How to upload your photos from your digital camera like your smartphone

Introduction

It is so easy to use your images from your smartphone cameras. Many photographers can’t understand why they still need to use SD card, or connect the camera through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and download them to a hard drive, whether a PC or a Mac or another device, and finally has the files available in the cloud, hopefully. I have tried to streamline the process as much as possible but it far from being an easy path . One may believe it should be like your smartphone camera: take your picture, have it available in the cloud without doing anything as we all have a smartphone in our pocket when we shoot. In theory, it should be the same experience. In reality, it is not.

Integration still at its infancy

There are several steps which work fine, or just ok but do the job. For instance, with the new Snapbridge app of Nikon, the connection between the camera and the smartphone is done not with too many problems. There is still the strange need to switch to Wi-Fi but that’s understandable as we want to download RAW images, Bluetooth is certainly not the right technology. It used to be different, so let’s be honest, it is improving.

However, if you want to have the images downloaded thanks to Snapbridge in RAW directly uploaded to your cloud provider (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, just to name a few I have tried), Good luck… I am not saying it is impossible but after having “invested” a couple of hours trying to streamline this process, I have to admit I have failed !

I have tried another app than Snapbridge: Camera Connect and Control for Android. The “Auto Download” feature looks promising. In theory, it does exactly what I am looking for. In reality, not so trivial. First, you need to pair your camera with your smartphone by Wi-Fi. It is not done automatically, like with Bluetooth. It can’t really be as it will disconnect your smartphone from any other Wi-Fi network, right.  That said, as soon as you have done this pairing, the auto download of RAW files works very well. The app cost not much – less than $10. So, let’s say it is better than the Snapbridge experience by far thanks to the auto download feature. Of course, you have to try whether this app works for your set up (different cameras, smartphones and raw files format can have not so good results as usual) but it is really promising.

Since it takes so little effort, it’s easy to do before bed each night, or when you’re about to head out in the morning. But I would not do it “on the fly” in real time like I can do with my camera’s smartphone…

Let’s move to a next step

A “transactional” process is still missing: I would love to have a consistency check and verify all the images from my camera has been effectively saved in the cloud and I would have this done in real time – either through the phone network or at least automatically whenever the smartphone is connected to a Wi-Fi network. And delete the useless images automatically in my camera as next obvious step. If you start to download a whole photo session of hundreds of images, how can you be sure the Wi-Fi has not been disconnected and a few images are missing? If you need a manual check, the whole process is becoming useless but for some niche needs. But we are not that far… That’s a positive way to stay we can’t prevent, from my perspective, to avoid a manual download of the SD card. Yes, USB-C and auto-upload from cloud providers help, but it is still more painful than your cheap (or not) camera in your smartphone…

The carbon footprint for being lazy after our photo shoots: why it has to change

What this article is about

It is trendy – and more important it is necessary – to reduce our carbon footprint. Let’s calculate how much a bad habit of photographers can pollute.

I am taking in average 10 to 20 thousand images per year. Many pro photographers will shoot ten times more, typically above 100 thousand images per year, if not more. At the same time, for different reasons, it happens I am working hard at keeping only the best shots. Typically, from these 10-20 thousand photos per year, I am storing only 1 or 2 thousand per year. And there is even room for improvement. I don’t think this ratio is exceptional. Other people report a typical ratio of 80-95% of useless images, whatever the reasons. However, I must confess this eradication takes me a lot of time and I do understand why people don’t do it – it should be somewhat automated. I was wondering what the impact of keeping all these useless images is. How many greenhouses gas does it generate per year ? Basically, I am wondering how much our useless images can pollute when we don’t eradicate them.

How many tons of carbon dioxide per thousand of images stored?

Simple question, difficult answer. First and foremost, there are head and tail winds: Whereas 1 Gigabytes (GB) of data require less and less CO tons every year, images are becoming bigger and bigger as new sensors let you shoot with more megapixels. Same situation for videos. It looks quite challenging to anticipate the future trends but let’s make the calculation as per today, in 2019. It is reasonable to believe head and tailwinds will not completely change the result in the next years.

Let’s try to calculate just a rough estimate…

In this article, I don’t make any calculation for videos, just for the still images. I will consider 3 categories of photographers:

  • casual photographer who typically take 5 thousand images per year,
  • enthusiast (20 thousand images per year)
  • and pro photographer (100 thousand images per year).

Casual photographers only create JPG files from their photos in this exercise, with a 24 Mega pixels camera. So, each JPG file weights typically 5 Mega Bytes (MB) each. This means 5 x 5’000 = 25 GB per year.

Enthusiasts shoot RAW, with 36 Mega pixels camera. They convert 10% in JPG, of 7.5 MB each. This means 36 . 20’000 + 7.5 . 2000 = 735 GB per year

Pros will shoot both RAW and JPG, with different cameras and sensor. Let’s make a rough estimate at 15 MB per image. This means basically 1.5 TB per year.

To summarize, I will just consider 1 TB per year per photographer. This will simplify the calculation. It will not change the whole result and it will be consistent with the kind of photographer we are looking at for this effect (mostly enthusiasts or pros).

All these numbers are arguable but that’s a good starting point for a first estimation.

Now the key question is how much carbon dioxide emissions for 1 TB ?

Several studies have proven that we need around 100 kg of Carbon dioxide emissions to store  1 TB of data on the cloud (ref. [1], [2] and [3]. Again, the calculation is quite complicated, and the range is very broad, from typically 50 kg to 2 tons. I am considering 100 kg as a conservative estimation.

This means 1 ton per year for 10 TB, after 10 years of photography as it is cumulative.

What does it mean in a sustainable world?

In a sustainable world, the average individual rate should be of 3 tons of carbon dioxide per year (ref. [4]). We are far from that level now (US: 18-20 tons per year per person, China: 6.5 tons, …) but that’s where we are going.

It is useless to say we can’t use almost 1/3rd of our yearly quota (in a sustainable planet) just for storing images. It should not be more than a couple of percents. Once again, it proves that a sustainable world will have dramatic consequences to our life. It means we should eradicate all our useless images as they represent 80-95% of this storage emission.

Conclusion

It is time to reduce our data from images and videos. Besides storing  too much and mostly useless information, it is necessary for living in a sustainable planet. Of course, one can object these data “might” be useful in the future, who knows ? At the same time, it is good practice to focus at what really matters and be able to retrieve this important information later when needed. Less is sometimes better. And we always find good excuses to refuse change. But this change is needed and in the long run, inevitable. It is time to be consistent and eradicate as a “pre-post processing step” most of the useless images, whatever useless may mean.

References

[1] – Carbon and the cloud, Stanford Magazine

[2] – Trends in Server Efficiency and Power Usage in Data Centers, SPEC 2019

[3] – The carbon footprint of a distributed cloud storage, Cubbit

[4] – Stopping Climate Change: A Practical Plan 3 Tons Carbon Dioxide Per Person Per Year, Ecocivilization

Digital photography needs a clear back up strategy

Some people can lose all their digital work in a few minutes, that’s still very rare. More frequent, your hard drive can crash, any time, without notice. At the end of the day, our digital assets are just becoming so important we cannot live without a clear back-up strategy. For a photographer, it cannot be more important.

The risks

You can’t have everything just in the clouds, that’s too dangerous. Without being paranoiac, services can shut down, someone can steal your password and delete your files, and maybe more important, it is good to keep control on your assets.

That said, the main risk today is still a hard drive crash. So it is very dangerous not to back-up your work on at least another source.

A robbery could make you loosing all your hard drive, but if you have one in another locations.

The constraints

Back-up is boring, sometimes even painful, but always time consuming, and can cost significantly. It is like going to the dentist. No one likes that, but we have to.

Defining the minimum back-up strategy

My “minimum” back-up strategy is to store my digital assets on:

  1. a desktop (or a laptop) hard drive,
  2. the cloud thanks to Google drive (or dropbox, or skydrive),
  3. another hard drive.

Actually, I am also using a second hard drive, not located in my apartment. I am using it only once per year. It is not so redundant as I don’t have any pass word on my desktop (I don’t need one). So I can see a scenario, unlikely of course, where I could lose everything during a robbery. Thanks to this second hard drive not in the same place, that’s look impossible.

Pricing

For less than 100 € you can buy a 1 To Hard drive disk. That’s a very cheap way to be sure your photography won’t disappear.

Clouds services are not that cheap. Google drive will cost you 100 € per year to store 200 Mo, so that’s way more expensive than buying a hard drive! But very flexible, and you can have access to your images from any device, anywhere on Earth. That said, it is not a very cheap way to back-up your images, but it is not only a back-up service, though. Dropbox is even twice as expensive than Google, and for photography back-up, does not bring something else imho. Box can be expensive if you have just a couple of hundreds of megabytes, but is becoming very competitive for storage above 500 Mo.

The bottom line

Keep it simple. But do it.

It has become very affordable to secure all your digital assets, don’t miss this chance… and be sure your data are resilient to most of the threats.