How to Print and Organize Digital Photos

mj-618_348_how-to-print-and-organize-digital-photos
 Michael Pirrocco

Digital cameras and phones make it easy to shoot thousands of photos. Here, we break down how you can organize, back up, and print your stash.

Can I make awesome prints without sending away for them?
For years there was a trade-off in printing at home. The upside — instant gratification — was outweighed by the downside: Prints lacked the punch and brilliance you'd get from a pro lab. But we've been blown away by the Epson SureColor P600 ($800), an ink-jet printer that during our tests produced saturated 8×10 prints sent directly, unedited, from an iPhone, and smooth 11×14 shots taken by a mirrorless digital camera. The image quality comes from a pigment-based ink set that includes three black cartridges, ensuring prints get deep darks and rich contrast. Disclaimer: Replacement inks are about twice as much as those for other printers.

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Can I turn my images into a high-quality photo book?
The first wave of photo books, with glossy pages and washed-out image quality, did not stand the test of time. But that's not the case anymore: Artifact Uprising produces coffee-table-quality books (from $69) from your photographs. With an easy-to-use online tool, you can create a hardbound book — in a square, vertical, or landscape format — with a fabric cover and a custom dust jacket. Inside, the pages are matte and the layouts clutter-free, like a book you'd buy in a museum gift shop. And the print quality is good enough to make your outdoor adventures look like sponsored expeditions.

How do I print from my Instagram feed?
The most straightforward method to bring your Instagram photos — in all their square-format, retro-filtered glory — into the "real world" is through an app called PostalPix (free; iOS and Android). It accesses your Instagram account (with your permission) and lets you pick and choose what you want to print in sizes from 4"x4" (29 cents) to 8"x8" ($3.49) and larger; then it mails you the framable images. Since photos edited for Instagram are just 640×640 pixels, the smaller the prints, the better they'll look. To make a bigger splash, use the Print Studio app (free; iOS and Android) to get a giant (20"x30") poster made of a grid of 54 of your best shots, printed on glossy photo paper ($25).

How can I be sure I don't lose my photos if my phone gets stolen or my computer crashes?
Set your phone to upload photos automatically. If you aren't syncing your smartphone with your computer regularly, you need to make sure it backs up automatically. For iPhone users, turn on the iCloud Photo Library (the first 5GB of storage are free) or use the Google+ app, which will upload standard-size pictures shot with iOS photo apps for free. Android users can simply activate the Auto Backup feature in the Photos app settings to send images to a Google Drive account.

Back up the images from your camera to the cloud. Storing your entire photo library off-site protects you from disasters at home or accidental erasures. These are the best options:

• iCloud: Apple's backup service is the most seamless, letting you easily access any of your images from any iOS device; you can share selected albums with friends or relatives, too. But it's also among the priciest: 20GB of storage for $1 a month, or 1TB for $20 a month. [icloud.com]

• Flickr: The Yahoo-owned photo service offers a whopping 1TB of storage for free. (An ad-free version is $50 a year.) While the emphasis is on sharing, you can set all of your uploads to be private. [flickr.com]

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• Google Drive: In addition to free auto-backups of phone pics, you can add a folder to your desktop and drag and drop photos from a camera. [google.com/drive]

• CrashPlan: This runs in the background on your computer and automatically backs up everything to encrypted cloud servers. It's $5 a month for unlimited storage. [code42.com]

Save all your photos to an external hard drive. Cloud services are convenient, but it's equally important to have a physical backup of your own data on an external hard drive — just in case those services disappear. For reliability, sizing, and price, it's hard to beat the WD My Passport drives (from $60). A built-in utility lets you password protect your data for extra peace of mind. Word of warning: All external-storage devices eventually fail. It's a good idea to migrate your data to a new hard drive every few years.