the papercraft lab

PSA: Do this now to avoid photo heartbreak later


If you're like me, your "to do someday" list is a mile long, even if it's only in your head. Clean out the garage, go through your email inbox, finally sort all those baby clothes. Lots of low priority items that never bubble up to the top. 

There is one thing you need to do now.

I know you've been putting it off, and I know you intend to do it "soon".

You must find a way to back up your mobile phone photos. Your cell phone is a fragile thing - it gets tossed into your purse or pocket. It might get dropped into the toilet by an excited toddler. You might accidentally leave it behind at a restaurant, where it never makes it to the lost and found. One day it may decide it's just too tired to turn on anymore.  

BabyM's first popsicle, June 2014. How sad would it be to lose this photo?

BabyM's first popsicle, June 2014. How sad would it be to lose this photo?

In a blink, every precious photo and video you had is lost.  You'll need to scrounge around on Facebook or Instagram for low-resversions of your photos, and ask people to send you the few you texted or emailed them.  You can save yourself the hassle with a very easy process.

The way we all think about backing up our photos now is tedious. We need to find that darn cable that keeps disappearing, sit down with the computer, plug it in and either sync with iTunes or manually move files over if you have an Android phone like me.

I'm a person who works with photos every day and places high value on making sure they're organized and safe.  And even I couldn't find the time to do this backup task more than once every six weeks at best. 

Here's a super-easy way to get this done AUTOMATICALLY with NO WIRES.  

You will use Microsoft OneDrive (10GB free!) to automatically grab photos from your phone, and it works with iPhones, Windows phones *and* Android phones, so yay!  You can then access those photos at your leisure on your computer at home and move them to their final location.

1. Go to OneDrive and sign up for an account if you haven't already done it.  (If you use my link, we'll each get 0.5GB of extra storage.)  You may need to sign up your email to use as a Microsoft account, or you can use that old Hotmail account lying around.  

2.  Get the OneDrive app for your device.  The OneDrive website has the links for them, or you can browse your app store to find it.  

3.  Open up the app, sign in with your Microsoft account, and go to Settings, and check "Turn on Camera Backup".  Your photos will start uploading to a folder called "Camera Roll". The default is to only do this when you are on Wi-Fi, so you may have to wait until you're at home, or go into the app Settings and change it.

Once you're at your computer, if it's Windows 7 or newer, your OneDrive will show up in the Explorer just like any other folders and you can move those photos to another place on your computer.  But for now they're safe "in the cloud" and not just on your phone!


  • If you're on a Mac, you'll need to download the Mac OneDrive app to see your folders on your computer.
  • If you edit your phone photos using other apps, like Instagram or PixlrExpress, those are usually saved in other places on your phone and you may need to change that location to the default camera folder in order for the auto-backup to work.  
  • There are other solutions to achieve the same goal.  You can use DropBox or iCloud or the Google+ Photo backup depending on your phone. I personally didn't like the idea of my photos anywhere near a social media site (unless I am choosing to share) so I skipped the Google solution for my Android phone. 

I'll write a few more posts on how to sync photos in other folders and how to get your photos automatically imported into Adobe Lightroom to save you another step.

Once you spend 15 minutes setting this up, you won't have to think about it again.  Your photos will be protected from cell phone mishaps and you won't be heartbroken to find out that all photographic and video evidence of your awesome adventures has vaporized with that phone you left in the airplane seat-back pocket.

You're welcome ;)

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