How to use Dropbox to Backup Your Photos :: Digital Photo Secrets

How to use Dropbox to Backup Your Photos

by David Peterson 3 comments

That moment of panic when you realize your hard drive has crashed (or something worse) and your photos are lost. Hundreds or even thousands of images can be lost in a split second in disastrous ways we don’t even want to think about. That's why backing up is the only way to ensure you have extra copies of your files stored elsewhere just in case. One of the popular sites for backing up files is Dropbox. If you're not familiar with them, think of them as an online storage cabinet that holds all your precious images. It's easy to set up and use, and the peace of mind that comes with it will let you sleep better at night.

While there are other programs out there, (and I've covered my favorite backup programs before) I'm going to walk you through setting up and using a Dropbox account. If you don’t already have a backup system, I suggest you set your account up as we go so you don’t go another day living in danger of losing your images.

Getting Started with Dropbox

The first step is to setup a Dropbox account, if you don't already have one. Go to their website to get started. It’s free to sign up, and comes with 2GB of free storage, or use this link to get an extra 500mb storage for free.

Click on the link and enter your First Name, Last Name, Email Address, and a Password. You will automatically be prompted to download the software. While that is downloading, you will be logged into your online account and sent to the Get Started page, as shown here.

The first option is to Take the Dropbox Tour, which is worth doing even after you've read this article. You can do it while it finishes downloading the software.

Launched and Ready

Once the Dropbox software is downloaded, click on the program icon to open it. Don't be surprised that it's not a fancy looking program. Rather it is simply a window with your folder hierarchy. You will see the Dropbox folder with a Photos folder already setup and a Getting Started PDF file.

Just like any other folder hierarchy, you can - if you want - add your own folders rather than using their Photos folder or you can open that folder and move your folders there in order to organize your images. For example, let's say you have two existing folders called Gallery Photos and Portraits. All you have to do in the Dropbox program is drag those folders from their current location, i.e. your C drive or an external flash drive, into the Dropbox folder. The example below shows that they were moved to the default Photos folder in Dropbox.

Notice that as you move folders from their prior location to Dropbox, they instantly pop up in your Dropbox account online and are now stored in your Dropbox folder on your computer and on the Internet and are backed up 'in the cloud'. Note also that just like any "moved" folders or files, they will no longer be in the location you previously stored them. But that's okay. You can manage them from their new location from now on.

Uploading Files

If you prefer to upload some files directly to Dropbox, rather than clicking and dragging existing folders and files in the program, you can use the Upload feature. It's the icon of a piece of paper and an up arrow. Easy enough to click on it, when you're in the folder you want the file to go to, and select the file(s) you want to upload.

Sharing Folders

Do you want to be able to share your photos with your family or friends? You can! Dropbox is also a great way to share files and photos with friends, family, and colleagues. Your friends don't even need a Dropbox account. Oftentimes, files are too big to send via e-mail, so this is a great way to override that situation.

To share a folder, click on the Share icon up on the upper right side (the folder with a rainbow icon). This window will pop up and you can either type in the e-mail addresses of those you want to share with, or you can import you contacts and choose from there. Add a message if you'd like, then click on Share Folder. Chosen recipients will receive an e-mail from Dropbox letting them know you shared a folder with them. They will have access to the folder, and when they do so, you will receive an e-mail letting you know they have done so.

Multiple Locations

As well as backing up your photos to the cloud, Dropbox is handy to sync your folders between your own computers. Install Dropbox on your laptop, and the photos you uploaded to your desk computer are almost instantly copied to the laptop. So you'll always be able to show your mother the recent antics of little Johnny! Dropbox works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

There's An App for That

Naturally, there's a Dropbox App for your iPad or smart phone. Download the app for easy access to your files on your mobile devices. It's free and you just have to sign in to see and have access to your files. I know that sounded like a commercial, but it really is that easy.

Now you can sleep well at night knowing your photos are stored in more than one place.

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  1. Donna aaron says:

    When you back up are all photos re saved or only the new ones

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Donna,

      If you copy all your photos into the Dropbox directory, they will all be saved.


  2. Steve Whitaker says:

    Roaming Italy, my wife uses her iPad mini to take photos, guess what it's full, can I use drop box from her iPad to down load her photos & retrieve them in a months time when we return home.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.