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Tap into good memories by organizing your travel photos

Mylio is among the many options for photo storage and organization.  (Erin Williams/For the Washington Post)
Mylio is among the many options for photo storage and organization. (Erin Williams/For the Washington Post)
By Erin E. Williams Special to The Washington Post

Travel photos aren’t just about where we have visited. When it seems like the pandemic has shrunk our world to our living rooms, they reflect what makes travel important, whether that means experiencing far-flung destinations or sharing time with family and friends.

Living far from my loved ones, every picture I take with them is a travel photo: trips to visit them, visits from them and vacations we enjoy together. I have no idea when I’ll see them, so photos remind me of their presence and help me envision creating new memories with them again.

Only one barrier stands between this comfort and me: my filing system. I haven’t as much organized photos as squirreled multiple libraries and backups into nooks and crannies on my computer, two external drives and two cloud services. I’m not alone with my piles of pictures; a 2019 Keypoint Intelligence report projected that globally people would take 1.4 trillion photos in 2020. Even accounting for the shutter slowdown that followed in the pandemic, that’s still a lot of memories.

“Photos can help elicit the good memories we associate with the places we have visited, people we have spent time with and the special occasions we have celebrated,” said Jessica Norah, a clinical research psychologist with a PhD who has been travel blogging full time with her photographer husband at Independent Travel Cats since 2015. “They can also help inspire us to think about and plan our post-pandemic travels.”

Whether you’re craving nostalgia or looking to the future, and whether you have 100 or 10,000 travel photos, there is no time like the present to organize and securely store them. This doesn’t have to be especially time-consuming – good news if you can manage only a quick break from everything else.

Perhaps revisiting a lazy beachside vacation might trigger an escapist dopamine hit. Or recognizing your personal growth when you pushed yourself outside your comfort zone might remind you of your resilience. By reflecting on our past, we can better cope with the loss of travel.

First step? Plan your 3-2-1 backup strategy: Store three copies – one original and two backups – of each image. Keep the copies on two different media such as your hard drive, an external drive or the cloud. And store one of these media off-site (yep, the cloud counts). This redundancy ensures that even in a worst-case scenario like a house fire or your cat knocking tea onto your laptop, you can recover your memories.

Then make sure all your images are in one place and take a few minutes to delete those you don’t want. For “spray and pray” technique aficionados, who take multiple images of the same scene in hopes of creating one showstopper, the ease of taking thousands of photos might become painful here.

While many of the services below allow you to search using face recognition, location and more, file labeling also is valuable for actually finding what you’re looking for. Renaming your images from your camera’s default setting to a consistent system such as trip_month_day_year.jpg, for example, will allow you to search by all four of those labels. Some applications offer batch renaming, which makes the process exponentially faster.

Assess your priorities before comparing services, which meet different needs instead of providing one universal fit. First, choose the basics – do you need storage only or a photo-sharing platform that includes some storage? In addition to reviewing cost, storage capacity, backup schedules and ease of use, decide whether you need search capability, editing features or cross-device accessibility. Evaluate whether the service compresses your images and what kind of files it accepts. Read the security and privacy fine print – what safeguards will you have, and will you hand over any rights? And consider the company’s reputation and longevity.

If you intend to share your snaps, some services integrate with social media. And some even give you a space for selling your images online.

Here are some options that can help us safeguard those travel memories:

Adobe Creative Cloud: Adobe Creative Cloud provides photography-focused storage with its editing and imaging suite, a favorite of professionals. The service offers multiple-platform accessibility and file formats. Pricier than simple storage, it includes tools to grow your postproduction skills. (Plans start at $9.99 per month for 20GB.)

SmugMug: Popular with professional photographers, SmugMug offers unlimited, full-resolution photo and video storage. It’s a good choice if you’re considering building a website or selling your images, but its custom galleries, security settings and sleek organization are appealing for everyone. (Basic plans start at $55 per year for unlimited photo and video uploads.)

Mylio: Do you have unorganized photos and videos lurking on your computer, phone, camera and online accounts? Mylio finds and collects them all into one place and allows you to search by time, location, person and custom label in its elegant interface. Not a cloud service, it syncs your devices over a peer-to-peer connection. (Up to 25,000 images is free. Premium plan includes photos for $9.99 per month or $99 per year.)

Google Photos: With cross-device functionality and strong organization, Google Photos is a good choice for casual shutterbugs with Google accounts. Search by person, subject, date and location. Edit images and share via email, link, Facebook and Twitter. Users have free unlimited storage at reduced file sizes, but full-resolution images and video count against your quota shared with Google Drive and Gmail. (Up to 15GB is free. Paid plans start at $1.99 per month for 100GB.)

iCloud: The default cloud storage option for Mac and iPhone users, iCloud syncs with multiple devices, supports multiple file types and integrates with Photos, which offers an intuitive interface, basic editing and search. (Up to 5GB is free. Paid plans start at 99 cents per month for 50GB.)

Microsoft OneDrive: Similarly, Microsoft and Galaxy users have access to OneDrive, which boasts security, file recovery and multiple-device syncing. (Up to 5GB is free. Paid plans start at $1.99 per month for 100GB.)

Amazon Photos: For Prime members, Amazon Photos offers unlimited image storage and up to 5GB of video storage. Upload different file types, set your computer for automatic backups and share images privately with friends and family. (Amazon Prime starts at $12.99 per month or $119 per year.)

Dropbox: File-sharing standby Dropbox allows you to store your images next to your other documents, syncs with multiple devices, accepts multiple image formats and offers up to 180 days of file recovery – as well as easy file sharing and social media integration. (Up to 2GB is free. Plans start at $9.99 per month for 2TB.)

IDrive: Although not photography specific, IDrive provides secure, multi-device storage and backup. Its simple interface accepts multiple file formats. (Up to 5GB is free. Plans start at $52.12 per year for 5TB.)

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