5 Things You Didn’t Know about Storing and Sending Mobile Photos

Do you take a lot of pictures with your smartphone? A LOT of pictures? If so, sooner or later, you are going to run into problems storing and sending them. The following five tips can keep these hassles from getting between you and your phone photo fun.

1. You can offload them to the cloud automatically.

You can set up your phone to automatically copy every picture you take to a cloud storage service, so you can safely delete pictures from your phone as needed to free up space.

For example, the Dropbox app for iOS can copy every photo to a “Camera Uploads” folder in your Dropbox, right after you take it. You can configure this optional feature so that it copies files only when your phone is connected to the Internet by wifi, so you don’t drain your data plan. If you take a picture while out of wifi range, the app will wait and copy the photo to Dropbox the next time you are connected.

2. Archiving them on CD-ROM is not as safe as you think.

If you think of CD-ROMs as a “permanent” storage medium, think again. Despite manufacturer claims of 100-year lifespans, the U.S. National Archives and other expert sources say a CD-R or CD-RW can store your pictures reliably for a little as two years before it begins to degrade and lose your precious memories.

Most will last longer than that, of course, and the actual lifespan varies depending on the type and quality of recordable CD and how you handle and store it. But the bottom line is that CDs are not a way to save your pictures forever. Most experts advise keeping picture archives on non-volatile magnetic storage, such as hard disk or flash memory, and making frequent backups.

3. “Actual size” doesn’t necessarily mean ACTUAL size.

If you email a photo straight from your iPhone, iOS typically gives you four choices for scaling the resolution and file size of the image to be sent: Small, Medium, Large, or Actual Size. This is a handy feature, because sometimes you just want to show your spouse a quick pic of what junior did on the playground, you may not want to eat the transmission time or the hit to your data plan that sending the full-size image file would require. But did you know that the “Actual Size” option doesn’t always send the complete, actual-size file? In some cases choosing Actual Size still transmits a lower-resolution, lower-quality photo than the file stored on your camera. Just FYI.

4. You can shrink them to make more room on your phone.

Tools are available to reduce the size of digital photo files without visibly affecting their quality. The ThinPic app for iOS does just that right on the phone, sometimes reducing the size of a photo file by 70% or more to free up space and stave off the dreaded “Storage Almost Full” message. It’s a handy tool when you’re busy taking pictures and can’t count on having a chance to offload them before you run out of room. When you share the smaller files, they’ll transmit faster and drain fewer minutes from your data plan, and they’ll take up less space in archive folders, too.

It’s a good idea to install ThinPic before a trip. If you find yourself running out of room when you’re nowhere near a PC or wifi hotspot where you can offload pictures, you can just shrink a batch of pictures you’ve already taken, and keep on clicking.

5. Bigger isn’t always better.

The iPhone 5 has an 8-megapixel camera. The new Samsung Galaxy S4 packs 13-megapixels. More pixels means more data, and both of these cameras create enormous photo files. That’s great if you plan to blow them up for a poster or print them in a glossy brochure, but if you mostly plan to post your pictures on Facebook or drop them in a web page, it’s overkill — the eye can’t tell the difference between these files and ones taken with half the megapixels, and you’ll have to lower the resolution of the pictures for the web anyway, or they’ll take too long to display. Most users don’t know it, but Facebook automatically reduces the resolution of most pictures you post, so there’s little actual benefit to posting a huge, super hi-res picture there.

When you’ll have to reduce your resolution anyway, you can save storage space and transmission time by lowering the default resolution settings on your camera to something closer the the resolution in which they will mostly likely be published.

Do you have a sixth tip for managing digital photo file storage? Share in the comments section below.


About the Author

A former managing editor for Art & Design News, Ned Averill-Snell has covered digital photography and other technology topics for nearly 30 years, and is the author of two-dozen books. He now works for Accusoft, an imaging software developer based in Tampa, Florida.


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