Use Amazon Prime Photos to Backup Your Travel Images

Nov 4, 2014 | Photography, Review | 1 comment

If you love capturing photographs of your travel adventures, there are very few things more heart wrenching than realizing you’ve lost thousands of photographs of your trip in the blink of an eye. If you are not backing up your photos during travel, you are asking for trouble. Laptops get stolen, cameras get dropped, hard drives break, memory cards become corrupted, and phones tend to accidentally end up in the very fountain you’re trying to photograph.

There are a variety of offline techniques for those traveling with laptops, the easiest of which is to backup your photos on an inexpensive portable hard drive. For additional security and peace of mind, however, you should also utilize an online backup solution on which to store your valuable photos.

Depending on the amount (and size) of photos you take, you may be able to get by using a free storage solution like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Copy, or OneDrive. Most of these solutions offer a moderate amount of storage space (5 GB – 15 GB) and convenient uploads and/or syncing. A few of the solutions (Dropbox and Copy) offer additional storage space when you refer others to join the service. If you take tons of photos, however, eventually you are going to run out of free storage space and will be forced to transition over to a paid online backup solution.

There are several great online backup solutions like Crashplan, SugarSync, Carbonite, and Mozy. All of them offer turn-key backup services for a price that is dictated by your storage needs. Alternatively, if you happen to be an Amazon Prime member, Amazon has just announced that they offer unlimited photo storage backup to the Amazon Cloud Drive through their Prime Photos service.

How to Sign Up

If you are already an Amazon Prime member, you’re already signed up! If you’re not a member of Amazon Prime, you probably should be. A yearly membership of $99 ($79 if you have a grandfathered Prime account) provides free movie streaming (similar to Netflix), music in the cloud, free Kindle e-book checkouts, free two-day US delivery, and now unlimited photo backups through Prime Photos. And because an Amazon Prime account can be shared with up to 5 family members, if you know someone in your family who already uses Amazon Prime you can piggy back off of their account for free!

The Interface

Amazon have done a good job of keeping the interface simple. Once photos or videos have been uploaded, they are viewable in a grid that is organized by date. There are two ways to sort the photos: either by date taken (in reverse chronological order), or by date uploaded.

Amazon Prime Photos Home

The Home screen sorts images and videos by date.

Hovering over photos allows you to choose multiple images for sharing or deletion. Clicking on a photo makes it full screen and provides additional options, like downloading the image or viewing basic EXIF data.

Amazon Prime Photos

Clicking on a photo displays it fullscreen, along with basic EXIF data and additional management options.

Backing Up Photos

Uploading photos to Prime Photos is easy. Simply drag-and-drop photos into the upload window and they will begin their journey to the cloud. For those using a phone or tablet, Prime Photos can be added to the cloud from your device by using the free Amazon Cloud Drive app for iOS or Android. Unfortunately there is currently no passive solution for syncing photos to Cloud Drive for your computer (unlike the convenience of Dropbox, Crashplan, et al), so all uploading must be done manually.

Amazon Prime Photos

Uploading photos to Amazon Cloud Drive is accomplished via a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Dealing with RAW Photos

While Prime Photos accepts photos in RAW format, it doesn’t necessarily support RAW photo organization. Unlike compressed photo formats, RAW photos do not get categorized by date in the grid. Instead they get dumped into a ‘No Date’ category where they are organized by the creation date of the image (even though the creation date is not viewable in the file details online). That’s not to say that you can’t manually organize them into folder (see ‘Managing Photos’ below); just don’t expect them to look pretty in grid view.

Managing Photos

The standard grid view (which is labeled ‘Photos and Videos’) is designed primarily for viewing photos. For greater management of photos you will need to switch over to the list view (labeled ‘All Files’), which lists all the files according to name, date, or file size. List view allows you to share, download, and rename individual photos, as well as move or delete photos en masse.

Amazon Prime Photos

List view allows greater management of photos.

Folders can be created in list view, which is useful for categorizing RAW files. Once you’ve uploaded a memory card full of RAW photos, simply create a custom folder and move the appropriate photos into it for greater organization. Unfortunately getting photos into folders is a two-step process: first upload, then move. I wish there were a way to automatically add files into folders during the upload process, but perhaps that will come in later versions.

Amazon Prime Photos

Folders can be created in list view, after which photos can be moved into the folders for greater organization.

Deletion of photos can be performed on either the grid or list views. Photos that have been deleted simply disappear from standard view, but they’re not gone. You can view deleted photos through the View menu, where you can choose to permanently remove them from Cloud Drive.

Amazon Prime Photos

Deleted photos are not gone; they are simply stored away for possible later recovery.

Amazon Prime Photos

You can permanently remove photos from Cloud Drive from the Deleted Photos area.

Viewing Your Photos

Amazon claims that you can view your photos on the Cloud Drive “from nearly any device—including the big screen using Amazon Fire TV or the … Fire TV Stick, as well as PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and select LG and Samsung smart TVs.” While I have both a Samsung smart TV and a PlayStation 3, I haven’t yet tried to view any of my photos on them. Essentially I’m using Cloud Drive for photo backup rather than photo viewing.

Retrieving Your Photos

Retrieving your backed up photos is the area where Cloud Drive could use the most improvement. In order to download your photos, you must select them individually and download them one…at…a…time. As you can imagine, this becomes a mind-numbingly tedious process, and I would love to see Amazon include some sort of bulk download capabilities in the future. That said, here’s to hoping that my photos continue to stay safe during travel so that I don’t have to download any backups.

The Bottom Line

Prime Photos is in its infancy, so there are a few things that could use improvement. I especially would like to be able add folders and organize photos during upload, along with being able to download files in bulk. In spite of a few quibbles, Amazon Prime Photos is a great option for travel photographers who need to back up their photos on the go. If you’re already a Prime member, the ability to store unlimited photos in the cloud is an additional benefit to an already great service. If you have a family member who is already subscribed to Prime and is willing to add you to their plan for free, you’ll be getting an even better deal!

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