Philadelphia Family Photographers Tips for Starting Your Digital Archive

A photo strip of 3 images. the first shows a happy engaged couple smiling and hugging while standing on the beach in winter. the second photo shows the same couple, now kissing at their outdoor wedding, surrounded by their loved ones. the last image shows the couple sitting on their bed, smiling down at their newborn baby who lays in the husband's arms, while their dog sits on the viewers left side of the mom.

If you‘ve ever had a session with me, or even just spent 20 minutes with me- you know that the most optimal way to preserve your family memories is to #printyourphotos. However, I understand that we live in a digital age and that most of your photos and memories are already stored on your phone or computer. So here are some tips to learn how to integrate the archiving of your digital memories into your regular routine. 

There are numerous ways to go about starting your digital archive and ensuring that all of your memories are kept safe and I am happy to help demystify them for you. (This applies to any professional photo sessions you have but it also applies to everyday documentation even with just your phone.)

So you completed your session, met with your photographer, and figured out what you’ll be printing-now what?!!

Download your photos- Following your meeting and purchase of digital files, you will receive a link that you can use to both view and download your photos. I always recommend that when you download your photos from the gallery, do so using a computer and then transfer them onto your phone for personal/social media usage. Sometimes mobile devices will resize your photos upon downloading without even telling you so this is the best way to make sure the full-size high-resolution file becomes a part of your archive. 

Ok so now they’re in a file on your computer and you might think you’re done but there is just one more thing you have to do. Ideally, you should have your photos stored in more than one place to ensure redundancy. I always tell my friends and family that three is the magic number when it comes to storing their important photos- having them backed up in two external/physical storage devices and one cloud service is the most ideal. If you are starting to panic because you just realized you don’t know where your own wedding, graduation, or baby photos currently live- LISTEN UP! If it was an important milestone in your life you should be able to find your memories with ease. Let me help you avoid that panic going forward. Your kids WILL thank you.

1 image on the left shows a bride lovingly hugging her mother at her outdoor wedding. the image on the right shows a groom wiping away a tear while hugging his mother at his outdoor wedding.
**Psst I don’t actually photograph weddings anymore!*

Physical Hard Drive Sources 

Having your photos stored on hard drives guarantees that you’ll have a specified place for your family photos to live. I recommend storing them on your computer and one external hard drive to ensure your family photos are safely secured. Two external archiving devices I recommend are flash drives and portable hard drives. 

Flash Drives

Flash drives are an easy, portable option for storing your photos! They’re small enough that you can easily bring them with you to family events to showcase memories your loved ones may not have been present for. They’re easy to store, due to their small size, which gives you the opportunity to have multiple flash drives. I have clients who designate a flash drive for each of their children, which makes it easier to regularly update their drive with yearly photos. A helpful tip is to name the drive the name of your child and create folders within the drive labeled with each year. This makes it easy to identify where a specific photo may lie within the drive. (Some of my bundle packages include a flash drive containing the photos from your session, or adding a drive a la carte is always an option as well!)

Pro: Small, easy to carry!

Con: Small, easy to lose! 
a photo from a family photoshoot of a dad wearing a yellow hat, with his hair in a bun, kissing his smiling newborn baby that is laying in his arms.

Portable Hard Drives

An external hard drive operates similarly to flash drives, but they usually contain more storage than most flash drives. Due to the drives holding more storage, this is a great place to store just about any important family files. Each member can have their own designated folder or even drive, in which you can create subfolders for each year/milestone. I personally would do 2TB and larger to ensure you get some good usage before running out of space.

Two hard drive brands I recommend are Seagate and Western Digital. I personally use the hard drives below, and have had good experiences!

Seagate Portable Drive, 1TB

WD 4TB My Passport External Hard Drive

Cloud Services

Storing your photos and memories in a place that is easily accessible is an important aspect when considering starting your digital archive. You want the photos to be at the tip of your fingers at all times, that way you can show off your beautiful family whenever you want! Using a photo-storing app or website is the best way to keep your family photos within arms reach. An additional perk to cloud services is that they protect you from any physical mishaps – such as theft, disasters, damages, losing it or simply being a bit clumsy. 

a horizontal photo of a couple standing on the beach in winter. the man is hugging his fiance from behind & kissing her cheek as she smiles. a vertical image to the right of the horizontal photo, of their newborn baby swaddled.

Free (to a certain amount) Options

Google Photos

Google Photos is a great resource for everyday use. It provides unlimited storage for Google Pixel users, and for non-pixel users, you have 15GB for free. Google Photos has some great organizational features! It can identify faces that reappear throughout your photos and group them together, it allows you to tag and share the photos with people who also use the storage service. 

Apple iCloud

iCloud automatically comes with the purchase of your iPhone. You initially are given 5GB worth of storage to fill up. There are different tiers to which you can upgrade to 50GB for $.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99 per month, and 2TB for $9.99 per month. A great feature that iCloud features is the ability to identify and tag recurring faces and group them into an album for you, identify the location of the photo and show pinpoints on the map of where most of your photos were taken, and allow you to create shared albums with other Apple users. 

Amazon Photos

Amazon Photos comes with your purchase of Amazon Prime, so if you already have Prime purchased, then you have a free photo unlimited storage resource in the palm of your hand! In addition to unlimited photo storage, you also have up to 5GB of video storage. If you need to upgrade your storage, you can get 100GB for $1.99 per month/ $19.99 per year,  1TB for $6.99 a month/ $59.99 annually, or 2TB for $11.99 per month/ $119.98 a year. Amazon Photos has a similar feature to Google Photos, in which it automatically sorts the photos by people, location, and other categories. The site also makes sharing photos with loved ones easy- as you can either create a Family Vault to share with five other people or create a Group to share with large groups of people. 


a black and white photo of a newborn baby asleep in his crib during a newborn photoshoot.


Smugmug is a great affordable option for storing your photos. Originally designed for professional photographers, they have now added tier levels to make their interface more friendly for everyone. Their Power tier costs $13 a month/ $110 for the year and allows unlimited high-resolution storage. It allows you to create multiple galleries to organize your photos into, in which you can then edit the visibility of each gallery. By editing the visibility of each gallery, you are able to keep certain photos just to yourself and share others with family and friends while they also have access to upload any files they may also want to share. 


Dropbox allows you to automatically upload any photos from your devices for up to 2GB worth of files. The application allows you to easily rename, organize, and share your photos. Your sharing options consist of either visible only (whoever you share with can view and download the photos) or view and edit (in which they can also rename and organize the files). 2GB doesn’t really allow you to store that much information- so if you choose to use Dropbox, I definitely recommend upgrading. You can choose to upgrade to 2TB for $9.99 per month or 3TB for $16.58 per month. Each of these upgrades also has a great recovery feature;  the 2TB upgrade includes the version history of the past 30 days in addition to file recovery, while the 3TB upgrade provides version history and recovery from the past 180 days.


iDrive is another affordable option when considering starting your digital archive. Upon signing up, you receive 10GB of storage to use. I recommend upgrading your storage plan as 10GB can be filled up quickly. You can choose to upgrade to 100GB for only $2.95 a year, 500GB for $9.95 a year, or 1TB for $19.95 per year. IDrive continuously backs up your files and even makes it easy for you to back up all your files onto external devices, such as hard drives. 

Digital Archiving is an important process that ensures all your family memories will be kept safe forever. I hope some of this info comes in handy as you move forward. 

a horizontal image of a swaddled newborn baby asleep on the bed, facing the camera, as the family dog lays behind him. Next to the horizontal image is a vertical photo of a close-up of the baby's feet.

Some final tips for starting your digital archive are to update it regularly and keep it organized. When storing your photos both on hard drives and in galleries through your cloud services, always remember to label your folders- whether by family member, year, location, etc. It can also be extremely beneficial to add reminders on your phone to update both your physical and digital archives every 1-3 months. You don’t want to put in all the work to get your archives started, and then start slacking with keeping it up to date! 

Once you get your digital archive up and running, remember to keep it organized! You can choose to organize it by family member, by year, by milestone, etc. – just make it so that you can easily access any specific memory that you may want to see at any given moment.

a photo strip of 3 images. the first shows a kissing couple on the street. the woman's hand is on her fiance's face, showing off her engagement ring. the 2nd image is a close-up of the same couple at their wedding. they are under the bride's veil smiling and looking into one anothers eyes. the final image is of the couple's newborn baby swaddled sleeping.

It’s also important to remember to have multiple backup systems. Remember THREE is the magic number- 2 hard drives and 1 cloud system! (but one hard drive and cloud are great too) The easiest thing to do is to get a designated physical hard drive and have it back up automatically to the cloud service you choose. (this is the most hands-off approach.) While creating your digital archive is great and useful, you should also still focus on working on your physical archive as well.  

Remember, if you want to see a photo of someone you love- it shouldn’t require electricity. Remember to #printyourphotos to ensure they will always be a part of your story.

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