Say it with me, Backup! Your! Photos! (Also some phone space-saving tips and tricks)

A few years ago I made the mistake of upgrading my phone to a new software update without making a backup. Everything seemed to go fine… until it turned back on and had wiped all of my data. No contacts. No apps. No photos!! I was upset… But I was not devastated. I knew it would be a headache to reinstall everything and get my settings back to my unique specifications, but I also knew that all of my photos were safe and sound…in a few different places!


I have had countless friends drop their phones in a pool, leave it behind in an Uber, leave it in a restroom, drive over it with a car, etc. etc. It’s never a fun situation, made even worse by the fact that a lot of them had no backup systems in place to store any of their data. Most importantly (to me), this meant that they had lost all of their photos. Photos of birthdays and travels and momentous occasions; photos of tiny reminders, silly goings-ons, the minutiae of daily life; photos of friends and places and loves! Gone. Disappeared to the universe…

But! This doesn’t have to be the case! There are easy (and free!) ways to backup your photos! Doubly important, this means that you can delete lots of photos from your device and free up some space! If you look at your settings, I’d wager a bet that more than half of your phone’s used memory is taken up by photos and videos. Think of all the games, productivity apps, and snapchat competitors you could download in their stead!

Here are some options (all of which I have used and fully support) for backing up said irreplaceable photos:

**A note: these instructions are all for iPhone backups, for a great read on Android photo backups, check out theses posts [1, 2, 3]**

  • Dropbox‘s camera uploads feature automatically uploads photos and videos from your phone or tablet to your Camera Uploads folder. You can choose to upload from just wifi or both wifi and cellular, just download Dropbox and make sure it’s enabled (Profile -> Settings -> Camera Upload ☑️).
  • Google Photos, similar to Dropbox, can upload while just on wifi or on both wifi and cellular (watch your data plans, kids!). After downloading the Google Photos app, enable syncing (Menu -> Settings -> Back up & sync ☑️), and you’re good to go.
  • iCloud Backup makes a copy of the information on your iPhone (and other iDevices). When your phone gets backed up in iCloud, you can transfer that information to a new device or restore very easily. To enable automatic back ups, make sure it’s turned on (Settings > iCloud > Backup), and connected to both power and wifi. It does the rest!


And, as an added bonus(!) here are some other tips on freeing up more space from your beleaguered hard drive:

  • Check your phone’s storage to see which apps are taking up the most space. iPhones give you (Settings -> General -> iPhone Storage) a list ordered by the most bloated apps. Almost always Photos is right on top (see above) but after that you can start to get a feel for which apps are hogging your space.
  • Another culprit of phone space is background app refresh. This is less taking up physical space on your phone’s hard drive and more slowing it down by running lots of processes in the background. It’s always good to go through here (Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh) every few months and see if the apps that you’ve given access really need it (spoiler: almost none should be using it).
  • In the same vein of auditing, set aside a weekend morning every once and a while to really cull your app list. Is there an app on your phone that you haven’t used in months? Delete it! An app that hasn’t been updated in 6 months or more? It’s probably not being developed anymore…look for an alternative or see if you can live without it all together!
  • If you opt to use Google Photos, the app also comes with a handy “Free up space” feature that efficiently removes photos you’ve already backed up.

Any tips I missed? Do you use a different photo backup system or app? Let us know in the comments!


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