One of the developments in digital technology that every photographer should understand is “The Cloud” concept. It is simply a means to store digital files, and even the software application used to create those files, on remote servers instead of a computer’s physical hard drive, an external hard drive or onsite storage. These files and applications are then accessible from any location with Internet connectivity. Not only have files and software proliferated in number, but also their size, making it much easier…and necessary in some cases…to store them at a separate facility with a massive capacity. The Cloud has also proven to be an excellent complement to our growing mobile society. More business owners and their employees can access whatever information and data they may need wherever they may be. A potential downside is that employers may consider their employees to be “on the clock” constantly, since the content they need for work is available 24/7, and from any time zone.
The music industry has also benefited from the cloud concept, since it is only necessary for a server to store one file of a song that potentially millions of music lovers will want to buy.
The Cloud has proven its value for the business world, especially large corporations, and the music industry, but how well does it benefits photographers? The short answer is “It does”; however, it depends on what kind of photographer you are.
As so often happens in the technology sector, some companies are ahead of the curve and already offer general cloud storage services to individuals and small businesses for whatever content they want to store there, and be accessible from just about anywhere. Many of the well-known brands, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, offer cloud services and there are others that are becoming well known for specializing in this service, such as Dropbox, Sky Drive and Box. Many of these services provide a minimum amount of free storage space, 5GB for example, while others offer a bit more. Then, you’ll pay approximately $100 or less for 100GB of space and hundreds of dollars annually for 1 TB of space.
Built for Amateurs…Now
The cloud at its current state of development is a great asset for beginners, hobbyists, amateurs and any casual photographers. In most cases, these photographers shoot a limited number of images, thus requiring a limited amount of storage space. Many cloud services can accommodate these needs and, often, within the free space these services offer. There are also a number of general online backup services to which you can subscribe; and their systems back up all your hard drive files automatically. In addition, cloud services have mobile apps, so you can upload images from your smartphone without having to download them to your computer first.
A cloud service is also very useful for the amateur or casual photographer who takes that one incredible trip every year and records a large number of images and video segments. Instead of waiting until you return home to share your images with family, friends or new friends met during the trip, you can simply upload your photos to a cloud and everyone can access them.
Professionals…Stuck on the Ground
Generally, the cloud concept has not advanced to the point that it’s totally useful for professional photographers, especially those who generate a huge number of images and, therefore, file space. The music industry may only need to store one file of a song, but every image a professional shoots is different. Many professionals want to store not only all the RAW images of a shoot, but also maintain all the versions of photos during post-production. With a single on-location assignment for wildlife, nature, landscape, etc. totaling as many as a few hundred gigabytes, it isn’t feasible for a photographer to spend a significant amount of his or her time on-location uploading files. In addition, the bandwidth available in some countries would make the process even slower, or you could simply find yourself at a remote location without electricity.
Using the cloud can be advantageous if you must maintain computers at more than one location from which you want to access the same files. Some photographers may also use a laptop or tablet with “basic” editing tools while on the move and maintain a more robust computer at their office that has the capacity for complete post-production workflow.
No doubt, the tech geniuses will overcome the limitations of the cloud for professional photographers…and sooner than we think. In the meantime, do your homework before relying on a cloud service to fulfill all your storage, file sharing and mobile needs.
Image credit: elenathewise / 123RF Stock Photo
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