simpler to back up your files and there are plenty of affordable and safe ways to do so, both while you’re on the move and at home.

The availability of affordably-priced ultra-compact solid state drives (SSDs) makes it easy to back-up image and video files while you’re travelling. (Source: SanDisk.)

Memory cards

While memory cards provide temporary storage for images and video files on a day-to-day basis, they can also be used to store images and videos during your trip – if you have enough of them. However, most photographers choose to transfer each day’s files to backup storage before re-formatting the card, so it’s ready for the following day.

Your camera dictates which memory cards you can use. Some cameras provide two card slots; either both accepting the same type of card or each slot designed for a different type of card. The second card can be used for backing up files, as an overflow for when the first card fills up or to enable the camera to record different types of files (RAW/JPEG or Photos/ Movies) separately. Check your camera’s operating manual to find out how to set up your camera.

Cameras with dual memory card slots can be set up to use the second slot for extending file storage, backing up files as you go, or saving different file types on separate cards so you can store them separately when you get home. (Source: Canon.)

Even if your camera only has one card slot, it’s useful to know how many image and video files will fit on the memory card(s) you’re using. The table below provides a rough guide to how many files you can expect to store on different card capacities.

How much data can you store on your memory card?
Capacity JPEGs at 20 megapixels Uncompressed RAW files from 20 MP camera Minutes of 4K 25p video Minutes of 4K 50p video
16GB 6,500 200 32 16
32GB 13,000 400 65 32
64GB 26,000 800 130 65
128GB 53,000 1,600 260 130
256GB 107,000 3,200 520 260
512GB 214,000 6,400 1,000 520
1TB 420,000 12,800 2,000 1,200

All cameras provide at least two different file sizes and compression levels for JPEGs, and many let you choose between compressed and uncompressed raw files. For example, a 24-megapixel camera may provide the following three image size settings for JPEGs: Large (6000 x 4000 pixels), Medium (3984 x 2656 pixels), and Small (2976 x 1984 pixels) as well as three Quality levels: Fine, Medium, and Basic. Cameras supporting raw capture often provide compressed and uncompressed settings and some offer two image sizes.

If you’re running short on storage space you can fit more files onto memory cards by choosing the smaller sizes and higher compression levels – although both will reduce the quality of the images you record. The space savings with smaller files can be substantial, as shown in the table.

Portable storage options

Most travellers find the simplest, cheapest, and most reliable strategy is to carry a portable solid-state drive (SSD) and backup files to it each evening. While they’re not as cheap as magnetic drives, SSDs are much smaller and also more robust since they have no moving parts to wear out or become dislodged if the drive is dropped. They’re also more stable and offer faster transfer speeds.

Ultra-compact SSDs provide an ideal backup solution for adventure travellers since they are small enough to fit into a pocket but tough enough to withstand knocks and bumps and also support fast data transfer speeds. (Source: SanDisk.)

If you’re only travelling for a week or two, a 1TB SSD should accommodate all the photos you take. If shoot a fair bit of video and/or need to cater for trips up to a month-long, you’ll probably need 2TB.

The latest SSDs all come with USB connections (mostly USB-C), which can plug directly into your laptop or tablet. Most support the USB 3.2 Gen 1 or Gen 2 interfaces, which have maximum read/write speeds of 1,250MBps or 625MBps, respectively.

Data transfer speeds shouldn’t be a high priority as you can usually leave your computer to transfer the files while you’re relaxing at the end of the day. Since only a few cameras let you copy files from their media storage directly to an SSD, this means uploading the files to your computer first, either via a card reader or, more commonly, directly from your camera via a USB cable. From there, it’s easy to back them up to the SSD.

A portable storage drive plugs straight into the USB port on your laptop, making it easy to back up your photos and video clips. (Source: SanDisk.)

Long-term storage

Once you return home, always back up the files you want to keep onto some kind of permanent storage. In most cases that will be an external storage drive. The type and capacity of the drive you need depends on how much data you need to store, your budget, and the space available in your home environment.

Generally speaking, SSDs are preferable due to their stability, faster speeds, and superior durability. However, if your budget is tight, HDDs (hard disk drives) do the job. Both types of drives come in protective cases and require power to operate. HDDs normally need an external power supply, while SSDs have USB-C connectors for plugging into your laptop and can be powered directly from it.

Solid state drives are more reliable than hard disk drives when you want to store your images and videos for the long term. (Source: iStock by Camera House.)

Choose a drive that is compatible with your computer’s operating system and has enough capacity to handle your current and future needs. Most people find between 2TB and 5TB adequate – although if you record a lot of long video clips higher capacity may be required.

The golden rule of archiving is to create three copies of the files – in addition to the files stored on your main computer. One copy should be stored off-site to prevent a mishap at home from destroying your photo and video collection. Cloud storage is an option for this situation – at least for the short term while you’re sorting out an alternative.

Two backup options are shown in this illustration, outlined in red. The top one backs up files to OneDrive Cloud storage, while the lower one saves the backed-up files to a dedicated storage drive on the user’s computer.

The remaining two copies should be stored on different storage devices, such as one backup to an external drive (preferably SSD) and another to a separate drive that is stored offsite and kept exclusively for your media collection.

Keep all backup files up-to-date. Many high-capacity external drives come with software that can be set to automatically back up your computer hard disk at regular intervals, with a choice of daily, weekly, or monthly backups – but you should also check each storage drive every few months to ensure it’s working properly.

Sharing options
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram,  Pinterest, and Snapchat automatically re-format your photos and videos as you upload them, making sharing relatively trouble-free. If you want to add a photo to an email, it should be resized first.

Social media sites normally resize your images as you post them, making it easy for you to keep family members and friends up-to-date while you’re travelling.

Windows users can resize single images easily in Windows Photo, which comes with all versions of Microsoft Windows. Mac OS users can utilise Preview. There is also plenty of software available to help you create slideshows of your photos and video clips so you can share the memories of your trip online.

A web search on creating slideshows for online sharing will call up plenty of options, ranging from freeware through to more sophisticated software. Some applications even let you add soundtracks or background music to your production.

Software applications like Adobe Express, which is available for both mobile devices and computers, make it easy to produce slideshows of your travel photos and videos while you’re on the move.

Your local camera shop can offer ways to use your photos in calendars, posters and photo books. There are also DIY options available through popular business software like Microsoft’s Publisher or the freeware application Canva (www.canva.com), which can also be used for creating social media graphics, presentations, posters, and other projects that rely on visual content.

See instructions for producing a calendar.

See advice on producing a photo book.

Editing videos

Most cameras come with basic video editing software, although it may not provide all the functions you require. The software you choose also depends on your computer’s operating system. The following are a couple of popular programs available for novice users, starting with the options included in the main computer operating systems.

iMovie is bundled with the MacOS operating system and, like many native apps, it has a simple drag-and-drop interface for moving files between your camera and your workspace.

Clipchamp is a user-friendly video editing application for Windows users.

Clipchamp is a Windows video editor with an extensive range of editing options.

ACDSee Luxea Video Editor is a feature-rich Windows-only application.

Lightworks is a subscription-based Windows and Linux video-sharing app that has been around for more than 25 years.

VideoPad is a basic, easy-to-use freeware app for Windows and Mac. It includes effects, overlays, texts, and transitions.

Other useful links

Photo archiving tips

Find the right photo editing software

This article by Margaret Brown is an excerpt from Travel Photography 4th Edition pocket guide.

Pocket guide Partner: Camera House