Capturing the moments that matter when traveling has never been easier. Cameras are reasonably cheap and make it very easy to get great quality photos no matter your experience level. The greatest challenge comes when you look at storing photos while you are traveling. But more importantly, ensure they all make it home with you.
Buying the biggest memory card available might sound like a great solution. However, this comes with a couple of potential problems.
- If the card stops working, you could lose all your photos.
- What if you accidently format the card the photos are gone.
- If you lose the card, you lose all your photos.
- The theft of your camera would see the memory card gone and all your photos with it.
No solution will guarantee that every single photo is safe all the time. There are some options you can consider to help reduce the risk of lost images.
My Travelling Photos
When I travel, a camera is never far away. For me, photography is a great way to capture a trip both to remember and share with others. At the moment it is looking even more likely that in the future there will not just be one camera but maybe two or three.
Traveling with one camera is scary enough for some people, the thought that it makes them look more like a tourist. I have no problems traveling with multiple cameras. My greatest concern is ensuring that the way I am storing photos helps me make sure they get home with me. Which of course means either traveling with heaps of memory cards or getting creative with storage solutions.
I own three cameras, which I suspect will all go with me on my next trip.
- Canon 6D – Primary Camera for stills, back-up for video interviews
- Canon EOS M3 – Primary Camera for Video, back-up for stills
- GoPro – Great for time-lapse and anywhere there is water for stills and video.
On both Canon cameras, I like to capture images in the RAW format, to have the most flexibility when working with the photos later on. However, this creates a lot of large files; the Canon 6D averages 25MB, and the Canon EOS M3 averages 34MB. On top of the images, the video takes up even more space.
My Travel Photos
It was after my last big trip to Europe and America that I realized I would need some process to store my files. I left home with one camera, an Olympus E-PL1, and six 4GB memory cards. I was expecting to be away for 80-days and was hoping this would be enough.
As it turns out, storing photos on six cards was not enough and around day 50 into the trip they were full. My plan had been to keep copies on the memory cards, an external hard drive, and my computer. I end up purchasing two additional 8GB memory cards along the way to keep me going.
When I got home, I had over 7,000 images totaling over 40GB or around 5.7mb per photo. The price of memory cards has dropped over the years. It just is not practical to buy or carry the number of memory cards you need to store 7,000 images at 34MB per image.
The storage option that will best suit you is going to depend on what other technology you travel with. For me, I do a lot of writing, and travel with a laptop so storing photos both on the laptop and an external hard drive is easy. For other people who might not carry a laptop, there are other solutions available depending on your budget.
1. Memory Cards
Although I have said above this is not the most practical option, that does all depend on how you use your camera. If you have a relatively basic point and shoot camera, and don’t take thousands of photos, this may work.
However, there are a couple of downfalls to storing photos on just one or even a couple of memory cards. Using a single large memory card can have the potential for losing all of your photos. For example, if the card is lost or becomes corrupted you could lose all the photos from your whole trip. I have too many times found a memory card somewhere full of holiday photos. I cannot confirm once being able to reunite the card with the owner.
If you can only use memory cards, you are best to use multiple cards. Often you can pick up multiple smaller memory cards for a similar price to one larger card. If you are mainly taking individual photos the speed of the card is not so relevant. It is relatively easy to pick up three or four cards for under $50.
If you choose to travel with a laptop, you have a great option for storing photos. Many recent laptop models come with a built-in SD card reader, which is great since many cameras use SD cards.
Even if your laptop does not have a card reader built in, or your camera does not use SD cards, it is an easy problem to fix. You can buy a card reader like Energizer ENR-CRPUNI Multi-Use Card Reader/Writer (Black) (affiliate link) from Amazon or something similar from your local camera store.
You just need to make it a habit that when you get back to your hotel each night to download your images. Create a process of storing the images in a new folder for each day. Alternatively, you can create a folder for each different destination to save the files. You just need to find the way that will work for you storing the images on your computers hard drive.
3. External Hard Drive
Using an external hard drive for storing photos while traveling does require access to a computer. So you would either need to bring a laptop with you or know someone with a computer you can use.
You may need to use an external hard drive in conjunction with a laptop anyway, depending on some factors. If you are traveling for a long time, take a lot of photos, or need to store video an external hard drive will be essential.
4. Memory Card Backup Device
There are some different products available that can backup memory cards without needing a computer. These devices will usually combine a memory card reader and an external hard drive with a small screen. I have not personally used one of these devices so cannot speak specifically to how they work. But they are likely the smallest and easiest option if you do not want to carry a laptop or need access to a computer.
One such device available from Amazon is HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA3 1TB Portable Storage and Backup Device with Wi-Fi. The first thing you might notice is that these devices are not cheap. There are times that this will be the best option.
5. Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is storing your files on the internet and can be a good option for storing photos. There are many services now that offer quite significant amounts of storage online for very reasonable prices. The one that many people may have heard of is Dropbox, or another is Google Drive or even Microsoft OneDrive. Prices for these services can vary depending on the storage you need and also the currency you are paying.
The biggest challenge with cloud storage is to have access to a suitable internet connection to transfer the files. Either having access to a computer with an internet connection. Or a connection that is fast enough to transfer the files in a reasonable time. A good option in countries with good Internet service, but not practical in areas with poor internet, or where mobile internet might be your only connection.
Use Multiple Options
At any time when you rely entirely on one way to store files, you have the potential to lose them. Should a hard drive fail or your laptop stolen, using multiple options will help to ensure you still have your files.
On my last overseas trip, I used three options combined to ensure I would not lose any images. Where possible I left the images on the memory cards. Each night I would make a copy of the files on my laptop. Finally making another copy of the images onto an external hard drive. There was a little bit of time involved in making the copies, but I could do other things while they were copying.
Storing Photos When You Travel
Of course, the option that will be best for you depends on you. If you are operating a business and need to ensure you lose nothing. You may be more inclined to use two or three of the above options to guarantee the photos are there. While if the photos are for personal use it may not be as much concern. Still, either way, it is worth considering to ensure you have those memories.
Let me know how you handle storing photos when travelling. What you do to back them up, what equipment you use, let me know in a comment below. You can connect with me on social media, pick your favourite social network below.