There’s no point in lugging along a laptop on your vacation just so you can archive or organize your digital pictures. A laptop not only adds weight and heft, but is also vulnerable to theft and damage. Luckily, you have other options. Our recommendations will help ensure that all your photos come home safely with you.
Prices of memory cards have dropped so much recently that it’s feasible to buy as many cards as you need. Since last year, for instance, the price of a 8GB SD Flash Memory card has fallen from well over $15 to $5.
So how many cards do you need? If you anticipate shooting 700 photographs with a 10-megapixel camera, you’ll need more than 2GB of storage. For flexibility, that would mean bringing at least two 2GB cards. For reference, I have a 14.1 MP camera and I always take a 16GB card with me, and a 4GB card in my camera bag for back up.
You’ll want even more storage space if you plan to shoot video with your digital camera too. Every minute of footage can fill 100MB or more of storage. To save space, you may want to edit video on the camera to remove the less interesting parts. This kind of feature is available on newer Canon, Olympus, and other cameras.
There’s a downside to relying solely on media cards for storage: if a problem develops with your card, you could lose all your photos. Flash-memory cards are susceptible to accidental erasure and even corruption. They’re also small, and therefore easy to misplace. That’s why it’s a good idea to back up images.
One option is a dedicated photo storage device. These devices include memory-card slots for transferring and storing photos.
Between the large number of Internet cafés and the increasing number of hotels that offer free wi-fi, transferring pictures to a photo- and video-hosting service has become a realistic option. These services offer several advantages. First, because you’re storing photos on a server in another location, you can’t lose them. Also, friends and family can view your pictures while you’re still enjoying your adventure.
Choosing a service comes down to whether you want to store and share images at their highest quality. Most services impose data-transfer or -storage limits; some even downsample images after you upload them. We like Yahoo’s Flickr best. They have a free version, but for $25 a year, you get unlimited uploads and storage, and Flickr won’t downsample them. You can even upload your HD videos!
If you’re looking for straight-up file storage and you don’t care whether others can see your photos, try a network storage service such as Dropbox.com. With dropbox, the first 2 GB are free, and you can get 500MB free per referral up to 18GB. For excessive photographers/hoarders, they offer packages starting at $9.99/month for 50GB. If you plan on using an online service, we recommend packing a USB 2.0 memory-card reader if your computer doesn't have one built-in.
When using public computers, take precautions against possible keystroke-logging software or other spyware. Before you leave for your trip, change the passwords for those accounts to something you don’t use on any other accounts. Also, when logging out of an online photo service, empty the browser’s cache and then quit the browser program.