Photo Backup Solutions, pt. 1

A while back, I posted the following plea on Facebook:

Hey, Mac people: thoughts on iCloud?

I like the idea of using iCloud as a backup for my iPhone. Ideally, one could use it that way: get a set amount of space on iCloud, have it back up various things, and have it delete older items to make space for newer.

Obviously, that’s not really how Apple sees it or presents it.

Mine is full right now, and I keep getting ominous notices that I need to do something to return to backing up my phone. The easiest thing to do would be to delete all the photos that are on it, as these are also in “Photos” on my desktop. But–having googled it (and yes, I have, please don’t just slap links into the comments), I get mixed messages about what will happen if I just delete all of the photos currently on iCloud, possibly including causing all of those photos to disappear from ALL devices.

Here’s what I want:
1. iCloud backs up my phone, including photos.
2. I periodically download my photos to Photos on my Mac.
3. I delete those photos from my phone and from iCloud, to make room for more photos.

Does it/can it work this way?

I received the following comments, none of which I ended up using, but which might work well for others:

  • “Apple just rolled out 2TB of storage for $20/month. You’d never run out of storage on that plan. Admittedly that’s more than you’ll need to back up photos of your kid knocking her lunch on the floor. But Apple envisions iCloud as the hub for an ecosystem, not just picture backup. Assuming that you have multiple iOS devices, and then factor in music, movies, videos, documents etc. iCloud has a lot of value to offer. If your concern is solely pictures, there are other solutions.”
  • Here is an alternative strategy, one I use. Use iCloud for NO photos. Instead, I use DropBox’s “camera upload” feature. Any photo I take gets automagically uploaded to DropBox, where it is available across devices and also easily manipulable in my desktop file system. Meanwhile, every little while, I delete ALL photos on my camera roll (since they are all in DropBox). This keeps my iPhone backup image a manageable size.
  • If you’re interested in an alternative that’s not iCloud, one option worth checking out, if you haven’t looked into it already, is using the Google Photos app. I used to use iCloud for everything photos/video between my iPhone and Mac and I switched to Google Photos largely because of the workflow you mentioned. Google Photos will automatically upload what’s on your camera roll to your Google Photo/Google Drive account and then, if you select the option, briefly scan the camera roll for photos that have already been backed up and will delete them from your phone. I haven’t had a single issue since switching over and I don’t miss iCloud. The unlimited space via Google Photos is a nice bonus, too.
  • I use Google Photos, which can run on iOS too I read. With this you get unlimited space for free, with caveat that it will compress images over 16 Mpixels and video over 1080p. Photos upload to google’s cloud over wifi automatically and accessible everywhere. This is great quality for a normal person, but if you’re a photographer gigging, then you’ll want to pay for space to get orig resolution.
  • If you are an Amazon Prime member, you also get free, unlimited photo uploads through the app “Amazon Photos” which is accessible via desktop and apps — no compression. Which is what I do, then delete off my phone monthly.

Next, in Part 2: what I actually decided to use.

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