How The Pros Store And Manage Their Travel Photos


Travel photography is not my strength.  Not only am I an inexperienced photographer, I'm terrible at securing and managing the good images I actually capture.  I'm just unorganized.  I lose stuff.  The few wonderful pictures I have taken over the years are gone to the world.

I realize that as we set off to travel the world, my poor photography skills just aren't going to cut it - I need help.  So I asked 5 travel photographers to get me started on the right track by sharing their methods for storing and managing photos.  They were kind enough to help me out, and I must admit that I was enlightened by their responses.  I truly had no idea what I was doing.

So if you're like me and can't seem to keep those precious photos of yours in order, then this post is definitely for you.

Iain Mallory - Mallory On Travel

Iain's an adventurer/photographer/writer who manages to capture images of the most obscure locations (see below).  He's got a great blog going, and his photo essays are a definitely worth a visit.


Mallory on Travel - Floating over Volcanoes

Images are a photographer's most prized possessions and protecting them is of paramount importance. I use several methods to protect my photographs. Initially I only use small capacity SD cards no larger than 4Gb. This means that as I take RAW images there are never more than 150 images on a card before it needs changing. If I lose a card or it gets damaged it is preferable to lose just 150 images rather than the 600 on a 16Gb card.

I travel with two hard drives, backing up images to both and when I return home they are transferred to a 1Tb drive and after editing using Adobe LightRoom burnt to DVD. This enables me to have all images backed up twice regardless of where I am. I am now also beginning to experiment with an online storage system, which will hopefully negate the need for DVD storage in future.


Barbara Weibel - Hole in The Donut

"As soon as I was healthy enough, I left my job, strapped on a backpack, and traveled solo around the world . . ."

That's from Barbara's site, and this photo is from her travels to Mexico - and I'm going here!


Hole In The Donut - Majahual, Mexico

I travel with a MacBook Pro that has a 500 Gb Hard Drive. At the end of each day I transfer my photos from the SDHD card to my laptop, organize them into folders that are labeled with the name of the place/attraction. I then back up to one of two external 1 Tb external hard drives that I travel with. Once I have them on my laptop's hard drive and the external hard  drive, I format the SDHD card and start fresh the next day. When I get to a place where I have access to fast, reliable wifi, I upload all my photos and video to SmugMug, an online service that provides me with unlimited storage capacity for $60 per year.

SmugMug has additional benefits as well, such as allowing me to set my galleries as private to protect against people swiping my images, the ability to create slide shows that I can embed in my blog, rather than using the more limited storage capacity of my host server, etc. As I complete my blog posts about a particular destination, and after those photos are safely uploaded to the SmugMug cloud, I wipe them off my laptop hard drive to make room for more.


Erin McNeaney and Simon Fairbairn - Never Ending Voyage

Planning on going to South America?  These guys just released about all the information you'll need, including this free Ebook and budget.  And of course they know their way around a camera as well.


Never Ending Voyage - Llamas In Peru

I currently use iPhoto to import, organize and edit my photos. I am considering moving to Lightroom which is recommended by so many photographers, but I find iPhoto really quick and easy to use. I create "events" for each destination so I can easily find photos, and add keywords such as "Japan food" for when I am writing food posts etc. I export photos from iPhoto (and re-size them) into a photo folder where I keep the best photos to use for blog posts.

We back up all our photos onto a Western Digital My Passport hard drive, which is really small and light. Time Machine on a Mac makes backing up really easy - we just plug in the drive and it does it automatically. I don't shoot RAW so one hard drive is enough for backing up all our data. As an additional back up the "best photos" folder is synced into the cloud using Sugarsync.

I've written in more detail about how we back up all our data HERE.


Samuel Jeffery - Nomadic Samuel

Samuel's been pretty much everywhere and he still has plenty of world to see.  He just started a fantastic new photo blog:  Smiling Faces Travel Photos.


Samuel In India

Nomadic Samuel - India

When backpacking or travelling somewhere it's important to consider methods of safely storing your photos.  Unfortunately, just having them on your computer hard-drive or camera memory card is not a very secure way of ensuring they're safe from corruption, damage or theft.  When I travel I always carry two small portable hard-drives with me (500 gb each).  Every week, I add new photos that I've been storing on my computer to the two hard-drives.  I make sure to keep these hard-drives separate from one another.  For example, I have one in my day pack and another in my main backpack. 

Additionally, I use both Flickr and Smug Mug to store my photos on-line.  Not only do these two services safeguard my photos, but they also provide means for me to share them with a larger audience.  In my opinion, having both external backups and on-line storage solutions provides for a very effective way of keeping your photos safely stored.  Although it does take a bit of effort, it's well worth it.


The Solars - The Happy Family Movement

The Solars take pictures I can only dream of taking, and I love their philosophy on life.  They are planning a long, European tour in the near future and I can't wait to see the images from that adventure!


The Solars Happy Fmaily Movement - DC

The Happy Family Movement - Washington D.C.

We download the images onto Josh’s iMac and put them into a folder called Personal Pictures. (When we are traveling, we use our MacBook Pro instead of the iMac). We create a new folder inside the Personal Pictures folder that includes the date and a short description. For example, if we took pictures at Max’s soccer game on July 30, 2011, the folder description would be 20110730 – Max’s soccer game (four digit year, 2 digit month, 2 digit day).

We use Adobe Lightroom to color correct our images and Adobe PhotoShop to edit the ones we share on our blogs.  After Josh processes the images, we will back them up on our external hard drive. We have all our personal pictures sorted in similar fashion. They are sorted into folders sorted by years, then into folders sorted by month. Then we back up the original folder from the iMac with the now processed images into the corresponding month folder.

We use an online backup service called Backblaze that automatically backs up all of the files on our computer and hard drives. It has a very low monthly fee and doesn’t take any work from you once you set it up. One drawback is that it only keeps files online that are STILL on your computer/hard drive. So, once you delete the images, Backblaze will delete them (after 30 days).

There’s another online backup service called iCloud that might work better for travelers. It’s call iCloud and you choose which files you want to back up. Once you back them up, they stay there until YOU delete them. It’s pricier than Backblaze, but also a quicker solution since you are only choosing the files you want to back up, instead of every file on your computer.

We haven’t done any extended travel (yet!) where we’ve been concerned about losing our images, but when we do, we will probably use a combination of Backblaze or iCloud, as well as a couple of other options. We’ll bring a spindle of blank DVD’s and burn all our images to disc and mail them home every week. We’ll also bring along a portable mini hard drive like this one to backup images on and then store it in a separate place from the laptop.

When we travel, we’ll bring our MacBook Pro and the portable hard drive. We do have iPad that we bring, but that’s specifically for blog writing and not used for storing or sharing images. We share all of our images through our blogs, but Facebook and Flickr are great options for travelers who don’t have a blog.


I want to thank all our contributors for their photography advice.  Honestly, I didn't know half of this stuff, but I am glad I learned.  This info will definitely help us to keep our images safe and accessible as we travel.

About 10 months left for us before we take on the world.  We would love if you would follow our journey on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

And please feel free to SIGN UP HERE and get all our posts and articles delivered via email.


Cover image via Nomadic Samuel

'How The Pros Store And Manage Their Travel Photos' have 30 comments

  1. January 31, 2012 @ 10:45 pm Tracey - Life Changing Year

    Wow Justin - only 10 months to go!! You must be getting excited!!! I wonder if any of the above photographic geniuses could answer a question for me? I have a new camera and the pics are causing me problems when adding to my blog. It's definitely the pics from the new camera as the old camera images work fine. I'm guessing it's image size? Does anyone know how to shrink the size without affecting the pics? Or could it be something else entirely? Thanks in advance - like Justin I know very little about this stuff (though I'm not guilty of losing my best images just yet!!!!)
    Tracey - Life Changing Year recently posted..Day 3/Part 2 – Royal Selangor Pewter Visitor Centre


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:43 am Justin

      Just email them Tracey, I'm sure they will be happy to help. I guess I have a lot of photo work to do before we get going!


    • February 5, 2012 @ 3:14 am Shannon

      You can also change the image resolution on your new camera to step down to be comparable to what your old camera was taking pics at. Of course, you can always downsize them on your PC (this is probably better as you retain the quality)

      I actually prefer to shoot at max res, then reduce when I need/want them to be reduced that way I can always go back to the original and make more reductions whenever I want.

      I might take a pic at 16MP (Megapixels) and maybe I want to do a 4x6 of two areas of the photo so I will crop and save each area separately and create 4x6s accordingly and then maybe I might do an 8x10 of the same photo and will only need to do slight cropping if any this is why I always shoot at high res because you cannot upsize (you can with poor results).

      hope that helps some too


  2. February 1, 2012 @ 1:07 am Emiel

    First of all, what a great idea to just ask about these kinds of practical things and share the results. I do believe you must have lots of questions like this when you prepare for your round the world trip. Keep on asking questions!
    Secondly, good tips from these pro's. Although I am not traveling long-term, it made me think that even for our 6week trip I might have to arrange something like this. I have a Flickr account so I am already on the right track :)
    Emiel recently posted..Worry about anxiety? Don’t! (or: Why I disrupt my comfort zone)


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:42 am Justin

      I can't give people tips if I don't what tips to give! I am the most unorganized photographer ever. I guess it's like anything else - you have to make it a priority. But yeah, the advice here really helps. I'm glad these guys helped us out!


  3. February 1, 2012 @ 4:18 am Cole @ Four Jandals

    Great tips! We try to use a portable harddrive and laptop plus Flickr. Just checking out SmugMug as it seems to be the recommended at the moment.
    Cole @ Four Jandals recently posted..Living like a local in Amsterdam with Roomorama


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:40 am Justin

      I know, Smugmug was what everyone seemed to love! I'll be checking that out as well. Thanks Cole!


  4. February 1, 2012 @ 7:24 am Vero

    Justin, your topic couldn't be more timely for us! We're off to Belgium to write a guidebook in two months and have been pondering the most efficient way to deal with photos, with both hard backup and online storage. Will check out SmugMug for sure. Thanks for a great post!


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:36 am Justin

      Good for you Vero! A guidebook - WOW! I knew I couldn't give out this information myself, so I figured ask some people. They were very helpful!


  5. February 1, 2012 @ 8:44 am Nomadic Samuel

    I really appreciate being featured here :) The tips from the others were excellent.
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Top Three Things to Do in Arizona


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:34 am Justin

      Thanks for participating Samuel. I'll always be keeping my eye on your adventures!


  6. February 1, 2012 @ 8:50 am Barry - WorldlyNomads

    Nice article Justin, some good tips. I personally use photobucket for my storage, its pretty cheap at $25 a year for a pro membership. You can also upload videos to it as well, and set it to public or private as well.

    I don't plan on taking a physical device to backup on whilst away, do you think this is wise to rely on photobucket alone?


    • February 1, 2012 @ 9:33 am Justin

      Well, I'm not the person to be saying if it's wise or not. I would visit the sites of the guys and ask them. Everyone one of them traveled with a portable hard drive so I think I will do that.

      Thanks for the comment Barry and I will be checking out photobucket! Great Tip!


      • February 1, 2012 @ 9:54 am Barry - WorldlyNomads

        No probs, I really liked Photobucket and its interface. I do have a 1TB external hard drive but its very heavy and big. Think I may have to research some smaller options to take on the trip, its tough when space is at a premium!
        Barry - WorldlyNomads recently posted..Eliminating entire continents…


        • February 1, 2012 @ 10:11 am Justin

          I know, space is a premium. Some of the recommends here are very small, they should work perfect.


  7. February 1, 2012 @ 9:38 am Iain Mallory

    Honoured to be included here and some great advice from the other contributors, some of which I might make use of myself. Smugmug is certainly recommended by many photogs and will take a look at it too.
    Iain Mallory recently posted..Cultural Aveyron; Enchanting Villages and Mystical Castles


    • February 2, 2012 @ 11:28 am Justin

      Thanks for participating Iain! So many good ideas here!


  8. February 2, 2012 @ 5:12 am Sophie

    I just use flickr and an external hard drive. SO much to learn...
    Sophie recently posted..High Tea at the Old Cataract in Aswan


    • February 3, 2012 @ 11:38 pm Justin

      I know - it's nuts. But hopefully this will start us off in the right direction! Pick the right stuff the first time.


  9. February 2, 2012 @ 9:00 am January Update: Holidays & Launches

    [...] The Great Family Escape asked a number of photographers (including us) how we store and manage travel photos. [...]


  10. February 3, 2012 @ 11:16 am Bethany ~ twoOregonians

    Really nice to read through these suggestions. We are traveling with a MacBook Pro, a 750 gb external hard drive, and a Carbonite backup subscription. I like the idea of SmugMug, though - especially with the option to then delete files from the MacBook hard drive...


    • February 3, 2012 @ 11:34 pm Justin

      Thanks Bethany! It's all so much for me, but these ideas got me started. Smugmug does seem pretty interesting!


  11. February 4, 2012 @ 10:15 am Jill - Going Anyway

    We basically have no system. and soooo many photos!
    So thanks very much for gathering all these ideas!
    Jill - Going Anyway recently posted..Settling in, paparazzi, and the universal language of swimming


    • February 4, 2012 @ 10:36 am Justin

      That's pretty much me as well Jill - I'm glad we did this!


  12. February 5, 2012 @ 2:31 am Runaway Subscription Saturday: 1st Feb. 2012 | Runaway Juno

    [...] on The Great Family Escape, How The Pros Store And Manage Their Travel Photos. As an amateur photographer, or just a traveler who has a lot of interests in photography, I [...]


  13. February 5, 2012 @ 5:56 am Jade -

    Great tips! I have an external harddrive and I also get my photos burnt to CD or DVD and mail them home.
    Jade - recently posted..5 Reasons To Discover Laos


  14. February 9, 2012 @ 4:23 am Stephen

    Good to hear what other bloggers out there are doing.
    Stephen recently posted..Kowloon at Night Stop Motion Video


  15. February 9, 2012 @ 10:17 pm Eddy F. Baez

    What a great friggin article!!!! This is great info. Now I know what to do wtih our millions of pictures. Loooooooooooooooooove it!! SMUGMUG 4 liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife!!!!!!

    Great article people!!!! keep it up!!


  16. April 18, 2012 @ 10:13 pm Mary @ Green Global Travel

    Thank you for doing this post! I learned so many great tips about organizing & backing up photos. I bookmarked the page so that I can refer back to it!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..EASY ECOTOURISM: 10 Simple Steps To More Sustainable Travel


  17. August 11, 2012 @ 9:32 pm Penny Sadler

    I soooo needed to read this 6 months ago! I was using Lightroom but didn't understand the whole catalogue system. The good news, I didn't loose any photos. The bad news, they are in complete and utter disarray. I've found out the hard way pretty much everything I've read here. Still good reinforcement. Thanks for shaing!
    Penny Sadler recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong (in Santa Barbara)


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