Back in February, I wrote an article about online photo storage and backup. At the very beginning of my photography career, I lost nearly a year’s worth of photos from when my first child was about a year old. Needless to say, it was devastating, and I’ve taken this subject very seriously ever since.

I put months’ worth of time and research into that article and updating my personal photo storage and backup system. So imagine my surprise when a long-time reader emailed me and said I was wrong.

I have to admit that “surprise” is a polite word for what I felt. 🙂

“Your perspective on photo backup misses the point,” she said.

Sure. Amazon Photos is cost-effective and expedient. 

  • But it’s not permanent.
  • It’s not private.
  • And you lose your backup the minute you decide you no longer need Prime.

Online Photo Backup and Storage: Data Mining Risks

Amazon can change its terms of service at any time. It could stop offering photo storage. It could decouple storage from Prime to make you pay for it separately. Or, it could start mining your photos for data. Imagine storing photos from a ski vacation only to see ads for ski gloves the next day.

And that’s just Amazon. Imagine what Google could do with the data in Google Photos. 

Our photos are embedded with geolocation data. Amazon and Google both have facial recognition software. And their artificial intelligence can recognize animals, objects, food, and so much more. How valuable that data could be to them!

Ok, so I’ve heard all these data privacy concerns before. And I don’t love big companies having access to my private data. But when I weigh the convenience and price against the potential harm that could come to me or my family, this is not a battle I’ve chosen to fight.

Online Photo Backup and Storage: PERMANENT Photo Storage

However, the permanence of my backup is not something I’ve ever put much thought into. That’s what struck me. How much work would it be to move my backed-up photos from Amazon to somewhere else if I canceled my Prime membership or they discontinued the photo service? (TONS, that’s how much.)

And what happens when I get older and no longer need Amazon Prime. How will I pass on all of these photos and videos to my children?

OMG, y’all. That made me gasp. I have NEVER ONCE thought about transferring photos to my children. My children, of course, are the whole reason I take photos. 

If something happened to me tomorrow, my family wouldn’t have the first clue how to find my photos. Most of them are Raw and are in Lightroom. My family doesn’t even know that I use Amazon Photos for my backup. 

My husband and kids would be limited to the relatively few photos I’ve posted on social media accounts that they have access to. Think of the hundreds of thousands of photos I’ve taken, all gone to waste.

And, yeah, there are potential solutions to this.

  • I could copy important photos to CDs or DVDs to give to my kids. (But, how many of you still have computers with CD or DVD players? Not me. 20 to 40 years from now, they are going to be as ancient as floppy discs are today.)
  • Thumb drives might work. (But just like CDs and DVDs, odds are that thumb drives will be obsolete by the time my kids grow up. And they are so tiny and easy to lose and easy to overwrite.)
  • What about prints? Prints are without a doubt important – I just ordered some myself. (But I have two kids. Should I order duplicates of each print? I don’t have the money or storage space to do that with ALL our photos.) Same for photo books are the same. I can’t order two of each. 

Obsolete File Formats

Here’s something else to think about. Digitally, photos are stored in JPGs. JPGs are currently the “universal language” that electronics use to convert data to an image. Did you know what a JPG was 20 years ago? How about 30 years ago? By the time you are ready to pass on your digital legacy to your kids, what format will images be in?

In fact, Apple is already introducing its latest format – the HEIC. Twenty or 30 years from now, odds are that photos will be stored in some impossible-to-imagine format that allows for perfect sharpness, 3D, low light perfection that even captures scents from the scene, for all I know. Well, maybe the scent part is too sci-fi…

But the point is, we aren’t taking all these photos and working so hard on our photography just for ourselves. We are the family memory keepers. We want our families to have these memories long after we’re gone. But how, logistically, do we make that happen?

That’s when my friend Donna introduced me to Forever.

Forever Online Photo Storage and Backup

Forever is:

  • Online photo storage and backup that you pay for once and own forever.
  • Guaranteed to be available to you and your designee for 100 years after your death
  • Completely private. No data mining.
  • Long-term – your files will be migrated to new file formats for up-to-date viewing. (It’s ok if JPGs go out of style. Forever will make sure you have the latest & greatest!)
  • Full-size, full-resolution storage with no compression.
  • The vault for your ENTIRE digital estate (documents, videos, and audio recordings can be stored in addition to photos.)
  • Social. If you choose, you can share photos, documents, and videos with friends and family members on the Forever website.

Forever is not:

  • For edits or works in progress
  • For Raw photos
  • For PSDs

My Forever Routine

When I decided that Forever was the best long-term solution for me and my family, I knew I’d need a routine. It’s not as automatic as Amazon if you keep photos both on your computer and photos on your phone. And, because of the price difference (paying to own once, upfront, versus renting month-by-month, I wanted to ramp up my storage space gradually to see how much I really need.

I currently own 12 GB of storage space. Anyone can get 2GB for free, and I bought 10GB during a flash sale (which happens frequently). 

My strategy is this:

  1. Start with my earliest digital photos (from 2002 and 2003) and work one month or year at a time. It’s actually kind of fun, reviewing those old photos. And lord knows we have extra time right now!
  2. In Lightroom, filter my photos for the given time period with Pick flags. I’ve used this method consistently to separate my keepers from my tossers since I started using Lightroom.
  3. Review the Pick photos for my absolute favorites – the ones I want my family to have always. Type “5” on each favorite to add 5 stars.
  4. Confirm that I’ve run Facial Recognition on these photos in Lightroom and that my keywords contain anything I might search on later (place, event, etc.).
  5. Export these favorites to a temporary folder on my hard drive using the month and year as the photo name. I’ve found that many of my oldest photos don’t have the date the photo was taken embedded in their metadata. Once I upload to Forever, I can assign a date taken to these photos in bulk. Having the date in the name makes it easy for me to remember which is what.
  6. Upload to Forever. (I’ll share a detailed tutorial on this soon, but it’s super easy.) Once you’ve uploaded, you can filter photos by keyword and date to create albums. (How cool is it that Forever reads Lightroom’s keywords?! You can see that I’ve keyworded the image below with my daughter’s name.)
  7. Delete the photos stored in the temporary folder.
  8. Repeat with the next year or month.

You can see that these photos in Forever’s library aren’t sorted correctly. Black and white photos of my mom as a child are mixed in with photos of my daughter as a child.

Luckily, it’s easy to reorganize them. You can select a group of photos, as you see below, and assign a date they were taken to all at once.

Now, if you haven’t always used pick flags or stars in Lightroom, don’t use Lightroom, or have never organized your photo – this is your opportunity to organize your photos the best way, so you can always find what you want. 

But, don’t stress and DO NOT TRY TO BACK UP ALL YOUR PHOTOS AT ONCE. It will make you crazy. Take your time, savor the feeling of reliving these memories and making progress on an oh-so-important goal, and enjoy the accomplishment!

You will notice that I am not uploading ALL my photos to Forever. When I take photos of my kids, I usually have between 10 and 100 photos of each event/cuteness/moment/whatever. I use my favorite to print or post online, but I don’t delete the rest. My kids would hate me if I stored all 100 photos from each time I picked up the camera – that is too many for them to sort through. Plus, it’s too expensive. I am choosing the best of the best from each time I picked up my camera to back up to Forever. 

Also, I’m not storing client photos in Forever. They have their photo files and are responsible for back-up. Now, I might consider distributing photos via Forever to clients in limited situations in the future, but that’s a different story.

Here’s what else you need to know about Forever. It is a social commerce company, like Mary Kay. This means that I am an Independent Forever Ambassador and will earn a commission on any purchases you might make. That aspect was a real turn off to me at first. You and I both know people who drink some Koolaid that makes them crazy and blind to the fact there their own whatever-they-are-selling might not be perfect for everyone. I don’t get into that group kind of nonsense.

I’ll tell you right now that Forever isn’t for everyone, and that Amazon Photos, or another photo backup system, is better for some people. And, as I continue to organize my digital legacy for my family, I’ll share with you Forever’s pros and cons and, of course, how to get the most out of it.

Online Photo Storage and Backup

Online Photo Storage and Back-Up: Get Started with Forever

If you are ready to try it out, sign up here for 2 GB of free storage space to see what it’s all about. Click on Storage and scroll down to the 2GB plan.

Once you log in, you’ll have my contact info, including my phone number. I’m happy to set up a call with you if you have questions or need help setting up your account. You’ll also be able to refer Forever to friends and earn coupons that can apply to purchasing storage if you decide to do so.

So tell me below. How many of you are already Forever customers? Do you have any questions about it based on reading this article?

Better Online Photo Storage and Backup