My Photo Storage & Organizing Struggle (and Dropbox Solution) [ infographic ]

iPhoneography (aka Mobile Phone Photography) has gained popularity at a brisk rate over the past 5-8 years. People are taking an ever-growing number of photos with their phones with ever-larger resolution and file sizes, and the competition between smartphone makers has been neck and neck to produce mobile phones with larger storage options and more progressive camera features. While the amount of storage available on your phone continues to grow, it never seems to be enough space.
The biggest thing I struggle with is the capacity of what my phone can hold – the issue of storage. Granted, I have a dinky 16GB iPhone 5S, but this issue isn’t something new to the world of mobile phones. I keep a pretty tight ship when organizing my apps, but all too often I have to weed through apps I want to make time for but don’t always use. This spring I decided to get to the bottom of it and find a solution because I was all too often missing seeing shots of my kids and other want-to-see-it-again visions. My storage issue was driving me mad.
There are two major players in external, cloud-like storage. The opponents require virtually no introduction. If you’re an Apple user, you know about iCloud. If you’re online at all, you should know about Dropbox. While there are certainly more cloud sharing and storage options out there, when I started researching I thought these two were the strongest rivals. But, after doing some in-depth research I realized they each actually serve a unique purpose. I hope you enjoy the crazy-fun infographic I made about using Dropbox to easily manage your mobile phone photography! Then, let’s get down to brass tacks so you can see exactly what each service gives you.

Notice the very minor but important differences between the two services:
Dropbox is a cloud-like file storage and sharing service:

  • Free account and paid account options
  • Syncs and stores data
  • Data available on all compatible devices (any device with the app installed)
  • File types: Anything and everything from data, information, graphics, photo and video files… basically any file type
  • No confusion as to the storage status of your files
  • Easy to manage with access to real files from your desktop computer (as a home base)
  • Paid plan: More expensive (and more space), but cheaper is not always better!
  • Customer support and FAQ: Easy to find information and usage for service
  • Overall: More versatile with both photography and other file sharing needs

iCloud is a cloud storage and sharing service:

  • Free account and paid account options
  • Syncs and shares data
  • Data available on all compatible devices (any device with the service turned on)
  • File types: Photos only… does not sync video data
  • Confusion as to the storage status of my file (never sure if I just deleted all the originals!)
  • Annoying (initially) to manage. Access to images as non-real file types (e.g., not JPEGs). You must go through a process of exporting your images out of Apple’s Photos program to actually gain access to them physically on your computer. I found this to be a hassle!
  • Paid plan: Less expensive, less space.
  • Customer support and FAQ: Very confusing to find information on how iCloud actually works and smart ways to use it.
  • Overall: Limited for photography purposes; not useful for other file sharing needs

The convenience of iCloud
Being an iPhone user, I naturally and originally went with iCloud. Having never really taken the time to fully utilize iCloud features before, I dove right in. I admittedly have an artist brain (go ahead, you can laugh), but I had the most difficult time understanding how iCloud actually works. I researched it into the ground as I started using it, but I ended up with a lot of frustration about what iCloud was actually doing. I tried it for three months. I even signed up for a monthly extra storage plan.
My assumption was that using iCloud would give me more room on my phone. Incorrect. To free up space, you could try a few things. You could turn iCloud off and on to trick it in to thinking you have no photos on your phone. Or, you could spend endless hours deleting and re-deleting the on-your-phone copies of your photos (and hoping to God they weren’t actually being deleted everywhere). But all of this is a time suck, and I didn’t have that kind of patience. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was that iCloud will not sync videos. I had to manually load my videos onto my computer. Using iCloud via the Mac’s Photos App was also pretty frustrating. Everything seemed like a virtual copy, and I wasn’t sure if my photos were actually being saved. I also needed to export my images to use them, which was time consuming. All I wanted to be able to do was grab an image in five seconds — and that wasn’t happening.
Then again, iCloud does allow you to access all your iCloud items on multiple devices, which is cool. I have an iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro, and two iMacs in my house. So that part was kind of neat. However, that’s not really what I wanted. I wanted more room on my phone, and I wanted my videos to sync.
The simplicity of Dropbox
I’ve been a happy Dropbox user since the dawn of its inception. I’ve always been a free user and never required much more space, but it’s been a great tool over the years for many scenarios. I was frustrated with what iCloud wasn’t giving me, and I vaguely recalled Dropbox releasing their Carousel feature awhile back. I had never looked into it, but I decided to give it a go. You can test it out with your free account like I did — although I am now loving the paid account and recommend it.
After using both services on back-to-back months, I arrived at an answer. Dropbox is better for my needs because it not only syncs but also stores images and video — and any other data I need. I can quickly and easily access and organize everything on my computer. To save space using iCloud, I kept having to trick iCloud into not syncing to all of my devices, which turned in to a time-sucking headache. I was also sometimes afraid I was deleting a year of photos every time I wanted to make space for more photos on my phone. I finally gave iCloud the boot when it came to photos and video. I still use iCloud for other apps that are compatible, although I no longer use the paid plan.
The moral of my story
Dropbox is direct and straightforward, especially if  you like to deal with files. Once you’ve got the app on all your devices and are logged in to them all (and stay logged in), it’s like butter. Seriously. If you’re on a Paleo Diet then it’s like Coconut Oil — pick your oil, who cares, it’s beautiful, it’s smooth sailing and my sanity is regained.
About the author: Molly Bermea is an Autoimmune-Paleo food creator, urban gardener, photographer, iPhoneographer, artist, blog writer, wife and mom of two little beasties (humanoid children)… oh, and she likes to run, swim and bike. She lives in the fabulous, all-season, Southern Oregon area and works from home. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and over at her new blogsite, (Autoimmune Paleo & Lifestyle).