Actually, that’s a trick question!
There’s a difference between backing up your photos for safekeeping, and sharing photos with your family and friends – and you need to use different tools for each one.
This is a question that frequently comes up in conversations with my clients, so it’s important to clarify that these two tasks are not the same thing!
You probably don’t want to share your entire photo collection – but you definitely need to back up the whole collection.
Today’s post will be focused on sharing your photos using a cloud-based service, how various services store the images shared on their sites, and privacy considerations you should consider before you make your choices.
What You Need to Know About Sharing Photos on the Cloud
When you think about how you share your photos (and who you share them with), consider your whole collection. There are people captured in the images in your collection that you know would love a chance to see those photos – either for the first time, or to reminisce about a fun moment from the past – but it’s unlikely everyone you know would want access to every single one of your photos.
It’s sort of a “part” versus “whole” situation – and that’s why it’s important that you treat backup and sharing as separate tasks.
It’s critical that you have a backup system that copies ALL your photos to a safe place, so that if something happens to your original copies, you have a way to restore those images. In a previous post, I gave some tips for backing up your photos, so you can check out that article if you need a place to start.
Then when you’re ready to share your photos, you can share just the most relevant photos with the people who would enjoy seeing them, using a photo sharing service or social media platform.
Sharing Photos on Social Media Sites
In our social media communities, we might share photos of everyday moments or milestones. Your social media friends or followers don’t want to see copies of every photo you take, but they enjoy viewing hand-selected favorites.
Social media is a good place to keep folks updated about what’s going on in your life, so think about it as a place to share the highlights of your photo collection.
Because social media sites typically compress/optimize the photos stored there, it’s not a good place to restore photos if something happens to your originals – so it’s never a good idea to treat a social media site (like Facebook) as a backup service.
Also, remember that social media platforms are public sites, so always check your privacy settings if you are concerned about who might have access to your photos. From time to time, these sites can change their features, which can also change access rules – so it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date on those changes, and periodically review your privacy settings.
Sharing Photos Using Photo Sharing Services
As a photographer, there will also be precious moments when people in your community are participants in events, special get-togethers, family dinners, and other milestones. When that happens, the photos you share are part of their histories, too. Those are great photos to consider sharing via a photo sharing service.
When you share images on a photo sharing site, you can give other people direct access to the photos, so they can download high-quality originals. My favorite photo sharing sites are SmugMug, Amazon Prime Photos, and Dropbox, but there are tons of options.
With each of these services, you set up a paid account and set your own privacy settings, so you have control over who can view and download your photos. You can set up shared albums or folders, then decide who has access to each one.
This can be a convenient way to work together on group projects, too. On many photo sharing sites, you can even add comments or ask questions about specific photos, which makes these services a great tool for collaboration.
For my father’s 80th birthday album, my family used a sharing service to share potential photos for the album and make decisions about final selections. My sisters uploaded photos that I downloaded and used to create his album.
Our mother added comments and answered questions in places where we needed a little help. Since we all live in different states, using a photo sharing site was an easy and fun way to collaborate on this important project.
Using Apple’s Shared Albums for Sharing Photos
You can also use Apple’s Shared Album feature to share photos. You can set up a Shared Album, then invite people to view your photos via iCloud. It’s a great way for people to view updates within a friend group or family, without having to take up space on your devices.
Since the photos for each Shared Album are stored in the album creator’s iCloud Photo Library account, they don’t live on the viewer’s device, which is handy in certain circumstances.
For example, we have a shared album for our family to view photos and videos of our puppies! We have days when we share a lot of photos, and we don’t all want those images eating up space on all our phones. Apple’s Shared Album feature makes it possible for everyone to view the images, without having to download all of them.
When you use Apple’s Shared Album feature, be aware that the photos will be compressed, which means you can maximize the space in your account – but if you want to get a copy of a particular image to use for yourself, contact the person who shared the photo for an original, full-size, high quality copy.
Making Sure You’ve Got Your Bases Covered
We all want to keep our photos safe AND share them with our friends and family members, and we want to do both of these tasks in the best, most efficient, and safest ways.
Treating backing up your photos and sharing photos as two separate and important tasks enables you to make smart choices about what tools you’ll use for each one.
Once you’ve got your tools and systems in place, you’ll have your bases covered, and you can snap and share all the photos you want.