Last week, we focused on finding your media. Today, we’re looking at different options for where you want to keep your photo collection once it’s organized. If you haven’t seen what we’ve already covered, make sure you visit the Tidy ’24 Calendar page to see everything so far.

Photos Week 2: Pick Your Platform

Choosing where you want to store your photos long-term can be challenging. Maybe you’ve never thought about it before and always just used your smartphone’s built-in photos app. Perhaps you’ve agonized over it for years and tried a dozen different services and applications to find just the right one. This week, I want to highlight some primary considerations for choosing a photo management platform and give you confidence to move forward (assuming you haven’t already).

Also, some good news first: you can change your mind later. It’s easier if you don’t need to, but none of these decisions are irreversible. If you’re only 80% sure you’re looking at the right option, that’s fine! If it doesn’t work out, you can try something different. At least you’ll have new information to work with!

Heads-up! Keep reading at least until you get to the part after “Action Steps” to learn about Mylio and Monument, two great options combining some of the best local and cloud storage features.

Local vs. Cloud Storage

The first important choice to make is whether you want local storage for your media collection or cloud storage:

  • Local storage means you’re responsible for the devices that contain the primary copies of your data (hard drives, memory cards, computers, smartphones, etc.).
  • Cloud storage means you’re using a service that keeps your media on remote servers (Google Photos, iCloud Photos, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.).

There are pros and cons to each option. Here’s a simple comparison:

  • Advantages of local storage:
    • Privacy and security (nobody else has access)
    • No internet required (faster, no worries about unreliable or slow internet)
    • No dependence on outside services (sometimes they shut down!)
    • No ongoing costs (but you do need to buy storage media/devices once)
    • Totally customizable (folders, tags, date-based hierarchy, anything)
  • Advantages of cloud storage:
    • Accessible from anywhere (as long as you have internet!)
    • Easy to share (sometimes challenging with local storage)
    • Easy to expand and scale; just pay for the next service level
    • Cutting-edge features like AI analysis
    • No hardware to buy, maintain, or upgrade
    • Generally robust and reliable
    • Often low cost (but remember, YOU might be the product!)

Whether you opt for local or cloud storage, one crucial item always applies: backups. It’s tempting to rely on a service like Google or Apple to maintain your photo collection. Companies that big with hugely popular services may last for a very long time. However, don’t let them manage the only copy you have, even if it’s the primary copy you usually work with. Make sure you’ve got regular backups in at least one other location. Check out this Tidy Bytes blog post for additional details about good backup habits.

Action Steps:

  1. Consider your goals for your photos and videos and note what you want to be able to do (particularly remote access and/or sharing)
  2. Consider your technical ability, interest, time, and budget to know whether potentially costly, complex, or time-consuming solutions are worth considering or not
  3. Choose a platform (see below for examples) and take the first step: sign up for a trial account, obtain a dedicated hard drive, or download the relevant software

There are two hybrid services that I want to highlight specifically for you to look into. I use the term “hybrid” because they are local-first but offer many features normally only found in large cloud providers. I use one of them (since using both would be redundant!), but I’m impressed with both:

These platforms provide features such as:

  • Streamlined importing of photos from computers, smartphones, USB media, social media platforms, and even other photo services like Google or Apple photos
  • Duplicate detection and clean-up
  • AI-powered face tagging and photo content analysis (on your computer, not theirs!)
  • Privacy-focused sharing of specific sets of pictures
  • Fast review tools to work through tons of photos and mark what to keep quickly

Monument even has a small dedicated device that powers its software and AI analysis tools right from your home. Both services are firmly focused on privacy and security. They aren’t free, but it’s worth the cost for what you get.

If you want a more bare-bones local storage approach, you might already have all the necessary hardware. Even keeping the main copy of your photos on your primary computer is okay as long as you have separate backups with a dedicated offsite service (I use and recommend Backblaze, but even something like Dropbox is better than nothing).

For cloud storage, here’s a list of some common and capable services (focused on photos and videos in most cases):

Feel free to comment on this post or use the contact form if you have questions about any of the platforms mentioned above or are considering something not mentioned. I’ll be happy to look into it and answer any questions I can.

How Does This Help?

Choosing a single platform or location for all of your photos allows you to focus your efforts in a single direction and differentiate between what’s finished and what still needs more organization. After identifying where all your media resides last week, picking out the future home for all organized items lets you start funneling small sets of photos into their new home a little at a time. Every time you import, sort, and tag another media set, you get closer to the final goal. You also know definitively where those photos and videos are, so you never need to hunt blindly for them again.

Who Does This Help?

If your collection of photos and videos still needs to be centralized and organized, this step will give you a great sense of direction. No more wondering what you’ll do with all those photos; even if it takes a long time to finish, you know where they belong. It’s only a matter of working through each small set of unsorted media.

Who Does This NOT Help?

If you’ve already chosen an organization platform that works well for you, or you have only a small collection of photos and videos that don’t require a complex filing system, this week’s task may be pointless. One of the key features of an efficient digital organization system is that you should never preemptively spend time defining and creating structure you don’t need. It’s like designing and building a perfectly sectioned warehouse when you have nothing to store.

Quick Review

For Week 2, your task is to pick your platform. Consider your goals for your media collection and how much time, money, and effort you’re willing to put into using whatever method or service you choose, then take the first step by preparing the hardware or signing up for a trial account if needed. Next week, we’ll get into the first bits of moving photos into our shiny new system!

If you have questions about this task or anything related to digital organization, leave a comment below or use the contact form to reach out to me directly.

Happy data-taming!

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