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Why Cloud Storage & Backup Are Vital for Photographers

Author: SmugMug

There’s a comforting feeling of having a hard drive or external storage device by your workstation as a photographer.  But a lot of things can go very wrong when this is your primary storage solution. 

If the physical drive gets damaged or your home catches fire, you can lose everything. If your VPN goes down, you may not be able to access historic shots when doing research, or to pull samples if you’re on site with a client.  Without a cloud solution, clients cannot access your drive on their schedules which can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to technology-based photographers. 

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Most importantly, you won’t run out of space if you’re on location or lose the shot because you dropped a memory card.  And using a service with a simple-backup option lets you have peace-of-mind that your photos are safe because they can be backed up in real time after you upload from your connected device.

This guide walks you through the features of cloud photo storage and backup solutions that benefit you by the type of photography you do, and some pro-tips to look for before you choose a vendor.

High-Resolution With No Compression

If the solution is not run by photographers, they don’t know why compression can be bad and high-resolution is a must.  For standard storage companies it is all about maximizing storage space and not file quality.

Image files not stored in high res may get compressed so they need to be upscaled before they can go to print.  In some cases, you may have a client that needs a size for a billboard or wall art, or fine art prints for a collector. If the service provider you have has distorted the images, you may need to reshoot or go through an advanced editing process to increase the quality back up.

This is most important for commercial photographers, photojournalists, and fine art producers that print in large formats.  Sometimes high-resolution isn’t enough, and that brings us to the next aspect, RAW storage.

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The files are big, and they take up a lot of space. If you stick to external drives, you’re going to be buying a lot to keep up with RAW storage needs. Cloud photo storage companies can handle these big data dumps but may charge a small fee on top because of the space needed. Ask their customer support teams about RAW and if there are options available.

When you know you’re going to need to control every little detail of an image, this is where the right solution is vital. If you shoot landscapes or play with light, you know the difference these details make for a print that sells.

There’s nothing wrong with a physical backup device, but if you want space in your studio vs. multiple external drives, opt for a cloud photo storage company that has the ability to upgrade for RAW storage when needed.

Pro-tip: If you don’t need RAW year-round, keep the regular storage packages and upgrade to RAW as needed.

Security & Sharing

Security should be front of mind for photographers, it protects you and your reputation. Boudoir and maternity photographers take sensitive images of clients. And their businesses rely on trust. The same goes for family photographers as parents do not want images of their families or children out in the wild.

There’s also a risk for fine art, landscape, and corporate photographers. Clients may try to download the image, so they don’t have to pay, or take a screenshot.

It happens and if the image makes it to print, that is your reputation because it may not have been processed and the quality isn’t there. Not to mention you didn’t get paid if they stole the image.

a man holding a mobile phone in front of a laptop

This is why it is important to make sure the service you choose offers multiple levels of security when it comes to cloud photo storage and for sharing. Here are a few to look at when evaluating a vendor:

● Passwords to the gallery, photo, or site
● Access via a private link only (perfect for corporate clients to share)
● Right click disabling
● Watermarking
● Adding code to the image file for tracing the usage
● Disabling image serving

There are technology companies developing solutions to add watermarks, gray out images, and other forms of protection when someone tries to take a screenshot, but nothing is very effective or perfect yet.

The above is enough to help you protect your images as they’re stored while making sure that only the people who should access the images can get them.

Pro-tip: Write a list of the types of photography you do now and want to do in the future. If you choose a solution now that provides the levels of security you need later on, you’ll be saving time for your future self.

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Hard drives have finite space whereas cloud photo storage can expand on-demand as you don’t have to wait for a store to ship you a new device or drive to the retail location.

Hard drives may seem less costly when you’re starting out, but in 5 years your total image count is going to scale rapidly. This is where the unlimited cloud photo storage solutions come in. But don’t let the word “unlimited” trick you into a bad decision.

Some providers may compress and reduce the quality for storage. Others may call it unlimited but have a history of hidden fees or increases as the amount of files and size of the space increase. Make sure you research their rules for storage and quality before taking the plunge.

The cost for hardware and external storage adds up compared to the nominal increases in costs you’ll see with cloud providers.

a small camera shaped USB external flash drive


Although photo backup is different than storage, they go hand-in-hand. If you’re attending or teaching a workshop, you want to backup your images so you don’t run out of memory or risk losing your storage device. Backing up images to the cloud adds peace-of-mind and reduces your needs for extra storage while on location.

And cloud backups can give you notices in real time. You don’t have to be there in person watching a counter on your computer or worrying about a power failure interrupting the process. When you backup on the cloud, you can set a time each day while you sleep.

This saves your computer’s memory so it can function while you process work and keep your workflow working for you while you take some time off. That’s why having a storage solution with simple and customizable backup is a benefit.

Pro-tip: The costliest error is if something happens to your external device like theft or damage, you could lose the images for good. If you do opt for external storage, make sure it has an automatic backup to the cloud, so you are protected.


Storage apps are vital for phones and photographers. They let you save space on your device while being able to retrieve work to show to a client or friends in real time. When selecting a solution, see if they have an app that:

● Sorts and organizes images
● Transfers images from storage to your editing software, and the to your portfolio
● Allows for secure retrieval and sharing

These tend to be the most important functions when it comes to being a professional photographer with regards to photo storage.

Which Cloud Storage Solution to Try

There are a lot of cloud photo storage companies out there, but one in particular stands out.  SmugMug. 

SmugMug was founded by photographers and continues to build product for photographers. 

For over 20 years they have been building a system to meet your needs. This includes unlimited high-res storage, RAW storage solutions, ecommerce options to sell prints, and apps to help with workflow.

Get 15% OFF with SmugMug

Click here to try them free for 14 days and save 15% if you choose to purchase an account with no coupon code needed.

(iPhotography may make small commissions from links in this article.) 


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